Q&A: Craig David on how to throw a house party: ‘Someone spills something? Clean it up’
Craig David is not a fan of the VIP section.
The British singer and DJ has no trouble getting into them, mind you: As the man responsible for such early-2000s R&B hits as “Fill Me In” and “7 Days” — the former of which was sampled a few years ago by Justin Bieber — David is sure to be let behind any velvet rope of his choosing.
But along with stardom came the realization that the VIP section is often where pleasure goes to die.
“All the times I’ve been in there, it’s like I’m crammed up next to somebody, drinks are spilling all over me, I can’t get myself out to get to the restroom,” the singer said the other day. “So I kind of learned: Why don’t I just do a house party?”
That’s what led David, 36, to found TS5, a semiregular bash he began hosting in 2012 at his penthouse condo in Miami’s Mondrian hotel. The initial idea was “a pre-gamer,” he said. “About 10 of my friends would come round to my house and we’d have a couple of shots, play some music on my iTunes before we went out to the club.”
It soon grew, though, into something much bigger, with a radio show broadcast on London’s Capital Xtra and a touring live production that will stop Thursday night at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood. Ahead of his visit, David called from Miami to discuss.
How exactly did TS5 move beyond an informal hang with your pals?
What I found is that after a couple of drinks, everyone wants to become the DJ. So the music was going from some kind of hip-hop — Notorious B.I.G. or 2Pac — to “Macarena” or some crazy thing. I was like, “OK, I need to rein this in.” So I got a proper little DJ set-up, and once I started that, it snowballed into people wanting to invite their friends, and then friends of friends, who’d say, “You’ve got to get a microphone now, Craig — you can’t just do the DJ thing.”
Then it was like, “Oh, you’ve got to sing one of your tunes, man.” I never used to sing my own songs at my house — seemed a bit much. Then people were like, “We need a CD of this!” I said, “Cool — but I ain’t gonna do CDs.” Who’s got a CD player? But I put it on [the streaming site] SoundCloud, and that was the next progression of it getting picked up on the radio in the UK.
What’s the biggest number of people you’ve had at your house?
Probably 150 on a crazy Art Basel weekend. There was a guest list and security at the door.
But no VIP section.
I want everyone to feel VIP.
How has your home fared in all this?
One, I have the most incredible housekeeper. Literally I’ll do a party at 10:30, then leave around 1 to go out. And by the time I come back, it’s as if there was no party. They’ve cleaned it all up. It’s incredible, man. You don’t want to come back and your place is destroyed. But at the same time, you can’t live your life with everything being perfect. I bought this place so I could be around people. I’m actually living life. Someone spills something? Clean it up. Having a great night is more important than protecting your sofa.
When you started out, the record industry was very top-down — expensive music videos and complicated marketing plans and all that. But TS5 started from the bottom and worked upwards. Is the business totally different now?
It’s funny: If I go back to just before my first album, “Born to Do It,” that period is almost identical to this one outside the technology. I was DJing and making mix-tapes and selling them at the local barber’s — I was hustling. It was bottom-up then too. “Rewind,” the first song I did with a group called the Artful Dodger, was first played on the pirate radio stations; then the commercial stations jumped on it late. Later on, when I got signed, I was in the major-label machine for sure. But I’m so thankful I had those earlier experiences.
After Justin Bieber sampled “Fill Me In” for his song “Recovery,” you remade “Fill Me In” in 2015 as a mash-up with Bieber’s “Where Are Ü Now,” which people went crazy about on the Internet.
I had no idea it would go viral. That was my first moment of something like that. And now when I perform it I’m seeing teenagers who are hearing that top-line melody as if it’s brand-new.
Is that all right by you?
All right by me!? Listen, it’s one thing having a nostalgia thing happen — people reminiscing about the music they were listening to when they were growing up or they met their partner or they went on their first holiday. But it’s another thing having music that connects with a younger audience. At my shows I’ve got kids at the front, but then I’m also seeing people the same age as me or even older.
A kid is asking his mum, “Have you heard of Craig David?” And the mum is saying, “Let me tell you about Craig David.”
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