We Tracked Down and Spoke to Elusive Happy Hardcore Legend DJ Rankin

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We Tracked Down and Spoke to Elusive Happy Hardcore Legend DJ Rankin

In conversation with a legend of Myspace and Motorola speakers.
February 11, 2016, 2:59pm

A couple of months have elapsed since I wrote a piece on these hallowed pages, profiling the mystery cloaked, balls-in-a-titanium-vice falsetto ad-libbing king of the MySpace age: DJ Rankin. I say profile, but it was more of a frenzied cry into a fragile network of long obsolete forums and eight-page-along Google searches. Facts were gruel thin on the ground. I wanted to find out the truth about a man who clogged the memory of every Motorola Razor in the land between 2005-2009, but every lead, every crumb of information bent back on itself in an ever more complex, ever more frustrating net of hearsay and speculation. Had he found God and promptly died? Was he shacked up as a line manager in a Sky call centre? Had he played at a 'massive party in Ireland with Akon?' Did he even exist? Was he the Kyzer Soyze of happy hardcore? A spooky story DJs use to scare their children: "Fuck up the equaliser like that again and DJ Rankin will rip out your hard drive as you sleep." That article witnessed some of the most intense hours of my life. It consumed me. Rankin dwelled deep inside my soul.

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In the months since, I've recovered, slowly regained the weight I'd lost, catching up on the sleep I'd neglected. Friendship regained its joys, the sun regained its splendour, I started going to the pub and talking about the football again. Content piled on top of content and I slowly forgot about the the wraith that had swallowed me whole.

Until last night.

I'd been arsing around on Twitter when a message popped into my DM's: "I know where DJ Rankin is." Within hours I'd been hooked up on a direct link to the man himself. Now I was going to find out the truth. Which turns out, in the end, to be that he's a just thoroughly decent bloke from Coatbridge who was more than happy to chat about the squeaky sepia of the past and what he's been up to over the past 10 years.

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THUMP: First things first. Where have you been for the last 10 years? And what are you doing with yourself now?
DJ Rankin: I'm working on more than ever before, I never went away! I guess what's changed is that I'm so much older and wiser now. It was all just a blur when I was younger.

I've just had some shows in Ireland over Christmas, and a few at home in Scotland including NYE in Glasgow. The 'I Am A Raver' nights have been massive. They're inspired by what I started all those years ago with other well remembered DJ's like Paul Zitkus, Gary MCF, DJ Pulse, DJ Cammy etc. They are all a great bunch of lads and we blow the roof off our sold-out shows. We all played a big part in that scene. We are total marmite DJ's: some love us some hate us, but either way if you come to our gigs you get a serious show. It's a bunch of great technical DJ's who can hold their own with any top DJ today.

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Where did it all begin for you? There's a fair bit of confusion online about where you're from. I've seen Ireland/Bo'Ness and Falkirk bandied about. Can you shed some light on the mystery?
It all started with just messing around with songs. I had no clue what I was actually doing at first, it was for my own enjoyment and I knew that it was basic. Listening back to it is mental. Obviously it was out of time and just a mash of acapellas, but people forget I was only 13. I'd let a few mates hear it and they'd love it and ask for a copy. It just went from there and got shared out all over the internet and all of a sudden my pisstaking and mucking about was in demand. I never went out originally to be heard, or become a DJ: It was all just harmless fun.I remember my remixes started taking off on MySpace and it blew up so suddenly. I had clubs getting at me to do gigs so I had no choice but to start learning.

Who were your influences?
I really loved high energy music like the first Bonkers CD and I'll never forget hearing that for the first time. I was instantly hooked. The first time I was exposed to that of music was when I was about seven or eight, going over to a friend's house and his older brother was playing a set from the Rezerection events. We went into his room and I saw all the posters and flyers from these events, that was the moment I knew it was for me.

I'd also started listening to Tom Wilson on the radio, and he was a massive inspiration. I remember meeting him at a gig when I was starting out and he told me to stick at it and just enjoy what I was doing. That had a big impact on me. I carried learning from there, trying to take things to the next level. I wasn't stupid, I knew what I was doing wasn't professional and I had to learn about how to produce and polish my mixes. But it was mad by this time as the older stuff I'd done was beginning to spread like wildfire. The way I see it is everyone has to start somewhere, the difference is my stuff took off before I even knew what I was doing. I was so young and I think people forget that. It's easy to slate something from a kid that has no idea what he's doing.

Tell me a bit about the your history as a live act.
It was great, back in the day, when people came to see me do the old remixes and they couldn't believe I was actually quite good, even enjoying my sets and hearing the new material I'd produced myself. I started to get regular gigs and people started taking me seriously, and I got involved with Clubland artists like Micky Modelle, John Truelove (The Source) before touring with the likes of Ultrabeat, Cascada, Special D, N-trance. I still tour with these guys today and we always have a great time tearing up clubs. The people who come to these gigs love it, it's almost taboo for them to admit they love being taken back to the times that they sat outside all-night in bus stops and parks with mates drinking cheap cider, with these songs blasting from someone's mobile. Make no mistake, they love it.

I've travelled all over doing what I love, so I'm incredibly lucky. A few that stick in my mind are the Point at the 02 in Dublin with Akon; that was a massive experience. I've played with Faithless, which was great. I've hung out with 5ive, Fatman Scoop and partied with the Geordie Shore cast. I could sit forever reminiscing, but every gig I play has a place in my heart no matter the size.

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It's fair to say you've been quite a divisive figure. You must have taken your fair share of flack?
There's always going to be negativity in the world of music. But I just use it as fuel rather than letting it get me down. "Keep moving forward and the rest will sort itself out," that's what I say. Most of the negativity comes from misinformation that people spread, which ends up growing legs. If you don't like something don't make a song and dance about it. Just get on with it.

It can't all just be happy hardcore for you. What else do you listen to and how has it shaped your transition from teenage bedroom icon to your more mature current incarnation?
Music is my life, it's as simple as that. People don't expect me to have broad tastes, but I love all types of music, even guys like Buddy Holly and bands like Screeching Weasel and The Ramones. Music is what makes us as human beings, it can shape our lives and it's the most powerful kind of influence in my opinion. It can help us through hard times and give us an escape from stress and other worries. My sets have moved on a lot over the years, though I obviously still play the old classics, although re-edited and beat matched. Honestly man, I was tone-deaf when I was younger but it's good to laugh at how I started.

You must have a favourite of your old bangers, even if you're trying to break away with the entrenched pre-conceptions of who you are and what your work represents.
Yeah, I do, particularly the newer stuff I've produced. I obviously still love the old remixes; though it's definitely more of a love/hate thing. But they are what they are…remixes.

People still tell me to this day that I inspired them to get into the game. I'm glad that I started something that made so many people's childhoods and brought joy to those adolescent lives. At the end of the day, no matter what they say, I'm happy that it brought people joy and still brings them nostalgia. It was a lot of first people's interaction with dance music and that makes me happy, too.

Thanks for the memories Dj Rankin, and good luck for the future, wherever it takes you.

If you're about in Glasgow on the 13th of February, you can catch Rankin, Cammy, Zitkis et al ripping the glow-sticked arse clean out of it at 69 Below.

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