In this series, Flux will interview a variety of individuals who each have different points of contact with the music industry, to shine a light on those who work quietly in the shadows and rarely receive any acknowledgment for the vital role they play in electronic music. Though we rarely see them, behind most of our favourite producers and performers stand families: parents, husbands, wives, partners, siblings and children. These are the people that provide the supportive foundation on which a talented musician can build a creative career, with all the ups and downs that it brings. Of these, perhaps the person that has the most important role in an artist’s day-to-day life is their other half. We are incredibly grateful to Ellanor, Ali OOFT!‘s wife, for taking the time to discuss with us her perspectives on his career and the music industry.
So how long have you and Ali been together?
We met in a brilliant wee Glasgow club called The Liquid Lounge which sadly no longer exists. That was 11 years ago this December and we’ve just celebrated our first wedding anniversary.
Was his musical career well underway when you met or have you seen it all evolve from the start?
When we got together he was working in Carbon record store, which used to be in Urban Outfitters, and he was doing the odd gig in a couple of bars. He’d recently met Graeme Clarke (The Revenge) and they started doing some stuff together and it kind of went from there. The label didn’t exist and he didn’t have a name for himself either. In fact, I remember when he said he was going to call himself OOFT!. I thought it was a ridiculous idea but now I think it works.
Did you ever get worried in the early days about him being off at various parties with all the fan adulation that DJs (supposedly) receive?
Honestly? No, not at all. It’s not something that’s ever bothered me. I’m not a particularly jealous person and I understand that after-parties are part of the job. It’s also pretty likely that at a party Al will be stood in the kitchen talking to people about music. It’s his favourite topic of conversation. It only ever bothered me – and still does- when he fails to get in touch to say he’s still alive after a heavy one. That’s caused a few arguments!
Are you into the same kind of music as he is or are you into a different kind of scene? Do you still get along to many of his gigs?
I’m pretty much stuck in the 80s when it comes to music and also love a bit of disco on a night out so in that respect we have the same taste. Al has introduced me to artists/tracks over the years that I probably would never have heard of otherwise so that’s been great. We definitely have different ideas of driving play-lists though and unfortunately since Al is the driver in the house, he tends to get his way. I still enjoy getting out to see him play but with a six year old it can be difficult so I’m not out as much as I’d like to be. When he first started getting booked to play abroad, I had this romantic idea of going with him to all these amazing places but it’s unfortunately not really worked out like that.
What was your favourite set of Ali’s over the years?
I really should say the first time he played at the SubClub because I know that was huge for him but I won’t. The one that stands out for me the most wasn’t particularly glamorous. It was a Hogmanay gig at an old bar called Miso in Glasgow and we hadn’t been together very long. I remember it vividly because I’d made him do a remix of a 90s Take That song and he actually played it in his set. I honestly thought he’d tell me to get to fu*k but he did it. It was a defining moment.
Does your home tend to get cluttered up with Ali’s hardware and the usual production paraphernalia or do you try to make sure there’s a bit of a separation between work and home?
Thankfully we moved to a bigger flat last year and it’s meant that he has a decent sized studio now which is great. He was effectively working out of a cupboard before and so there were records everywhere and his decks were in the living room. Not great when you’re trying to relax after work and he’s preparing for a gig. The balance is much better now.
Do you often get asked for any input as to your thoughts on his production work? Or does he lock himself away and get on with it?
He tends to lock himself away most of the time and do his own thing. He’s much more likely to ask me to check his spelling or grammar on an important email than ask for my input on an edit. Not sure if that’s insulting or not? DJ touring can be pretty full-on, both in terms of crazy hours for performing and hectic travel schedules.
Is it ever difficult to be as supportive as you’d like to be when he’s often far away?
I would never dream of not being supportive as I know how important it is for him. Obviously it can be hard when he’s away, especially because I work full time and we have our son, George. There’s often a lot of juggling involved. It doesn’t bother me though and if anything I’d love to see him away more often with his own tour or something. It’s what he’s worked so hard for over the years.
From our own experiences, artists who are in it solely for the music and not the lifestyle seem to have by far the most longevity, as otherwise it can easily become a pretty exhausting and unsustainable way of life. Has Ali’s approach to it all changed over the years and is the industry something you discuss much as a couple?
It’s not changed at all. Al has never been one to want to be part of a certain ‘scene’. If he had chosen to go into engineering which is what he studied, then he would still be doing music as a hobby. I think he approaches it in the right way- he appreciates how lucky he is to be doing something he’s so passionate about for a living. He spends all his spare time in the studio, working away. He’s also a belter of a dad to George and does the usual mundane things like the school run. His lifestyle is anything but glamorous.
Many DJs do their best to cultivate an enviable image, but I suspect those close to them have at least one domestic story that would rip that to shreds. What’s the least glamorous story you have about Ali from back at home?
Haha! That made me laugh! I don’t think Al has any sort of enviable image – between his dad dancing and terrible jokes he’s definitely losing the battle. Are you looking for drunken stories of someone pissing into my clothes drawers or of a six foot man contorting his body to fit into a baby’s cot with a hand towel for a blanket? If so, then I’ve got plenty ☺. He’s also a Morton fan. End of story.