There’s very few things I dislike more than promoting myself or writing “third-person” style bios for myself. I mean, very few people in the underground music scene have full-on publicity people, yet everyone’s bio seems to say, “DJ Blah Blah is such and such” when it is actually “DJ Blah Blah” who is writing the bio themself.
And let’s take for instance it’s NOT DJ Blah Blah writing the bio, and it actually is some publicity person writing the bio. I mean, this may be fine for Sasha or Hawtin or someone who has professional people to do this. But in most cases, the person writing the bio (if it isn’t the artist themself) will probably not know music because they are a publicity person, or just one of those people that just want to hang around artists and DJs who have no real talent at anything in particular at all. I don’t mean to sound cold or elitest, but my point is I don’t like “bios”. I like people to hear the music, hear the DJing. With that said, here’s a half-assed description of what I am about, written by me, one which will also include a ton of highly opinionated statements that some will agree with, and some won’t :
The underground dance music scene or electronic music scene in general has always been about pushing the boundaries, taking things to the next level, doing something new. Failing doing something truly new, even if we do something that’s been done before, we’d like to do it in a personal and unique way, and up the ante on quality. With the internet and MP3’s the dance music has seen a rollercoaster over the past 10 years. Many whine about how records aren’t selling as much as they used to, MP3’s, blah blah blah.
There will always be an underground electronic scene whether we are all making zero money or millions. The people in it for the right reasons will always do it. The ones who are trying to figure out how to make the same amount of money they did in the late 90s are flailing wildly, not knowing which direction to turn. Rudderless.
But mark my words – there are people out there who you’ve never heard of, ones that will probably save dance music as we know it today. I am not necessarily one of those people, but I know what is needed.
People need a commitment to their vision, a clear idea of where they want to go, people who will not be deterred. I’m still learning a lot about production, but in the past I’ve had tracks played on Essential Mixes by Carl Cox and Chris Fortier, on Digweed’s Kiss FM show, and by Sasha on some of his radio mixes. I’ve DJed live with some of the bigger legends in dance music, including Sven Vath, Mixmaster Morris, and quite a few others, who are incredibly well-known, but I will not mention by name because I really don’t dig what they do (one starts with a K). By the time I was 17, I had already done live shows (as a member of a group) opening for Skinny Puppy, Thrill Kill Kult, and A Split Second.
While none of this adds up to much of anything, the point is: I will not be deterred in my beliefs and what I do. I’m not the best there is in the world, but my belief is strong in what I do. While I’m incredibly flattered that Sasha, Digweed, or Cox have played some of my tracks, I do not compose for them. I compose for myself, for truth. I have learned this is the only way it can be.
DJing is the same. I DJ for the crowd, but I try as hard as possible to give them something only I can give, something very personal that comes from the heart. Do not mistake this fact with the idea that I will only play exactly what I want, and could care less if the crowd likes it or not. What I do is (hopefully) special. I attempt to give something to the crowd they haven’t experienced before, win them over, enable them to have fun in a way they haven’t exactly experienced before. DJs that play only hits, only exactly what the crowd wants; they are a dime a dozen. There’s really no need for any more people like that. I have nothing against it, but it’s not what you want to see if you are seeing a truly exceptional DJ. You can download all the “hits” on MP3 nowadays. Many of that style of DJ are just glorified Winamp playlists. There is nothing wrong with that kind of DJ, but there’s no reason for someone like me to do that. What the crowd wants to hear if they go to hear a “headline” DJ is something they can’t get from that regular DJ.
My DJ style? It’s personal. Unique. Listen to the MP3 mixes I periodically post. Some are meant to be more “listening” oriented, and some are genuinely live-style sets. In a live setting, I understand how to win the crowd over, and then take them someplace that isn’t quite like anything they’ve heard before.
Am I over-glorifying DJing and composing? Probably. But can true uniqueness and artistry coincide while still being accessible and entertaining to a crowd, even a crowd of dance music newbies? Sure it can, if you know what you are doing. If you *do* know what you are doing, and successfully give something to the crowd unique and personal, they will remember it. Think back to the first time you heard one of the true innovators whether it is DJing or music production. You remember it. You’ll always remember it. It becomes special in a way that a DJ just playing the same old hit records that everyone else plays could never be.
I often have people come up to me after I spin, and the thing everyone asks is where I get the records I play – they act like I’ve got some secret source on another planet, and I get these records direct from Mars and no one else has access to them. In truth, I often buy a lot of the records the average “local” DJ listens to and can’t come to grips with. So many records go right thru the average DJs hands because they just can’t quite understand it. Well, those records often land in my hands, and I understand exactly how I can use them. Parts of them, maybe just a section. But when you think creatively, you can takes all the pieces apart and put them back together in a way that adds up to more than the sum of the parts.
When you DJ, you’re not just “playing songs”. To be truly great, you can’t think like that. You are using songs or parts of songs to come together in a unique way that becomes a symphony. It is communication thru audio, only with music instead of words.
One other interesting quote I have often told new DJs when I am giving them pointers -“With the first 5 or 6 songs of a set, I am teaching the crowd my language. Once they understand this language of audio and music, from that point forward, I communicate with them on that level, my level.” Most often that coalesces the crowd on the same platform, where I can take the emotion of the entire crowd simultaneously into the direction I want.
Does this make sense to everyone? Probably only a small portion, but the ones that “get it” will have a virtual catharsis of understanding like a light bulb popping up over their head.
Will this get me booked or get me remix opportunities or anything? It might even scare some people off, but this is not my concern, which brings us full circle. I have a direction, a vision. I may be wrong or right, but I have always been able to entertain people with music in a unique way, even if they were dance music “newbies” because my emotion and truthfulness become contagious.
This has been true for quite some time as a DJ, and as a producer, I’m reaching the level where the next productions will join that level.
Rudderless or without direction? I may not always be steering in the exact direction you might want or expect, but I’ll be driving full-speed ahead and the ship will stop at places you haven’t been before.
-kd, june 2004