The world lost a great man on Good Friday. Owen Money – 8 months after being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, passed away in his home surrounded by the friends who loved and supported him.
I first became aware of Owen approx 3-4 years ago. He was part of the Nyumba Deep crew performing Deep House gigs and radio shows, and a mainstay of the London House music scene. Whenever I went back to London (almost annually) and took the opportunity to go out clubbing, Owen (aka Snakehips) would be there with his camera, taking photos of everybody having a good time. He had a smile that lit up the room and he knew how to bring out the best in people.
I got to know more about Owen through social media – he once asked for help with deactivating an old Facebook account, but he couldn’t remember the password. I helped him with this, not hacking it exactly, but giving him the clues that he needed to enable him to log in and do the necessary, and he was very grateful. We both liked our food and would show mutual appreciation for food pics, and this became much more emphasized in more recent times when we shared vegan recipes and ideas.
When Owen was diagnosed, it was a terrible shock to him and everybody who knew him – a very serious situation. He had a tumour in one lung, a blood clot in the other, and tumours in his shoulder and neck. He had gone to the doctor with a sore shoulder, and come back with a death sentence. Very early on he decided to go public with his journey – telling us all the story of every stage on Facebook. He definitely didn’t want chemotherapy – he felt that it would poison his body and he wanted to try an alternative approach. Arming himself with as much information about natural treatments as possible, he went vegetarian almost straight away – dairy free, sugar free, gluten free, meat free. He read that these ingredients were likely to feed cancer and he wanted to starve his tumours so that they would stop growing and reduce. He also aimed for an alkaline diet and decided that he would love to visit Dr Sebi in the Honduras for an assessment and the best natural herbal treatment in the world. The thing is, a trip to the Honduras doesn’t come cheap, and Owen needed help to make this a reality.
Mark Hyman (Sparky) came up with the idea of organising a benefit night (For The Love Of Money or FTLOM) and Lloyd Allen (Lloyd Life) secured the Qube Project venue for free. The date of September 18th 2015 was set and everybody got to work organising the event. Owen himself took charge of the DJ organisation. So many DJs wanted to help – there were 3 different rooms organised with a total of around 50 DJs like Rhemi, Phil Asher, Martin Lodge, Booker T, Clemy Riley, Peter Borg, Ricky Morrison, Amethyst, Aluku Rebels, Shaun Ashby, Beyond Tone, Fiddla, Sy Sez…. the list went on and on. HanLei and Sabrina Chyld agreed to perform live PAs. Then there was the ‘street team’, as well as selling tickets for the event itself, Tee shirts, wristbands and fans were on sale, and I feel honoured that I was able to help with making a donation to set up the print run for the first set of tee shirts. Shazza and Geoff, Charlie, Junior, Jeni, Elvin, Carlos and many more gave their spare time freely to raise as much as possible with a target of around £10,000.
Owen let on that the Rhemi and HanLei track Diamond meant a lot to him – the lyrics “let the pressure make a diamond out of you” were particularly poignant. Talented artist Richard Wilson designed the logo for the FTLOM, featuring all things symbolic to Owen – a vinyl deck, the middle of a 45, cameras, and those Diamonds associated with the song that Owen loved.
Pascal Morais and Rancido very generously made a song ft Tellaman and Maikal X called ‘For The Love of Money’ and gave the proceeds to the cause. Click here to listen/buy.
He continued to post video diaries whenever he had radiotherapy or a CT scan, keeping us updated with his progress and thanking the endless supply of friends who would go to the hospital with him and hold his hand. There must have been some painful and bleak times for him, but he never ever let this show – with incredible strength of character, he continued as normal as much as he could, doing his radio show (now called the 120BPM show), attending events and gigs. Everybody got to hear about his situation and by now, people all around the world who hadn’t met him were following his story on Facebook and gaining inspiration from him. Big name DJs from everywhere made videos to encourage people to donate and attend the FTLOM event, even Louie Vega got involved.
On the night of the event, I was shattered. I had just flown in from Spain having spent the previous week at Vocal Booth Weekender which involved lots of late night partying, but nothing was going to stop me. I put my tee shirt on, got the bus to Victoria and danced the night away. It was packed, and every DJ was on point. The afro room was bouncing, the live vocal performances were amazing, and everybody had a brilliant time. Owen arrived and made his way around the crowds hugging and greeting everybody, a bit overwhelmed and humbled by the experience. His family attended too. I couldn’t stay until the very end, but many did, and it is a unique night that I will treasure forever.
In the week after, when the calculations were done, we had raised enough money to send Owen to the Honduras twice over. The effort was outstanding, an outpouring of love and kindness from a community to help one of their own, and everybody felt good.
Owen organized his trip, starting in Florida with a visit to family, and then flying on to the Honduras to Dr Sebi’s Usha Village. Every day he would post a video diary to show us the tranquility, beauty and purity of the environment with its natural alkaline hot spring. Every day Owen would take the pink kettle from his room and walk to the spring to fill it, talking us through the herbs, fruits and vegetables that he was given, how he felt, and how the treatment was going. He was clearly very at home there and loved the experience. Not many patients get to meet Dr Sebi himself as he is a very busy man, but Owen managed to meet him and bagged a rare selfie with the doctor. Everybody looked forward to the ‘pink kettle diaries’.
Before Owen travelled to the Honduras he said hello to me at a Deep Into Soul night at the Prince of Wales in Brixton, and invited me to provide a guest mix for his show. I felt very honoured to be asked, and while he was away, a few of us covered his 120BPM show every week. I created a special afro mix of tracks that I thought might appeal to Owen and remember the buzz that I got when he said “Smooth Sue, very smooth”. It was broadcast on 21 October 2015 with Josh Grooves presenting the show – such a highlight for me.
When he returned he seemed invigorated by the experience and took his personal healthcare to a new level – he went completely Vegan and measured his urine pH every day to maintain and alkaline level. He continued with radiotherapy and regular assessments at the hospital. At first the cancer seemed to be contained, but as time went on his condition worsened and after discussion with his medical team he decided to take a drug called Tarceva which is a targeted cancer drug. He continued to go out and party as much as possible, but his breathing became a problem and made life quite difficult.
Just a month before he died, Owen performed at an event in Brussels with Josh Milan called a Celebration of Life and Friends and he did everybody proud with his DJ set. It must have been really hard for him, but supported by his beautiful partner Mary, he enjoyed the weekend, taking a rare break from his strict diet and sampling the beer and food of Belgium as well as performing and enjoying the music.
He had been making his own vegan food at home and doing the odd dinner party, and we often messaged each other about recipes. He taught me how to make cashew cream (I am dairy intolerant), and I am not a vegan, but we discussed how to make vegan alternatives to some of the meal photos that I posted on Facebook. He made exquisite cheesecakes and tarts which became quite a talking point on social media. A week after Belgium he launched his very first Vegan & Vinyl night – an idea that he had to combine vegan food with spinning vinyl – two loves of his life that he could share with friends and family. It was a roaring success and the lucky attendees had a very unique experience that night. Everybody was hoping to attend a Vegan & Vinyl night but we didn’t know that Owen’s time was so short.
His breathing got really bad and he ended up in hospital with fluid on his lungs. When the fluid had been drained and CT scans performed it was revealed that the cancer had now spread to both lungs, liver, lymph system and to his brain. The Tarceva had not worked as hoped. Owen was made comfortable and discharged from hospital. He announced his short prognosis on Facebook and proclaimed that he was not going to take this ‘lying down’. In the last week at home he had an ‘open house’ where everybody was welcome – and every day saw a stream of visits from friends and family. He would even get up to spin some vinyl despite having to wear breathing apparatus and take morphine.
On Good Friday 25 March 2016, surrounded by people who loved him, Owen passed away.
We all miss him terribly. Owen was an inspirational, positive, caring, kind, fun loving man, part of our House music community, and a well loved family man. His brave and open journey has helped many others who are trying to deal with cancer. He was somebody very special. Such is the calibre of the man that his favourite artists have all paid tribute to him including Glenn Underground and Black Coffee.
OWEN MADE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. Rest In Peace brother x
Donations are still being accepted to help Owen’s family and 3 children. Click here to donate.