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DJ's - Explain yourself!

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I want to hear about your creative practise.

Why do you play the tunes you play and how do you select them? How do you plan your sets (if you do at all)? What tools do you use in planning and execution? How do you know when a transition is good or bad? What is your quality control process? What do you want to improve about your set; technicals, selections, flow? How do you prepare and execute a live set?

DJ's don't talk about this sit enough. Let it all out.

I'll start the ball rolling. This was my first mixtape. Recorded in the early hours in early 1997, live on 1210s and recorded onto tape. I had a fairly meagre vinyl collection at the time and my aim was simply to get 45 minutes down without any mistakes before the effects of the previous night's indulgences overcame me. There's some more elaboration on the link.

http://www.weareie.com/2006/02/droids-first-mixtape.html

 

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2 technics, 2 cdj’s, a mixer n a laptop covers it, but it’s a life’s grace with records (without recourse to vinyl v digi wormhole debate).

It follows genres. Growing up with parental records, you find your way around a turntable, amp & adjustable controls. You’re trusted with the whole ritual of choice, the responsibility of looking after something not like a pet when removing the record sleeve & placing the tone-arm, watching for dust, clear stylus & to avoid scratches. You learn about artists & I had a cousin who was a northern soul freak, the intersections where you catch a wave of “what is THIS?” moments.

By genres, allude to the anthropological flow of age & tastes. Started on belt drives aka beltys, how much fun are they learning to blend on? Wheels within wheels always micro turning, fingers all over the platter. Learning how all the unique/possible ways of transitioning between 2 records opens up new worlds of sound, beatmatching only being one. Add drugs, free party madness under the stars & learning how twisted you can get with certain music & the peculiar alchemy of sequencing & blending by key/tempo/pulse/texture/contrast/momentum elevated things beyond the sum of their parts. Music as rapture. Learning about rigs built up from metal’s valve amps, tuning your ears to different locations & attendees, basic mantra - play what you love.

Mood underpins everything these days. With ambient & drone the world really is your oyster over longer sets, playing with momentum, glitches, entertain & educate with secrets ultras specials secret weapons. As much as it’s fun to stay on top of new sounds, it’s also fun going down rabbit holes into past works, the digging element becomes a mythological labyrinth. You could live a hundred lifetimes & never listen to everything you’d like to. Still, good to give it a go during this one. With more percussive based music, it’s still a blast, but I fully empathise with the tyranny of the beat position & wanting/needing something more loose creatively.

Usually a home mix builds from a playlist, happy accidents, diversions, deep in the ineffable lol, ideally for travelling with, old gear & new, current finds, compiling essentially,, people could die if this process is fkd with. 

Crux of reply, wicked fun, good for the head, heart n soul & exploring other people’s mixes is the entire process mirrored, eg how other folks build sets, mood, racks, learning, always learning, good mixes are like cinema for the ears. 

 

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I have Numark TTX's and a Native Instruments Z2 (have owned an Ecler and then other cheap mixers in the past). I mainly use a Denon controller these days out of space/access to a larger musical library.

Learned initially on vinyl, quickly switched to cd's for track accessibility (this is pre-Traktor). Went back to vinyl after a while because of the feel. Traktor shows up and I wind up getting that and loved it (still do).

As far as music to play:  not to be an ass but it depends on mood and/or setting. I try to avoid playing the same things too much in mixes but often fail. Will have my personal favorites of the moment that inevitably wind up in the mix. Typically try to keep an eye out for new stuff coming out because it's nice to have fresher material involved. 

Edited by Taupe Beats
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Nice one lads, interesting thoughts. Cwmbran - a man after my own heart. You can alway tell when someone has grafted from the stone age up. 

Taupe - do you play across genre or stick to one style?

A couple  more questions for you both if you'll indulge me. I think every DJ has a philosophy of some kind. It may only be 'I just want to make people dance' or 'I want to find connections within music'. What's yours?

Secondly, do you think DJ'ng has affected your understanding and appreciation of music?

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Interesting questions.....

Distil an answer down to repeated attempts at creating a listening mode whereby experience & consciousness are shaped by a passage through the sounds you blend sequentially in a mix, whether that be an hour/90mins or up to 12+hrs. However, what it takes to achieve that varies massively from set to set.

So many different artists offer so many different moods, but passing through the crucible of acid house personally enhanced my appreciation of what music can actually *do*. Also the diversity of music & culture on offer during that period was insanely broad - Soliloquy For Lilith hadn't been out too long, The Fall were still romping along, Cabaret Voltaire's incorporation of walls of video screens into their gigs, it was always about trying to keep your ears listening beyond the relentless flood of 4/4 releases, compounded by Warp firing up. Synchronicities like stumbling on Mixmaster Morris one night somewhere in Southwark on a couple of doves. A world away from Slayer's Reign In Pain 1987 tour, but those previous metal gigs were usually gold for a teenager stuck in the grey chaos of Britain & Eire in the 80's.

If the intention is to keep a dance-floor moving, goes w/out saying there will be unique properties for encouraging that to happen, compared to a living room environment (you could add car, train or walk too as examples). Despite the differences, connections within music is probably the more articulate term for expressing this overall process - how you navigate an almost infinite sequence of choices, finding the right balance of harmonics/dissonance/texture/tempo, how you can experience weird juxtapositions of flow completely in the moment rifling through sleeves & lists & then blending accordidngly, That remains a thing of real magic, sliced in with wee sequences you know from prior use "work". Trying to making it all as organic as possible, while including the necessary brackets & hinges to bolt sequences together. Another way of understanding that is to move things in an excessively eclectic/contrary direction, so that it just comes out sounding like a random jumble of crap (although there are probably plenty people who are entirely satisfied with such an approach).

Running rigs & a working on sound systems around the country you got exposed to how dub collectives ran their crews, how they transitioned between thousands of 45 & 78rpm rekkids, then with yer own rig how to play a thing called "Ones", ie anyone playing can only play one tune at a time. Before you know it you're up & whoever b4 you has left about 30secs of a track left for you to get your shit together, mix it, then fade out seamlessly all while on a mushroom brew from Antioch.

Mixing records has probably shaped any personal understanding & appreciation of music in the same way learning to play bass as a kid did. So many teachers - listening to Irish music concert recordings & how a singer like Luke Kelly could manoeuvre through a set-list of songs in such a way as to make that concert's emotional resonances completely unique. In a similar fashion later on, how the Grateful Dead mastered variability & tune selection across a few hours night after night, then experiencing what jocks like Alfredo, Weatherall, DiY & so many others could create.

In a nutshell, music as a long form listening experience, where the only contingency is on the listener(s) remaining open minded & any jock being on top of their collection/knowing their tunes. That seems the only pre-requisite, knowing each tune, where its structure lies, optimal transition points & keys. After that there really are no limits & as DiY always maintained, "expect the unexpected". It's a shame this art-form is clogged with generic, derivative, ego-driven wank, played by people with self-interest at heart, hence all the more reason to punch through the dross.

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6 hours ago, cwmbrancity said:

Interesting questions.....

Distil an answer down to repeated attempts at creating a listening mode whereby experience & consciousness are shaped by a passage through the sounds you blend sequentially in a mix, whether that be an hour/90mins or up to 12+hrs. However, what it takes to achieve that varies massively from set to set.

So many different artists offer so many different moods, but passing through the crucible of acid house personally enhanced my appreciation of what music can actually *do*. Also the diversity of music & culture on offer during that period was insanely broad - Soliloquy For Lilith hadn't been out too long, The Fall were still romping along, Cabaret Voltaire's incorporation of walls of video screens into their gigs, it was always about trying to keep your ears listening beyond the relentless flood of 4/4 releases, compounded by Warp firing up. Synchronicities like stumbling on Mixmaster Morris one night somewhere in Southwark on a couple of doves. A world away from Slayer's Reign In Pain 1987 tour, but those previous metal gigs were usually gold for a teenager stuck in the grey chaos of Britain & Eire in the 80's.

If the intention is to keep a dance-floor moving, goes w/out saying there will be unique properties for encouraging that to happen, compared to a living room environment (you could add car, train or walk too as examples). Despite the differences, connections within music is probably the more articulate term for expressing this overall process - how you navigate an almost infinite sequence of choices, finding the right balance of harmonics/dissonance/texture/tempo, how you can experience weird juxtapositions of flow completely in the moment rifling through sleeves & lists & then blending accordidngly, That remains a thing of real magic, sliced in with wee sequences you know from prior use "work". Trying to making it all as organic as possible, while including the necessary brackets & hinges to bolt sequences together. Another way of understanding that is to move things in an excessively eclectic/contrary direction, so that it just comes out sounding like a random jumble of crap (although there are probably plenty people who are entirely satisfied with such an approach).

Running rigs & a working on sound systems around the country you got exposed to how dub collectives ran their crews, how they transitioned between thousands of 45 & 78rpm rekkids, then with yer own rig how to play a thing called "Ones", ie anyone playing can only play one tune at a time. Before you know it you're up & whoever b4 you has left about 30secs of a track left for you to get your shit together, mix it, then fade out seamlessly all while on a mushroom brew from Antioch.

Mixing records has probably shaped any personal understanding & appreciation of music in the same way learning to play bass as a kid did. So many teachers - listening to Irish music concert recordings & how a singer like Luke Kelly could manoeuvre through a set-list of songs in such a way as to make that concert's emotional resonances completely unique. In a similar fashion later on, how the Grateful Dead mastered variability & tune selection across a few hours night after night, then experiencing what jocks like Alfredo, Weatherall, DiY & so many others could create.

In a nutshell, music as a long form listening experience, where the only contingency is on the listener(s) remaining open minded & any jock being on top of their collection/knowing their tunes. That seems the only pre-requisite, knowing each tune, where its structure lies, optimal transition points & keys. After that there really are no limits & as DiY always maintained, "expect the unexpected". It's a shame this art-form is clogged with generic, derivative, ego-driven wank, played by people with self-interest at heart, hence all the more reason to punch through the dross.

Inspiring. You really should write a book, man.

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See what happens after a day off n an edible

Only recently read the Mixmaster Morris blurb on weareie, fkn funny where appropriate while giving a respectful nod or 3 too.

An ex took myself & a few mates to Whirl-Y-Gig in the early 90’s & apart from that daft end of night affair where they lowered the ceiling netting down on top of every hippy cunt, we pretty much chilled to MMM on those couple of occasions. Bloke navigated so many genres, traversing transitions while laying a radio signal in & out of the cornucopia of sounds. Fk all ego, open to chat, would scribble an I.d down on paper for you when asked complete with label info. A proper gent.

Steve Cobby & FB’s sets @ Serve Chilled in Nottingham taught similar things, not bad for a Monday night comedown session & from memory Coldcut’s later JDJ set was huge for showing just how far you could take beat matching tricky time signatures. Still kicks ass...

 

 

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I have three turntables and a mixer, and I can't mix for shit and have zero time to practise.

Edited by IDEM

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On 11/19/2019 at 1:39 AM, Extralife said:

Inspiring. You really should write a book, man.

He just has, lol.

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I don't really consider myself a dj. I rarely play out but I've been recording mixes for about a decade now and have live mixed on radio etc... My set up is basic, just laptop, Traktor and Kontrol S4. Harmon Kardon speakers which are nice and clear. I normally collect tracks for a few months that I'm currently listening to and I know roughly when I've a good amount to make a mix that I feel is representative of that. I like crossing house/techno/idm so long as it flows to me and I don't like to feel boxed in. Increasingly, I'm finding uploading mixes a good platform to get to play some smaller stuff I'm buying off of bandcamp and help spread stuff you're less likely to have heard. I find the process very therapeutic. I don't like to use much in the line of efx and I try to keep my mixing unobtrusive apart from rare long mix, I'm there as a conduit for the tracks to flow smoothly, that is all.

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10 hours ago, Richie Sombrero said:

I'm there as a conduit for the tracks to flow smoothly

bosh

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for vinyl: 2 x 1200's w. pioneer mixer into cassette player, &/or old macbook running audacity - saving as .wav.

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for vaporwave, ambient & drone: audacity.    spacer.png

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