Gratts in Perth
It’s not every day you get to meet a house DJ who plays in some of Europe’s best night spots, but that’s just what happened one fine study week. Having just toured Hong Kong and Indonesia, Tristan Jong aka Gratts had flown to Perth to play in Perth’s longest-running deep house event “Maiko” at the Geisha bar before heading to Melbourne and Sydney. A highly respected figure in the industry who plays regularly all over Europe, Gratts is becoming increasingly popular outside of the old world. He’s recently completed a mix for Melbourne Deepcast where he was the follow up to musical legends Groove Armada. It’s a mix that all music lovers should give a listen - even if you think you don’t like house you will definitely dig this.
It just so happened that Gratts was going to stay with a lifelong friend of mine whilst he was here in Perth. And he needed picking up from the airport, as fate would have it. What ensued was a week of reawakening the tourist within as we adventured to Perth’s best bits. I also got to experience firsthand what makes Gratts such a great DJ. He truly loves his craft and his knowledge of house music is second to none. He spent hours trawling through Perth’s record stores looking for music to play at his upcoming events and to take home with him.
When Saturday night arrived, the night of his Maiko appearance, all three of us set out to see a backyard talk show before taking in the “radiant southern cross” (Tristan was naturally fascinated by Aussie and bogan culture) and heading to Geisha at around midnight. Aside from Gratts, the line-up consisted of local DJs JK Robot, Rob Sharp, Luke P and El Dario. While we missed the first few sets and the ones we did catch were a little “chessy” (cheesy), it was a fun enough build up to the main event. A typical Saturday night at Geisha, the room was brimming with that above-mentioned facet of Australian culture that so fascinates Tristan. When he finally took to the booth at 2AM everyone was well and truly loose.
Having been a DJ for well over a decade, Gratts obviously has a lot of experience in the art of using the preceding DJ’s final selection as a starting-point for his set. On this particular night, however, the point at which the decks changed hands was fairly noticeable, owing to the fact that Gratts and the local DJs seemed to occupy opposite sides of the “deep house” spectrum. The contrast wasn’t limited to the style of the music - the locals appeared to be using MIDI controllers in conjunction with a computer program that automatically beat-matches MP3s, whereas Gratts actually had to request for needles to be fetched from the basement in order to play his records; it had evidently been a while since a respectable DJ had graced Geisha’s booth.
Gratts got down to business immediately and proceeded to do exactly what he’s known for. That is, he played a world-class set of bangers and did his absolute best to facilitate the release of Perth’s notoriously stiff bodies. One young man actually made such an impact on the dancefloor that several other punters were seen attempting to reproduce his style. Gratts played for roughly an hour longer than he was supposed to but of course nobody was complaining. The music itself was pretty firmly rooted in the traditions of classic Chicago-style house – soulful vocal samples, irresistible synth-lines, that sort of thing – and there was a real, tangible feeling of the masses receiving an education. Sure, we have some great house DJs here in Perth, but they usually play at more low-key, cliquey events and your average Geisha patron isn’t typically “clued-in” or particularly knowledgeable on the subject of the history of house music (the same could perhaps be said of the resident DJs). So it was nice to see these folk getting a chance to experience some markedly less commercial/more reputable dance music than what they would normally be hearing – and loving it!
Tom Camp & Louis Hooper