Almost exactly a year ago, we asked a range of globe-trotting DJ parents how they balanced life on the road with life at home. It proved a popular piece, so we’ve done it again.

As your favourite selectors get older, so more of them have children. Does that make them soft? Does it distract them? Does it change their priorities? A common sentiment is that having children equals less time to yourself, and therefore a clearer focus and stricter work ethic. What cannot be denied is the different roles a parent has at home and in the DJ booth, so here we ask a bunch of them how they manage that, what they reveal to their children and how their own parents dealt with their desire to work in the famously difficult music industry.

EWAN PEARSON

A multi-faceted DJ and producer who is a secret studio weapon for a wide range of bands and producers, Ewan Pearson thinks honestly is the best policy.

[My parents have] aways been really supportive of me making records – I gave up a scholarship-funded PhD a year in to become self-employed (not to mention completely broke for four years) and they didn’t question it. But then they were subjected to years of hearing kick drums through bedroom ceilings and they knew how seriously I was working at it from a young age. As I was someone that had to be blackmailed into going to school discos as a kid, my Mum thought it was quite hilarious that twenty years later I was tromping round the world playing records for a living.

I know that both my parents were thwarted by their folks when it came to doing what they wanted as a career and in education, and they reacted to that by taking me and my sister very seriously when it came to us deciding what we wanted to do. I can’t not do the same. As long as they don’t want to become Estate Agents or Tories. Then they’re dead to me.

[My children] see a lot of me making music and mixing for people because I have moved my studio back into the house after becoming a dad, so they come up to the loft, want to hear stuff, tell me very bluntly if they like it or not: there is no tougher critic than a four-year old.

They’re a bit young at the moment but I will tell them whatever they want when they’re old enough. But they have to express an interest. I’m not going to tell them anything unbidden. I can just see a teenager rolling their eyes going ‘Dad, please stop going on about acid house’. Kids are kind of disinterested in what you were, they are interested in how you are now and how exactly you’re going to answer whatever specific need they have at that moment, which is snacks, mostly.

Most definitely I will be honest [about drugs]. Kids need to be informed and will make safer decisions when the time comes as a result. But I would definitely tell them all the potential dangers too. The good thing about having our generation is we do at least know what we’re talking about on this subject because we’ve experienced or at the very least witnessed the good and the bad, we’re not just repeating talking points or scare stories we heard from the media. But the most important thing is to build trust and self-confidence in your kid so they look after themselves because they know they’re cared about and loved not from fear of anger or retribution.

Getting hammered is not an option when you’re going to have tiny people jumping on you a few hours later, but I’m in my mid-40s now and hangovers are pretty unpleasant full stop, so I have kept things pretty sober when I play for a long while now. I had huge amounts of fun going out in my 20s and 30s, I lived in Berlin during the heyday of after-hours clubbing. I pushed the boat out plenty. And now this is a different phase, it’s knackering and bonkers and sleep-deprived and lovely but in a whole new way.

CASSY

After more than 20 years as a DJ, Cassy knows what a life in dance music is like and isn’t sure she wants to pass it on.

To be honest, I would hope my son would not get into DJing. Not because it’s a bad thing to be doing, but I just think there are more interesting things in the world to be doing! I would hope for him to have a true passion, and if that is music, then so be it.

My parents didn’t make anything out of my career choice, and just let me get on with it. They weren’t shocked or surprised at all. The turning point was as soon as I moved to Berlin and I started getting more and more gigs.

Rocky is too young to understand [what I do] right now, he is only four. The older they get the more you can tell them if they seem open to it. But to be honest kids don’t want to hear what their parents did when they were younger. I remember if my parents were telling me stories I’d be like “oh please be quiet”. When you get older however, and you start to think about what imprint you want to make on the earth, you think about what your parents did before you and find delving into their past interesting.

Every personality is so different. Some people are totally fine about [recreational drug use] and can cope with that lifestyle, some end up with people have metal health issues, some addiction issues. It really depends what type of person my son turns into and what he can handle as to how honest I am with him when he gets older.

I enjoy the contrast [of DJ and mum life]. The crazy clubs atmosphere and dancing people become something you get used to and you enjoy it if the gig is right. Then you have your down time on the journey home and when you get there, you are happy to get home to the peace and quiet and the family you missed over the weekend.

To be honest, I would hope my son would not get into DJing. Not because it’s a bad thing to be doing, but I just think there are more interesting things in the world to be doing! I would hope for him to have a true passion, and if that is music, then so be it.

My parents didn’t make anything out of my career choice, and just let me get on with it. They weren’t shocked or surprised at all. The turning point was as soon as I moved to Berlin and I started getting more and more gigs.

Rocky is too young to understand [what I do] right now, he is only four. The older they get the more you can tell them if they seem open to it. But to be honest kids don’t want to hear what their parents did when they were younger. I remember if my parents were telling me stories I’d be like “oh please be quiet”. When you get older however, and you start to think about what imprint you want to make on the earth, you think about what your parents did before you and find delving into their past interesting.

Every personality is so different. Some people are totally fine about [recreational drug use] and can cope with that lifestyle, some end up with people have metal health issues, some addiction issues. It really depends what type of person my son turns into and what he can handle as to how honest I am with him when he gets older.

DAVE HARVEY

Few are busier than DJ, venue owner, Love International promoter, Futureboogie boss and Bristol mainstay Dave Harvey, so how does he manage?

Bless my parents, not sure they knew what to do when I was getting started but I was living away from home and doing my own thing, putting on nights and playing out a bit plus I always had jobs running bars so it was never my first port for earning money, so it was really a hobby at that time anyway. They definitely know it’s a viable career now but I think the penny dropped when they found out I was working at Glastonbury as that was a festival they knew. Now they’re well happy and proud, I think when they came to my wedding in Croatia on the Garden site, they knew that all was good! I’d certainly support either of [my own children] if they wanted to get into it but I’d suggest they get another job to pay the bills!

I’ve got a 19 year old son who likes to go out for a dance so he knows what I do – he’s been to loads of my events and I think finally thinks I’m cool now after years of trying! I’m always on work mode at the events I run but he has been to a couple of gigs so he’s seen me on party mode too. My daughter is only one year old so she has no idea just yet, she loves a dance too though so I foresee some parties in her future.

I’ve been pretty honest with my son, he’s a switched on young man and he’s not stupid so he knows I’ve had a few late nights in my time, he came to my set at Glastonbury a couple of years ago so we were both up late for that one, his mates loved it and it was wicked to have him out in the crowd dancing. We parted ways for the afterparty though.

I think honesty about drugs is the only way to approach something which is a part of youth culture, whether that is in clubs or festivals or in bus stops and on street corners. I’m very fortunate that my son is very sensible and much more grown up on that front than I was at his age but in general I think that openness and education are the only sensible approach and it’s very encouraging to see that attitude becoming more prevalent at a government level.

I must admit the lack of a lie in after a long weekend has curbed my late night activity since my daughter was born last year, my wife is very tolerant and helps me out in a big way but I’m generally much more civilised these days, and I love my home life so I’m just happy to see my baby and my missus.

A SAGITTARIUN

The Elastic Dreams boss and timeless techno dreamweaver often has his children by his side at gigs.

I don’t want the same relationship that I had with my parents where discussion of drugs was not even a thing. I would rather be an open book and an understanding parent that, should these things ever come up in their own lives, then they have someone to talk to about these things. I used to hide all kinds of things from my parents, and it breaks my heart to think that my children would keep things from me that matter, so yes, the talks will be honest and upfront, I think that’s important, knowing what your kids are getting into, where they are, who they are with.

I don’t think I ever gave my parents the chance to quash my dreams, by the age of 11, I had already thrown myself head first into the world of DJing, at this age I was really focused on becoming a radio DJ/presenter, so pursued various avenues including some experience with BBC Radio 1, hospital radio and then onto BBC Radio Bristol, but when I’d moved to

London to study radio an media I switched up my focus to club DJ work. My father, whilst he won’t admit it, is immensely proud of my achievements, although he still jokes with me that I “need to get a proper job”. The path of the club DJ or producer is not a very reliable one, so it’s extremely difficult to rely on it for a certified income, especially as you get older.

I have two sons, and they’ve very much been exposed to what I do from an early age. They’ve been to festivals that I have performed at, stood side of stage, they have always found it hugely exciting and thrilling. They’ve been in recording studios, met many of my friends and colleagues who share similar careers, so for them, it’s all they have known from me, and are always still very inquisitive about what I do. They rarely see me fresh from a gig, my children don’t live with me so they have been spared the awful sight of me in the early hours after a performance or set!

It can be strange to go from travelling around the world and DJing to suddenly having to ground yourself to become a dad, but luckily I’m a very grounded person anyway, I take all that, ‘DJ lifestyle’ thing with a pinch of salt, it’s what I do and have done for many years, I’m not as busy a DJ as many others out there so I manage to get the balance right.

They do pretty much know my whole trajectory towards what I do now, I’ve been very open with them about my life and career moves. They like to hear stories about my travels, I think it’s opening up their minds about the possibilities that’s open to anyone who has a passion for something and the determination to go out and achieve it.

The fact that I don’t live with my children presents a much different dynamic, in that it still takes a lot of adjustment from my everyday life and career to then becoming a responsible parent when I do have my children. From going to seeing them daily and taking care of many parental duties to having them on odd weekends or school holidays, it’s not as easy as one might think. But I’m continually working on it, and we do have a very special relationship that might be different if I was still living with them on a daily basis.

I guess we all echo what our own parents would have said to us at the time, and ultimately when children progress to young adults, they have to follow their own paths, do what they want to do, what they are passionate about. I don’t believe in negatively discouraging their hopes and dreams. They know that my career path hasn’t been the easiest, and I would spell out the huge difficulties in making the arts, be it music, film, writing, art etc., your chosen profession. It takes a lot of passion, resilience, and a lot of luck to succeed in these areas, but I’d rather my children follow their dreams and desires rather than take second best in something they really don’t want to do, so I’ll make sure I’m there for them when the knocks come, because they do, and I’ve been there, but with determination and focus, there’s not a lot that people can’t achieve if they set their minds to it.

MAN POWER

The Me Me Me boss loves the duality of grounded dad-hood and an exciting DJ life.

[My parents saw DJing] as an excuse to not get a proper job until the first time I played live on BBC Radio 1. Now they show off to their friends about it.

[My daughter] Samantha sees me the following day when I play locally. I’m often tired, but I make sure that I’m always capable of being an engaged and functioning parent when I see her the next day. It’s a lot easier to say no to a shot of tequila than it is to live with yourself because you know you’re not capable of giving a child the attention they deserve. She knows I’m a DJ, but no matter how impressive the instagram footage I show her is, I’m resigned to the fact she’ll never find me cool.

She’s eight, so I limit what I say about myself the same way I limit what I say about other subjects. I’m not going to tell her there’s no Santa at this age either. My feeling is that people will go on their own personal journey with substances regardless of how honest or deceptive you are with them, but at least if you’re honest then they know they can talk to you about any problems they may have with substances, or alternatively if they’re feeling pressured by other people to do anything they don’t want to do.

I have a compartmentalised life. It’s heaven. I get to engage with my passion in a way that doesn’t feel like its consumed me in a potentially negative way, and I get to be a family man without feeling like I’m wasting the best years of my life.

I’d LOVE Sam to develop a strong taste and get in to DJing because she has something musical to say. There’s enough people living a fake version of what they think a DJ lifestyle is. I’d much prefer her

approach it with some sense of its roots and be able to share music with people than I would her just get caught up in the whole cycle of partying for partying’s sake. Ultimately though I just want her to find her own way in something thats meaningful to her.

I don’t think you can ever insulate children from every possible bad decision they’ll make, all you can do is let them know you’re there to help them when they do, even if the form of the help might not be quite what they want it to be. I guess there’s a fine line between helping, protecting, insulating and enabling. My mistakes are all what brought me to the happiest place in my life right now, so I think people need to be able to make their own mistakes. I’m just hopeful that over time she’s willing to listen to me on certain subjects and avoid some needless pain by learning from my mis-steps, rather than repeating things I now know to have been negative.

For part one of this series head here.

Kristan Caryl is freelance journalist based in Leeds.

Original illustration: by Amber Anderson.

Special mention to Rex!

Author Kristan Caryl
21st March, 2019

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