Getting Back On The Decks

Coming back to DJing after a number of years away was unique in it’s challenges. After so long out of the scene where would I fit back in both musically and technically?

I’ve always been a vinyl man and never stopped buying records, so material wasn’t an issue. I’ve always had my trusty 1210s and even though I’ve played residencies abroad using earlier CD decks, (Denon DN 2000’s ), I never found them to be much fun to use.

I’m going to interject here that first and foremost the music is the most important thing, not the format. However if you don’t enjoy the format you’re only having half the fun.

Vinyl is hands on, tactile, elegant, physical, but I’m not going to rave here about its virtues.

The major difference I’ve found with vinyl DJing and modern DJing is the lack of availability of more recent music on vinyl – a large number of releases are never actually turned into a physical product but purely digital. Now most of the music I buy and play comes from further back – the barriers of price and availability, not the lack of a vinyl release, being the only stumbling blocks. Music I spin comes from anywhere from the sixties to the mid 00’s with a few newer edits on vinyl joining the gaps.

Tunes available on digital only are a double edged sword for me, and I want to explain why I think it’s a good thing that I don’t have access to some of the tunes that I actually would like to play.

To me digital music releases and modern DJing are more about how songs are played and how many are played – access to the music, availability or cost, doesn’t seem to be a problem. This to me takes away the individuallity from old school DJing of ‘crate diggin’ – searching for tunes, versions, mixes, obscurities that others don’t have, to make the sound your own, creating own your unique vibe. With the likes of Shazam and Facebook track ID groups identifying a tune isn’t a problem these days or purchasing said tune – the modern DJ’s uniqueness is how they play that tune.

Equipment is far more complex, yes we had loops and samplers in the 90’s – although far lower standard than now – but now the huge range of filters, looping facilities, in unit quantising, auto BPM display, sync button, digital music collections, cue points, trigger buttons, key markers, file tags, home production and editing software has turned this into far more not what is played but how.

If I was a producer – and I’m not so qualify this statement how you will – I’d be proper miffed if I’d spent hours crafting a tune, fine tuning, EQ-ing to perfection, setting levels, filters, tweaking samples and then someone comes along with their CDJ2000 Nexus Mk2 and turned it into something unrecognisable!

What did the producer actually want the public to hear?

For me DJing is spreading the sounds that make me feel a certain way, make me want to move, feel, think, smile, tap, nod, shake. Bar the odd acapella or sample I may drop from one record over another I play the tunes as the producer wanted the public to hear them.

Purchasing more up to date records has also been a bit of a challenge. I’ve never stopped buying vinyl in between hanging up the turntables in the early 00’s and now and my picks have been anything from Jazz Funk, Soul, Disco, Balearic, Electro, Prog Rock and Boogie. I’ve always kept a vague background interest as to what was happening currently with music and DJing, I passed over (under?) dubstep, grime, bass, electro house, nu disco, edm, reggaeton – numerous genres that I wouldn’t actually know what to call if I’d heard them.

BTW – not a fan of EDM at all, certainly not the sounds that I hear linked to that tag.

For those that are interested my own musical journey went from listening to 60’s tunes and 80’s synth pop as a kid through hip hop and house, then onto rave, hardcore, techno, jungle, drum & bass – then out of the rave scene into big beat, nu school electro, breaks, progressive house, late 90’s trance and then speed garage, 2 step and discofied filtered funky house! It’s about here in 2002 that I stopped playing and buying new tracks.

Disco House/Nu Disco piqued my interest, I’ve loved house since the late 80’s, as well as disco grooves, deep, funk, boogie and balearic and this tag seemed to bring together many of those genres – and at a nice tempo – especially the edits scene. When I play out now (3-4 hours sets minimum) I usually roll with an hour or so of this followed by classic house, deep cuts, obscurities, a bit of old rave, some acid, with some New Jersey deep diva vocals thown if for good measure and the odd new school break. My collection is extremely varied and I love it that way.

No, the problem – sorry I keep digressing – is that I can’t ascertain where tunes stand from the last eighteen months to twelve years in the general zeitgeist. I’m obviously late to the party on a number of top tunes, (And depite some of my comments above there have been some unbelievable tunes come out in recent years), it’s knowing whether these tunes have been battered to death and everyone sick of them or whether they will always been stone cold classic floor fillers.

One in particular in point is Todd Terje – Inspector Norse, I love this tune! I drop this out every few weeks and it gets good reaction. A lot of my parent friends, (Which most of our friends are – I’m 41, married, three kids btw), who’ve never heard some of these tunes give great feedback on them. My range, I think, generally sits between cool and accessible, trying to bring new – or old – sounds to ears for the first time, whilst keeping a good vibe and movability.

Old school cool, vinyl all the way, interlaced with the best of modern, that’s where I sit.

Thanks for listening/reading!

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