1. Handbag House isn't a group - it's just me.
As heartwarming as it is for me to get messages of support, more than often they say, "keep up the good work, guys!" I'm also reminded of the time I turned up to DJ in a club in Bradford, and the manager greeted me and asked, "Oh, so have they only just sent one of you?" - under the impression that Handbag House was a large entourage of DJs and producers. Nope. Just me, Iain. Branch Manager in a building society by day, DJ & music producer by, well, the rest of the time!
2. It was originally going to be called "The Switch Mix".
I used to work for Boots the Chemist (on the photographic counter if you must know), and I got to know some great people there (even if the company was absolute crap to work for) - I'm still in touch with most of them today. It was a time where we all worked part-time as we were students, but still somehow managed to go out drinking 3, 4 .. 5 times a week. Our nights always finished up in Switch bar in Newcastle before we decided if we were coherent enough, or had enough money to go clubbing. The music in there was always brilliant - remixed pop which really put Newcastle on the map back then.
I remember dancing on the stage to the Dave Audé Remix of t.A.T.u's "All About Us" and the DJ Prom mix of Sugababes' "Push The Button"(!) The bar is still open today and still plays some of the best music in Newcastle.
3. There were only supposed to be four mixes!
You may have already read in my bio that the original Handbag House mixes were actually put onto cassette tapes for my mates to listen to in their cars. This is why the mixes are called "sides" - the idea was to do two at a time to fit on either side of a tape. The first two came along together and were just 45 minutes each - that was easy. But then my mates wanted more and having enough material for another two mixes at once seemed a lot more challenging.
By time time I'd had enough new songs to complete Sides 3 and 4, I thought that was it, they'd served their purpose. But as new songs came out and the original mixes got passed between more friends, the demand for me to continue was strong - and here we are, 11 years later!
4. I HATE the name "Handbag House"!
Believe it or not, the name 'Handbag House' was a complete accident. Deciding against "The Switch Mix" in case anyone thought I was directly affiliated with the bar (although I did DJ there just once), a common image in bars came to mind, where a group of women put their handbags in a pile on the floor and danced around them - and most of the remixes I was using at the time of pop songs were quite housey. It made sense, and who doesn't love a bit of alliteration?! Unfortunately. I had no idea there was already a "sub-genre" of uplifting, anthemic house music from the late 80s/early 90s that became mostly popular in gay clubs. This often causes a lot of confusion as my mixes tend to be a lot more focussed on the tougher side of pop, having little in common with the actual name.
This is why my second brand appeared JNR which was largely focussed on dance anthems and more harder house, like electro. The "Handbag House" name can sometimes limit opportunities in bars and clubs, although saying that, I've always been well-received in the gay community! I've always wanted to re-brand but have had concerns that due to the following I've built, it would cause confusion - and let's face it, not many people like change! I sometimes use the JNR branding in bars and clubs instead of Handbag House.
5. A DJ that hates being centre of attention?!
I am a total introvert. I don't like being centre of attention - this might sound a bit odd considering I've DJed in some of the biggest clubs around the UK. Annoyingly, this is also why there are next to no photos of me DJing! However, I'm not a personality as such, I really like the idea that the music should do the talking - so you won't ever hear me doing a shout out for Chantelle's 21st, or announcing how much the Jagerbombs are at the bar. I'm primarily a music producer that somehow fell into DJing.
Don't get me wrong - I absolutely love DJing. There's nothing quite like the thrill of seeing a crowd having a great night and really getting into music (especially my own remixes!) - I like the element of surprise too so have a raft of weird mash-ups to catch people off-guard.
6. I've been remixing since I was 14
My Dad first got me software called "Dance eJay" when I was 13 with preset percussion, bass, synth samples etc that you'd place onto a grid and make your own arrangements. But I quickly became bored of that and started using those terrible PC mics pointed at the speaker of my keyboard to play my own arrangements (not great, guys!). As I improved, I eventually started posted online and getting some great feedback which again helped me improve. I was mostly producing original trance tracks and remixes, and even managed to win a couple of competitions. I became obsessed with the Clubland CDs and started producing music in that style, and even briefly worked alongside N-Trance (the guys behind massive dance classic, Set You Free).
Once I moved out of my parents' home, all my my music productions were sadly lost. I started doing some mash-ups which gained me some exposure, but it was too difficult to suppress my creativity and my very first "new era" remix came along, in the form of Beyoncé's "Formation" - as I was quick off the mark to do a very basic remix of it on the same day it premiered, it became featured on Capital FM's "Best Remixes" list for the month - not bad for a first crack with very limit production!
7. I once turned down DJing Gran Canaria Pride main stage
I'd been to Gran Canaria with a DJ mate once before. He was DJing on the main stage during Pride and wanted me to go with him, encouraging me to take my music with me - which was fortunate as I did end up briefly DJing in a side bar around the Yumbo centre (which actually turned out to be a disaster!). Through some other contacts a few years later I was asked to DJ on the main stage, which of course made me feel very anxious - I'd already thought about all the things that could have gone wrong before I'd even started: What if my laptop crashes? What if I'm so nervous I mess up the mixing? What if I trip up as I'm getting on the stage?
I've DJed in front of a large audience before and it's the most awkward thing ever - what do you do with yourself when thousands of people are just there, looking at you? I was never one for the whole David Guetta fist pumps and shouting, "are you fucking ready?!" before the drop. I still look back and wonder if I should have just done it to raise my profile, but it turns out that the flights that week were going to cost a lot more to get me there and back than what I'd be getting paid so that made the decision to decline a little easier.
8. Somehow my old remix of Wind Beneath My Wings surfaced online
As a favour to a friend who was obsessed with Bette Midler, I did a tongue-in-cheek remix of Wind Beneath My Wings under a different guise, around 2004 where dance music started doing that chopping-up vocals thing. How on earth this low-quality version surfaced on Youtube in 2016 under the Handbag House name, I'll never know!
Looking for a shake up to your venue? Get in touch to talk to me about DJing in your bar or club!