Having made a major name for himself as London’s premier hip hop and soul DJ, Spin Doctor is turning his attention towards another favoured but contagious epidemic, overdosing on ‘trainers by the truckload’. With a killer collection of eclectic brands, we needed to find out just what makes this doctor tick, so we threw down the hard hitting questions…
Hey Spin Doctor, give us a quick rundown!
Well many moons ago I started spending all my pocket money on 45s in Our Price and a couple of other stores that only the older heads will remember. I’ve been collecting ever since and still go digging as often as possible. When we were kids, because my house had all the records, people would always ask me to bring some music to play at house parties. You know the deal – mum and dad go away, some foolish kid invites their mates, who invite their mates, next thing you know the house is packed and getting trashed. Anyhow, I would sit in the corner by the stereo, which can standard with a turntable back then, and just play things I was into or thought people might party to. Turned out I was pretty good at selecting but it was only at a mate’s suggestion that I got decks and started doing it in a more professional realm. From there I started spinning while at University and prescribed the party medicine to the sickly folk of London and beyond – therefore becoming the doctor of spin as you put it.
There seems to be a common denominator with DJs that most were influenced by their sibling’s taste in music, and you’ve gone one better by paying homage to your dad’s trade as well…
Well I don’t know if my upbringing as such played a massive part except from the fact that as the youngest of six kids I was exposed to a whole bunch of different styles of music and artists. My brother was into classic rock stuff like The Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zep and the like and so of course I got into that. One sister would listen to Motown another to Elton John and pop stuff of the time but one of my sisters was a little more experimental and listened to The Ramones and other New York sounds. She brought home a copy if the Beastie Boys License To Ill one week and that was the first time I consciously heard hip hop and I just bugged out. That obviously not only influenced me into collecting hip hop but also through listening to all these sounds being played in the house opened my mind to different types of music which I think you can still hear in my sets today. I often drop rock, pop and disco stuff into my sets.
And the name?
In terms of paying tribute to my dad’s trade, that came about because I got really sick of my original DJ name and decided I wanted to change it. I was on holiday with my family and an ex-girlfriend of mine and made everyone brainstorm names by the pool one day. I always liked DJ names like Groove Rider (a great UK D&B DJ) that made sense on a couple of levels and what with my dad, grandad, uncle (and now sister) all being doctors, Spin Doctor made perfect sense. If memory serves me right it was actually my ex that came up with the name, I am not sure I ever thanked her properly. I hadn’t seen her for years until she turned up at an event I run called the Hip-Hop Pub Quiz, as long as she don’t ask for a cut of my money like Ray Parlour’s wife I should be alright. (Ray Parlour is an old Arsenal football player whose ex-wife claimed half of his future earnings when they split up as she claimed that were it not for her support he would never have made it.)
What’s the fascination between DJs and sneakers?
I genuinely don’t know. I don’t think it is just DJs is it? Hip hop culture as a whole is fascinated with kicks. It is part of the whole repping and looking fresh. While DJs are spinning the tunes in the club, we need to be comfy. Same with B-Boys, they need to be in a good shoe for throwing down. Painters have to be in something that they can run from the cops in (and preferably rubber soled in case they step on the wrong rail). MCs might be the exception to the rule, which may explain why Flash and the Furious 5 dressed so fruity back in the day in their cowboy boots and studded leather jackets. Now that you mention it, I know way more DJs that are mad serious about their sneaks than those who aren’t. Obviously my man Bobbito is a legend in both the DJ and footwear scene, last time I hooked up with Jazzy Jeff he had some sick ACG hybrid crossover kicks on. Neil Armstrong knows his shoes and Rich Medina is on his game too. My good buddy Mr Thing has a pretty healthy adidas addiction. In fact people used to get us mixed up a little what with us both being London based, slightly portly, funky as hell white boys that spin Hip-Hop and Soul, so we used to tell em it’s pretty simple – I will be rocking a cap and AF1s and he will be in shells. Don’t get it twisted though! A fresh pair of kicks does not make you a good DJ or even a shit one! Nothing riles me more than someone that thinks they are all that because they look fresh to death, then turn up and play a bunch of compilation CDs, badly! There is plenty of ‘em out there!
When did the spark flame into a fully-fledged addiction for you and the trainer?
I don’t honestly remember. I always blame my mum because while friends of mine in school had the hottest new sneaks I was always in slip-on black plimsolls that were too big and would slap against my heel when I would do any sport. My boys would have Jordan’s, Pump’s even British Knights’ and I would be there in these pieces of crap. Eventually she agreed to buy me something new and came back with bluddy Dunlop Green Flash! I couldn’t win! I guess it’s pretty tough to keep six kids all in the kicks they want though. I always see that as the impetus for when I was finally earning my own money going out and buying fresh kicks. I guess a big part of it is trying to get the attention of the opposite sex! Whenever my fiancé would hassle me about buying yet another pair of shoes I would borrow a title from Gwen McCrae and tell her they were my ‘love insurance’ explaining that if I did not keep myself looking fresh then she would lose interest and be looking for an upgrade. She agreed a little too quickly for my liking but what can you expect from the only person I know with the patent red, white and blue Rasheed Wallace AF1s lows? I did not believe her when she told me she had ‘em until the first time I went to her apartment and saw them, it was then I realised she was one of a kind.
It’s nice to see a collector with an eclectic range of brands and styles to their name.
I tend to be quite off-the-cuff when I see something. I either love it and have to have it, or I hate it. There are very few slow burners with me and it is the same with music actually. It can be anything that sets me off really; the colourway, the shape of the shoe, a particular material, a certain design feature. I see loads of kicks that I think design-wise are incredible but that I would never wear and don’t buy so in that respect I don’t really consider myself a collector. Pretty much every shoe I own I have or will wear with only a couple of exceptions. There are a couple I wish I had bought doubles of, or not worn quite so hard but I guess that’s hindsight. I have become very openminded in the last few years. I was a complete Nike head until three or four years ago. I still buy more Nikes than anything else but have opened up to different brands and styles. The Adidas ZX series is cool in that there are so many variants in colour and material in one style of shoe. Puma have some ill shoes and you gotta respect anyone that does a Yo! MTV Raps series. Right now I’m loving the crossover hybrid designs where they’re combining say Jordan’s with AF1’s or things like that. My Spizike boots for example have got me through the snow this winter nicely. A Jordan design with ACG styling is straight genius. All that said, there are still brands that I would never wear, no matter how inventive they get with their designs and colours. There are certain aspects of British culture that I personally relate to particular shoes or brands that I want no part of, even if no one else sees the relation.
You’re known for your love of old soul and ‘90s hip hop. Does that speak the same for you and trainers? Is there a preference for styles that bring about a sense of nostalgia?
Not particularly. Although I do buy perhaps more ‘Retro’ styles than other shoes. It’s not through any sense of nostalgia or craving for the ‘good old days’, if that were the case, I’d still be wearing those bloody plimsolls. Admittedly for me the Air Force 1 will never be beaten. It is a complete classic and there are so many different options in material, etc. and I blatantly have more of them than any other shoe. However, unlike most sneaker heads I never got mad into Air Jordan’s till quite recently. I probably did not get my first pair till about two years ago but have upped my game on that front since and I’m now up to about 10-12 pairs.
You’ve got a nice selection of Nike iDs going on there…
The Nike iD shit is off the hook. There’s nothing fresher than knowing you are rocking a one-off pair of kicks that no one else has and that you’ve designed. Especially when people come up and ask where you got em. The first pair I did was something I’d been after for a while. A gold on black AF1 that I called the 10-year wait. Other than that I tend to go in with a pretty open mind and see what new materials may be available, see what style of shoes they may have added and then just start to run ideas from there. I tend to go fairly crazy so that they really stand out from the norm and wear well with a bunch of different looks. There is always a danger of going a little over the top though! I also think they make the best presents in the world. I took my fiancé there a couple times, and even her brothers when they came to stay with us, and they were bugging out. I gave em the kicks for Christmas when they arrived and they were well chuffed.
Is the market still buzzing over there in the UK?
In all honesty I have never felt that the sneaker culture over here is quite as strong as other countries. Don’t get me wrong there are loads of people really into their kicks but for some reason the culture here does not seem to be able to sustain shops dedicated to rare and exclusive kicks. Nearly all of the central London boutique sneaker spots have closed their doors now which I think is a real shame, there are a few spots that are a little further out. I don’t think the big companies help much either though. Quite often rather than offering exclusives to the smaller independent shops they would do them through the larger chains as they know they can shift more units and influence more purchasing power. I know it is a business but you get a whole different kind of street level hype if things are done with the real heads and that encourages a longer relationship which is surely what these brands should be looking at?
There haven’t been too many folks in the UK fortunate enough to collaborate on their own shoe, apart from Dizzee really.
In terms of collaborations I think the support the UK gets on that front compared to the US for example is bordering on pathetic. I know that the US is a bigger market but the whole world looks to the UK and London especially to set trends and the fact that we have so many talented designers, musicians and relevant people that are constantly overlooked gets me a little riled. It is no co-incidence that Dizzee only got his colab when he hit the top of the charts. I know the brands do support in other ways and I have done events with both Nike and Puma in the past and have nothing but love for that but in terms of colabs there are literally dozens of people I can think of who if they were based in the US as opposed to the UK would have done shoes already! The whole thing upsets me a little because I am such a proud Londoner having been born and bred here that I really want the city to be the top of every game possible. It’s the place that the whole world looks to for everything from music and clothes to food and theatre.
Agreed! Are you an online shopper?
Not particularly. I do buy some stuff online but it isn’t the same is it? I feel the same about buying vinyl online. If you come across something sick and can’t resist then I grab it but I don’t really go digging online as it were. I also think what you don’t know can’t hurt you, so if I do not know a pair exist then I ain’t mad at not getting them. I work mad hard at throwing great parties and still do a lot of my flyer distribution myself in order to keep the street level buzz high so I am in and out of a lot of the sneaker shops every couple of weeks. I got pretty good links in most of the shops I hit on the regular, it helps that the staff like to come to my events and I can offer them guestlists. A little back scratching goes a long way.
What’s coming up for you in 2010?
Well I have new events kicking off in different cities in the UK and am also planning to try and spin abroad more than I have to date. Soul II Soul’s Jazzie B has invited me to come and spin at the Back II Life party in Antigua alongside the likes of Norman Jay, Trevor Nelson & David Rodigan so I am really excited about that. The Doctor’s Orders will also be celebrating its 5th birthday this July and I will be doing a bunch of different exciting events that I am just starting to put together now. Kicks-wise, I honestly don’t know what’s coming up. I helped Jazzie B a little with the design of a shoe he is doing and I am excited to see how it turns out. I heard that Nike iD is introducing the Jordan 1, which could be cool. Other than that I am just looking forward to copping more joints for the ever-growing pile of kicks in my house!
Photos by Errol Photography