Tony De Vit
Tony De Vit (12 September 1957 – 2 July 1998) was a British club DJ, Producer and Remixer and one of the most influential of his generation.He was credited with helping to take the "Hard house" and fast "Hard NRG" sounds out of the London gay scene and into mainstream clubs. His single "Burning Up" reached number 25 in the UK Singles Chart in March 1995, with "To The Limit" making number 44 in September 1995. De Vit had contracted HIV. On 2 July 1998, at the age of 40,he died of bronchial failure.
Tony de Vit began DJ'ing at the age of 17, as a wedding DJ in 1976 playing at local pubs in his home town of Kidderminster, followed in his early 20s, by his first residency at the 'Nightingale' in Birmingham on a Monday night where he played pop and Hi-NRG. His Monday night slot progressed into midweek Wednesday nights and then to the main Friday and Saturday night slots. In a relatively short space of time de Vit, through his talent and the diversity of his music, had taken the 'Nightingale' from a kitsch gay haunt to a respected club. During the early 1980s, he worked at Wolverhampton's Beacon Radio, playing club tracks during a regular late-night slot on the 1922 show hosted by Mike Baker (now with Smooth FM). Tracks from Bobby Orlando and Patrick Cowley featured heavily.
It was around 1988 that London's infamous gay superclub, 'Heaven' was looking for an alternative DJ. After some persistence, Tony landed the gig there and every other Saturday night he would play the main floor along with his residency at the 'Nightingale'. 'Heaven' was the epitome of the gay club scene and Tony found that his lifestyle fitted in perfectly with this scene; at the time gay clubs were musically way ahead of their straight counterparts and were heavily influenced by the New York disco scene. Gay clubs became very much a pivotal point in the development of today’s Dance Music culture, where Hedonism, Sexuality, Race and Gender unite as one for the cause of dance music.
While de Vit’s set at 'Heaven' was rapidly establishing a reputation for itself, 1990 saw another pioneering and soon to be influential club named Trade emerge onto the scene, which was promoted by the then unknown Laurence Malice & Tim Stabler. De Vit heard good reports about 'Trade' and so one night went there. From the moment he walked into the club, de Vit couldn't believe what he was hearing, he went onto the dance floor, mesmerized by the music and loving every minute of it! Not one to do things by half measures, Tony transformed his record box overnight to this new style of music. The following week Tony turned up at the 'Nightingale' and began to play the entire contents of his new-found record collection like a kid with a new toy. The club told him that he was nuts, and gave him an ultimatum, change the music or leave, to which Tony said, 'I’m not changing the music, this is the way forward'. His comments ended a ten-year residency that had become a Birmingham clubbing institution and de Vit had become a local Icon and a legend on the gay clubbing scene.
In around 1990/91, de Vit focused on his residency at 'Heaven', and was a regular visitor to 'Trade', where he began to bombard the promoters of 'Trade' with tapes of his sets. Eventually, after six months of persistent harassment, they relented and allowed de Vit to stand in one night for Smokin' Jo. Tony graced the decks, placed the needle on the record and in his own words 'the place went crazy!'. After that outstanding performance, de Vit landed his very own residency at 'Trade' and firmly established himself alongside the likes of other 'Trade' luminaries such as Malcolm Duffy and Daz Saund.
By now Tony was perfectly content, he held one of the most prized and prestigious slots...a residency at 'Trade'. It was also around this time that House music had begun to evolve into the dance music culture it is and was to make a significant impact on British society with the advent of the phenomenon of Illegal Warehouse Parties and raves. The parties became the subject of national media interest and pressure came from the government for the local police forces to close down the raves and confiscate the sound systems. In around 1992, the illegal Raves moved into the clubs in a bid to legalise the scene. One of the pioneering figures of the burgeoning house music scene at this time was a Birmingham promoter called Simon Raine, who took a very keen interest in Tony’s career. It was Raine who put Tony on the bill alongside Fabio and Grooverider at 'The Institute' and encouraged him to make 'in roads' into other house parties. Up until this point Tony had predominately played in the gay club scene but Raine, who today is one of the most successful dance music promoters on the scene with his infamous 'Gatecrasher' club nights, had a few words of wisdom and support for de Vit when he told him 'You are going to go all the way and be a huge success'.
It was not long before various other nights began to spring up, the most significant being the 'Chuff Chuff' events which were run by the Ryan brothers. One night Tony got a call, the Ryan Brothers had rung to see if he would play after Sasha. Tony was well aware that Sasha was a hard act to follow, but as usual, he pulled it off!
In 1992, Tony de Vit met with an unknown music engineer called Simon Parkes. Simon brought a tape to Tony and, as he recalled at the time, '...the tracks were so so and quite commercial, but the sounds and quality were great. I knew that Simon had got something to offer and there was huge potential, I just had to find it, focusing on my perspective as a DJ with a feel for the music and Simon’s perspective as an engineer in producing the sounds and the quality'.
It was at this time that Tony de Vit recorded (in Simon’s bedroom) and released his first record 'Feel the Love (Don't Go Away)' which was well received on the club scene. His second release was a track called 'Higher & Higher' (with disco diva Norma Lewis ), which became the future benchmark for de Vit & his V2 concept, but it was de Vit’s track 'Burning Up' that took everybody by surprise. This record was the catalyst in firmly establishing de Vit’s name and a new style of music. The track went straight in at No. 24 in the UK Top 40. It was at this point that everything changed, he went from being a DJ and a 'one man operation', to a huge company overnight. The DJ bookings began to flood in for both the UK and overseas, and in 1995 Radio 1 contacted him for his first 'Essential MIx'. At the same time record companies also recognised de Vit’s unique ability and talent and remixes were soon flooding in.
With the launch of Jumpwax Records in 1996, Hard house music in the UK became more mainstream with tracks like 'Are You All Ready' and 'I Don’t Care' beginning to receive major radio play and very impressive sales figures upon release. Following the demise of Jumpwax Records in 1996, we saw the launch of TDV Records, which saw the release of the classics, 'Bring The Beat Back' and 'Get Loose'. Even today, as we step into the new millennium, all of these releases are still being played by DJ’s the world over.
In 1996, Tony went on to play at all the major dance clubs/events in the UK and with the help of his 'Kiss 100' show in 1997 his popularity grew and in 1997/98 he was ranked number 5 in DJ Magazine Top 100 DJ's in the World;
In the early part of 1998, he recorded the anthem 'The Dawn' with Paul Janes and Andy Buckley, which was part of the six track 'Trade EP'. Tony went on to comment that '...he was very proud of it...' considering (for the first time) he was working with a new & different engineer. Paul Janes went on to remix 'The Dawn' as a personal tribute to Tony’s work and special understanding to his music genre, and again, after 5 years, the track is still played with many considering it to be his best work.
In the last four years of his life Tony’s reputation was propelled to critical acclaim within 'clubland' and the record buying public. He had a string of awards and nominations to his name, including, Mixmag's '2nd Best DJ of the Year 1996', and M8 magazine's 'Best DJ of the Year 1996'. He was nominated for the 'Best New DJ' in the Muzik Magazine's 'Saints and Sinners' awards, 'Dance DJ of the Year' (Molsen BEDA Awards) and 'Best DJ' International Music Awards. He was selected by Music Week as 'Top Remixer of 1996' and his remix of Louise’s 'Naked' earned Music Week’s vote as the 'Ground breaking Remix of 1996'. This, coupled with his two top 40 successes, 'Burning Up' and 'To The Limit', and more than 20 remixes entering the UK top 40, proves what a ground breaking star he was.'
De Vit had contracted HIV. On 2 July 1998, at the age of 40, he died of bronchial failure. After De Vit's death, a conflict kept his records off the shelves for many years, but finally a compilation album of his songs and remixes was released called Are You All Ready? on Tidy Trax records.