My first boss: DJ Fat Tony

The people who helped shape business leaders

·5-min read
Renew Life X Rosemary Ferguson launch party in London, United Kingdom  Featuring: DJ Fat Tony When: 20 Jun 2018 Credit: PinPep/
Fat Tony is still a sought after DJ across the music and fashion worlds. Photo:

Tony Marnoch, aka DJ Fat Tony, hit rock bottom during an out-of-control cocaine binge in the early 2000s that almost literally left him ‘speechless’ – he pulled out his own teeth with pliers while experiencing psychosis. Following rehab and a 16-year journey through sobriety and enlightenment, the fashion world’s go-to DJ, now 56, is a best-selling author, speaker and acerbic social influencer.

Rusty Egan, a famous DJ at the time who ran nights at big venues like Camden Palace, was opening a new night in the 1980s called Playground at the Lyceum Ballroom. I remember going to him and saying that I was opening a club night at the same time. As if a 16-year-old was going to do that. I was completely ballsy but Rusty said I should work for him instead, in case there was competition.

Rusty has had so many genres and reawakenings and was one of the pioneers of New Romanticism. He showed what nightclubbing was all about. I started working on the door for him, but I gave away so many free tickets as I was trying to build up a name for myself.

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He used to ask me how business was going and I told him that everyone was complaining about the music and leaving early. One week he said, ‘I’m sick of you saying this, if you can do better come and do it.’ The next week I turned up with four records.

I had literally blagged my way in and the next month I had a job in New York. There was no social media back then. My mouth was a really good platform and I used that – I made people laugh or cry and was bitchy.

From left, Naomi Campbell, DJ Fat Tony, and Kate Moss share a laugh at the inaugural amfAR Hong Kong gala on Saturday, March 14, 2015 in Hong Kong. (Photo by Ryan Emberley/Invision/AP)
Naomi Campbell, DJ Fat Tony and Kate Moss share a laugh at the inaugural amfAR Hong Kong gala in 2015. Photo: Ryan Emberley/Invision/AP

What I learned from Rusty was always to be upfront about everything. To this day he is very proud that he gave me my first job. He is a grafter, he sees it in other people and he acknowledges it.

I’ve had many curve balls thrown my way throughout my career, but I’ve always stayed true to myself. I always go with my gut when it comes to business and have never gone for somebody who’s got the best shoes on. The worst thing was when I listened to my head; that’s why I got out of it so much, let alone be in it.

Writing the book was incredibly important. It changed my life and I don’t have fear anymore. There were so many things I put in it that I considered shameful about my life which controlled me and I didn’t want to tell anyone, until I wrote the book.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Singer Roisin Murphy, DJ Fat Tony and Fashion Designer Pam Hogg during London Fashion Week September 2018 on September 14, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images)
Singer Roisin Murphy, DJ Fat Tony and fashion designer Pam Hogg during London Fashion Week in 2018. Photo: Getty Images

A year on it is still selling 1,500 copies a week in the UK alone – and in hardback. That never happens but it’s a book about honesty, self help and I get up to 80 messages a day on Instagram which just cements the purpose of the book. It’s changed so many aspects of my life. After all, who would have thought that being honest would get you anywhere in life?

The best business advice I received was ‘don’t do favours’. If you do that then you get treated like a favour and you can go from the main event to a piece of furniture. Know your worth and surroundings, never forget the primary purpose of what your job is and never lose track of the music. The minute you believe your career is about you and not the music, your career should be over. Too many DJs think like that.

I’m blessed that I had the years of addiction in the middle as it reinvented me and how I see things. I will promote the up-and-coming DJs as I’m not scared someone will get my job. Helping promote new talent and the love for music keeps us fresh and the music industry alive.

DJ Fat Tony, right, and Ed Worley (aka Opake) are celebrating their recovery through some unsettling and provocative art with an exhibition at London’s Quantus Gallery
DJ Fat Tony, right, and Ed Worley (aka Opake) are celebrating their recovery through some unsettling and provocative art with an exhibition at London’s Quantus Gallery

No music is new and it’s just how it is presented and changed. You can be played a track with a bassline from Robin S’ Show Me Love or a classic house track that has its origins from those days. Today it’s about perception and how it’s done.

We live in a throwaway music industry now where anyone can download and the music is out there to take. Personalities have changed because of it as they realise they are no longer important.

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The reason why half the people in this world are so successful now is because we didn’t have social media back then. They had to fight for a purpose and prove what they could do. Now I could sit in my house in Pimlico for three days, pretend I am on holiday and people would believe it. Back then you actually had to go on f***ing holiday! We live in a 30-second world where what people are reading in their hands they believe. We have made a lot of stupid people famous for no reason.

I’m at the top of my game still at 57 and in an industry with kids a quarter of my age. I've stood the test of time because I believe in what I do and my business sense comes from that belief. Like it was back then and how it is now, it’s all about the party and I want to make people dance, have a good time and to feel the energy.

‘Church Halls and Broken Biscuits’ is at Quantus Gallery, London from 26 April 20 May

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