How Lockdown DJ Continental GT Built Himself A Live Music Empire

Charting the rise (and rise) of the Birmingham-born selector.

Continental GT Steppers Interview Continental GT Steppers Interview
Image via Publicist
Continental GT Steppers Interview Continental GT Steppers Interview

The weather outside is bleak and humid, with densely populated clouds in the sky obscuring any sunlight. Continental GT’s spirit, however, is far from a reflection of the dull weather this Friday afternoon. He radiates an audacious, bold energy that can be immediately felt on the phone: “My day’s good, man! I have to do one or two things before I pick up the kids from school—I need to prepare for a show in London tomorrow.”

The Birmingham-born selector has been booked and busy selling out venues for the past two years under his club night, STEPPERS, which he’s done mostly by putting himself as the headliner. How he established himself amid global calamity sets him apart from others in his field. During the Covid-19 lockdown, as the pandemic was raging in every corner of Britain, over 70% of DJs had to retrain or pick up new skills together due to the state of the world, putting performance careers on hold altogether. It was a dark period for the music industry at large. But GT found a way to evolve while helping to keep us mentally sane at the same time. 

Using the power of social media, GT spun tracks live from his home to ensure our spirits stayed euphoric and joyful during uncertain times, providing back-to-back house, UK funky, garage and grime hits for our eardrums every Friday and Saturday night. It was only a short time until his follower count grew to numbers that could sell out arenas, grabbing the attention of stars such as Ghetts, Chip, Lethal Bizzle, Maya Jama, Michael Ward and more who would all tune into his IG Lives—every weekend, without fail—where he created a virtual rave for all to attend. 

We caught up with Continental GT to discuss his come-up, his Channel U past, and how it feels to be selling out arenas pretty much all by himself. 

“I’ve gone from lockdown, doing DJ sets on IG Live from my house, to selling out arenas! To do all of that in such a short space of time is just crazy to me.”

COMPLEX: Music has always created an innate feeling of joy and expression for many of us around the world. How and when did DJing become your passion? 

Continental GT:
From my school days, I’ve always been into music. Back in the day, I used to go to my friend’s house after school—he used to have decks, and we loved to run sets on them with UK garage tunes. We used to save up our pocket money and go and buy new records from Tempest and Punch Records, and get, like, two to four records—if we were lucky [laughs]. There were a few of us that used to MC and DJ at the same time, but I’ve always had a real passion and love for DJing. 

Did pirate radio influence your path to becoming a DJ at all?

I used to do pirate radio! I was DJing on the local stations back in those days, and that would drive me and push me to get into music more… I used to play at a couple stations, in fact. We had a good few pirate stations in Birmingham. 

How did your environment at a young age shape the type of music that you gravitated towards? 

It was all about UK garage back then, and then it moved into grime. That was the music I was into when I was younger. But garage was the music everyone listened to, generation to generation. Garage music touches the soul; it hits you differently, puts you in a different mood, changes how you feel, and I love that about it.

One of your breakout moments was appearing on Channel U—way back in the day. How did that come about?

My brother, MCRD, and I did a song called “I Know What You Did”. It was a song about girls cheating. We did a video that got onto Channel U, and being from Birmingham, probably only one or two other artists from the city made it onto the station. For us to get on Channel U from outside of London was a massive thing. That song blew up and it reached the Top 5 in the channel’s charts. During that time, when I used to go Oxford Street in London, people would recognise me and stop me in the street [laughs]. It was crazy, man! What a time.

R.I.P. Channel U!

For real. Channel U put a lot of artists on the map. We never used to have streaming services, YouTube, and things like that back then. Channel U was our hub where all the new artists would go to really get their music out there. Now you’ve got streaming services and platforms on YouTube, like GRM Daily, Link Up TV, but all the community had back then was Channel U.

There was a period when you stopped DJing—why was that? 

I had my daughter, so I was focusing on family life. I fell out of love with music during that time, but I later picked it back up. 

How did you get back into it after your hiatus? 

I went to a family party, and there were decks. So, obviously, I had to jump on and do a little mix. This was about five years after I stopped DJing. I enjoyed getting back into it at the family party, though. I loved it! Straightaway when I got home, I went online looking to buy decks. I rang my friend that night and told him I was getting back into the swing of things. 

I speak for many when I say: I’m glad you found your way back to those decks! During the Covid-19 lockdown, you took to Instagram to connect with people by doing live DJ sets. Why was it essential for you to spread happiness through music during that time of nationwide despair? 

It’s a crazy one. When Covid hit, everything shut down. Nobody knew what was going on. I’ll never forget what I said to myself: “You know what? I’m using his time right now to connect with people online.” I did Facebook Live every now and then, but one Friday night, I decided to try out Instagram. I had 25 people locked in at first, and then the numbers started building, and I started doing it every Friday and Saturday. During the time, Covid was still happening and nobody knew what was happening, but the people who would lock into my IG Lives were really enjoying themselves. It was taking away from what was happening around us. I was gassed when I saw 750 people in the Live; by week four or five, we had 3,000 people in the Live with people like Maya Jama and Wretch 32 locking in. People were having whole parties in their living rooms and kitchens to me on the decks. It was insane!

Continental GT Steppers Interview Continental GT Steppers Interview
Continental GT Steppers Interview Continental GT Steppers Interview
Continental GT Steppers Interview Continental GT Steppers Interview

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