Tuesday, 20 June 2017

London To Reading On A Friday Night

You could say that I wasn't looking forward to DJing on Friday night.

After a long week at work and especially after a shitty night last time, the last thing I wanted to do was go play a warm-up set to nobody and be unhealthy, when there was a beautiful sunny weekend to be enjoyed - and a bed that I really wanted to sleep in (my own).

I was even questioning why I did it.  It doesn't make a lot of sense to get a tube, train and a bus on a Friday night, all of which are rushed and only the bus I am guaranteed a seat.  It costs me £30 before I even get there.  And then I normally do the warm-up, so I'm playing to myself for an hour before anyone turns up.

For the first time ever, I had neither prepared nor bothered downloading any new music.  There was no consideration of giving up DJing - as if it were not for the Turtle night then that would probably be the end of my DJ career.  But certainly a yearning to either be DJing on a Saturday, or in London.

The Turtle was worryingly quiet on arrival.  Even the garden was ever so quiet - despite it being a warm night - one would have expected a fair gathering outside.

Unsurprisingly I was DJing to myself, until Martin turned up.  And then I had a genius idea - why not just play Ricardo Villalobos tracks?  If I'm playing to myself, let's play what I most want to hear.

Suddenly someone turned up and asked if I'd bang it out if he brought his 25 mates in.  Obviously I am not going to but he brought a few in and I moved to playing more stripped-back bass-laden house music, and nudged the BPM up.  He wanted dnb - he got Enzo Siragusa.

And as soon as a few people start dancing, others join in, and the night is begun.

I wasn't impressed with my set.  It lacked, well everything.  Of course, I am my own harshest critic but it had no flow or structure, I played too many tracks that I wanted to hear and that I thought the crowd would appreciate, rather than forming some kind of plan.  My mixing was occasionally shoddy too - again not much thought put into it, and occasionally drowning from too much effort.

It just didn't seem to come to me.  Yet it had worked, and the dancefloor was moving.  Which is what really matters instead of my delusions that I'll provide perfection.

The next DJ, ion:as, played some glorious hypnotic minimal to start - and it worked.  Quite the energetic DJ - the opposite to my more languid style.  Over time it got tougher, ready for Martin to tear a new hole in the dancefloor.  I was going to leave at 2am - but I had to stay as I was enjoying it so much.  I remembered why I love our little night so much.

Whilst this was happening, I got talking to someone connected to one of the cooler small clubs in London, who was really quite appreciative of what we were doing.  DJ sets/promoting were discussed - and though the chances of anything coming out of it are fairly remote, it reminded me that there can be opportunities out of nowhere in this crazy world of DJing.

I left the Turtle more enthused for DJing than for a long time, ready to get back on the decks and try to take my abilities up a level.  Will I still have this enthusiasm come Saturday when I next have time to practice?  Hmmm.  You never know.

See you on 21st July?

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Twatt At The Booth

I was really looking forward to playing my 3 hour set.  Not only the challenge of playing for a whole 3 hours and progressing it from music for nobody, to music for a full dancefloor, but also to get that magical midnight to 1am bit - where it is a true joy to play.

Things didn't quite work out as expected.

When I arrived just before 10pm, the Turtle was very quiet - not just in the basement.  The heavens had opened not long after 9pm, which cannot have helped matters at all.

I started playing minimal - I had intended on maybe just 2-3 minimal tracks to warm things up, but nobody came.  I arrived to 6 people - it might have reached 10 people at times.

I carried on playing minimal - I was pretty much playing to myself, and really got into it.  I was having a great time.  But a DJ needs dancers.  Some people were popping in then popping straight out seeing how quiet it was - and most importantly nobody on the dancefloor.  I only even had one weird request - reggae.

Finally around 11:30pm, a few people took position on the dancefloor.  I had already started to transition to housier sounds, so I upped the tempo, hoping to drag the stragglers at the back onto the dancefloor.

They left.  Back to 6 people again.

Finally around midnight it started to pick up a bit, but it felt like it was an hour behind usual in terms of business - and this never changed all night.

Then some twat started harassing me.  Firstly just a request to put the volume up. I thought the volume was fine so I didn't change it.  5 minutes later, another request to put the volume up.  I went into the crowd, had a listen, talked to a couple of friends, and agreed it could be nudged up slightly.

Then he asked for the volume to go up again, in a rather combative manner - I told him I had already done so.  A few minutes later he was back, telling me my night was shit, I played shit music, I didn't know what I was doing - yadda yadda.

I turned it up against my better judgement.  People left.  One assumes because it was too loud.

So I turned it back down.  He came back at least two more times to have a go at me, because it was too quiet, because the night wasn't busy enough, because I didn't know anything about house music (one of those I've been raving 300 years types), because my music was shit.

In the end, I was unusually riled.  I had a go back and offered him my headphones and told him to have a go if he thought he knew what to do.  He replied, "I just want you to do your fucking job".

But it isn't my job. It is something I do for fun and a tiny little bit of cash which never covers transport, food and beer.  I was left wondering why I had paid £30+ on transport, including the stress of rushing across London to get to Reading in time, only to play to myself for the best part of two hours and have some twat constantly give me shit for DJing.

Towards the end of my set, I was mentally off-balance, the last two mixes were shocking.

Thankfully, the night was building by time I handed over at 1am - it was far quieter than normal in the garden and upstairs (I even got served at the upstairs bar in less than 10 minutes).  I guess we are getting to student exam season, along with festival/holiday season - the available pool of party animals always reduces for the whole of Reading.

Reformed Society played after, and played truly excellent music.  Starting with more Chicago kind of sounds - some really classy vinyl being played.

What a great booking he was, I shall compliment myself for it - and the crowd really enjoyed it too.  It never was as busy as normal, but the dancefloor was enjoying his music.

I left with questions about why I do this, and whether it was still worth it.

And I was so thankful that I had moved away from Reading, if that was the kind of welcome I received on my return.

But you have to take the tough with the smooth.  If it were like this every month, then there really would be questions to ask.  Thankfully it is normally fun - normally a hell of a lot of fun.

I'll be back next month.  It better be good.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

3 Sets of 2017

So far I've had 3 sets - all warm-up sets, and I've tried to do something different with all of them.  Although I don't think there is anyone that is there during every one of my sets, I still want each of them to be unique, for my own sanity, if nothing else.

For January I tried planning my set.  Literally from the first track to the last, I planned it at home, made sure all the tracks sounded like they should be mixed into each other, and made sure all the tracks I desperately wanted to play were in there.

It sounded good.  It worked.  But I didn't enjoy it as much.  It kind felt that I had taken my creative freedom away and turned my DJ set into a factory line assembly job - do part 1, then do part 2, etc, etc.

February was my sober DJing month.  Normally the most difficult set, but with being unemployed and hence not having done a full week of work beforehand, there was no need for alcohol to help me power through.  In fact, I stayed an hour longer after my set than I did in January.

We had quite a cosmopolitan, European crowd that night and I was stood at the front after, feeling very proud of what has been created.  It was a busy night, and the crowd were loving the music - even my minimal techno.

March started disastrously by leaving my suitcase with music and headphones on the train when I arrived into Reading.  Thankfully First Great Western managed to return my suitcase and it was game on.  Except by this point I was pretty damn drunk, and slightly internally raging - never a bad thing to have emotion going on when you are doing some form of musical expression.

Myself and Martin were going to attempt a back-to-back, but we decided against it after just two tracks each as our styles were way too far apart for a warm-up.  I think it might have worked were we doing the last set - or if we had practiced and found a common groove.

So instead, I did an hour or so, Martin did an hour or so, then I came on and did 20-30 minutes before our headliner - though it could have been longer as I didn't really have too much concept of time by then.  Apart from one mix, somehow I held it together despite my insobriety.

I also eschewed my normal minimal and played a more underground house sound instead, a bit like this track by Unknown Artist:

I miss playing house music.  I suspect that next time I do the warm-up, it might be more house-orientated than minimal.  Not that I have any intention of planning it!

Unfortunately we have booked two headliners next month so I will not be DJing (or maybe that is fortunate depending on your view) - you'll have to wait until 19th May to catch me next.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

New Mix: Brexit

You would have thought that with being unemployed that I would be behind my decks every day and night.


I've been practicing less.  And it isn't exactly as if I am the perfect DJ, and don't need any practice.  It isn't exactly as if I don't have the inspiration - there are too many mixes that I want to do.  It isn't exactly as if I don't have the time - though I don't actually have the time - or I don't make the time.

But then I just had to get this mix out of me.  A beastly, dark techno mix that represents my feelings on a subject close to my heart - Brexit.

Lots of anger, lots of darkness - some pretty tough techno inside - not one for a jolly, sunshine-filled Sunday morning.

There are a few, hmmm, different tracks in there, something uplifting, something unusual and a couple of older tracks to finish.  Though there is also a rather gnarly track halfway through which I think is quite a challenge to listen to.

Some of the mixing could be better, but hey, I don't practice enough so what do you expect?  Though I definitely hit the sweet spot in the second half for a while and I bloody well enjoyed that part.

Hopefully, despite the intentional darkness, it will provide more satisfaction than Brexit itself.

I've also created a new look for my 'brand' (sigh) - at least for the DJ mix covers anyway - combining obscure street art with a more caring, artistic font.  Maybe I'll replicate it onto my website too one day.

Feedback always welcomed, even if you think it is shit.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

2016 Resident Advisor DJ Poll - My Top 5

I like polls.  I like voting.  I also like DJs.

These are my top 5:

Julietta never lets me down.  I haven't seen her in years but her sets just get better and better.

Barac encapsulates the sound that I am most into right now, that hypnotic, Romanian minimal sound that is really growing.  His productions are amazing and his DJ sets - triptastic.

It should be no surprise that Craig Richards features as he does every year.  Utterly reliable and utterly underground.

Sonja Moonear keeps impressing - I have seen her a couple of times this year, one minimal and one techno set.  Both thoroughly excellent.

Finally, Dana Ruh was the highlight at Cocoon in Ibiza for me, such well-constructed sets.

No Ricardo.  Well, he couldn't be bothered to turn up the one time I tried to go see him.  First time I have not voted him in a DJ poll since I discovered who he was.

At some point I shall release my top 500 DJs list.  Yeah, I have a spreadsheet.

Monday, 14 November 2016

My First Vinyl

Only 6 or so months since I bought some Technics (vinyl decks to those of you reading out of politeness), I have finally bought my first vinyls.

Why did it take me so long?  Kind of something to do with changing careers and moving to London - I had other priorities, plus I am far from perfect on my CDJs so the minimal amount of time that I could allocate was spent on practicing for upcoming DJ sets.

Now that I am settled in London, and I have two months where I am not playing (and possibly more - not entirely sure how the refurbishment of the Purple Turtle is going to affect us, which starts in January), this is an opportune moment, bar the ridiculous amount I still have to learn for my job.

You may also question my choice of vinyl - Ride On Time by Black Box.  Hardly the most underground of selections, however I credit it with being the track that first got me into house music, although my memory from last week is sketchy, let alone from when I was 9.

So it felt right to be my first purchase - and it sounded great over my speakers - such fullness and warmth, ahhhh.

I bought the longer 12" version, of which I could only find on Discogs in Germany, so to make the €9.90 postage more worthwhile, I also bought two further vinyls from his on sale cheap collection - Bahia by Italoboyz, and Le Bateau Ivre by Chelonis R Jones.  The total cost for 3 vinyls was €5.00.  Bargain.

My initial plan is to buy 20-30 vinyls all around the £1.00 to £2.00 mark from Discogs, finding sellers with multiple tracks that I want, to save money on postage - most sellers will sell 1 to 4 vinyls with postage of £4.00, so I may as well buy 4 at a time when they are so cheap.

There are plenty of cheap vinyls out there, though mostly early house stuff, or minimal tracks from circa 2008.  Once I have a nice little collection then I can concentrate on practicing, with the hope of being good enough to play out on vinyl in a year or so - though I'm not quite sure how realistic that will be.

Yes, my attempts at mixing on Saturday morning, on vinyl, for the first time ever, were dreadful.

There is a lot to learn away from the comforts of CDJs - no cue button, no time left counter, no BPM counter - tactile instead of numeric.  I'm not going to crack mixing on vinyl after a couple of practices.

But the theory, of course, is exactly the same.

The accompanying vinyls were perhaps not the best choice of purchase as they had a good chunk of the track without a beat.  I do need to choose more carefully next time, tracks with easy mixing structures - though I already have my eye on some old Dinky and Peace Division records, once I have been paid (if I have any money left).

Not to mention my awful cheap headphones.

So the collection obsession has started - I made it to nearly 2,000 CDs.  I wonder how long it will take to reach that many vinyls?

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Problems And Solutions

This Friday gone was almost definitely the last time that I will be DJing this year.

So it had to be a good one.

And it was set up as so, lots of friends up for the night out - mainly thanks to the inclusion of Tim Weymouth on the bill.  As much as I'd love to take the credit myself.

No hip-hop thing before us so we could get straight into the music.  I was on warm-up duty though Martin started before I got there.  I successfully confused the cd function for the memory stick function and managed to mix the same track in that was already playing.  Seamlessly, though.  Well, Ron Hardy would do it so why not me?  Yeah, I just compared myself to Ron Hardy, yeah it was ironic.  Yeah you probably haven't heard of him, have you?

So I took it back down into 10pm territory with some odd New York City sounds thanks to Ricardo Villalobos, before slowly edging it up.

It was a teaser of a first hour, there would be little groups of people, then they would disappear, and this repeated itself for a while.  Nobody really was dancing.

I prefer not to edge it away from minimal territory until I have dancers - people should have to work for the bangers (relative bangers in my case!) but in this case I decided that I would up my game and that I would start the dancefloor too.

So I put a long house track on and went for a dance.  Sure enough, people started dancing.

Solutions to problems.  I wasn't without other issues.  My £10 headphones really are shit.  Although the mixer wasn't outputting the sound to anyone's headphones without distortion.  I had to borrow Martin's to get any semblance of decency as the only way I could mix was through the monitor speaker - not ideal - the monitor sounds like it has been rinsed on super-high red-lining monsters too.

One of the cue buttons was sticky and one of the jog wheels wasn't flowing properly - needing two gentle hands to move it.  At least the Purple Turtle do get these things fixed unlike other places I have played at in the past.  Anyone remember Zeus?  *shudders*

Once I'd got people dancing, the rest of my set was an utter delight.  It kept getting busier, I was getting a good response, and I was really hoping that Tim would lose track of time and be late for his set.

Alas, handover was on time.

I finished on a classic Loco Dice track that I have recently rediscovered.

Tim played a good set - a few too many big tunes for my personal taste though interestingly he played Orbital's 'Chime', which I considered playing but never got around to it.

It was good to hear some garage to begin, and he kept up the differing styles throughout - and the crowd reacted, dancing throughout.

I didn't see enough of Martin's set to comment as I went outside to have a catch up with one or two of my more delightful friends, and then had to go get the last bus back to my spare Reading bedroom - money saving and all that business.

One of the main reasons why I had to save money was because we were donating our DJ fees to Spinal Research - a cause that my dear friend, Swen, has been raising money for.  It did really touch me to see him down there - and having a little more movement than previously.  I couldn't have asked for anything more on the night.

The whole night was a fuckload of fun - running a night and DJing are so much more fun when you have a great collection of friends there.  I thought about listing everyone who came - probably more than any other night that I've DJ'ed there but I'd miss people out.  I do offer a big warm thank-you hug to everyone who came.

And a thank you to the Purple Turtle too, who have upped their game and installed some new bass bins (or similar) - and boy do you feel it.  Not too much - but they are crisp, clean and powerful enough for the little room.

The night was recorded so if my set is good enough to release, it will be!  My standards aren't too high.

I'll see you next year.