Erlend Øye on DJing
...anyway, I DO get a kick out of DJing. It requires use of all your senses and abilities. To read the crowd, their mood and their expectations: are they here to listen and talk, or did they bring their dancing shoes? You can come as a stranger and be everybody's best friend at 3:30, or the one who empties a full dance floor within 10 minutes and leaves through the back door with a pink face.
We come in many shapes and sizes. There is the house/techno DJ whose main focus is to mix tracks into each other, thus creating one long, developing piece of music. Keywords include: Build-up, bassdrums, "artistic dimension", drugs, facelessness. On the other side you'll find the wedding DJ, whose job is to please, and does so by playing danceable hits from all decades (although mostly ABBA). He might feel conceptual and play five tracks from the eighties, followed by five tracks from the seventies, and then back to the eighties again. But there won't be any mixing or interaction between the tracks. He's there to entertain, not to educate. So who am I? Well, I am not really a skilled beat-mixer, and I rarely play ABBA, so I guess I am positioned somewhere in between, although with one distinguishing feature: A microphone. I am a singing DJ. I sing over instrumentals or talk about what's on my mind, especially in the beginning of the night when people are sill sipping their drinks. Because in my opinion, a good DJ is not only musically responsible, he is also the host of the party. As doormen become increasingly tough, barstaff increasingly unfriendly, and the organizers are laundering money in the office upstairs, someone must take responsibility and make people feel welcome, This is where I come in. Not just a DJ, but a party official. I have tried to sum up my rules of thumb in five points.
Generally, DJ sets are too loud. Especially in the beginning. One should always have headroom to take from when the party really gets going. If not, one risks the chance that the party never does get going, because people get tired and go home. The volume and equalisation must be adjusted and mixed from the perspective of the dancefloor as the sound in the DJ-booth is always different. The jockey must take strolls around the club and see what people are actually hearing.
Before the club is 50% full, focus on songs or at least melody. When it's clear that people are not going to dance, think more about mood than rhythm. And again, make sure you GIVE energy instead of take. Only when you feel a certain restlessness in the crowd, it's time to bring on the disco. And, increase the volume.
Don't engage in coversation when you are working. Give high fives or a big smile, but talk when your set is done. Right now you need to figure out the next record BEFORE the current one ends.
Ok, so you got the party started. In fact, the crowd is doing crazy, and to use my friend DJ Highfish's expression, "the air is burning." Which means, the oxygen is turning into CO2. And it's just a matter of time before everyone's legs turn to jelly and all that great energy from half an hour ago will be gone. But luckily, you made enquiries upon your arrival, and got the key for the ventilation machine room, where you are standing right now and turning the level to 11. Or: you open the windows. If the organizers come and close them because of the neighbours, you open them again. Don't worry, they won't get mad. You're the DJ! They paid to get you here! Needless to say, the smokemachine is the most useless and irritating invention known to man. Don't use it.
Oxygen returned, dancefloor packed, the end of your alotted 2 hours approaching: it's time to drop the MEGA-BURNER. That one track that always works, but only YOU have a copy of. Your signature tune. And at this point, control of the light is crucial. Either you have the lighting-guy next to you and you communicate with him, or you have arranged for the controls to be explained to you and put within your reach, but you must be in command.
Slowly make it dark as you fade the precious track out, start the drum intro, say something in the mic and when that Holy!-Ka!-Moly!-bassline comes in, put all the coloured lights to the max. People go nuts. Then, a minute later, make it pitch-dark when the bassdrum drops out. And when it returns, you unleash the strobe. Alone. Other lights will just diminish the effect. In this moment, people will go double-crazy and think of you as a rockstar. When in fact, your are just playing other peoples music! It's sooo easy...