Whilst there’s no denying we all love going out spending our hard earned cash (unless you’re a guest list wanker like me) watching our favourite DJ’s smash, occasionally clang or even feign the art of mixing (yes Mistabishi I’m still looking at you…) as they earn above average sums of money, it’s the bedroom DJ who helps makes the drum & bass world go around. We’re the ones buying all the vinyl or illegally downloading suspect MP3’s so we can fritter away hours and hours with other likeminded bedroom DJ’s, waving our hands about and generally pretending to be Andy C in room one at Fabric on a Friday night.
It’s part of the backbone of being a fan. Learning to beat match so mixes don’t sound like power tools trying to fuck each other. Knowing which tunes go together so your blends don’t tune to a pitch only dogs are able to hear. Forget all that mixing in key bibble though. Chin stroking nonsense. Your ears should be enough to tell you if your mixing somehow resembles a car crash in a plate shop window. Unless you’re actually deaf, then it’s simply quite unfortunate. Mastered the basics? Good. You’re probably ready for the next inevitable step: the recorded set.
Anyone who’s done this knows the obstacles. From making sure everything is set up correctly to the actual recording of the mix itself. It’s called Red Button Syndrome. That’s not an official medically proven diagnosis by the way. Don’t look it up. It’s more a description of what happens when the mixes you’ve practised and nailed for days on end suddenly turn to shit once you hit the record button. I’ve had my share. Messing up intros, fuck ups mid way through (or, even worse, near the end) to recording the Serato tone for 45 minutes, it’s an occupational hazard. There are those who can power through and record perfectly. But they’re either sync button pushers or downright show offs. And no one likes a show off. People like that are basically the DJ equivalent of vegans and no one likes them either.
I get sent many recorded sets from various friends and DJs. They’re great to have on when working and, honestly, some of what I hear is better than a majority from so called professional DJs. There is however one habit I’ve become more and more aware of lately. With more DJ’s than ever now using a third turntable or CDJ it’s suddenly bred the idea that you need to play all the tunes… ever. I’m not averse to 3 deck mixing. It’s a great skill when done right. But sometimes it’s utilised so badly it makes listening to sets a little off putting. To me, the point of a recorded mix is to showcase the music with little flashes of technical flair here and there. Nowadays though you can’t move for all the forced 16 bar teases you hear crammed into most DJ’s mixes and majority of them don’t really work half the time. Teasing a tune should be a nice surprise. Like going home to find your lady naked. Once it starts to become the norm it ultimately begins to lose it’s effect and can detract from the tune you were listening to in the first place. In a live setting it’s totally appropriate (to a degree) to smash the tunes in and out because you’re feeding back off the crowd energy. With a recorded set it’s about holding the listeners attention, having faith in your selection and making the music the focus. Letting tunes breathe and giving them space to roll out once in a while is a good thing. Honest. As one of my Twitter followers so eloquently explained, “There is a breed of D&B DJ’s that thinks that the more tunes you cram into an hour long mix the better DJ you are.”
Deep down we all want or are trying to channel our inner Andy C / Friction / Mampi Swift (delete as applicable). It’s part of what makes DJing drum & bass fun. There have been countless times I’ve left the rave, gone home to emulate what I’ve just witnessed, ears still ringing with varying degrees of success. But just because you can use a third turntable to cram that extra tune in before the breakdown doesn’t mean you always should. Make it work in a creative way or simply have faith that letting the music do the talking during a mix is the whole point of undertaking the task in the first place.
Anyway, I’m off to go and drop as many tunes as I can into Messiah on 6 turntables. Will let you know how I get on.
Words: Wayne Mackenzie