THERE’S a lot more to Brandon Block than the hedonism of the 90’s, being a true Ibiza pioneer, one of the best known DJs of his generation, his Brits stage invasion and his famous run in with Ronnie Wood or indeed most recently his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother.
We caught up with him this week to find out about not just his Celebrity Big Brother experience, why he decided to go into the house in the first place and his reasons for leaving early but also the important work he does helping people with mental health issues, addiction and homelessness. Plus he gave us the heads up on where you can catch him DJing this summer as demand for Brandon Block the DJ soars.
It’s fair to say no one in the dance music community saw it coming, how did Celebrity Big Brother come about and why did you decide to do it?
I’ve actually been up for the program a few times before. I was up for it when Bez was on it and I lost out to him. He went on to win it in 2005. So it had always been in the pipeline for me. I was on the short list a couple of years ago also and that didn’t work out. So I didn’t really think about after that and thought it probably wasn’t going to happen but then it obviously it came up. I was a bit shocked but I thought why not, let’s go for it.
Because it was unexpected I was a bit unprepared in all honesty. I suppose the reason why I decided to do it was because of the work I do now. It gives you a lot of insight into yourself and I had a few demons. I wanted to show in front of the cameras the real me today. I’ve changed a lot over the years, I don’t do any of the stuff I used to do back in the day and I’ve changed as a person.
So you went into the house to challenge yourself?
Yes you could say that.
Going into the house and coming under scrutiny with such big personalities must have been tough for you though? You said when you left that you didn’t feel like yourself anymore. Can you tell us a little more about why this was?
I didn’t really get involved in any of the arguments that were going on. I just did my thing and enjoyed sitting out chatting to people like James Cosmo and Coleen Nolan. I suppose the thing I was thinking in there was how was I being perceived, what’s the new Brandon like? I just didn’t feel relaxed though and felt the time was right to go.
I don’t suppose being edited out helped? They do like to stoke the pressure cooker environment in there.
They have to make exciting telly. In all honesty watching people sit around chatting about movies isn’t exciting telly!
Did you find that some of the personalities had an agenda from the off?
I didn’t watch the show a lot to be honest and didn’t really know the format or how it would play out. I didn’t think about what anyone was doing, I just thought it was a bunch of people having a laugh in a house!
You had some incredible support from the dance music community. I think that there was a huge amount of people that had never watched the show before that switched on just to watch you.
If I’d have known the support on the outside when I was in there it may have spurred me on a bit more to be honest. I was overwhelmed when I came out and I want to say thanks to everyone that supported me. It was incredible to see the support that was out there for me.
Do you reckon we might see any of the other celebrity friends you made in there coming to see you rock Clockwork Orange or any of your other gigs?
I don’t think James Cosmo will be in a hurry to come to Clockwork! Haha! Calum might though! James is such a great man though you know. He is a very calming influence and a very worldly wise guy.
Can you tell us about the work you do with people suffering with addiction and mental health issues?
The work that I have been doing for a long time and for the NHS covers the full spectrum, I work with and help people with mental health issues, addiction and homelessness to give them support and empower them to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s about helping them recognise that they can overcome these things and that they can achieve more than they expect from themselves.
I’ve gone straight back to work after CBB. Once you have a yearning to do this kind of work and have been in a place of isolation yourself it’s great to be able to give something back and something I felt I really needed to do. It’s good for your soul. Going through something like that myself and coming out the other side is quite an achievement. You learn a lot of stuff about yourself and it gives you empathy for others.
Myself and friend of mine have set up a charity called Silent Sufferers. It’s to go alongside an App that I have designed called Get Well Together. It’s basically an online recovery community. It’s designed to utilise social media to help engage with people that are hard to reach. It’s nearly at a release stage.
Alongside this I’m also involved with various homeless charities alongside Chris Hill delivering workshops at Centrepoint, the young people’s homeless charity. The aim is to engage young people through positive activity workshops: mixing music, DJ’ing, song-writing and presenting together with raising awareness of the key issues surrounding addiction. The idea is to combine the opportunity for young people to have fun and enjoy being creative while developing a true understanding of how addiction works and how it can be beaten.
The concept of working with homeless young people is to enable ‘choice’ – to install a positive attitude through engagement and positive reinforcement and at the same time, remove the burden of addiction from their lives; allowing them a choice as to how to progress by pursuing training, education or seeking employment.
Chris has been through his own addiction journey spanning 20 years, starting from smoking his first cigarette at the age of seven, progressing to alcohol and then a range of drugs to using crack cocaine and heroin some 20 years later.
That was over 10 years ago, and since then Chris has studied how addiction works physiologically and mentally once a substance or activity is introduced into the body and mind and uses his knowledge and experience to educate others from the point of awareness right through to recovery. You can find out more about Chris’ work at www.beatmyaddictions.com
What are your plans for the summer and your DJ shows? I know you were straight out of the Big Brother house and back with your partner in crime Alex P behind the decks playing a sold out show at Butlins?
Yes I was. This summer I’ve got a few gigs in Ibiza. I have a monthly residency at Es Paradis and some gigs coming up at Ocean Beach and of course Clockwork Orange. To be honest with you I’ve actually yet to miss a season in Ibiza since 1990 even with everything that has gone on but I am back doing what I love and everything is back to normal for me.
What about your own music in terms of productions? Can we expect to hear a new Blockster record any time soon? Some might say the time is ripe for another one from you with your profile being so high?
Making a hit record is so difficult! I don’t have time because of my work, which is quite draining mentally. When I get home to be honest I just want to sit down and watch The Chase or something!
There is a lot of nostalgia for dance music right now, with Pete Tong’s huge success with his Classic House album and Ibiza Classic shows, Clockwork Orange enjoying such a big resurgence and the golden era of dance music being celebrated across the UK at the moment. As one of the legends from that era do you think that it can ever be repeated?
I don’t think that era will be repeated. It changed the face of music, not just dance music but all music. It’s still going on 30 years later and electronic music has become what music is today and has influenced every single genre of music.
One last question. Are we likely to see you back on our screens anytime soon? Would you fancy going into the jungle for I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here for example?
Well you can never say never. I would love to do something like I’m a Celebrity. I was put forward a long time ago but was obviously not what they were looking for at that time. I’m not holding my breath! I’d be interested in doing something that maybe I had more input into around the work that I do. There’s an ever growing problem that’s worldwide and will not get better unless awareness is raised and the treatment system is re-vamped.