From Larne to Las Vegas with Fergie

Dance music veteran Fergie talks us through his journey from learning to DJ in his hometown of Larne during his early teens, through to his pivotal role in the superclub scene in Las Vegas.

Mike Warburton

Last updated: 9th Mar 2015.
Originally published: 5th Mar 2015

Photo: Fergie 

As one of the key players in the emergence of hard house during the late nineties, a young, fresh-faced Fergie tore into the scene in a big way. Both through his fiesty productions and ferocious DJ sets, Fergie embodied the energy and buzz that hard house was busy generating.

Many years later and Fergie has been on one hell of a journey. From hard house poster boy to Las Vegas superclub resident and consigliere, Fergie continues to operate at the very heart of the electronic music business, still carrying the same passion that got him noticed so early on in his career.

After countless offers over the past few years from various institutions, Fergie will be making an exclusive return to his hard house roots at the Tidy Weekender at the end of the month, for a very special back to back with fellow luminary BK, in what will surely be one of the most essential sets that weekend (relive Fergie's 2001 Essential Mix above).

In light of that, we thought we'd get in touch with Fergie and relive some of his favourite hard house moments, discuss his gradual evolution within dance music and get the inside track on the state of American clubbing.

So you'll be heading to the Tidy Weekender at the end of March. How special is the Tidy Weekender to the hard dance community? What would you say is the secret to its longevity?

Well I would say the Tidy brand as a whole has been one of the driving forces for the hard house scene from the start, whether that has involved pushing new music, artists or of course events.

I think over the last lot of years hard house has not had as much of a demand as it once had, but what we have seen is Tidy coming back and doing what they do best and that is to putting on great parties. You just know your going to have a fucked up time of it when the promoters of the event are crazier than most of the people going to it. I'm excited!

What can expect from your set there? Are you looking forward to airing some of your older records and revisiting classic hard house?

You will have to wait and see! I'm super looking forward to hooking up with my old friend BK for a special back to back set. We have been asked to do this for years all over the world but always declined, I never wanted to do it because, like every hard house jock back then, I played all Ben's records, so I worried that if I do a back to back set with him, what the fuck am I going to play!?

He's been the most consistent producer over nearly 20 years in any style of music! It's going to be me and Ben having a laugh together enjoying ourselves and playing the music for the people, Oh and also getting clean on it I'm sure.

Looking back at your hard house days, can you tell us about one of your fondest memories of the scene?

There's been so many but the ones up there for me would be of course playing with Tony (De Vit) around the world, the first tour with him and Andi Buckley to South Africa was insane.

I was 16 years old and for my second time ever on a plane they take me to South Africa for a tour. But it was so good to see how they embraced hard house and Tony across the world, including Israel, China and Australia.

But I guess I have to mention the UK scene more as that is were the heartbeat of hard house was, Trade Sundiessential, The Lakota Bristol and of course Naughty But Nice in Hereford. Playing back to back with Tony in my home town of Larne at the House night club in 1996 was my only time playing back to back with the great man. I'd have to say that is one of my most treasured memories (see Fergie recount his time with Tony De Vit below).

Back in 2012 you left it all behind to hit America, how has that experience been for you? 

The decision to come to the US in 2012 was a no brainer for me. I first came on a mini tour of the USA in 2001 with the first of the Godskitchen parties in the US and I remember thinking how different the crowd was from what I was used to, some people were actually wearing suits... actually some of them still do [laughs].

I'd been asked to come over to the US for years but I was doing my weekly Radio One show and I didn't feel that I was ready to move but when I was offered a residency at Wet Republic it was an opportunity that I couldn't refuse - that's kind of were things started to move very quickly for me.  

I was offered the opportunity to be a part of the Hakkasan project and I could see how it would change the whole concept of the clubbing experience. Needless to say I was hooked and I knew I had to be a part of it, the rest as they say, is history!

What a difference a decade makes, the US is now the biggest market in the world for dance music. It really has blown me away, I've loved being a part of it and seeing the scene here has grown.

How have you had to adapt to the American audience and how do you rate the American dance music scene?

Although America is still just settling into its place in the mainstream dance music scene it has a lot of history. Underground parties in New York led by DJs like Larry Levan, David Mancuso and Tony Humphries set the foundation for what has become an explosion on the Las Vegas strip.

Without a doubt Americans now have the same passion for dance music as they do in the UK and Europe, but ther's a massive difference in how they respond to it in the clubs.

In the UK and Europe the crowd like to groove a while to the music and anticipate the build up, but in the States there is no waiting around, they want it from the get go - people are just jumping around for the whole time you are playing, fist pumping and getting crazy, it's more like a rock concert than anything else.

I think that the EDM eruption in the US has also created opportunities, not just for me but so many other DJs and producers, to get creative and try something new.

As far as what the future holds for dance music in the US I see it trending up. I think that musically, we are in a great time and place with so many young producers coming through and trying new things. The scene will keep on and on growing and I look forward to being a part of it all.

What has your role been with Hakkasan (above), which is now surely one of the most renowned Vegas clubs? 

Yeah I was actually there through part of the pre-construction stage so I feel like, in a way, I got to see the very soul of the building and watch it grow. Walking through the building as it was developing, seeing the layout of the DJ booth taking shape, I was like a child waiting for Christmas... I just couldn't wait to get in there!

I played the main room on the opening night - to be in that DJ booth in command of the main room was an incredible buzz, the energy exchange between me and the crowd was just mind blowing, I still get that same feeling.  

Hakkasan has without a doubt got the best DJ roster in Vegas and I feel privileged to be a part of it all, and not just Hakkasan but also Wet Republic and the beautiful new club Omnia which opened early this month. With all of that plus my monthly residency at Haven Atlantic City and regular gigs in the likes of San Francisco and New York I'm kept pretty busy.

It’s been a while since 'Brave Star' dropped on Excentric Muzik, have you been working on any new material at all? 

I have been working on more of the US, lets say EDM sound to date but I've not made anything I'm overly happy with. But I keep going and it's all about new challenges and testing yourself with whatever comes your way.

Was there a track or DJ you saw that converted you to electronic music? What are your musical roots?

I'm asked that question a lot and the memory is as clear to me as if it was yesterday. I remember queuing up for the Hellraiser 'raves' at the Ulster Hall in Belfast in the early nineties to see and hear Carl Cox perform.

I still love listening to the old mixes that were recorded from Hellraiser and I can still recall the build up of excitement…

I must have been around 13 years old at the time and just been introduced to dance music. I'd never heard anything like it before and I couldn't get enough of it… I still can't. I knew from that moment that I wanted to be a DJ.

The DJing all started in Larne in Northern Ireland. I left school at 14 and pestered the local promoter to give me a job at the club brushing the floor, cleaning the toilets and clearing the tables, anything really, but I didn't care because he let me play on the decks. It is true that I had to stand on a milk crate so that I could reach the decks!

Eventually I got to do a the warm up set and that was it for me, there was no going back, it was DJing or nothing! I had a lot of people along the way who helped me but I was also very focused and knew that I wanted to be a DJ and here I am, two decades later still playing at some of the best nights around, Hakkasan, Wet Republic, The Wall, Haven, Ultra and of course TIDY!

Catch Fergie in action at the Tidy Weekender. Get your tickets here.

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