Louder Than War talk to DJ Brandon Block
Brandon Block has led up to now what you’d might call a pretty full-on life. One filled with many highs but also personal lows, all of which was documented in his biography released last year titled ‘The Life and Lines of Brandon Block’. LTW’s Carl Stanley recently sat down with Brandon and put a few questions to him covering the book, his life and recovery.
Carl Stanley – Its safe to say coming out of the 80’s and running throughout the 90’s the life style and career of the dance DJ was if not more ‘rock’n’roll’ than many of the bands and musicians of that era. ‘Having It’ just as much as Liam, as out of it as Shaun Ryder and almost as scandalous as Jeffrey Archer and John Leslie combined. Well maybe not that much but the drama was never that far away, and they were always centre of the party, both on and off the dance floor. So when one of the UK’s biggest club DJ’s to ever do it…Brandon Block, decided to get it all down in a new biograpahy it was a done deal, and just had to be read.
Mapping out his life story the book works its way up to Brandon’s time pioneering the early Ibiza scene, early residencies at legendary clubs like ‘Up Yer Ronson’ and ‘Scream’, the 2000 Brit Awards (where he famously appeared on stage heavily intoxicated) and of course his reality TV appearances, like celebrity Big Brother. All the trials and tribulations that went along with these things were included in the book, along with a very honest, detailed and enlightening account of his time in rehabilitation and recovery from narcotics. ‘The Life and Lines of Brandon Block’ offers probably the greatest inside view of the life on the shelves today.
Right now the London DJ is about to start a new chapter of his life as he prepares to take his new post as a ‘drug rehabilitation’ project worker at Blenheim (London Drug Agency). His close work with ‘Smart-Recovery’ has been central to his life for the last couple of years and as he’s embarking on a new journey in 2013, I thought it’d be a perfect time to ask him about it all.
Hi Brandon – ‘The Life and Lines of Brandon Block’, what a fine read…but how on earth did you remember it all, did you have any help?
Brandon Block– The book actually came out last December, It goes through a few things like my behavioural problems, drug use and some of the people around me, the Brit awards and up to now with things like Smart recovery which I’m involved with these days, as well as a lot on the club scene, Ibiza and so on. I put it together with a friend of mine called Matt Trollope, a journalist and friend who used to write for several publications who’d would document our adventures around Ibiza in the early days doing features for DJ Mag, which myself and Alex P were a big part of. He was running a few bars in London, the lodge in Harlesden and East Village, I’d not seen him for some time so popped in one day to catch up with him. When I mentioned the idea for the book he said he’d love to write it, so I said “ok, you can then”, and over the next couple of years we sat down and went right-through the years trying to recall everything and when it all happened. It was a momentous journey, highly amusing and highly bemusing.
Alex P & Brandon at Sundance ibiza 1999
What was it like for you personally though putting the book together, looking back on your own life (up to now) in print?
BB – In parts funny but quite raw in other bits, you know. To be honest I’d never really dwell-ed much on past situations and things I’ve been through but I got through it and actually it was quite good to go through the past and talk about it again, and everyone who’s read it I’ve spoke to has loved it which is nice to know.
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a DJ, or did you always see yourself doing what you do?
BB – No, of course not, it just went that way didn’t it, Not for one minute did I think this would be my career or it would give me a certain lifestyle or anything like that, it just happened. In the early days I had a number of jobs; salesman, recruitment consultant, greengrocer, window dresser and a roofer all while I was running around playing in the pubs and clubs. Circa. 1985 with Ali Jobe my best Mukka and DJ partner in our Mobile disco Ironically named ‘Ecstacy Disco’…funny eh?
So can you tell me about Smart-Recovery, a big part of your life right now isn’t it, as well as your work volunteering at Blenheim CDP ? (The London Drug Agency)
BB – It started a couple of years ago, I was sat in my house one night thinking about how things were going and starting to become disillusioned with the music at that time, I wasn’t inspired by what I was producing in the way of tunes so felt I needed something new in my life, something to give me a different perspective, something to inspire me again, take my focus from music for a while. So I’m on the net surfing doing a bit of research into doing volunteer work within substance abuse, drugs and alcohol and I came across Blenheim. At first I did recognise the name but wasn’t sure where then it dawned on me, it was the place I attended my first ever Group which was around 1996 at there first project on Portobello Road, in London’s brilliant Ladbroke Grove.
Anyway they’d obviously expanded and as luck would have it had a branch in Uxbridge which is not far from where I live, I called them and went down there, had an interview and talked to staff there about my situation and the actual possibility of me volunteering because having any sort of profile can cause problems, but we got around that with measures in place and I ended up volunteering there for a couple of years which I enjoyed immensely. From there I went to on study different therapies like CBT, ITEP, training and behavioural courses and it was while studying I came came across Smart-Recovery, which was fairly new and Now being championed by the Government, as part of their mutual aid support in the new directives of putting full recovery first.
SMART seems to be like a new/fresh way of looking at rehabilitation?
BB – Its more about dealing with thoughts and behaviours as much as it is about rehabilitation, its about lifestyle choices and how to make them best for you, its as much about decision making as it is about recovering.
For me it was because I was understanding more and more about thought process and recovery as a whole so when I went online to join one of the On-Line SMART meetings, I liked it and was asked if would facilitate our Own SMART meeting. I thought to my self ‘I actually really like this, the way it looks at recovery and how it explains itself’ so I sat the course, passed and received my facilitators certificate and then started up our Smart meeting with my co-facilitator in the place I’m at volunteering at now. It has taken a bit of time to get up and running, like last week we had just 5 participants who attended but they all gave me some great feed back, which I really love. I’ve been speaking to one of the champions of Smart and the organisation, a great guy and an old clubber who I talk to a lot, I would like to be part of Smart on a more regular basis and would like to be a part of the company, I just really believe in the way Smart recovery works.
Why do you think it works for you, rather than say other forms of recovery ?
BB – My belief in Smart isn’t in any way in disregard to N.A or A.A which works for millions of people, Smart recovery is an alternate or an ‘as well as’ as an edition of your recovery some people it works for some people it doesn’t. I myself recovered many years ago, but it took hard work and many years of undue headaches. Its a personal choice but its nice to have that choice, I like the fact Smart deals on the basis of recovering and being recovered as apposed to for ever being an ‘addict’ and never actually fully healing, or the use of abstinence based techniques.
Smart-Recovery actually accepts that people do relapse and its usually quite rare for someone to recover the first time round or not slip up. It deals with it face on, talking about it and why it happened and what can you do to stop it happening again, were human and all fallible, you know we get things wrong. Without mistakes you’ll never know if something is completely right! So we as animals try these things, we adapt, if we have trouble dealing with things hopefully we can we try and get-help, it’s the human condition. For me I feel that Smart-Recovery deals with these problems in a proactive way and is there if people want it.
How has your own journey been using Smart recovery then Brandon?
BB – Its been hard in places. Quite a transition altogether and by no means have I slowed down on the music side but over the last couple of years. I’ve just been embracing that side of my life more and more, as something to do as well as producing music and DJ’n. It can be hard to make those type of changes sometimes and especially when you’ve been doing the same thing for so long, but I’d say its all gone towards making me more of a person and I’m really quite happy with where I am at the moment, I’m in a good spot.
Did putting the book together give you the chance to put your own past life style in perspective, see it in a clearer light ?
BB – In all honesty, I already knew how bad I was and how mental things were but I suppose you could say I didn’t remember how mad the actual madness was, if you know what I mean. When you have it down in writing and your reading it back its like “fuckin hell, how did I get away with that”, friends ringing me up asking “whats this” and I’m like “yeah,..er sorry”. My psychiatrist actually wrote in the book that he never knew anyone who took as much as I did and still able to stand up, and that’s the head of Westminster and Chelsea drug centre who specialise in cocaine addiction. So for him to say something like that must of meant that I was an absolute headcase haha.
No doubt, its something which is well depicted in the book. So what about plans for next year, any TV work or you concentrating on your music more?
BB – Well I’ve recently started up my new record label ‘Bloxbox Records’ with friend and DJ Timmy Lyall, a great DJ in his own right who used to run Slinky’s. We’ve got some really good artists that we want to release like Dan Van, Adam Fierce, Mark Cooper and Cosmic Moon Base, I’ve also got my tracks with ‘The Blockers’ myself and James Hockley so looking forward to building that up this year. Regarding TV work, well its not like it was those years ago when the reality shows first came out, you know they’ve had their day really and as for the popular shows like Get Me Out Of Here, when they put the feelers out for those shows they’re absolutely inundated with requests and replies. To be honest I still have a TV agent and I’ve got a couple of friends that work in that industry but I haven’t got any plans at the moment for TV work, though that doesn’t mean if the right thing came along I wouldn’t do it. But I’m pleased to say I’ve actually been offered a job working at Blenheim as a project worker, which I’m really made up with and will be my main focus for 2013.
Great news and congratulations, it must be great to know you now have the skills to help others?
BB – Thanks, it is great news and I’m really pleased you know, it feels like all the hard work’s payed off. OK I’m still making music, and Djing but I’ll be facilitating the Smart Recovery meetings at the weekends and now I’ve got a staff position at Blenheim I’ll really be putting a lot of time and effort into that, and I cant wait.
Its funny really because when I first went into it all I didn’t imagine I’d be as involved as I am now because I’d not done anything like it before but as time’s gone by I’ve progressively become more and more involved and that’s because I get a lot from it and if I can contribute or help someone else then that’s fantastic. I’d just like to say as well that if anyone out there ever feels they have any sort of behavioural issues – which a lot of times manifests itself into using drink or drugs, then by all means please contact Smart Recovery, its website (below) is great site that explains what Smart is all about with introductory videos and all the info you need on meetings and such, so please have a look and thanks for the interview. Or you can always call on Blocko, I’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction, I’m quite easy to find…
You ain’t seen me right ! Love and Peace Out…
follow Brandon Twitter – https://twitter.com/Brandonblock
All words by Carl Stanley. More features by Carl on Louder Than War can be found here.