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Ben Sims on his first ever gig

“My first-ever public DJ set was the annual school end-of-year disco at Chadwell Heath High School, Essex in 1986 (I think). It was my first year in 'big' school, so I was 11, maybe 12-years-old. I bought a basic 'all in a box' DJ set-up (two direct-drive turntables and a Rotary mixer built into a big black box) after saving up pocket money and doing a paper round. It was about £150 and pretty shit but I couldn't afford Technics, no-one could in those days, so I just got on with it.

“In my last year at primary/junior school, Froggy (legendary UK soul DJ) had done our school disco. He mixed up electro, early rap and soul-boy anthems with the poppier end of black dance music and generally didn't seem to give a fuck he was playing to a bunch of 10-year-olds on a rainy afternoon in Essex. I was totally blown away and started saving for my own decks immediately. Once I got the mobile DJ gear, I practiced relentlessly, locked away in my room, trying to teach myself to mix, scratch and cut (the latter being quite a challenge on Rotaries!). I wasn't very good to be honest, but my determination must have convinced teachers that I was ready for the big one — ha ha.

“I played all of the records I had at the time, which was mostly electro, some mega-mixes, Michael Jackson, some '60s ska stuff like 'Liquidator' which I'd 'borrowed' off my old girl, and lots of the kids brought in records for me to play. It was a lot of fun, surprisingly. I probably scratched too much and pissed about with the music too often for most people but some older cool kids came and started breakdancing, so it worked out well. I even got a couple of bookings at house parties from it and they led to meeting other local DJs and eventually clubs, so it really was the start of everything for me.”