As a founder member of the DiY collective, one of Britain's first house sound-systems, Pete Woosh has been a leading figure in the UK counter-culture for almost thirty years. Whether DJing solo or with his long-time DiY sidekick, Digs, he has performed everywhere from Glastonbury to Dismaland, Banksy’s apocalyptic theme park style art exhibition. But after being diagnosed with highly aggressive head and neck cancer in December of 2015, he decided to take a natural approach to treatment, and is about to launch The 52 Card Trick project to give something back to everyone that helped him...
Tell us a bit about The 52 Card Trick project...
I set up The 52 Card Trick project in order to give something back to all of the people that helped me when I was first diagnosed with cancer. For 52 weeks we will be releasing up to three tracks per week on Bandcamp for people to buy. All of the musicians have donated their time and talent completely free, and at the end of the twelve months all proceeds will be donated to our chosen partners. We will also be releasing some amazing music from different people; some you may have heard of, and some that are not so well known. The idea is to give everyone an equal platform, so we can all support each other through mutual association.
Your DJing has become more eclectic, moving away from the house sound that you became well known for with DiY. Will the project reflect that musical diversity?
I wouldn’t say move away from; it’s more like going back to where I began. When me and Digs first started DJing as DiY in the early nineties, we would play eclectic sets in back rooms, bars, fields at raves, on our Serve Chilled Radio shows on Rave FM and at our night at the Cookie Club – anywhere that would have us really! I’ve always collected all sorts of music, so I’ve decided to mix it up and include a selection that is more of a reflection of where I am now in life.
Which artists have signed up so far?
We will be releasing music that sounds like it heals our ears. We’ve got people that I’ve known since the DiY days, like Hot Toddy, Schmoov!, Nail and Coyote. Then we also have newer artists, like Three Body Trio and Yueseke Hasegawa. Yueseke is originally from Japan, and I just happened to spot him busking on Clumber Street a few years ago. As well as those guys, we’ve got Sufi music from Shah e Mardan, DJ Raph from Kenya, Brawther from Paris and many others.
Have you decided which charities you will be donating the proceeds to?
The proceeds will go to two charities and one local group called Active Cancer Therapy Support, who do a lot of great work in Nottingham. On a regional level we are supporting Together Against Cancer, who are based in Leicester, and on a national level, the Penny Brohn Centre in Bristol. All three organisations operate on different levels, but are all equally important in what they do. None of them receive government funding, so they rely on the public to keep going.
How is your own battle with cancer?
I am feeling good. How long it will continue, I have no idea. Cancer can be a slippery opponent, but the journey so far has been at times enlightening, and others frightening, but one that I am happy to have taken. What is around the corner I have no idea, but for right now I am feeling happy, creating and looking forward, which, after three years of living with cancer, has got to count for something. For me, taking control of what I put in to my body, as well as learning how my body works, has been a big learning curve and one that I have enjoyed. As a society, we have no idea of the constant stress that we are putting ourselves under, and we need to learn how to take the pressure off. There is so much that we can do, both to prevent cancer in the first place, and to learn how to cope with it if we do get diagnosed. The single biggest thing we can do is to get rid of the stigma that comes with cancer; people view it as a death sentence, and we need to start questioning how we treat the disease as a whole.
As well as the Bandcamp page, how can people get involved with the project?
We have a Spirit Wrestlers [Pete’s collective] Facebook page, as well as a YouTube channel where people can keep up-to-date with the project. We are also designing some Spirit Wrestlers playing cards, and a few other delightful things to keep an eye out for as the project progresses. We’re looking forward to putting on some amazing indoor and outdoor events, in what we like to call “temporary sacred spaces”.