With a career spanning three decades, which began in what many consider to be the birthplace of the British and Techno music scene and the UK’s music mecca, Fac 51 The Hacienda, and a busy Uk and international schedule that shows no sign of abating, few of today’s DJs can boast a pedigree like Jon Dasilva, who was recently voted in at #25 in Iconic Magazine reader’s poll of the “All Time Top 50 DJs”.
The Hacienda in Manchester, circa 1988, was a special place – a convergence of post-modern architecture, cutting edge music and out-there youth culture. It was home to Factory Records (arguably the best record label of the decade), and some of the greatest bands for decades to come, including New Order, the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses. It was also home to three DJs – Jon Dasilva, Mike Pickering and Graeme Park – who in the words of the great Tony Wilson of Factory Records “pissed petrol on the fire”, sound-tracking the whole affair with a freshness of attitude that launched many clubs… and even more DJs. You’ve probably read the books, seen the films, bought the albums, and yes, worn the T-shirts!
Considered to be Hacienda’s most singular resident DJ, Jon Dasilva was fresh to the scene in ’87, finding DJ inspiration in the House and Disco DJs of deepest New York and Chicago, amidst a sea of influences from Bowie to Dub Reggae to Kosmische Musik to Disco. His broad musical tastes and ability to work so many genres into proper dance floor action mark Dasilva out as a next level DJ, taking his cues from the greats that inspired him, including Francois Kevorkian, Ron Hardy, Derrick May and L’il Louis.
His greatest legacy from that period, alongside championing the early Chicago and Detroit sound, was his imaginative take on the idea of the DJ set. Not content with simply mixing one track into another, Dasilva wove a capellas and sounds effects into a broad selection of House, Acid, Disco ,Techno and Breaks, intuitively mixing in key, building a set dynamic that until then was rarely heard on UK shores.
In the words of Sasha, who regarded Dasilva as his mentor:
“Well Jon to me was the most influential DJ in my career really. He showed me the way. Not only did he give me my first breaks, my first proper, proper breaks, he taught me how to build DJ sets. I used to go and watch him play from 9 pm and follow the whole night, listening to the way he crafted his DJ sets… his use of a cappelas and sound effects was just mind-blowing. He was so ahead of the game. I don’t think there’s another more influential person on my DJing career, really.”
A lesser known side of his influence was Jon’s inspired warm up sets at the Hacienda. Realising he could play anything he felt like for the first hour or so after the doors opened, he went about mixing up Dub Reggae, Latin, Disco and Post Punk oddities, interspersed with BBC sound FX. Word spread and soon these mixes would become the inspiration for another set of DJs who later went on to form the backbone of the soon-to-emerge Balearic DJ scene… as well as artists like the Chemical Brothers, The New Fast Automatic Daffodils, Matthew Herbert, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, and more.
A regular headliner at illegal warehouses all over the UK as well the 90’s “Superclubs” such as Ministry of Sound, Cream and Renaissance. Jon was one of the first guest DJs before guest DJs became a thing! His other achievements are no less remarkable. Aside from taking his singular sets across the globe from New Zealand to Ibiza, New York, San Paulo, LA and Tokyo, he was the first guest DJ to be booked by Slam (Soma Records) in Glasgow back in 1989, and the first UK DJ to play Tresor in Berlin in 1991. He was also one of the first British DJs to play China in the mid-90s, and was resident on the first Strictly Rhythm Records Tour alongside Todd Terry and a young Roger Sanchez, who described Jon at the time as “the UK’s answer to Tony Humphries”.
Thirty years after first making his mark on the industry, Jon shows no signs slowing down. He recently returned from headlining a couple of dates in Shanghai for Mixmag and later on this year, he will be back on the road with Manchester legends the Happy Mondays, as their tour DJ. This follows his long history as tour DJ for bands including New Order and A Certain Ratio…Another example of the respect he is held in and his incredible versatility.
Jon still retains a freshness of approach, as can be heard in his recent DJ mixes. His penchant for the varied shades of acid, techno and house, as well as his keen nose for sniffing out the most interesting modern producers, are evident.
More recently, Dasilva has forged an ongoing relationship with the London club night, I Love Acid and the club’s promoters, Posthuman, regularly doing back-to-back DJ sessions. Rumours of a studio collaboration are not being denied! Joshu Doherty from Posthuman said of Dasilva: “Legend is a word used way, way too often, but I think it’s fair to say Jon has earned that title. Resident at probably one of the most important clubs in history, literally at the absolute pinnacle of Acid House – 1987 to 1991. But what has surprised me about Jon compared to many others of that era, he continues to play new music, always digging and pushing underground artists…”
A mercurial producer, he has had a string of cutting edge productions to his name spanning over two decades, on labels including Ellum Audio, Rush Hour, Soma, Mute, Deconstruction, Better Days, Eskimo, and many more. His early productions were considered seminal works, combining breaks, African influences, Acid and Bleep culture. Dasilva was also part of the first wave of producers working Disco into House. His Disco Universe Orchestra released and number of weird and wonderful tracks including the epic “Soul On Ice” featuring Rowetta on vocals. Jon very much helped to define the post guitar/Indie sound of Manchester…putting the “E” into Manchester!
In 2013, Jon collaborated with Maceo Plex to produce “Love Somebody Else” which went on to win “Best House Track” that year at the International Dance Awards in Miami. He is in the process of finishing a 2nd album with his band The Virgo Mechanically Replayed, alongside a new 4 track EP for Sprechen Music, “Music From The Endless Summer, scheduled for release in August and a collaboration with Jozef K that will see a release on Sasha’s imprint, Last Night On Earth. Dasilva’s mix of this collaboration, “Maresme”, will be released on vinyl in September 2019, as part of a new series from LNOE, “Vinyl Archives”, followed by the digital release, in October.