The discussion between the old guard and the new breed about ‘real DJs’ and all that “It was much better in our day” nonsense is a well-trodden path, that is repetitive and I think most would admit, is pretty boring these days (even though people bite on these types of threads on social media ALL the time). However there is no getting away from the fact that things are very different for the new DJ coming in to the scene. There are a multitude of different topics I could write about but the blog would go on forever, so I’m focusing on one thing for this blog: Are new DJs still Geeks??
Let me clarify what I mean when I write GEEK, as I guess it can mean various things to various people and I don’t mean you’ve bought a t-shirt from Topshop/Topman with Geek on the front and you’re wearing nerdy specs with clear glass in them. What I mean is – Do you obsess about Music? Are you extremely technical when it comes to your mixing and equipment? Do you collect anything? Do you over analyse your DJ ‘career’?
The reason I ask about collecting is that the old guard used to spend half their life in record shops, splashing the cash (or smashing the credit card in most cases) in search of the next club banger. As a DJ from the record shop days, I believe you were a Geek by definition. Most old guard DJs could flick through their record box and know tracks by their labels or covers. These days you can’t really do that, unless of course you are indeed a Geek and have all your MP3 artwork and are using the search method on the CDJ2000s that allows you to flick through tracks in a way that mimics the old record box flicking…..or of course if you are super trendy, have a beard, sleeve tattoos and play uber cool techno and then you actually are still flicking through a record box.
I wanted to chat with a few DJs, ones that had DJed around five years and preferably ones I didn’t know, so that I didn’t have any idea on how their character is, to enable me to try and write this blog with open eyes. Obviously a handful of DJs isn’t a massively researched piece but allow me, it’s not that easy to get DJs to help you, without them wanting something from you!! The few that did respond were quite vocal in their responses, so I hope that it should still offer up an interesting view on how a couple of new breed DJs see themselves and whether they feel they are indeed Geeks?
It could be said that you don’t miss what you never had. The new breed don’t really know music buying/hunting in any other way than grabbing MP3s/WAVs from a multitude of platforms, whether it be Beatport or getting the odd giveaway track on Soundcloud. But are you sniffing out music in an obsessive nature? Or do you just have a little look online prior to a gig and buy a load of stuff that’s riding high in the charts? Liam Beanie Smith is one of the DJs that kindly answered my call for fresh meat and he had this to say “Do we still hunt around on our days off for the next big tune to play in our sets? In my eyes yes we do, unfortunately not like the past walking into a record shop and speaking to the owner wondering what is out next week what is new in and what track is the hidden gem.”
I know how much of a Geek I am at times and can often obsess about putting together mixes. As a rule of thumb over the years the more I obsess, the more I’ve ended up NOT putting together that bang on mix I was after. And I’ve still not learnt!! Another chap, Demos Joannou kindly responded too and had this to say about obsessing over that killer mix “Obsessing about the “perfect mix” Often ends in frustration, however the time you fade out of the last track of a set and know it has gone flawlessly, the time spent, sweat and tears poured makes it all worthwhile”
These days, you don’t have Record Store camaraderie but you have a multitude of forums and a sliding scale of keyboard warrior depending on where you decide to put fingers to keyboard. Are you sticking your nose in several times a day? Refreshing that topic you’ve just left a smart arse comment on to see if anyone has replied? *Refresh* Nothing *Refresh* aha a reply. Are you mindful of building a network across these forums? With fellow DJs, who you could possibly work with in the future and, shock horror, HELP EACH OTHER out and also with your audience who may come and see you DJ?
Spending all that time on social media and reading tweets from international jet setting DJs can lead to envy, ambition and all manner of other thoughts for new DJs (and the old guard at times too) but this can lead to over analysation and plenty of procrastination. Demos had this to say on the matter “I think the problem now is not so much ‘are new DJ’s different to the older generation?’, more so of what is required of new DJs? It seems it’s as important how many people you are putting on the guest list, to ‘can you actually pull off a good night through your music selection and mixing ability?’ In that sense then I would say a lot of new DJs over analyse their DJ career and some careers probably never start due to this.”
Again drawing from my own experience of the past, I can look at times when I’ve got bookings abroad and got all hyped and visualised how the venue would be and how I’d like the DJ set up to be, but I’d never had any weight to insist on the riders you see these days and you turn up with CDJ100s (no that’s NOT a typo, that’s 100s not 1000s) and some mixer that’s been cobbled together from egg boxes and Lego. Does caring about the set up mean you’re Geeking out harder? Liam seemed to be a man after my own heart “My main concern turning up to a gig is the mess of a DJ box. If the previous DJ or previous night has left it in a state, I would have to make sure that the wires are neat and tidy running perfectly behind the mixer” in fact Liam’s taken it to a level beyond me, I think? I don’t see the issue there though, why should you not want to work in the best environment you can? Although most jobbing DJs know that beyond the big clubs, DJ booths across bars and smaller clubs are often an embarrassment.
Going slightly off topic I wanted to find out if any of these two guys collected other stuff? I think there’s a slight collective gene, or that’s what I tell people as I’m hoarding yet more trainers, goalie gloves and fragrances, that directly correlates back to DJing and collecting vinyl, or just music in general. Liam came in with a large sticker collection that would adorn his laptop. This would be the modern day equivalent of sticking them on your record box of course. Then Demos alluded to keeping all his old computer consoles along with hoarding all his old DJ equipment.
OK, so on the evidence of these two newer DJs the answer to my initial question is a resounding YES, both have admitted it right off the bat. Personally I don’t think that the majority of new breed jocks are Geeks, but it excites me that there are new breed DJs out there fiending for new music and handling their business in the right way. Or should I say, how I think is the right way to conduct yourself. I’ll leave the parting shot to Demos with a quote that really resonated with me and I hope it does with you too “Some people love to mix no matter what, career or hobby, for fun or competition, those people are ‘DJ Geeks’ whether old or young, new or a veteran in the industry. I think we are all cut from the same cloth. I think there is an underlying intelligence that all DJs hold (some hide it incredibly well) and there is a respect given to one another no matter what genre a person may be into. Manipulating sound through technology is the essence of what it’s all about and if that doesn’t make someone a geek, then what does?”
I couldn’t have put it better myself. I’ve gotta send a big thank you out to Liam and Demos for taking the time to end over their thoughts and if you’d like to check out their mixes you can click away here DEMOS LIAM