Originally known as Jon of the Pleased Wimmin, real name Jonathan Cooper began his DJing career in the midst of the Rave revolution in 1991. Born in Brazzaville in the Congo, Africa to Salvation Army missionary parents and then raised in London, he quickly climbed the DJ ladder and was touring and gigging all over the world.
By 1994, he had turned his hand to production and released 2 top 40 singles on Paul Oakenfold’s label Perfecto – Passion (1995) and Give Me Strength (1996) and a few other underground cuts on Fatboy Slim’s Southern Fried. A regular in the magazines of the time, his mix compilations for Introspective of House, Ministry of Sound, Pimp and Distinctive helped cement his popularity (a series of unofficial bootleg mixes of his sets on CD and tape for Boxed (who became Global Underground), Cream, and Miss Moneypennies were also released. In the noughties he released two singles on the Wall of Sound label as The Visitor and moved to Edinburgh in 2001.
More recently he has released a series of 3 tracks featuring vocalist Susy K on the Planet Acetate label and has a new single ‘Don’t be Scared (of yourself)’ coming out this spring on Kidology London. Ahead of his headlining gig at Cream Reunion – 7th February 2015 at Nation, Liverpool, we caught up with him to discuss his career, his links to the club and his plans for the future.
Hi Jon, thanks for finding time to chat to us at Decoded Magazine. I guess my first question is something that’s always intrigued me… Your name, how did you come up with it?
Hi there, well, along with two pals (Darren & Peter) I used to be part of a trio of club trannies / draggy club-kids called The Pleased Wimmin around 1990/91. We would do odd cabaret style things at seminal London club Kinky Gerlinky and generally cause mayhem. We were spotted out and about by Danny Rampling and his then wife, Jenny, who asked us to come and work at their new club Glam as dancers. After about a year of doing this and me rabbiting on constantly about records and music to Danny, he asked me if I’d like to do the warm-up one week. Even though I had no decks at home and had never used any, i jumped at the chance and the rest is history. When I started to get asked to play up and down the country, promoters were asking what name they should put on the flyers, so I just said Jon (of The Pleased Wiimmin) and that is what I got stuck with.
We understand Boy George named you as his all time favourite DJ. How did you two meet?
Between 1989-90 I worked for a fashion designer and DJ called Rachel Auburn, 2 days sewing and one day in her clothes shop in the Trocadero, London. We also sold all of George’s ‘More Protein’ record label T-shirts and he used to come in all the time to bring stock in etc. I’d seen him in clubs a lot up until then and we always got on really well. He asked me to be in his video for Generations of Love, which I really enjoyed and it’s still probably my favourite song of his.
Tell us about your musical heritage, who were your inspirations?
I have a varied taste in music, I was obsessed with pop music as a teenager (and still am), especially the glam rock stuff from the late 70’s such as Bowie, T-Rex, Blondie & The Sweet etc and a lot of late 70’s – early 80’s electronic music, from The Human League, Soft Cell, Yazoo, Depeche Mode etc. Unlike a lot of house DJ’s, the first kind of dance music I got into was Italo Disco / High Energy and Eurobeat. This was the kind of music that was being played in the underground gay clubs that I first went to in London and Ibiza in the mid to late 80’s. The first house tunes and artists that I really fell in love with were KLF, The Beloved, S’Express, Electribe 101 etc. More the European stuff, rather than the US stuff.
You’ve had a long and successful career, whats been the biggest non music changes you’ve witnessed in the scene and how have they affected you?
Well, when I started DJing, it was because I loved the music, not a career choice. I didn’t think it would become a job!
So has there ever been a point in your career when you’ve thought ‘maybe its time to stop”?
Yes, I took about 6 years off between 2005 and 2011. I felt a bit disillusioned with how corporate and unspontaneous things had become. I did a degree in Popular Music at Napier University here in Edinburgh. I loved it and was a total swot, getting First Class Honours. I got sucked back into DJing and the club world by promoters and friends who thankfully, kept nagging me and felt I was still needed and relevant.
How do you feel the music has changed over the course of your career, and are there artists now you seek out?
My taste is always evolving, but there’s an underlying theme, which is the electronic pulse and throb that harks back to Giorgio Moroder and Patrick Cowley’s seminal work in the late 70’s – early 80’s. I also like to keep my sets bouncing and surprising, with a fun element. My motto is ‘ I do take my music very seriously, but it doesn’t mean all my music has to be very serious’
Lets move on to Cream. It was a clubbing mecca; an institution in Liverpool, and basically became the blueprint for modern clubbing as we know it today. How did your story with Cream begin?
I played very early on for Cream, I don’t think anyone had any idea just how huge it would become. I loved playing in the Annexe and would play there pretty much once a month for about 4 years. When my name became much bigger, they moved me into the main room, I never enjoyed playing in that room as I like it smaller and more intimate, where you can take risks and not feel like you have to play hit after hit.
So I guess from your connection with Cream, thats how you signed your tracks to Perfecto?
Not at all…..my track Passion was produced with Norman Cook and released on his Southern Fried label, it was quickly snapped up by Warner Brothers, who signed me to their dance label East/West. Warners then did a deal with Perfecto and somehow I got shunted onto it too.
What was it like back in 1994 going into a studio to make a track?
Well, Passion was made in Norman Cook’s home studio. Quite a lot of remixes that I did subsequently were done in big studios. Funny now, when you consider most music is made at home.
I think my favourite track of yours, and one I still play now is the Electric Beach remix for Mosaic – Rays of the Rising Sun. What ever happened to that happy piano house sound? Was it a sound of the times?
Well, my new single has pianos on it! I love them and always will!
For your time at Cream, and actually most of the 90s, how would one describe your signature sound?
Fun, uplifting, throbbing but still sexy, surprising and always rocking.
Who were your DJ idols at the time?
Danny Rampling between 1990-93 was fantastic, also Smokin’ Jo, Justin Robertson, Andrew Weatherall, Mark Moore, Dave Dorrell and Fabi Paras.
Reunion gigs are a tricky thing. One the one hand you have the older crowd who expect a certain sound and experience. On the other you have the younger crowd who only know of the brand via CDs. How do you go about programming your set?
It varies from gig to gig…I always approach each party accordingly. Watch this space!
On the night (February 7th) You’ll be playing alongside Paul Bleasdale, one of the original residents. Who did you think was the best resident Cream ever had?
Paul is probably one of the best resident DJ’s the UK has ever had to be honest.
Super clubs like Cream kinda died a death in the mid 00s and smaller clubs took their place. Was this a good thing?
For me, yes. I’ve always preferred smaller, more intimate clubs with low ceilings, great sound systems, big smoke machines and a crowd who aren’t interested in hearing mainstream chart music.
Finally, how is 2015 shaping up for you?
Very nicely, I’m really looking forward to my single coming out on Kidology London, working on more tracks and and I have loads of other exciting gigs in the diary. People can keep up with my shenanigans on Facebook.