“I was getting fed up of playing the record in every club around the world”: Michael Gray on the explosion of The Weekend

“Promoters always expect you to play commercial records like that, and you’re like ‘That’s not what I do! I play new records!’”

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Michael Gray

Since the age of 10, Michael Gray had dreamt of becoming a professional DJ. By 12, Gray was already putting in the graft, DJing at under 16 discos with a set of turntables he’d gotten as a birthday gift. When he finally made it big, it seemed his prayers had been answered.

But there’s one downside to being a globally acclaimed disc jockey: partying away until dawn can grow tiresome. As Gray discovered, there comes a time when spinning the same tracks can become dull.

In a recent interview with DJ Mag, DJ and producer Gray reflects on the making of his international ’00s club hit, The Weekend. “When I was 18, I started getting into clubs,” he explains. “I was megamixing other people’s records… but by 1990 I thought, ‘Right, I’ve achieved what I want to do mixing other people’s records, now I want to make my own records’.”

“I’d had enough of producing and remixing as Full Intention,” he says. “Major labels, would be coming to us and say, “can you do a remix just like the last one?” When someone starts telling you to do it like the last one, you can see your creativity going out the window! You just become a machine.”

Thankfully, Simon Dunmore offered Gray the opportunity to focus on his own tracks. “I went to Simon Dunmore at Defected [Records] and I said, ‘would you have a listen to some of these tunes?’,” Gray recalls. “He offered me an album deal.”

Gray would go on to work outside of house music for a small stint, flexing his creative muscles producing post-punk group Portobello. The venture would allow him to return to his record after a year – and that’s when he would fully craft The Weekend we know and love. “I just put down this idea that I heard from an Oliver Cheatham record, Get Down Saturday Night,” he tells DJ Mag. “Melodically, that song is so strong… Within about two days, everything just fell into place.”

Though Gray wouldn’t hear any feedback from his label for a short while, he was soon given the green light. “They said, “we’re going to do 3000 white labels and we’re going to ship a load out to Ibiza,’” he recalls.

“I remember Friday afternoon when it came in sitting in my office and the version come in and running out to my wife, I said, ‘oh my god, they’ve done it. This is it!!’” he smiles. “I got into the Top 10, at number seven. We had so much competition: Eminem, Kylie, Beyoncé. From a sales point of view, it did really well.”

Despite all of the excitement, Gray was still a young father at the time. “The joke of it was, I actually could wait for the weekend to begin. At the time, I had twin boys who were one, and the oldest son who was three!” he explains. “There was only 18 months between them… there was no partying. I actually stopped DJing for a year and a half.”

The success of the track also became somewhat of a weight on his creativity. “I went through a period about 2012, I was just getting fed up of having to play the record in every club around the world,” he admits. “Promoters always expect you to play commercial records like that, and you’re like “that’s not what I do! I play new records!’”

Despite the frustration, Gray is still proud of his breakout track’s success. “It wasn’t until about 2017, I noticed really big DJs playing it to huge festivals,” he says. “It’s like it had become cool again. I didn’t think it would span so many generations. Now I’m extremely proud of it.”

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