planet gong archives

Steve Davis

Sports Hub (video transcript - the music part)

SH : I'm now going to move into some very dangerous territory for myself…

SD : Whoo!

SH : …move away from sport.

SD : Oh, ok.

SH : Through your career, you've had a calm, collected, steel-like focus; few people will have known your burning passion for music. Before we dig a little bit deeper, what does music mean to you?

SD : Um, uh, it's - music - uh, it's my sort of hobby, other than snooker, and record collecting is part of it, but also sort of, it means more, it means more to me than it does to, I think, the average person in the street, but I wouldn't… but I'm not a musician. Well, in a way I am, but I don't come from musical stock - that I'm a musician who fell in love with music at the age of 14 and then lived a life, but I've always sought out music as opposed to just letting it float over me with what's been on the radio. So I feel like I'm sort of a little bit further down the line of it being a hobby. So I needed to find different artists, I needed to find music that appealed to me, not just what I was given, and that has led me to do a radio show on Phoenix FM, playing unusual music.

It then went from that to being asked to DJ - originally in a tap room in a microbrewery in Bethnal Green called Redchurch (good beers), and then as a result of that being invited to DJ along with my mate Kavus Torabi as a joint team deejaying at an electronic music festival that was having its last ever event called Block Weekend, which is a bit of a techno-ey thing. As a result of deejaying there, BBC iPlayer did a feature on it, and we got exposure for, for being techno DJs - which we weren't, but it sounded fun. After the BBC iPlayer feature came out we got a phone call from Glastonbury, and our second ever deejaying was we deejayed at Glastonbury, and then it all went stupid. The phone started ringing. We were being asked to deejay all over the place, at festivals and music clubs. Next minute I'm partying, like, harder than I ever did in the eighties. Well, so I've lived my life in reverse! Like Jimmy White started off partying hard and now practices every day, for six hours a day - like I used to - but he partied when he was 18, and now it's roles reversed. I'm partying harder than I did ever throughout the eighties.

SH : Benjamin Button.

SD : Yeah, Benjamin Button. Totally Benjamin Button. But I've got to say what fun I've had from my two hobbies. I couldn't have experienced any more. And it's got weirder, because I've got some involvement with playing something called a modular synthesizer, which is an instrument without keyboard. The music's made by voltage - electricity.

SH : Yeah.

SD : Which is what the electronic keyboard is anyway, but. So it didn't require any dexterity - didn't require any hours of training like you would have done to play snooker. So I was able to sort of jump in the deep end and start learning, messing around. And before I knew it I was then having a bit of fun with my two mates, Kavus Torabi and Mike York, who are professional musicians. And we made some music one night that ended up being made into an album. And then the next minute we got a record deal. And the next minute the record company said, well, you're going to have to do gigs to promote the album. And before I knew it, I was playing live on a stage as a musician.

Talk about pinch me, and talk about as more unlikely than me being World Snooker champion. I feel it's more unlikely. I can understand how I became World Snooker champion; I still can't really get my head around the fact I'm now a musician, and I've got an entry on Discogs - which is the foremost sort of record selling site. I'm an artist on Discogs - not just for Snooker Loopy! Not just for Snooker Loopy. I've gone further! You know, that some people make say is my worst record, even though I wasn't really involved in this other than singing one line.

SH : It's still debatable. Snooker Loopy is a classic in its own right.

SD : It's a classic, yeah - all Barry's fault. He heard Ossy Ardiles' 'Tottingham'. He went, "Oh, Chas and Dave could do a snooker version." Next minute they'd made a very funny, excellent job, and we're on top of - not Top of the Pops. When Snooker Loopy was on Top of the Pops - the video, which we did at Romford in the snooker club - I was also, I was on Top of the Pops. I was in the charts twice at the same time.

SH : For Snooker Loopy…

SD : Snooker Loopy got to number 6, and at the same time the Chicken Song was number 1, and I was in the chorus of the Chicken Song.

SH : There you go.

SD : Pop star. You're looking at a pop star.

SH : Yeah. It could have been worse. You could have sung Diamond Lights with Glenn Hoddle. That would have been… [laughs]

SD : Yeah. As novelty songs go, Snooker Loopy's up there. It's good. It's better than Shaddap You Face.

SH : Yeah. We'll definitely stick with that. With snooker in your career, you had to… you talked about handling the pressure, but I guess, handling the adrenaline as well. To then go to Glastonbury, how nice was it just to go with it and let the adrenaline fly and enjoy the moment?

SD : The nerves are the same, but the amount of gin we drunk pacified the nerves. I think probably nigh on by the time we went on stage at five o'clock, I think we'd probably both done a bottle of gin each - not something I used to do at snooker. I'm not proud of it. My liver's really not, you know, not doing as well as it used to, but, um…

SH : You might have won a few more titles. You never know.

SD : Who knows. Yeah, you're right. Yeah you're right - maybe towards the end. But no, the adrenaline was quite amazing. And I may be suffering from the fact that once you've tasted adrenaline - and I've written a book recently, a music book, where (I'm repeating what I say in the music book) to try and describe what it's like being a snooker player, walking out for the Crucible, walking out at Glastonbury, walking onto a stage to play music where you haven't got a clue what's going to happen - if you imagine your driving test, your first job interview, your first date, visits to the dentist… put them in a blender. That's what it's like. It's horrible, but it's great… as long as it goes okay. You don't want to many bad ones, but you gotta enjoy them. If you can enjoy it it's so much easier, but it's tough to enjoy it.

But yeah, walking out at Glastonbury, it was so…. Our stage was at five o'clock. We got there at four o'clock. It was totally empty. It's a tent, like 500 capacity. And we were thinking, oh no, it's all going to go… it's not going to happen. Four-thirty still nobody, but we didn't really know how it worked. And then before we knew it, everybody descended on the place and it was rammed. And we walked out, and we played an hour and a half of music that was relatively unfashionable, but hopefully had some dance-ability to it. And we had a laugh for an hour and a half. It was great. We threw out t-shirts into the crowd that had… we had four t-shirts made - oh, no, sorry; not t-shirts, they were tote bags. We had, um, what did we have? 'Tonight Steve Davis is a DJ', or something. We had 'Kavus Torabi Saved My Life'. We had one that advertised the radio show, and the other one was 'Last Night Steve Davis Bored Me Shitless'. And we sort of like - I don't know how many we had of them, 25 of each or something. It was great fun throwing them out. And then Suggs came. Suggs, out of the blue - Madness were on that year - Suggs out the blue turned up and was on the stage, had a photograph. It was just hilarious.

SH : Life. Life…

SD : Crazy.

SH : …experiences. Sports Hub fans will not forgive me if I don't ask… 'DJ Thundermuscle'…

SD : Yeah.

SH : Please explain.

SD : Uh, well, how long have you got?

SH : It's an interesting one.

SD : Well, okay. So, when BBC iPlayer did their feature, it sort of majored on the fact that we were techno DJs, even though… we were playing at an electronic music festival Block Weekend - which has a reputation for having a lot of techno music at it, but it's not just that. And we were asked to go and play there by the owners, Alex and George, at the last ever Block Weekend as a little bit of a foil to all of the electronic artists, in the pub area of one of the venues within Pontins in Minehead - sorry, Butlin's in Minehead. And so our brief was it didn't have to be four to the floor boofing techno music, it could be whatever. There was a sort of pub, nice hangout atmosphere, but of course it got the reputation of being techno. And I'm pretty good friends with a proper high-end techno artist called Surgeon. He's played all over the world - Berlin, all the nightclubs - a proper artist. But he's also a fan of an American-slash-British production of a TV show called 'The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret'. And within that programme, it revolves around an American guy coming over and being conned into selling a health drink that came from North Korea called Thunder Muscle, that had plutonium in it - which was the way that North Korea were getting rid of their plutonium, by getting it in this drink. And anybody that drunk it went off the rails and started….

So I was in this TV show playing a cameo role, and had to pretend to be the face of Thunder Muscle - drinking Thunder Muscle - and saying, I'm Steve Davis, blah, blah, blah. And he was a fan of this TV programme. So on Twitter, people are going 'Steve, now you're a DJ, you need a DJ name'. And then Surgeon piped in, 'DJ Thundermuscle'. And it sort of caught… it got a little bit of a following. It caught going. And we've had to fight quite hard to get rid of it. Because it's better to be called Steve Davis than it is to be… 'cause Thundermuscle doesn't really sum up the type of music we play. It's not hardcore three o'clock in the morning Berlin Berghain nightclub dungeon music. We play happier music, even if people don't know what it is. So yeah, we fought against it. But part of me likes it. I think it's quite funny. It's in the same level as DJ Marshmallow. But Surgeon's wife, Doris, has the best DJ name in the world.

SH : Which is?

SD : She's called DJ Bus Replacement Service. You can't beat that. And she also DJs in a Kim Jong-Un mask.

SH : Wow.

SD : And she's a brilliant DJ as well. She's the best DJ I've ever seen - for variety and that. Funniest as well, because of the mask is just fantastic - and the best name. So Surgeon's got his work cut out.

SH : Some good strong names there. Thundermuscle's one of them, but Steve Davis…

SD : Steve Davis is a really hardcore one. Yeah. It's sort of… it's a statement.

SH : Yeah. It really is.

SD : And it's me. That's best.

SH : Yeah, absolutely. So you mention the book - the book is called Medical Grade Music.

SD : Yep.

SH : You kind of touched on it a little bit, but I'd love for you just to… insight - just a chance to…

SD : Well, we were approached by Faber and Faber, and a gentleman called Lee Braxton - who was with the music arm of Faber and Faber and was in charge of that - with a view to doing a book on music. And it started off - the idea - it was going to be an extension of our radio show on Phoenix FM, which was to recommend artists that people didn't necessarily know, if you were prepared to seek out new music, as opposed to listening to the music in your comfort zone. And we'd say an artist and then we'd recommend an album as the way into that particular band. If they'd had loads of albums, where do you start? And it's a common sort of, you know, 'where would you suggest I started with Talk Talk?' or whatever.

So that was going to be the brief for the book, and we started writing it and realised that we weren't music writers, that we couldn't do justice to it. I mean, and then how many times are you going to say the word brilliant and wonderful. And any of the stuff we were going to write about, the artists would be - you know - you could seek it out on Wikipedia anyway, or wherever you wanted to find it. And so it sort of stalled a bit, and then other things got carried away and we thought, oh it's never going to happen. But then Lee Braxton moved from Faber and Faber to another book company and resurrected the idea of it, but a new one, which was more the story of how unlikely that a snooker player ended up being a musician and a DJ at Glastonbury, and what, how did that happen?

And it's ended up being more of a storytelling book, with nods to great music along the way, but it's actually the unlikely occurrence of, and the funny things that have… 'a funny thing happened in Glastonbury' or whatever. But it's done with quite a nice, it's in a nice way - stories, but actually nerdy as well. It hits a few buttons. And Kavus Torabi who writes the other part of the book - so it's effectively two autobiographies in one - he writes about his career within music, being an unfashionable musician. So he's got tongue in cheek stuff as well. And it's only just come out. It's been great fun doing it. As a book I think I probably enjoyed it more than doing an autobiography on snooker, because it feels like it's more hobby than my career, and going back over old frames. Which is great - I love the game - but it sort of feels like it's sort of…

SH : Hard to blend the two as well, I guess, if you…

SD : Yeah, it is. Yeah. But this has been like, you know, a joy. And during the lockdown last year when we wrote most of it, it was something to do, because there wasn't much else happening. So it was good to delve into the memory banks and go, oh, I remember - you remember when people used to actually have parties in fields and get close to each other, and how much fun did we have, and we're just hoping it comes back - as is everybody, in whatever it may be. So we're up here for the World Snooker Championship with a trial sport; a hundred percent capacity for the final. Whether it's totally a hundred percent, I don't know, but the tickets sales are good. And wouldn't it be nice if by the autumn, by the late summer… seems like it's on the cards without any hiccups - a lot more indoor events happen?

SH : Yep.

SD : Please!

SH : On the decks.

SD : Oh, well anywhere. In a pub - I'd be happy to be in a pub! We all would.

SH : You can buy me a pint if you want.

SD : Yeah well, listen, we'd all begin to celebrate. Well, the parties are going to happen! Can you imagine what's going to happen once, god - it's gonna be awful, isn't it?! There's going to be people…

SH : Awfully brilliant.

SD : …people in puddles of sick in the curbs of London. It's going to be great. Everybody is going to have… just going to be feeling terrible the next day.

SH : Well it sounds like I'm going have to interview you again in a couple of months for more stories, but where can people buy the book?

SD : Oh, the book's available from all… places.

SH : All reputable stores.

SD : Yeah, it's good. Rough Trade did something - we did a sort of big signing session with Rough Trade via various record shops. But it's probably in the high street sort of bookshop as well, but I've not really double-checked on that. It's a good… there's snooker involvement in the book. I talk about… there's various mentions of my snooker world, how it interacted with… and there's also talk of, um, other snooker player's walk-on music, and judging their walk-on music - their own judgment of music. And it's fun. It's not a dry book. It's actually got a little bit of fun involved. You'd probably have to be interested in seeking out new music to like it fully, but it's not without recounting stories that are pretty funny that happened during my deejaying, and stuff.

SH : I've seen the relationship between yourself and Kavus as well - and as you say there's a good bond there, it's good fun, and I think that definitely does come across.

SD : Yeah. It was great to bump into somebody who is of a like-mind. So he's a great friend and we have a good laugh. And now being involved in a band, it's just ridiculous. You know, I still have to pinch my… I still have to get my head around the fact that we are playing music and slowly now getting booked for more gigs. Honestly I don't understand what's happened. I really… there was no plan, it's just happened - but going with the flow. And one of the things that's mentioned a few times in the book - whilst it's not necessarily a philosophy or a way of life - when you say yes to things, something happens. And if you say no, absolutely nothing happens. Which is okay, but sometimes saying yes leads to consequences you could never possibly have imagined. And in this case, that's that.

SH : I agree. And you've actually, I feel that you have made some profound comments - whether you realise it or not - throughout the interview that can translate outside of sports and music as well.

SD : Yeah. Yeah, I think so. Yeah. Because they're all interchangeable. Yeah. I mean I don't profess to be massively that way inclined, but you learn about yourself and you learn about… when you dig into something deeply like you do in any profession - but yeah, mine being snooker - there are so many things that are interchangeable, that translate. So yeah, hopefully I've got some insight into other people's lives as well, whether they're involved in business or in the arts or whatever.

SH : Given the persona that you were given or had in snooker, and given your musical taste, there's quite a clash for walkout music there. What would you pick?

SD : Well, my walkout music towards the end of my career… because obviously what happened was Barry Hearn took over snooker about 10 years ago, maybe a little bit longer now, and started to try and get a bit of razzamatazz into it. And it does always feel a bit weird that you sort of have this exciting walk-on music, maybe with dry ice, or not, but you have this wonderfully exciting music, and then all of a sudden two people with dress suits and a bow tie on rearrange balls on the table like it's some sort of feng shui shit or something. There's that that's sort of like, really? So, why all the music when it's just comes to tapping balls around? I think it's quite funny.

But obviously the music that the players pick is, you know - dwv, dwv - you know, Superman's theme tune, Rocky, whatever, you know - anything that's inspirational, yeah? Whereas I picked a French band called Art Zoyd, who towards the end of their career - well they're still going, but - started to get government grants in France for doing soundtracks, like arty stuff of old black and white films. One of their black and white films was the original vampire film called Nosferatu. And if you see this thing - it was 1922 - it was about as scary as, I don't know… Harry Potter is scarier. And they did a new soundtrack for it, to this silent film. And there's the bit where Max Schreck - I think Schreck is the guy, the vampire - he appears at the window for the first time, you see him in full, and how frightening he is. There's a bit that Art Zoyd do, and the section of music's called Anaphase II, I think it is. And I played that. It wasn't your Rocky theme tune. There's good bass synth. So I try to walk out as if I was a vampire, to put a stake into John Higgins' heart.

SH : Did it work?

SD : It did work, but the next round I walked out to play Neil Robertson and he slaughtered me 13-4. And I was 12-4 down overnight, and then in the morning for one frame I had to come back for my execution, and the music didn't seem as dramatic then. And I did think it might be better to walk out to a Steptoe and Son or something along those lines.
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