At the moment, I’m posted up inside the workroom at my job, where all the other interns work. I’m not going to really go into detail as to where I work exactly, but it’s in a nice area of Miami, and a lot of graphic design artists reside/work in this part of town. Though, I’m not really in the “creative” department of my job, I’m stationed in the “business” side which deals more with marketing and financial responsibilities.
Anyway, it’s a slow season so I get a lot of downtime, but my superiors seem pretty cool about me doing my own thing while there’s no real work to do.
Something came to my head earlier this morning of a party I was at a couple of months back. It was a birthday/going-away thing for an acquaintance of mine, and to my surprise some of the dudes spinning at the party were two local dubstep DJs I know personally. Didn’t expect to see them there, but it was a pleasure to see them.
Of course, I greet them and chat with them about life, dubstep and the recurring topic of Miami club life’s problems. This topic can go on forever, and the more Djs I speak to in this city, the more withered and bitter they are about Miami’s electronic/club-promoter scene. It’s usually the same sentiment, too: someone decides not to pay someone, someone told them not to play, someone got fucked over, etc.
I try to separate myself from these kind of issues, by just generally avoiding any kind of active live booking. So in other words, I don’t really seek any kind of show on my own, though, if someone wants me to play I’ll play. I know well enough the instability and fickleness of DJing professionally, and using it more as a tool for leisure as opposed to a source of steady income is probably the best way to approach it. If there’s some money on the side, then brilliant– but I have my cash flow coming in from more secure areas. That’s why DJing in this city is more fun for me, than burdensome.
One of the DJs I was speaking to, who I won’t name, seemed to have a lot of complaints about everything, yet retaining a lot of love for why he spins/produces. Dude’s a dork in the most endearing manner, and probably has as much of a devotion to dubstep geekery as I do, but more for brostep, I guess. He respects a ton of the DJs in this city, even if they play music that he’s not acclimated to.
Anyway, he was talking to me about how he used to do DJ sets with Ableton Live back when he first started. He loved it, and thought it was a pretty sweet tool for sets, especially since it allowed a lot of wiggle-room for creativity. But for some reason, it’s kind of frowned upon. Which is why he stopped using it, and dove into programs like Traktor and Serato. He said you get more respect in the community if you hone your skills on a set of decks, rather than pads/buttons.
I understand this kind of standard, but I’ve seen ton of producers like Lunice, Araabmuzik, Daedelus and Addison Groove perform a live set using some kind of Akai pad to destroy clubs. But, then again, those dudes probably started out using turntables or CDJs at the club before diving into a different interface.
One of the best DJ sets I ever witnessed was actually by Daedelus last year, when he came with Gaslamp Killer. Here’s what he uses”
The monome acts as a user-friendly, reconfigurable, minimal interface built to accomodate whoever is using it. It’s pretty fucking awesome, and it kind of allows the “DJ” to do some incredibly interesting collages. Daedelus interspersed Bjork, Mazzy Star and a jungle tune all in the same minute. With me, I’d have to use three CDJs to do that– he does it with three pads on his controller.
But my friend DJ was not impressed with Daedelus’ performance and felt it wasn’t up to par with some DJs who use actual discs to light a club on fire. Daedelus gets a lot of shit from the selecta-community for using this controller, but how can you really judge someone responsible for one of the best sets a club’s ever seen. His pedigree alone, which goes back to when jungle was a really relevant frame, is enough to allow him to use this type of “shortcut”.
But should someone who hasn’t touched a pair of decks ever, first dive into something like a controller and dodge the learning curve? I feel like there’s a lot of bad business going on against DJs who use primarily their laptop before learning how to beatmatch on a pair of decks. I won’t lie– a part of me really dislikes it, but a part of me really wants to give the benefit of the doubt, especially if their set is incredible.
Is there are right way to go about the evolution in gear? Should you go through the school of hard knocks and buy yourself a mixer and decks? That kind of equipment can cost you a ton of money, and some people spend years saving up for that kinda setup. Or should you go the easier, cheaper route and purchase a mini controller, or just spin via laptop? What if the end-result is just as good as spinning with proper, more respectable gear?
It’s a stigma, sadly, and I hate to say it it: but my friend is right. Respect, it seems, is a necessary currency in this type of environment, and if you wanna build your DJing business (i.e. getting booked) then you’re gonna have to start with the standard gear.
It pains me to say that, but that’s how I learned. Though, I don’t wanna say there’s a right or wrong way to go about spinning your sets. But you have to work with the industry, right?
I used to be really into really avant-garde, noisy shit. Couldn’t stand mainstream anything at the time. But after a while, I started to really appreciate pop music and realized that truly amazing records are ones that both push grounds and appeal to mass audiences.
In a way, it’s about compromise. So yeah doing your own thing is awesome, but if it doesn’t fit into the trajectory of common audience and/or community, then things might be a lot more difficult for you. It’s not about selling out– it’s about compromising.