Gaizka Mendieta, who played 40 times for Spain, scored in a Champions League final and was for a time the most expensive Spanish player in the history of football, is recommending some music.
“For a really indie set…Blossoms – they’re indie but quite recognized, well-known – Paris Youth Foundation, Haim, The Mysterines, The Snuts, The Jaded Hearts Club, Built To Spill – they’ve got a new album out – Nada Surf, Black Lips. Nova Twins, Peggy Sue, Gerry Cinnamon, Vistas, the Snuts. In the last few days I’ve been listening to more old stuff like Neil Young, Stones, The Doors.”
It’s a weird sensation to speak to the man who 19 years ago nervelessly slotted home a penalty against Bayern Munich as Valencia lost their second successive Champions League final, and to hear him reel off a list of bands like he’s a caller to a 6Music show who’s just been asked by Steve Lamacq what new stuff he’s into.
But that’s Mendieta. The former Valencia, Lazio, Barcelona and Middlesbrough midfielder splits much of his time these days between being an ambassador for La Liga, travelling the world promoting the division’s latest developments and initiatives, and DJing. And not the glitzy type of DJing either: he has played Liverpool’s Cavern Club, and last year he played a set at the Shacklewell Arms, essentially in the back room of an East London pub.
That night he played Dinosaur Jr, the Talking Heads, Modest Mouse, the Smiths, David Bowie, Pulp and the Pixies. Now he’s suggesting that the Totally Football Show checks out some slightly more niche indie stuff. Without wishing to stereotype a group of people who are getting enough grief at the moment, it’s not something you expect from a former professional footballer.
NB: This is a playlist of songs by artists Gaizka mentioned in this interview, not a playlist curated by him.
“Well, it depends,” says Mendieta, when asked what his go-to banger is when he can feel a room sagging slightly and he needs to pick things up a bit. “Firstly I see which sort of venue it is – big or small, because some venues have their own style of music. Sometimes I’ve played in London, they’re more indie So you go for a more indie style, some are more soul orientated, or more 60s sort of music.
“So then you choose that sort of band that you like to play. I don’t prepare a playlist, so I observe the crowd – maybe they’re reacting in one way when I put on some [type of] tunes, so I try to go for that sort of style.
“But it’s difficult when you DJ for normally minimum two hours, it’s almost impossible to have them dancing. So I go like in ups and downs. I have hits that I know people will really like again and again. If you play any Aretha Franklin style songs, or Iggy Pop, or MGMT, there are always people who recognise and can sing along and jump around because they recognise them.
“So maybe after you’ve proved some really hyped music, then you bring it down a little bit, and then to bring them up again maybe you put on one of those hits. It goes back to the music you know: you know some hits that have been around for years and then people always will be happy to hear and sing along.”
Again, this is Gaizka Mendieta. And again, without wishing to pigeonhole footballers, you struggle to imagine this sort of stuff going down particularly well in your average dressing room. “I did put some songs on [in the dressing room], but obviously I’d go to the most known, rock soul songs. If you go to the more indie bands…well, I never tried it actually.
“When I was in Spain it wasn’t normal to put music in the dressing room. It was only when I came to England when it became more a popular thing and the managers became more flexible.”
Mendieta’s first big gig was at Benicassim, an often punishingly hot festival on the Mediterranean coast, appropriately enough for him between Barcelona and Valencia. “My friend Juan Vitoria owns a record shop and is also a DJ. So I said, why don’t we do it together? Because I used to DJ sometimes with him in clubs in Spain.” From small clubs to a 50,000 capacity festival is quite a step-up. “It was a big pressure, because it was one of the second main stages in there on the festival. But of course I said yes. How could I say no? It was incredible.”
Things didn’t go according to plan though, their set dogged by technical problems, including one of the turntables – a relatively important bit of kit in the DJing game – simply ceasing to function. And that’s where his playing experience came in.
“When you look [at me] when I’m taking a penalty, I probably look calm. But inside you feel the pressure and the responsibility. Here, it’s the same. You go on the stage, you see tons of people. My friend was like ‘oh you were so calm, we were panicking [with the equipment breaking].’
“My DJ style is the old-school DJ. It’s selecting the tunes, you know, the to make sure that the people, they enjoy it. So I don’t I don’t mix, I don’t produce. I’ve been collecting records and listening to music since I can remember. I listened to music from the 40s, blues, soul, rock in the 50s to bands nowadays.”
Of course, not everyone who shows up to a Gaizka Mendieta set is there to just hear the hottest new sounds. They’re there because it’s Gaizka Mendieta DJing. “There’s always these sort of synergies with football and music. I love putting two of my passions together, when I’ve DJed in Champions League festivals, or any other football events. And the same when I’ve done small clubs, there’s always both types people there. I love that that I can share two things at the same time.”
Last week La Liga SantanderFest, a concert broadcast online to 182 countries around the world, raised over €1million to buy materials to help with the fight against COVID-19.
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