June 24, 2024


Normal is boring

DJ Fat Tony provides the soundtrack to London’s party scene

Written by Fiona Sinclair Scott, CNNLondon

One of the last parties that DJ Fat Tony played was Brooklyn Beckham’s 21st birthday, held in a giant glass marquee at David and Victoria Beckham’s family home in the English countryside. After that, he performed at legendary London venue Ministry of Sound. Then, the city went into lockdown.

DJ Fat Tony — real name Tony Marnach — is a mainstay of London’s events party scene, often providing the music (sometimes with help from his friend and occasional DJ partner, Kate Moss) at fashion weeks, celebrity birthday parties (he’s played for Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson) and countless club nights.

Despite his night job, Tony is now proudly sober. During lockdown he launched a YouTube series about addiction recovery, featuring Kelly Osbourne in the inaugural episode. He plans to have his old friend Boy George and Russell Brand on the show soon too.

Tony is very open about his drug abuse, often providing harrowing levels of detail about his own experiences. He estimates he spent over £1 million ($1.2 million) on drugs while he was still using.

A recent online documentary by British music magazine Mixmag captures many of these moments in a whirling 18-minute video in which Tony recalls doing his first line of cocaine with Freddie Mercury, and how he was once so high that he removed a number of his teeth with a screwdriver.

It’s not an easy watch, but it serves as a powerful reminder that people can come back — even from the darkest of places.

During a video interview with CNN from his apartment in Pimlico, London, where he lives with his long-term partner and their dog, Tony describes recovery as a “whole new world” — one where he can leave his home with his head held high, rather than being “locked in a room wanting to kill myself.”

Luke Evans, Kylie Minogue, DJ Fat Tony, Jodie Harsh, Kelly Osbourne and Jimmy Q attend The Royal Academy Of Arts Summer Exhibition preview party in 2019.

Luke Evans, Kylie Minogue, DJ Fat Tony, Jodie Harsh, Kelly Osbourne and Jimmy Q attend The Royal Academy Of Arts Summer Exhibition preview party in 2019. Credit: Darren Gerrish/WireImage for The Royal Academy

In his view, the grim details of his drug addiction are worth sharing because “the more honest you are, the more acceptable it becomes.”

“Sharing my truth takes the power out of it. I don’t have to hold onto it… because if I hold onto it, and it stays in here,” he said, motioning to his chest, “then what comes from it? Shame, self-harm, self-hatred.”

While Tony is a notorious ’80s club kid, his Instagram account is what typically earns him attention from a younger generation of fans. A bracing meme-fest, his handle is not for the easily offended. Few gags are taboo — even, ironically to some, ones about drugs.

“I only post things that I understand, or I’ve done,” he said. “People always say, ‘You’re in recovery but you’re posting drug memes and stuff,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I post them because I’ve lived it.’ I’ve come through it and I have the right to post that stuff.”

DJ Fat Tony with his friend Kate Moss at a party in London in 2019.

DJ Fat Tony with his friend Kate Moss at a party in London in 2019. Credit: Darren Gerrish/WireImage

This Saturday, Tony is hosting a virtual party during London’s first digital fashion week.

The three-day event is an iteration of what used to be Men’s Fashion Week. From Friday, the gender-neutral schedule of designer showcases will feature a series of digital talks, podcasts and fashion films (but no live-streamed shows). Everything will be accessible to the public online — a novel change for this historically closed-door and exclusive event.

Tony’s excited by the idea that London’s younger, emerging designers may stand to benefit. “They’re giving all the young designers a chance to have a voice,” he said.

“What is great is that it’s not only going to be open to buyers (and editors) — it’s going to be open to everybody. Fashion week has never been about that. The elitism of having a ticket to that show and sitting on the front row has gone.”

Like fashion week, this month’s Pride celebrations in the city will also be significantly different. “Pride in London is big thing,” Tony said, before rattling through a week-long series of events he would typically attend if we weren’t living through a global pandemic.

“I kind of think it’s a good thing that Pride isn’t on this year. We need Pride more than ever, but the parties and stuff like that need to be suppressed so we can reevaluate where we’re going with it.” For Tony, this could be a chance to “reclaim Pride,” bringing it back to its roots and away from the commercialization of recent years.

A portrait of Tony Marnach.

A portrait of Tony Marnach. Credit: Afshin Feiz

Like people in privileged positions around the world, Tony has used lockdown to reflect on his “normal” habits. While he lives a sober life now, he still indulges in certain excesses — like taxis. “I was spending £500 ($634) a week on taxis alone. What the hell? I live in central London, I can (easily) walk everywhere in 10 minutes but I still would rather sit in a taxi for 40! It’s craziness, but it was because I could,” he admitted.

“That’s like a month’s wage to some people right now, and that’s disgusting. I needed (lockdown) to happen to realize what I was doing, because I just take that stuff for granted.”

Having said that, Tony is skeptical that people will dramatically change their ways. “I’d love to think we’re all going to stop using plastic and we’re all going to start riding bikes. Bull**** — that’s not going to happen.”

But there is a hopeful side to Tony. “Hope is a really good thing to have right now,” he said.

He emphasized the importance of focusing on our individual behaviors. “It’s about what you do personally within your own hula-hoop,” he said. “Instead of having that whole massive world out there that you have to worry about, wor
ry about yourself right now. Do what’s right by you and that will lead to what’s good and right by others.”

DJ Fat Tony is playing a DJ set for London Fashion Week on Saturday at 7:40pm local time. For more details visit the LFW website.