Here’s something you may or may not know about me. I have been DJ’ing in one form or another since I was about 16/17 from radio (hospital radio admittedly, not mainstream) to actual club nights in varying genre’s. The thing is I’ve always been reluctant to give myself the name of DJ, as it takes away from those who can actually do it. I show some proficiency in playing music and reading whatever audience I may have, but I’m not someone who can DJ with just vinyl for example. I used to on radio, but not in clubs, and I am always constantly amazed by those who can. Some of your hard house DJs are insanely good at it – the speed they mix at, and the knowledge of music they have is just awe inspiring. There was a hard house DJ called Sterling Moss and he could mix using 3 turntables! I don’t know much about hip hop music, but the actual turntable people who can scratch, they REALLY know their music and the hardware they use – their entire lives are devoted to their art, so, to me, the title of DJ isn’t one that should be chucked around lightly.
An example of some amazing turntable work from the amazing Birdy Nam Nam –
In the scenes I find myself in, there are a lot of people who are DJ whatever the hell their name is and most of them haven’t DJ’d in years! Yet they’re constantly recognised as DJ’s. This is part of the reason I never wanted to be DJ anything. I just am MissyK8 or Missy Kate, and I play music to a certain level of proficiency. I won’t sully the name of DJ’s by my half arsed efforts at DJing. This may sound a bit harsh, but I’m not dissing what skills I have (I do have some!) but I’ve always had a certain level of hero worship for DJ’s, and most of them have spent their lives racing after perfection, learning music, knowing what works and for what audience. It is a full time pre-occupation. They’re as gifted as musicians in some senses, and I am no musician! With this in mind I will never be DJ, but given any opportunity, I would like to play some music for you. My pre-occupation is knowing everything I can about the music I love so I can think on my feet if whilst playing music, something isn’t working; the audience aren’t feeling it, and I need to switch to a different angle. I don’t play music for myself. Sure, I love the stuff I play otherwise I wouldn’t own it in the first place but what’s important for me is that it works for the audience or whatever theme I have to work in. At the moment I regularly play blues and rock music, but when I’m playing with music at home, it’s electronic and noise music. Blues music I knew very little about up until a few years ago, but I took it upon myself to educate myself, go to gigs, listen to music, read, travel to New Orleans (Really!), just feel everything about the music, and it really bothers me when others don’t do the same. Doubly so when musicians can’t even recognise true classic artists in the genre they choose to play in. Maybe that’s me being an anal retentive OCD arsehole, but you’ve got to have some grounding in where it all came from first.
Last night I came across people DJing using their ipods. Ipods. REALLY?! To give them their due they stated from the very beginning they weren’t DJs, so why they were booked as such to begin with I have no idea, but it’s this sort of thing that cheapens those who have been before; those who continue to work hard and hone their skills. It must be a real slap in the face for those who come prepared with CD’s or Vinyl, only to have some laptop jockey come along and steal the show. Is it worth working hard for some idiot with a spotify account to come along and be a DJ? (Yes, I’ve come across that one as well!)
I remember getting in to a bitter argument once with someone who was a vinyl elitist. They didn’t like that I mixed using software, and I think now, I see their point entirely. For them, me coming along and people knowing about my mixes must have been like someone coming along with a spotify account claiming they’re a DJ. It’s some upstart who doesn’t deserve the title as they haven’t earned it. DJ’s spend time and money in near incalculable amounts on everything to do with music; Spotify doesn’t just gift you with a talent for it because you suddenly have an instant access to hundreds of thousands of tracks that you can play. There is so much more to it and I wish that others would respect that, and not for me, but those who show an insane talent, and a desire to please their audience. You wouldn’t call yourself a musician because you just bought your first guitar, and nor should you call yourself a DJ because you just got your first turntable. It takes a lot of work to get to a level where you know the music and the equipment inside out, so for those who do learn their art, don’t take it away from them by taking on their label.