Meet DJ Johnny Basil, the Man You Wish You Were
Or, how a Californian disco DJ embodies everything diametrically opposed to the British psyche.
The idea of "cool" is a weird one, isn't it? What's actually cool? Is anything cool? Does calling something that's legitimately cool "cool" immediately rob it of it's inherent coolness? Is "cool" a word that only 40 something ad execs believe in these days? Is this cool? Am I cool? Are you cool?
One man who definitely is cool, one man who looked up the word cool in the dictionary and thought, "no, fuck that, time for a new definition, actually," one man who embodies the idea of cool is DJ Johnny Basil. DJ Johnny Basil looks like your Iggy Pop obsessed father dressing as a melted DJ Harvey for Halloween and that, it turns out my friends, is the coolest look in the world in late 2015. I know, when we were young we thought the in thing in 2015 would be dressing like Paul McCartney during his performance of "Silly Love Songs" in Give My Regards to Broad Street, or a robot with a pneumatic dick or something, but no, what's really, actually, seriously, genuinely cool in 2015 is a guy who looks like he bathes in Ronseal and permanently has a "doob" or two tucked into his budgie smugglers. This is the real face of cool in the post-postmodern-post-internet world:
The, "oh, me? In these little things?" pose, the aviators, the glistening legs — it all adds up to an image so potent that several of DJ Johhny Basil's 1838 Instagram followers have probably reported possible pregnancies. This, I've decided, is the man I want to be. DJ Johnny Basil looks like the sort of bloke who's endlessly riding into pastel hued sunsets on a sleek black motorbike. He looks like someone who eats steak five nights a week. He looks like someone who regularly hits four baggers down the local bowling alley. He looks like someone who'd say, "now, I don't mean to brag, sir, but..." He looks like someone who'd make you a cuckold before buying you a beer. And you'd happily suck down that lager and shake his hand and walk away from her forever.
Who is DJ Johnny Basil, though? What lies at the heart of this ice cold monument to the eternal power of cool as a concept? When did he emerge from the cryogenic container he was kept in on the set of Boogie Nights? When did DJ Johnny Basil decide to transition from just plain old Johnny Basil into the leather-clad wildman of American DJing that we all know and love? Why, oh why, can't we stop thinking about the buddy movie we've started directing in our heads called Breaking Basil where get up to a helluva lotta mischief and some good old fashioned fun —bar fights! Backseat shagging on a hill overlooking town! A crazy golf montage!— starring the pair of us?
While I don't have the answer to all of those questions —and if you know any directors or executive producers looking for a new project, please do give me a shout because I really feel like Breaking Basil has potential and I've got detailed storyboards ready and everything— I do know a few things about DJ Johnny Basil.
I know that DJ Johnny Basil is apparently actually called Heru John Basil and he used to review records for the L.A. Record, who said of him, "Heru lives in a cave surrounded by his massive collection of vinyl he has been collecting since his days of working at Camel Records and Noise Noise Noise. He does not use the internet or read magazines."
I know that the man the OC Weekly described as "OC's most far-out psychedelic loner" plays a broad selection of records when he spins out. Think low-slung disco, swampy funk, and balletic boogie. Imagine, if you will, Harvey had Harvey stuck to just doing his Beautiful Bend thing. I know, too, that DJ Johnny Basil gives his lookalike, old James Osterbeg, a run for his money when it comes to dancing as a pure expulsion of molten sexuality.
Most importantly, I also know that DJ Johny Basil is the coolest dude on the planet because he's just that — an unreconstructed California man. A very real, very genuine dude. He probably smells of Palmer's cocoa butter and Old Spice. He's probably got a fresh linen suit and a panama hat in the wardrobe just in case. He's probably really good at lighting fires on beaches and could teach you to surf, "if you want to dude, no pressure, it's all good." He's probably got an old dune buggy knocking about somewhere, too. He's everything, pretty much, that we, in England, in Britain, aren't, everything we can't be.
Not to come on like an A-Level anthropologist, but DJ Johnny Basil is the distillation of the kind of confidence that most of us, stuck here on this dismal island of Little Chefs and mainlined mawkishness, find incredibly attractive. If we do come across it, we find it offputting, unusual. It's not for nothing that Basil looks like a varnished Julian Cope. God bless you, DJ Johnny Basil, for being the man we wish we were.
We're suckers, at heart, for people who do things differently, people who live, at at least appear to live, as if a "normal life" was the least normal thing in the world. As progressive as we may be, deep down, possibly, all we really want to be is a beach bum sleazeball with silky hair and a massive record collection.
But maybe that's just me.