When the Strokes released their debut album, Is This It?, in July 2001, I was 17 years old. I couldn’t have been luckier. I was stepping into the big wide world beyond my childhood for the first time, and a musical revolution just happened to be taking place simultaneously.
Whatever you think of The Strokes and the tidal wave of indie bands that followed them, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t a pivotal moment in music. This explosion of guitar music, combined with access to file-sharing services like Napster, a truckload of teenage emotions, and time on my hands, allowed me to go far, far down the rabbit hole of music discovery.
When I started university in September 2002, the student radio station was the first door I knocked on. That gave me access to promotional singles and albums, which hadn’t yet been released. But more importantly, I learnt a bunch of technical skills - how to work a mixing desk, how to cue songs, how to crossfade, and - most important of all - how to sequence multiple pieces of music into an experience that was at least a little greater than the sum of its parts.
By this point, I was also an enthusiastic patron of the local indie discos in Reading. The Afterdark, with its fearsome bouncer and walls that seemed perpetually covered in sweat. Po Na Na, next to the river Kennet, with its odd North African decor, and dancefloor which flooded every time the river ran high. When I heard that the Fez Club was looking for indie DJs for a downstairs room on its Monday rock night, I was first in line, and I got the gig.