Ajax - Don't Sweat The Small Stuff
Author: Angus Thompson
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
When it comes to interviewing Australia’s number one DJ, it’s more than lamentable that the encounter is confined to one solid telephone interview, considering how animated Ajax turns out to be.
“Hello, is this Adrian-” I ask. My last two attempts at reaching him were answered by a terse “Leave a message!” belted from the other end of the line.
“Speaking!” This time the man himself answers in a tone no less rushed. The projection is a stark contrast to the dishevelled heap I saw cornered against the washbasins of the boys’ toilets by two gorgeous female companions in a Darlinghurst club weeks before.
But Adrian Thomas – aka Ajax – is, by now, no stranger to such binaries. Looking back on the life he recently led, and the life he leads now, he can only recount in amazement of the drastic change he’s undergone.
“Maybe even three or four years ago, when we started Bang Gang, all I would do was basically take Mondays off, then Tuesdays I would fiddle around and do nothing…go record shopping. Then Wednesdays and Thursdays I’d devote to doing, like, Bang Gang mixes and sending out CDs, and all that other stuff,” he says.
“But compared to that now, I spend two days re-editing mixes or re-edits to actually DJ out…and then I’ve got probably three days a week I dedicate to the record label, and then maybe two days a week on original stuff. It’s changed so much in, say, the last two years especially compared to, say, the previous, you know, six or seven years before that, that’s for sure.”
Perhaps the most time-consuming is the birth of Ajax’s aptly named record label, Sweat It Out. Launched just weeks ago, the team are dedicated to churning out no less than four releases in the next three months, not to mention Gameboy/Gamegirl’s recently released debut EP Golden Ghetto Sex and Ajax’s first original EP due out 19 April.
“You know what- It’s actually really difficult at the moment because I’m touring a lot, so you can pretty much write out Friday, Saturday, Sunday, but then I’m also doing triple j at the moment – and that takes like a day a week to do that as well,” he says. “I wish I had a 10-day working week to be honest.”
The Bang Gang posse have thrived on the ‘professional trash bags’ stigma tattooed to their foreheads as the five-come-six-strong DJ crew earned their reputation hosting irreverent weekly club nights, slaying the continuity of dance music in cut n paste mash-ups, which Adrian describes as taking the piss out of clubbing. But being voted Busy P’s and Digitalism’s best DJ of 2007, and ‘Justice’s One to Watch in 2008’ (DJ Magazine), has begun to unnerve the art-school dropout.
“It must make a fucking big difference because three years ago when I used to DJ I wouldn’t sweat at all, like not a drop…I would go in dry, I would walk out dry. It was like nothing,” he says. “I don’t know what’s happened in the last two years, and I put it down to the mental strain – that I have to perform, that I’m constantly expecting people to want a whole fucking show. It really puts a lot of mental pressure on me.
“And it’s affecting me physically, ’cause I’m, like, sweating like a mother fucker and I don’t even know what it is.”
Clubbers at home should be comforted to know that Ajax devotes as much anxiety to his Sydney gigs these days as he does to his residency at London’s mega-club, Fabric, attributing the strain to the “weight of reputation”.
Heading back to Fabric on 11 April, Ajax finds himself constantly touring, darting back to Oz intermittently to fulfil commitments at home.
“This time I kind of get Fabric ringing me, which is, like, fucking amazing,” he says.
When I start querying about income he becomes evasive and somewhat bashful, refusing to slap a dollar figure on the infinite multitude of successes over the last few years. Instead he diverts my attention to the little girl from Chile that he sponsors. Not budging an inch, he assures me that he’d never expected things to have exploded to what they are now – even six months ago.
Perhaps even more anticipated is the emergence of original material from the remix fiend, possibly heralding the end of Ajax, the international DJ, he whimsically forecasts. Featuring Sydney rapping duo the Killer Queens on two of the three tracks, Adrian previews his debut material as “kind of like Pump Up The Jam on steroids but a bit more grimy…it’s kind of acid house, kind of pumping, but it’s a little bit dark.
“Who knows, like in a year’s time maybe I’m not even DJing anymore. Maybe I’m just doing one live show,” he says.
As a global dance party juggernaut, a local label and a group fanning six separate industry entrepreneurs, Bang Gang’s internal politics have since become an awkward minefield to negotiate. With as many lucrative opportunities lost as won, Adrian is frequently torn between solo shows and the less-profitable Bang Gang parties.
“It gets even more difficult because someone like Bag Raiders, who I’d like to have on my label, have released through Bang Gang, so I can’t approach them, even though they’re not signed, because I don’t want to fuck my mates,” he says.
“But the best thing is that, even though we’ve had a few fights here and there it’s been pretty good. We’ve never wanted to fuck one another over, and I think everyone’s been pretty good at drawing the line at completely screwing someone.”
WHAT: Ajax’s new label Sweat It Out and EP
WHEN: EP out soon