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+TALK: DJ FAT TONY

Karl Schmid speaks with DJ and activist, DJ Fat Tony

KARL

From near death to thriving and surviving, up next.

Welcome to Plus Talk on Plus Life where we’re all about turning positive into a plus. From George Michael to Madonna, he’s been the DJ of choice for celebrities superstars and even royalty. And he’s now got a new memoir out that talks about the darker and more challenging side of his life. He’s also living with HIV. It’s DJ Fat Tony.

DJ FAT TONY
Thank you.

KARL
I read your, your memoirs and it, it took me literally I read it. I didn’t put it down, two days to read this phenomenal story. So much I could relate to. I know it took you a little longer than two days to write it though, didn’t it?

DJ FAT TONY
Yeah, it took two and a half years because we’d write bits and then we’d go back and change those bits because you know, when you’re writing your truth, it’s not necessarily the truth. So we kind of each story and each chapter we wrote and then we went off and Mikey would go and research and talk to other people that were actually in those scenarios and get their their point of view from it. Because you gotta remember when you ask someone or you tell someone a story whoever’s in it will always gloss up their part of it. Do you know what I mean? Oh no, I was the funniest. Oh no, I said this. And you’re thinking, well, no actually you didn’t say that. That was me.

But, do you know what I mean? So, so that’s why it took so long. And then there was bits of it that I really didn’t want to go in depth with because it was so painful. So to overcome that kind of took a while and a lot of trauma therapy to actually just get through it.

KARL
Well, let’s, let’s go back a little bit. I mean, you were really out and about and on the scene from a young age. thirteen, right?

DJ FAT TONY
Yeah. Like thirteen, fourteen. Yeah. I used to pretend that I was sixteen. Then I used to pretend I was eighteen. You know, I always pretended I was older than I was until I got to like thirty five and then it went the other way, as it always does. But you know, I always pretended I was older because I had this fixation with, with nightclubs and and going out, I just loved, I, I from the minute I first ever went out, I never went home.

KARL
Yeah. And you’ve very much had the badassy boy bravado I guess. I mean it, as you were just saying, you know people tend to gloss up the stories when it involves them. Well, mate, you’re the king of glossing up your own story and sounds like it was from an early age.

DJ FAT TONY
Yeah. You know what? I had a lot of mouth. In the eighties and nineties, you had to create your own platform. We didn’t have it in the palm of our hands. We couldn’t just press a button and everyone sees what we’re doing or we show everyone what we want them to perceive us as. Back then you had to have your own platform to do that. So mine was very, very early on I learned the louder and the preachier I was the more people laughed and more people kind of was like, ooh. And I kind of just sort of made myself infamous in that sense, because I, you know, I had a lot to say.

KARL
Well, and a lot to say by age eighteen you’re flying Concord to New York. And I think around that age you were also earning about three grand a week as a DJ. And we’re talking a while back.

DJ FAT TONY
We’re talking like that, that I was eighteen. So that was like 1989. Around that time, I think. Yeah. About ’88, ’89. Yeah, I was flying to New York like on Concord. And the first time I went was on my 18th birthday. And then I started working for Steve Rebel and that lot I’d play to him and then they were flying me over and of course George would fly and they’d be like okay, can we get, we want, we want you to come DJ as well. And I’d be like, well, George’s getting Concord and they’d have to pay for Concord. You know, it really was. And you know, money really came really quickly, you know because of who I knew and who I hung out with. Everybody wanted you at their party, and everyone wanted me to play at those parties. So I kind of gone on pretty early on that, you know, you want me, you pay for me.

KARL
Curious about that, you know, at that age to be making that kind of money to be flying Concord. And you, you mentioned George, I should say, Boy George is who you’re referring to there and obviously the drugs, you know, the party scene which the book is phenomenal and you are such an advocate now, and such a positive light for people with addiction. I think congratulations. It’s 15 and a half years sober, right?

DJ FAT TONY
That’s correct. Yeah.

KARL
Yeah. So, but that kind of money, was there an addiction to the money as well as the drugs or was what fueled what?

DJ FAT TONY
No, I think that the, you know, the more money I earned the more I spent. It was as simple as that. Because for me, from an early age, as I talk about in the book, when I got sexualized, I also got monetized. You know, money was changing hands. And although at the time it wasn’t being changed for sexual favors. What it was being changed for was I was being paid to work for the guy who basically abused me for four years, but, you know, he would pay me. So I always thought of money as a dirty thing. I always had to get rid of money. You know, it was, it was never something that I felt that I, I had a value to be paid for. So when you undervalue yourself in the sense that you think that you are worthless and suddenly you’re getting all this money, that money means nothing. So that just fueled everything, my lifestyle and, and also then suddenly, you know as soon as you bring drugs into the equation and you have this endless amount of money as such, you know I was still living in Battersea at that point in time in my parents’ house, you know so I wasn’t paying rent. I wasn’t paying anything. I had no bills to pay. I suddenly was getting this vast amounts of money and you know, it was how can I get rid of this money really quickly? So it become clothes and drugs.

KARL
Yeah. And, and as the book goes into extremely raw and often sometimes quite dark territory about your drug use. I mean, even just the first couple of pages of the book, you know, I, I know you’re probably sick you’re tired of talking about how Freddie Mercury and his guys gave you your first line of coke but those first few pages of the book, have you sit upright. I mean, I could feel it. I could almost feel like I was doing the drugs with you. Having been someone who has done a lot of those drugs certainly not to the level, you know, DJ fat Tony who had to be number one that did them. But, but it, it sort of just was there any part you mentioned earlier that you sort of went, it was hard for me to tell some of those truths but now having told the truths that you have in the book how does that make you feel now today?

DJ FAT TONY
You know, firstly going back to what you just said, you know, about me being number one as drug takers, it’s never been a boast. I’ve never boasted about how many drugs I took. Back then I would.

KARL
Yeah.

DJ FAT TONY
But getting clean for me, it’s, it’s not, I, I don’t wanna be the world’s biggest caine. I would’ve given my right arm not to be that. I would’ve been given my right arm, not to be the worst drug addict in London at that point in time. But you know what, at, at that point in time for me, it was, it was the amount of drugs I did. And the amount of nights I stayed up become the chemical scaffolding that kept me going really. And, you know, I, I reveled in the fact that I was a complete amount of car crash. I used to say to people do you know how much money it costs to look like this? When I had no teeth and you know, I was emaciated. I would like people like, oh my God, look at the state you’re in. I’d be like, yeah, look at the state of me. You could never afford to look like this. Which was insane in itself. But, you know, yeah being, it, it, it was the book’s unvarnished because my life is unvarnished. There was nothing to varnish. You can’t polish a turd. And how much you try to paint a magnificent picture of it, a shit is a shit, right?

KARL
Yeah.

DJ FAT TONY
And, and my life was really shit. But it was my life, and it was my shit. And, and I kind of think that’s what made it go on for so long, you know. It was the fact that I normalized it. It suddenly become normal. Or everything that was going on in my life, the fact that I didn’t sleep three or four days at a time or all the other chaos and all the other pain that I was in become normal.

KARL
Yeah. And, and, you know I think one of the things, you know, I, I sort of came to you through a mutual friend of ours, Chris Sweeney, you’d done his show.

DJ FAT TONY
Yeah.

KARL
and that’s how I saw you. And I immediately DMD you. And then I read the British Vogue chapter of your book.

DJ FAT TONY
Yeah

KARL
You know, and Plus Life, I started this whole channel and platform to change the conversation about HIV, to say this is what HIV looks like nowadays. No, we said, you know, and, and for you you talk about it, you know, at the height of I guess the AIDS crisis, you, you weren’t infected your boyfriend passed away at the time you found, you came to it kind of later in the game and you said it hit you I’ve got the “HIV diagnosis hit me like a fucking steam train.” Based on your lifestyle and the way you were living and partying and the sex and everything else help sort of just break that statement down. Because I think a lot of people would go, well, what did you expect? And I want to change that conversation where people just assume that if you take drugs and you party obviously you’re gonna go and get sick, get HIV.

DJ FAT TONY
But you know, back then, you know, what did I expect? I didn’t expect anything because I, I had no expectations of any sort on anything. I was in the moment I was doing what I was doing. The rest of the world didn’t matter. The rest of the world stood still as far as I was concerned within my world. You know, when Tom passed away in ’95 of a full blown AIDS, you know, he’d come to me four years before that and told me that he was diagnosed. I went that day. No, not that day because it was at night but the next day to go in and get a Walk In same day test and it came back negative. Now my doctors, when I was actually diagnosed, he said that probably was not the case. You probably was not negative. They just didn’t know what they were testing and how to test properly in those centers. Because those, they were set up really quickly. They weren’t a national health, same day testing. I went private. So, you know, they, they were probably testing for water. Who knows what they were testing for at that point in time. But also there was so many different strains and so many different levels of factors to it. So in, in, that was in ’91 ’92. So when Tom passed in ’95, the whole hell broke loose for me.

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