MANCHESTER, NH – It’s just past midnight on Sunday, three days after I interviewed Manchester-native John Manning—known throughout music circles as “DJ Midas”—in a pub while having a couple of cold ones.
It’s just past midnight on Sunday, and I’m restive, unable to sleep.
It’s just past midnight on Sunday when I remember DJ Midas telling me that his weekly radio show “Late Night Delight with Midas” airs on Manchester’s 95.3 WMNH from 12 to 4 a.m.
So I click on his show and settle in for what Midas promised would be “an experience.” I can use one of those right now.
“I encourage people to treat the show like a ritual experience,” Midas said. “Turn off the lights, turn on the fun lights and let go. I’ll take care of the rest.”
And I abide.
With eclectic tastes and an encyclopedic knowledge of music, as well as the artistic tools to meld music into an alchemy of mixes, DJ Midas might appreciate the following summation partially cribbed from The Grateful Dead: It’s been “a long, strange trip” for Midas from spinning records at his middle school dances, to establishing himself as one of the hottest deejay acts on The East Coast, to becoming a relatively subdued 47-year-old husband and new father to a six-week-old son.
And now Midas is reinventing himself, and his art, in middle-age; although it all feels eerily comfortable.
Midas likens it to the metaphor of the mix tape, his artistic canvas. “Everything comes to a full circle,” he said. “Life does loops.”
Music initially pulled Midas into its orbit in his preteens, growing up in the Queen City during the 1980s. He credits Herbie Hancock’s single “Rockit” from the 1983 album Future Shock, along with music videos from the early days of MTV, for awakening an interest in audio manipulation, which involves changing and mixing music from its original form.
“In my preteens, I knew I wanted this journey,” said Midas.
After listening to numerous deejays spin tunes at the local roller-skating rinks in Manchester, Midas—prompted by a music teacher—launched his own platform and performed his first solo deejay gig at one of his middle school dances.
And the rest—to risk the cliché—was history.
By the time he was a senior at Central High School, John Manning was deejaying smalls gigs in downtown Manchester, and after graduation, when a roommate christened him with his performing moniker “DJ Midas,” he began to sedulously study his craft.
Like most artists, Midas honed his skills by watching accomplished deejays perform up and down the East Coast, from Boston to New Jersey, and immersing himself in the ’90s club/rave scenes.
“I knew right away that these were my people,” Midas said.
By 1993, while scratching an entrepreneurial itch, Midas was renting out The Empire Theater on Massabesic Street and packing the place weekly, which drew the interest of other deejays in the area and extended itself into opportunities for expansion.
Enter Operation: Boom, an enterprise that began at The Bahama Beach Club in Nashua with other renowned deejays such as Milk Toast from Los Angeles and Joel Elektronic from Worcester, Mass., whose mixing skills set a bar of excellence for Midas.
“I’m a big fan of knowing every little thing you can know, but it doesn’t mean you have to use it,” Midas said. “But you have to know it.”
While involved in Operation: Boom, which ended in 1999, Midas opened Fortune 500 Records, a retail store—which opened on Massabesic Street and later moved to Elm Street—that featured underground vinyl records, CDs, clothing and apparel, concert tickets and deejay gear.
But Fortune 500 Records shuttered its storefront in 2001. “I didn’t feel like the juice was worth the squeeze, and I needed to move on to other things,” said Midas.
By the early-2000s, internet radio had emerged as an invaluable tool for independent artists to share their work on a global stage, and Midas hopped onboard, securing internet radio slots playing his mixes at places such as Pleasure Radio in London, England, and Aspect Radio in Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, for years after closing Fortune 500 Records, Midas stayed solvent by managing various record stores and taking deejay gigs—often out of state—multiple nights a week.
And he did well for himself.
But—to risk another cliché—everything changes as it moves.
Now DJ Midas has a loving wife and a newborn son, and—in an about-face from his younger Bohemian days—for the past seven years, he’s been waking up at 6 a.m. and working four days a week as a manager at Merchant Auto.
But Midas’s inexorable drive to create music hasn’t waned.
“I owe so much to music that I consider myself indebted, a servant to the art of the mix and finding secret musical treasures,” Midas said.
And now the new dad is far more judicious when accepting gigs, and he’s invested much of his vast creative energies into “Late Night Delight with Midas.”
“This show is unlike anything I’ve ever done. It goes much deeper than a mix show,” he said. “I encourage people to treat it like a ritual journey experience.”
As opposed to the sweaty and dazed denizens of the rave scenes he once played, Midas said he now has a new target demographic and a new goal of getting the show shared on a global level.
“I’m appealing more to people who want to get weird at home, people who want to travel with me without leaving their house,” he said. “I want them to have an experience.”
It’s long past midnight on Sunday, and I’m having that musical experience with DJ Midas as my guide. Monday looms heavily, but for right now, I decide to heed Midas’s advice to “let go.”