Steve Davis: the 10 records that changed my life
When news broke earlier this year that six-time snooker world champion Steve Davis was to play the summer festival season under the moniker DJ Thundermuscle, it seemed like a mis-timed April Fool.
But perhaps we shouldn’t have been quite so surprised. Despite Steve’s media persona and ironic nickname of Steve Interesting Davis, the snooker ace has in actual fact for several years presented a radio show on which he exposed a cult audience to all kind of prog and jazz oddities.
“It’s not a career, it’s a hobby that is currently going out of control.”
“It’s not a career, it’s a hobby that is currently going out of control,” says Steve of the diary full of DJ bookings for himself and musical partner Kavus Torabi. “We’ve been doing the radio show so we’ve got that CV in place already. It’s an enjoyable way to get the music I like out to people and at the same time get involved in the party atmosphere.”
They very much got into the party atmosphere at Glastonbury where they packed out the Stonebridge Bar.
“Going down to Glastonbury we had no idea what to expect. We couldn’t have predicted how many people would come along, if only for the novelty value. It was a 500-capacity tent and it was mobbed. That was a shock. Hopefully people liked what they heard because we didn’t hold back.
“We had a great laugh. We gave out a load of tote bags. One had our take on God is a DJ which was Steve Davis is a DJ, it was tongue in cheek. To go with that we had one saying Last Night Steve Davis Bored Me Shitless.”
It doesn’t end with Glastonbury, either. Steve and Kavus are all set for bluedot festival later this month where once again the duo will be spinning everything from Squarepusher to The Beatles, from soul to French jazz. But don’t expect to hear any techno.
“The BBC did a documentary on me DJing and it captured people’s imagination. People were going, ‘Really? What?!’ The word techno got caught up in it making it more surreal. I’m not adverse to techno but that’s not quite what we do. There are plenty of people doing that better than we could, but we add something different to the party.”
They can add something different to the party thanks to Steve’s vast record collection, which seems the perfect way to introduce the ten records that changed Steve Davis’s life.
1. Gentle Giant – In A Glass House (1970)
“Gentle Giant were the first band I really fell in love with. They mentally stimulated me in a way that Genesis and Yes didn’t.
“I grew up in that prog era so I was ripe for the picking as a young teenager.
“I had a Saturday job in a supermarket packing the meat out the back. We had the radio on and the DJ Alan Freeman and he championed a lot of different music. People reading this might have to ask their parents who Alan Freeman is!
“But he played Gentle Giant In The Glass House and I went out and bought the album. From there I sought out everything they’d ever done and I became a huge fan. I can sing along to every Gentle Giant song, those songs are ingrained in me.
“Gentle Giant were my Genesis and my Yes. They didn’t have a big appeal throughout Europe like those bands but as the years have gone on they now have a worldwide appeal. The music has stood the test of time.”
2. Magma – Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh (1973)
“I was a Canterbury jazz rock fan and there was a band called Isotope with the bass guitarist Hugh Hopper. They were like a Championship-level Canterbury jazz rock group.
“They supported Magma at Chalk Farm Roundhouse. I went to see Isotope with no idea who Magma were. We saw Isotope and were about to leave but thought we’d give it a few songs to see who Magma were. They blew us away.
“It was the most astonishing concert I’ve ever been to. From then on they became my heroes. I even later put on a show for them in London and got to meet my heroes.
“If I had a time machine and had to choose five moments of my life to go back to going back to that concert would be one of them. I’ve never walked away so blown away by a concert as I did from that one in 1975.”
3. Oscar Perry – Merry Go Round (1986)
“Oscar Perry changed my past by getting me into collecting seven inch soul records.
“I was a big fan of Robbie Vincent’s radio show and he had a section called the little label collection where he played small independent seven inch records.
“I would go to my local record shop and he didn’t really deal in seven inch records it was more mail order. That took me down the mail order path and I became a mad collector of seven inch soul records and stumbled upon some amazing artists because of it.
“Some were one hit wonders, some were no hit wonders with great records. I really got into soul from there.
“I later ran out of steam in the soul world because whilst I love the music it’s quite a narrow band of people singing about the love of a woman or a breakup. You roughly know what they will be singing about before the songs start but I still love it to this day.”
4. Caravan – In The Land of Grey and Pink (1971)
“Caravan were at the accessible end of Canterbury jazz rock.
“They were less complex and more song based but still clever with a lot of stuff going on. They were the most successful band of that scene.
“The album In The Land of Grey and Pink is a classic. Golf Girl is a great singalong song and they always had fantastic melodies."
5. Robert Wyatt – Rock Bottom (1974)
“Rock Bottom is one of my desert island discs. It’s a one-off album.
“The timing of it was that it was the record Robert Wyatt made after he became confined to a wheelchair. He had been the drummer in Soft Machine.
"If you don’t like Sea Song you don’t like music.”
“The record obviously had a lot of pain in it and it was his way back into music. He couldn’t play the drums anymore but he kept on creating fantastic music.
“It is such a clever album and he is such a clever artist. In the same way that anything Kate Bush touched to gold, Robert Wyatt was the same. His music is beautiful and everything is different. He’s an underground hero of mine.
“It’s quirky but has great melody as well. If you don’t like Sea Song you don’t like music.”
6. Soft Machine – Third (1970)
“I’ve been a massive Soft Machine fan for years. I loved Third and Volume Two…the first album was a bit difficult.
“I loved the Karl Jenkins period as well. A lot of people said Soft Machine died when Robert Wyatt left the band but I enjoyed all of their phases, really. That was more jazzy but it wasn’t straight-forward or contrived it was angular so I liked it.”
7. Camberwell Now – The Ghost Trade (1992)
“Another hero of mine would be Charles Hayward. He was in this amazing, ahead of its time band that John Peel championed called This Heat. They made two albums which were fantastic.
“When they disbanded, Charles Hayward carried on and formed Camberwell Now. It was a continuation of This Heat and had fantastic energy.
“Working Nights is just mad, it really kicks off. It’s punky in its own way. Charles Hayward as a drummer has a great beat going all the time, he’s always on the beat, he’s a driving force.”
8. Gong – You (1974)
“Gong’s famous Flying Teapot trilogy was great. If you were brought up in the ‘70s and were at all hippy then you would have heard at Gong.
“Richard Branson put out a Gong album out as a loss leader for 59p. That was a bargain and it made me a Gong fan. Then the Flying Teapot trilogy came out.
“A Sprinkling of Clouds was one of my favourite spaced out riffs. The amount of enjoyment I’ve had from Magma and Gong is incredible. I’ve got more from them than most people get out of music.”
9. Albert Marcoeur – Plusieurs Cas De Figure (2001)
“The French have a lot of influences in their music because it is a multi-national country. Considering it’s only 22 miles from the UK some of their music never makes it over here.
“There must be a swathe of incredible musicians over there and when you stumble on someone like Albert Marcoeur you become besotted with their music.
"You know it’s not British, it has another element to it and you feel like you’re the first person that has stumbled upon it.
“The fact that it’s in another language puts some people off but enough people would rave over opera without knowing what they’re saying. Even if you don’t know what they’re saying you can still feel it.”
10. Stars In Battledress – In Droplet Form (2014)
“This is leftfield as Stars In Battledress are friends with Kavus Torabi. They’re a band created from the sad departure of Cardiacs.
“Cardiacs stopped when Tim Smith had a heart attack and as a result a lot of the people that worked with or around him did other projects, including Kavus Torabi and William D Drake.
“Stars In Battledress had connections to all of these people. They’re two brothers, one playing keyboard and the other guitar and what they create between the two of them is beautifully English and a joy to listen to.
“If it hadn’t been for Kavus Torabi coming on my radio show I would have never been exposed to any of these artists, so in that sense they changed my life.”
bluedot takes place 22-24 July. For more details head to www.discoverthebluedot.com.