My best teacher

9th May 2003 at 01:00
Mr Stewart was a very strict, full-on headmaster, but he gave me the best bit of help I ever had

I was born in Sunderland, where my dad worked on the shipyards as a designer. But then the shipbuilding industry collapsed and he was made redundant. He was offered a job in Worthing, so when I was about 10 we moved.

The first school I went to in Worthing was Angmering comprehensive. I was there for about a year and a half but I didn't settle so I moved to St Andrew's high school for boys. My favourite teacher there was my art teacher, Mr Ayling, who was also my form tutor. He was a bit of a soft touch, but he was very kind, like a lot of art teachers are.

Mr Stewart was a strict, full-on headmaster. But one day he gave me the best bit of help I have ever had. I loved music, but back then DJ-ing wasn't thought of as a career. DJs were either the guy in a dark corner of a seedy nightclub, or someone going round in a Ford Transit van doing weddings and parties. Everyone thought I was a nutter walking round school with loads of records. But I wanted to be a DJ, so when the time came to choose which subjects we would do, I asked to do music, and maths and physics because they play a big part in music production. I couldn't do that combination - they were trying to get me to do religious education, or metalwork, or geography, and I didn't want to do them. Because my spelling was bad they gave me extra English and I wasn't happy doing that, so I ended up not going to lessons. At the time I couldn't see the point. The English teacher used to put me down and say things like: "You're not going to get anywhere in life."

One day I was told off by Mr Stewart and we ended up having a real heart to heart. He saw my frustration at not being able to do what I wanted. A local nightclub had approached him about putting on an under-18s night, so he said to me: "This club is looking for a DJ, do you fancy doing it?" At first I panicked at the thought of standing in front of hundreds of kids, especially those I knew. I said to the resident DJ: "I don't know what I'm doing," but after half an hour I had got the hang of it. The night was a big success and they asked me back.

I ended up doing a weekly under-18s night. Then the club said the kind of music I played would appeal to the weekend crowd. The council had to give me permission to do an over-18s night because I was only 15. It was great; I was getting pound;70 a week, which went straight back into buying records. The club, called Sterns, was in this amazing old manor house on the edge of the South Downs and held 3,500 people. It became a legendary rave venue and I was resident throughout that.

Even though Mr Stewart had helped me, the bond between us didn't strengthen. I left school with one O-level in maths, but by then my DJ-ing had taken off. I was soon playing huge clubs, building a fan base, going to Germany and Ibiza. It was 1989 and the DJ scene was exploding.

When I was 20, I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was fit and had never smoked a cigarette. I was told I hadn't got long to live, then I had two years of chemotherapy, which was a horrible treatment. I got better and went to recuperate in Florida, where I met an English guy called Lee who had seen me play a few times and encouraged me to come back. He's now my manager - and the rest is history.

I've not seen Mr Stewart since I left school. I think he works for the council now. I keep expecting to bump into him when I'm shopping. He probably won't remember it but I'd like him to realise what he's done. I might have made it as a DJ anyway, but he opened a huge door for me. If I saw him, I'd say thanks.


1969 Born in Sunderland

1974 Fulwell junior school, Sunderland

1980 Angmering comprehensive, Worthing

1982 St Andrew's high school, Worthing

1984 Residency at Sterns nightclub

1990 Diagnosed with cancer

1992 Cancer in remission, moves to Florida to convalesce

1993 Returns to UK, restarts career

1997 Remixes tracks by Gloria Estefan, Erasure and Simple Minds

1999 Best Trance Album Ever reaches number seven in national charts. Starts own dance label, Joof Recordings

May 2003 New single released, I'm Not Fooled, featuring folk singer Natasha Lee Jones

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