"Coming on like a seventh sense!" For some of us, at least those of a certain age, lines like that were our first contact with Mr. C. The line is from 1992's "LSI (Love Sex Intelligence)" from the British electronic-pop act the Shamen, for which Mr. C served as hype man in the late '80s through early '90s. But since then, the man born Richard West has compiled a resumé that's strayed far from the U.K. Top 40 charts. Even before his Shamen days, he was DJing and producing electronic house; over the years, he's released scores of tunes, both as a solo artist and in collaboration with the likes of Eddie Richards, Francis Harris (as Sycophant Slags) and Omid 16B Nourizadeh. In 1995, he and Layo & Bushwacka's Layo Paskin opened the End, one of the iconic clubs of London nightlife history—and though that nitery closed in 2009, Mr. C is still a major player on the scene, largely through his Superfreq label and parties. We've asked the storied scenester to take part in our occasional Trainwreck series, and he's met the request by recounting the following tale of drugs and danger.
For this, we have to go back to 1997, I believe. I was touring South Africa with the End Sound System, which consisted of Layo, Bushwacka, and myself working together on four turntables (yes, those things that play vinyl recordings), two mixers, one mic and an effects unit. We’d done a huge show in an abandoned railway station in Johannesburg on the Saturday evening; it was an all-day and all-evening event. We were wrapped up by 2am, and the promoter took us to what we were told was the craziest after-hours in Johannesburg. We arrived at what looked like a big English pub, so we went in and there was nothing going on: It was empty and closed.
The manager informed us that the guy who owned the place had been shot that day–not fatally, but a pretty serious injury by all accounts–and this was why there was nothing going on. Well, this guy who had been shot was one of the main mafia guys in town. So we chatted away in the kitchen area behind the bar, and one of the DJs who was with us rolled a marijuana joint and blazed it up. It that moment, three huge men walk in–real mean, nasty guys with bald heads, who we later find out are the right-hand man of the guy who’d been shot and two of his cronies–all carrying semi-automatic weapons and in a foul mood.
The main guy started shouting, “What the fuck is going on here? Who are these assholes taking the piss out of my boss’s place? You have until I count to ten to get everything out of sight or you’re all dead. One… Two…” My mate put out the joint and everything was gone before he got to three. “Who are you motherfuckers?” he asked. The promoter of our event said we were with him, and then the thug took him into a room. They came back five minutes later, and the thug had a smile on his face.
“It’s a good thing you were so fast at putting the stuff away, as usually when I get to three, I kill,” he said. “I’m told you’re all international musicians. The only thing I can’t do is music and I love music, so I have the utmost respect for musicians; therefore, you’re all good, you can light your joint up.” We were all literally shitting ourselves, and the thug and his cronies could see this. He told us to relax, pulled out a big bag of cocaine and start racking out huge lines. He offered us all coke; I said no, as anyone who knows me will tell you I don’t do cocaine. The guy got a bit angry and insisted I do his coke. I took a quick glance at him and his friends’ guns—and proceeded to do as I was told and take the coke.
"We got to hold the machine guns, and it was the scariest situation I’ve even been in in my life."
This continued for some time. We got to hold the machine guns, and it was the scariest situation I’ve even been in in my life. It was like something out of a Tarantino movie. We said we had to leave, but this guy wasn’t having any of it and insisted we take more coke. This carried on for another hour or so until his bag was empty. We then said it was time we got going, so this thug insisted on driving back to the hotel and getting us more cocaine on the way as a gift. Who were we to turn these guys down?
So we got into the back of his 5 Series BMW—his whore girlfriend got into the front seat and he started driving. He got on the phone with someone and said, “Hey, I’m coming over, I need some shit. I don’t want rubbish shit like you gave me last time, I need the good shit as I have very important people with me, do you understand? If it’s not the good shit I’m going to blow your fucking brains out.” My mind was all over the place; I’m thinking at this point that anything could happen. This guy’s boss had been shot that very day and we might show up somewhere and the car gets sprayed with bullets.
We pulled up outside an apartment block, the thug called the guy again and said, “We’re outside, I’m sending my girl in.” She got out of the front seat and walked around the corner. At this point, the wheels were truly turning in my head and I told them I had to get out to take a leak. There was absolutely no way I was going to be in that car if it was getting sprayed. I took the longest leak ever and waited until the girl came back around the corner alone before I got back into the car. With the mission complete, the thug then drove us back to our hotel and gave us a wrap of cocaine as a gift. We got out of the car with pure relief to be free, thanked him for his hospitality and got into our hotel. Phew!
To close this story, when I got into my hotel room, my safe was open and the money I had inside was gone. At this point, I really didn’t give a shit, as I was happy to be alive and in one piece, and they hadn’t stolen my passport.
You’ve got to love Johannesburg.