What Happens When The Mafia Kidnaps a DJ?
What Happens When The Mafia Kidnaps a DJ?February 2, 2022
In an exclusive excerpt from the new book Tales From The Booth presented by The Secret DJ, which recounts wild stories of DJs from around the world, one anonymous DJ recalls the time he was kidnapped by the mafia.
“I’m not a household name; I’ve never been on the top of any bill or big festival line-up but, having been resident for a series of big global clubbing brands for almost 20 years, I’ve DJ’d every single working week of my life. It’s an interesting life and has given me the widest range of vantage points a DJ can have. I’ve been booked to play somewhere as illustrious as Space Terrace, Ibiza, where I got to select sounds I really enjoy and that inspired me to DJ in the first place. Some situations will see me playing on a yacht for the launch of a sporting event or in the VIP room of a big corporate exhibition or art exhibition where I’m playing pop music and oldies. Other times it’s an identikit mainstream commercial club in a random European city where the deepest I get to draw is David Guetta.
This isn’t a complaint, by the way; it’s just the way things have gone for me in my career. I enjoy the challenge and variety and whatever the gig is, I focus on one main job: making people dance. I’m not here to show off my deep knowledge of rarities, I’m here to keep spirits up, so I’m musically prepared for every single scenario and every single request.
Which became a problem at one show in Hamburg around the early 2010s. I can’t remember the venue name, but it was a very typical commercial show. I was playing from midnight until 3am, and the DJ on before me was bashing out the 90 / 00s bangers like there was no tomorrow: Faithless, Eiffel 65, Spiller, Darude. You get the picture. It’s a picture I’ve seen more times than I can remember in my career. I come on and follow suit and, as the night progresses, I take things into more of a hip-hop and r’n’b direction. This causes a bit of a stir and, as I look over the crowd, I see one man in the middle of the dancefloor surrounded by incredibly glamorous looking women.
Grinning darkly, moving in slow motion like ‘choose your character’ stage on a video game, he’s suited, he’s booted and he has a look and air about him that instantly says ‘organised crime’. I carry on dropping hip-hop tunes and everything I play gets some type of call or shout from him. We make eye contact and I give him a nod. Enough to pay respect to him but, I hope, not enough to encourage him to take our friendship further. Unfortunately, I have totally misjudged the situation. He sees my nod as an open invitation to come up into the booth.
“You’ve got the best music tonight!” he shouts in my ear. “Come to my club afterwards for the afterparty; you’ll love it!”
I thank him but politely decline. My flight leaves at 9am; I wanted to get some sleep before an early start to the airport.
“No. Come to my club.”
“Honestly, I’d love to, any other time I would. But I have another show tomorrow and I really can’t. You know how it is. Maybe next time?” I pull out all the polite classics one would say in such a scenario, but they are falling on deaf ears.
“Come to my club. We’ll have a real party. Not like this. Much better.”
He seems pretty resolute, almost forceful, on this matter. The fact he’s saying he owns his venue backs up my organised crime theory. I carry on playing to the gradually dwindling crowd and he loiters in the background sniffing coke, still proffering appreciative gestures when I play a tune he enjoys. At one point, two of his friends join him. Not the glamorous lady friends but two much bigger pals in dark suits. Henchmen. They, too, are nodding respectfully but not offering any type of cheer like their main man. I continue to focus on my set, but I’m increasingly aware of them lurking and talking behind me. At points, their conversation becomes a little heated… then it becomes all-too silent. I turn around and they’ve gone. Not so much of a goodbye or handshake; they’d just vanished. Relieved, I finish my set, say goodbye to the promoter and walk out of the venue… Only to be accosted by the two henchmen. One of them has me in a headlock; the other grabs my arms and pins them behind my back.
“Now we’ll have a real party, yes?”
The main man appears from behind me. He’s grinning but I don’t see the funny side. I try to reason with him.
“Please, mate, I’d love to come and play for you, I can give you my card, but really I’m not comfortable in this situation. I have to fly at 9am.” I try to sound as insistent and confident as possible but it’s hard when you’re being manhandled in such a way.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get you there in time, I promise. Come to my club; it’s much better than this shithole.”
As he’s saying this, I’m being marched into the back of his car. At first, I resisted, but these men were strong. I’m six foot two and in no way a small person, but they were moving me around like a toddler. I’d been kidnapped, and my fate for the next few hours would be in their hands. I get in the car, wedged between the two men in monkey suits, and we drive to the venue. The main man is chatting away in the front, changing the radio and turning to me with a big grin on his face from time to time, like this is perfectly normal behaviour. After twenty of the most intense minutes of my life, we finally arrive.
“Welcome to my club! Let me get you a drink,” he beams as we enter a shady looking establishment with literally no lights or branding, the type of private venue that you’re only aware of on a need-to-know basis. Plush furnishings, big chandeliers, a water feature and shiny brass everywhere. Once again, the whole set-up screamed ‘organised crime’. The number of henchmen in suits had risen by at least 20, too. I ask for a gin and tonic and I’m shown the decks.
“Let’s see what you’ve got…”
My host takes one of my USBs, loads it into one of the decks and goes through the tracks. He knows his music, he loves his hip-hop and he even has a little mix himself as we go back to back. It’s not the type of behaviour you’d expect from a kidnapper at all. He racks up a few lines and, worried I might insult him if I didn’t accept, I take him up on the offer.
And he would know; it’s his business. He opens up a little more and enlightens me on his credentials in the Turkish mafia. Even through the heavy cocaine buzz, this concerns me – but we’re getting along pretty well and I remind him that I have to leave by 7am to get my bags and get to the airport in time for my flight. He nods, he hugs me tightly and he hits the dancefloor. I check the time; it’s 4.30am. I reason with myself: just keep this guy sweet for a few hours and I’ll be fine. Either that or I’ll be dead. There’s not going to be a happy medium here, unless they’re sitting at a ouija board one posthumous evening.
6am arrives and the dancefloor is full of strange and suspicious-looking people. Most of them seem to be enjoying themselves, so I carry on playing and find they move to anything I drop. I play a bit of house, a bit of jungle and a whole load of heavy tracks that I wouldn’t usually get to play. As far as gigs go, this was actually good fun… Good fun in that strange, tense, will-I-get-the-fuck-out-of-here-alive kinda way. I look around for my host and he’s towards the back of the dancefloor, still whooping and hollering. One more hour to go and I’m home free. You can do this, I tell myself.
As the hour progresses, the dancefloor empties a little and I realise my host isn’t looking as sharp as he did. His shirt is unbuttoned and untucked; he looks a little feral. I wonder if he’ll remember our deal. I start to get strange looks from his henchmen. They’re in a deep and distracted conversation and it’s clear I’m the subject of their troubles. ‘What’s going on now?’ I wonder to myself and I realise the main man is no longer on the dancefloor. Fuck, where is he? Can I just go now? I wonder how quickly I could run from the venue and find a cab. I play another tune and consider my options but before it runs out, my options are made up for me.
I feel a hand on my shoulder and turn around. It’s him. My host. Now just standing there in his underwear looking pretty fucking dark. His eyes are bloodshot, he’s covered in sweat and…. FUCK…. The dude’s just bitten my arm! A deep, blood-drawing bite, too. This wasn’t a cheeky nibble. I scream in pain and his henchmen appear out of nowhere, but this time, instead of grabbing me in a headlock, they grab him and take him away. Another man comes over to me and offers to clean up my arm and get me to the airport. He looks genuinely upset and concerned.
“We’re so sorry. Usually, we get him home before he goes like this, but your music was too good. He didn’t want to leave.”
He presses a napkin down hard onto my arm to clean up the blood like it’s something he’s done before and hands me an envelope with five thousand euros in it “for my trouble”. He keeps shaking my hand and apologising as he leads me to a car waiting outside. As we walk down the corridor towards the entrance, I see rays of light coming through the doorway and, besides the searing pain in my arm, I feel relief on levels I’ve never experienced before or since in my life. It’s a new day; I have effectively survived a Mafia kidnapping and, what’s more, it’s exactly 7am. Just as they promised, I did get to the airport on time. To this day, it remains the most intense set I’ve ever done. And I’ve got the jagged, faintly circular scar to prove it.”
Tales From The Booth presented by The Secret DJ is available exclusively from Velocity Press from February 3rd. Buy it here.