Author, journalist and raucous raconteur Harold Heath talks us through five books that have influenced his writing
If you have yet to stumble across the journalism and wonderfully witty words of Harold Heath, you should probably prepare yourself for at least one long laughing fit – if not, a repeat series of ROFLs. As his years of experience and insight offer a uniquely person yet totally universal view from the sidelines, that’s all too often lacking in today’s era of superstar social media influencers and pay-per-click chic.
A DJ since the late 80s, in 2001 he began a production career in house music that led to a few hundred releases and remixes, alongside several years of low-level DJing across Europe. That enabled him to live his life as a budding producer, remixer, performer, ghost-writer, music-technology teacher and emerge as a freelance writer. He now works full-time for the likes of DJ Mag, Beatport, Attack Mag, Roland, iDJ Mag and 5 Mag, living a slightly more serene life in Brighton with his wife and teenage son.
As we reach the end of the year, we reached out to ask about some of the works and readings that have shaped his trajectory and lead him to pen one of our favourite reads of the last 12 months, ‘Long Relationships: My Incredible Journey From Unknown DJ to Smalltime DJ’.
Here’s what he furnished us with:
“I published my first book earlier this year, ‘Long Relationships: My Incredible Journey From Unknown DJ to Smalltime DJ’. Over the years I’ve been a huge fan of books about music, DJing and subcultures. I’ve slavishly read the works of Simon Reynolds, marvelling at his ability to describe sound. I dedicatedly read every single book I could find about the birth of soul music, the development of funk, books about Motown, Stax and The Sound of Philadelphia, on jazz, disco, hip hop, the birth of house, the acid and rave revolution and beyond. And I’ve read plenty of biogs and autobiogs of music-related figures too, and books on the music industry, the technology, on genres, movements and subcultures.
You get it, I like music books!
Most of what I’ve read has probably, in some way, soaked into my writing, but looking back, I can see that these five books below particularly influenced the writing of my book. And also, I would thoroughly recommend them all to anyone with any kind of interest in music, no matter what genre you’re into.
‘Nico: Songs They Never Play On The Radio’ – James Young
So at first glance, this murky delve into an early 80s of heroin-addicted muso-desperados might not seem to have much in common with my book. But, ‘Songs…’ is a tale of has-beens, also-rans and bit-players, exactly like my story and in its dark scenarios and knife-edge living, there is plenty of humour and humanity too.
If there are lessons to be learned from not being successful then this book, and hopefully mine too, have something to say about that.
‘Wiggaz With Attitude’ – Andrew Emery
One of the problems with writing a memoir when you’re not well known is you can’t help but wonder if your story is too pedestrian, if anyone will actually be interested in it. The truth is of course, that humans absolutely love stories, regardless of the fame of the protagonist.
This book – the very funny story of an unsuccessful UK rapper – helped me realise that perhaps I could write a memoir too.
‘Lost In Music’ – Giles Smith
Another tale of industry also-rans, ‘Lost In Music’ is a combination of music memoir and love letter to pop by musician Giles Smith. Funny, touching and honest, it’s defined by a genuine love for that most ethereal of things, the pop song. It’s another book that helped me understand that small stories about people who aren’t very well known are often way more interesting than tall tales of big stars.
‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’ – Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton
The perennial DJ book, ‘Last Night…’ influenced my book for two reasons. First, it was beautifully written and told its long, complex and interwoven story wonderfully clearly. Second, I think it was one of the first things I ever read that took DJing seriously. DJ and dance music culture is a curious mix of the ridiculous and the sublime – it’s essentially just a bunch of people off their heads in a dark basement going loo-laa to spacey sounds – but at the same time it’s often so much more than that. It can be a transcendent space, a place for people to meet with others they might never otherwise spend time with, a place of refuge, solace and pure unadulterated joy.
Frank and Bill’s book was one of the very first things I read that really got this.
‘Once In A Lifetime: The Crazy Days of Acid House and Afterwards’ – Jane Bussman
First published in 1998m there still hasn’t been anything funnier written about DJ and dance music culture than Bussman’s ‘Once In A Lifetime. ’ Genuine belly laughs guaranteed from this, and in the crazy tales, out-there anecdotes and hilarious observations lies the true original acid house spirit. This is the book that showed me how much fun there could be in tales of DJing and clubbing.
Harold Heath’s ‘Long Relationships: My Incredible Journey From Unknown DJ to Smalltime DJ’ is available via the Velocity Press website and all good book sellers.