Interview: Rusty Egan plays a rare northern DJ set
The New Romantics might have appeared to be all Londoncentric glam and glitz but there is no denying their influence on British fashion and music as they smashed boundaries despite some very dodgy clobber.
Rusty Egan was at the heart of that early 1980s youth cult DJing at the legendary Blitz Club,where all the cool crowd hung out, and he’s making a rare trip up north to play a set at Hebden Bridge Trades Club on Saturday 24 June as part of a one off electronica show featuring Gazelle Twin.
“The amount of people I’ve met who knew U2 would be the biggest group in the world, but no-one really knew, and we had no idea how big the New Romantics would get,” says Rusty.
“All that happened we didn’t want suits, office workers and people with ‘loadsofmoney’. We didn’t them in our bars telling us to take this shit record off. What we did was put Steve Strange on the door to keep them all out.
“We did have few normal people in because of the guy who owned the bar and you had people coming up asking for Saturday Night Fever. I just said: ‘no, we don’t do that here.”
Ironically while the hip gang were swanning around in the most outlandish outfits listening to Bowie, Roxy Music and Kraftwerk, they were driven not so much by the current desperation to be famous, but by a need to escape poverty.
“Despite meeting Boy George, Steve Strange, John McGeoch, Barry Adamson and Midge Ure, none of us had anything as we were all on the dole. Even if you had been in a band like me, and had made an album, you’d been dropped by the label so you didn’t have anything.
“It wasn’t like anyone was established as a great artist. Boy George, God bless him, was a wannabe as we are already making records, and I’d been on Top of the Pops when he met me. He was singing into a hairbrush in a mirror, but the thing that brought us all together was David Bowie.”
Egan is not a man short on confidence describing himself as an ‘arrogant fucker’, but he has been around the British music since 1978 when he was the drummer for pop punk band Rich Kids with Live Aid legend Midge Ure.
They were one of those great bands who should have been huge, but never quite made it to the big time. Their only album, Ghost of Princes in Towers, was produced by Spiders from Mars guitarist Mick Ronson, which for a massive Bowie fan like Egan turned out to be an odd experience.
“Mick was a broken man at that time but didn’t let us know,” recalls Egan. “He had his beer, his roll ups and he put his feet up, and the band played, and he said do this and do that.
“We went for dinner, and he told us stories as we were fans. Never did he say that David jumped on a plane, and fucked off to America, and we were all on wages so we were just fucked. He didn’t let it out but that was the reality.”
Boy George did go onto to be a huge gender bending star, but Egan had his time in the spotlight when his band Visage had a worldwide smash hit with electro pop classic Fade to Grey.
“I didn’t want to be a pop star, but mixed it as a DJ would, and it was a sound I had as I’d been a fan of Kraftwerk. I was a driver of people and it was just the sound that was in my head.
“Visage was a collection of John McGeoch .Barry Adamson, Dave Formula, Billy Currie, and a bloke called Steve Strange who we choose to front the music we wanted to make. We were a collection of musicians doing what Rusty Egan and Midge Ure wanted to do as I didn’t have enough music to play in the Blitz.”
Once a punk always a punk so Egan brings all that attitude to his DJ sets always challenging himself and his audience.
“In my laptop I have DJ sets that I do and then I add to them,” notes Egan. “I have a radio show called the Electronic Family Tree where I play all the new young bands like Church of Trees, Charlotte Someone, Len Sander, and then obviously some Kraftwerk. I also play familiar tunes that we kinda know that have remixed like Johnny and Mary by Bryan Ferry.
“I think at Hebden Bridge it will be an informed crowd who welcome hearing new things. When people are coming up going ‘my god, what is that?’, then I think I’m in heaven now, as there are people here who don’t just want to listen to Now That’s I Call The 1980s 45.”
Rusty Egan joins Gazelle Twin, U.V . and local music producer Pete Duggal at Hebden Bridge Trades Club on Friday June 24 with doors open at 8pm. For more details how to book go to www.hebdenbridgeartsfestival.co.uk
Check out Rusty’s radio shows at www.mixcloud.com/discover/the-electronic-family-tree