- Published on Friday, 07 December 2012 17:20
One of the most important, yet often under appreciated, jobs for a DJ is that of the warm-up set. In fact, it's a crucial role for any DJ worth his salt and is usually where most of the big names we know and love today earned their stripes. Playing a warm-up set typically takes a higher level of skill than most headline sets – ask any DJ and they'll tell you, it's no mean feat striking that delicate balance between luring ravers onto the dancefloor and keeping them there, while making sure you don't overshadow the headliner(s). Maintaining a good, strong energy but not peaking too early. Of course, there are stringent rules to playing a warm-up set, you will always need to gauge the crowd – but, generally speaking, it must be said that slow and easy is often the best and safest way to begin.
Take MEOKO's 50th podcast, Voigtmann b2b LamÂche warming-up for the legenadary Mr.G at Toi Toi Musik. Their vinyl-only three-hour set is a masterclass in warm-ups, starting off with just piano chords and working slowly and confidently towards stirring up the dancefloor. Check it out and hear for yourself, it's a sublime set.
Voigtmann b2b LamÂche live recording from Toi Toi Musik - MEOKO exclusive
Having recently played a warm-up set myself, I can also vouch for their importance and difficulty. Everyone in front of you is there to party, that's a given, but the party really gets started when the peak time sets are played. As a warm-up you often begin with a very slow, tentative approach to your set, easing your audience in with some uplifting yet not too “hands-in-the-air” tunes. Peaking too early is a cardinal sin, as is overshadowing whoever comes after you. Working up from the slow start, it's sometimes useful to whet the clubbers' appetites with some more familiar tracks – injecting some energy, yet not pushing it too far. As the set progresses you'll want to keep the energy levels solid, each step of the way considering the fact that the night is only just beginning and it's your job to start off the evening in the best way possible. Keeping a frim hold on how the crowd gets down is imperative to your job, the temptation to let loose and throw down some big tunes is always going to be there, but you have to keep reminding yourself that it's early and there is a lot more to come.
Picture by Daddy's Gotsweets
Another key thing to bear in mind and I'm stating the very obvious here, is to know who is on after you – purely to work out how and what to play. Every DJ has their own style, their own following, their own identity.. and this is something that will have a direct effect on what you play as a warm-up. Encroaching on their set is considered sacrilege, imagine unknowingly warming up for someone like Josh Wink and playing Higher State Of Consciousness – only for him to arrive later on and play it again. He may or may not have heard you play it, but the crowd has and they won't forget. Leaving Josh looking a little bit silly, to put it lightly.
Picture by Nick Ensing
There's a pressure from playing warm-up sets that is not as common in headline sets. When you think about it, the majority of the people who turn up at a party are there because they've seen one of their heroes on the line-up – which means half the battle is already won for said headliner. (Ok, there will be some chin-stroking critics too, waiting for them to fuck up – but most will be excited as soon as their hero jumps on the ones and twos). So, the warm-up DJ, who will always be lesser known, has the pressure of performing to a crowd who are waiting for their favourite DJ to appear, while also having to set the tone of the night. Great training for any wannabe DJ and, as I've already said, the starting point for many of today's stars. The skills one acquires as a warm-up will stay with that person for their entire career and that is absolutely priceless.
So, next time you arrive early at a club night and you see someone warming up, remember their name because the likelihood is, in a few years time, they'll be headlining.
By Marcus Barnes
- Published on Tuesday, 20 November 2012 14:45
November 2012. Drug -- especially ketamine -- consumption at parties in London hits a new “high”, literally. And acclaimed artists on labels such as Crosstown Rebels step up and deliver the perfect lounge-back low-swing: Fur Coat’s “You And I - Cocaine and Ketamine” with its slurry voices is an iconic anthem for the high society. Tracks which seem to be the lullaby of our generation eschew responsibility, thus reflecting the irony of todays fast-lane-drop-out society, by consuming even more. It seems as if values have gone completely overboard, with almost everybody heading freely into “the more the better”.
Even hardliners tone down and talk about legalization, as it seems drug use -- whether legal or illegal -- is just part of our everyday life. Instead of changing our habits spinning out of control, it’s simply become acceptable to be out of it. It’s so normal to see passed out people on the dancefloor and ambulances driving in and out of festival grounds at a steady rhythm that no-one even mentions it anymore. As it’s not only become normal to accept the wide-spread drug use, it’s also become normal to use “recreational drugs”, which are, as the fun name suggests, simply something to unwind with, whether that’s on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. As long as it’s fun!
Hardly anybody is questioning their habits, and neither DJs nor event organizers or anyone else in the industry for that matter is trying to use their influential position to take a stand against drug (ab)use. With excesses being socially accepted, be it binge-drinking, taking uppers, downers, anti-depressants, or whichever medication suits our very needs, it’s a tough one to actually be the party pooper who speaks up and questions the procedure. As about 70 % of the population use some kind of drug, whether it be legal or illegal, there is hardly anybody left to speak up to. So...
Whilst old veterans in the scene simply see drug preferences and fashions shift whilst use is on the rise, newbees often feel estranged by the excesses, yet do not find alternatives. Does being into electronic music mean being into taking drugs? Is it not all about the music? It almost seems like it, something that outsiders often misinterpret and judge as “it’s impossible to stand this bumbumbum without being drugged up”, thus leading to major discrimination throughout the nation: Electronic music has a stigma stuck to it, and anyone who’s tried to shovel through prejudices stating “I really like the music though”, knows what we are trying to say.
Does being into electronic music mean being into drugs?
And maybe it’s true. Music sounds amazing on E. And being on K or LSD certainly stimulates parts of the brain that might not be activated normally. Those of us who know..., let’s be honest: The brain is majorly stimulated under the influence, and each stimulant has their own spectrum of kicks, tricks and challenges, something people definitely get hooked on, each of them caught in their own mind trip.
Is this what it’s all about? The adventure to go out on Friday and to get back on Sunday only half-way remembering things, analyzing the weird mind warps that make up our reality, and then slide back into the tumbling trot of everyday routine... until it’s Friday again, hooray?
And what would be the alternative? Is there one? Can we enjoy the party without the kicks? A very good question. Just to ask it, though, and to emphasize, that YES, drug use can be questioned -- and should be questioned. It just seems to have become a routinely habit, and not fun for most, as they are just chasing some weird-ass shadow down an alleyway to nowhere really. Some people feel, especially industry folk including DJs , promoters, warehouse owners, security and the EDM media should take some social responsibility and project onto the party-goers.
I’m so high I can’t mix, and it’s fine! I’m having a laugh!
Says Tina, a clubber: “Where is our generation heading towards with drugs such as ketamine so freely available to everyone all the time. The kids are turning into zombies and there is NO awareness from anywhere. No big artists or promoters who the kids look up speak out against it, or at least how to do it safely - only mostly the opposite! Saying ‘it’s absolutely fine, look at me, I am so high I can’t even mix and it’s fine!’ Time for a change and to come together as a scene and say that it is really not all okay to do bags of ketamine every weekend, it’s extremely dangerous and without no-one even knowing the consequence. We need to take some sort of responsibility for this.”
It’s easy to misjudge sincere words of concern as motherly outcry that should not be listened to, as it’s not taking into account that people need and want to make their own mistakes. As it’s always been, people, young of age, move out and venture into the world with the best intentions to take it and make it their oyster, as protagonists, DJs, superstars, dancers, designers, or whatever it is that makes us tick.
Says Neil: “Passion! For something. Is something that our scene has always promoted. The music is something that can change your life. You get into it, and you get caught, and you love it so much so want to be part of it, every day. You aspire. You get some turntables, teach yourself mixing whilst travelling to clubs every weekend to hear and see what those who inspire you are up to.”
To go further and further is one of the motivations, to never stop, to never wake up and return to normality... Whilst office staff step into their hamster wheel, the scene is a joyful celebration of alternative, or escapism, of glamour, of madness. And yes, that’s something most young people are drawn to, feel attracted to, and look up to. The alternative. Which life do you prefer? The life of a clerk, or the life of a jet-setting DJ? Whilst the image of each of those professions are stereotypes summoned up and enhanced by mass-media, we all love to get caught up in a dreamy fantasy. But life ain’t just peaches. And drugs are drugs, they don’t work.
Caner - Free Thinker / Events Producer (Owls Way/Down Under) agrees and adds that “there is lots that can be done and this can be done collectively by individuals taking responsibility for their personal actions. This is not an anti-drugs campaign, the idea is creating social awareness about this problem and how people can avoid embarrassing situations. Recently, I have observed promoters feeling proud to have someone passed out, pissing themselves, completely out of it in their parties. Yes, we do experience this sort of problem in our scene for long time, but today it has become the norm. I love my scene and I think together, by individually taking a little responsibility, we can be part of a positive change, and help avoiding those disconcerting scenes and heartbreaking episodes we are experiencing -- people getting targeted by people with bad intensions robbed and worse; losing their jobs ; going into depressions and end up in dark places"
Which life do you prefer? The life of a clerk, or the life of a jet-setting DJ?
Alone the fact that Fur Coat are called Fur Coat is very tongue-in-cheek and shows that they love to play with contradictories -- and this is what our society is all about. On one hand, people cry out saying: “This is so wrong... how can you wear fur coats, take ket, consume blindly, eat animals, etc....”, whilst on the other, most people simply do it -- even though they know better? And to top it all off, those who act out double standard morals are on "top of the game", whatever this means. They are on MTV, in the Olympics, hugely successful, with a little “fine-tuning” on the side, cheekily, here and there, everywhere. We all know what’s going on, and we all adhere to it as we do not speak up against these practices. As long as no-one takes a photo of a white nostril, it’s all picture perfect... Heroin-chic models, coked up politicians, you name it. Bla bla...
The younger you are, the truer to yourself you are, the more you see through falsities, and question them, the more you desperately look for a message between the lines. Only to hardly ever find one except: ‘Consuming makes you happy’. We are not alone: Most people are clever enough to see through hypocrisy, double-standards and twisted promotion of wrong values, as seen on TV. But they are not strong enough to stand up and take responsibility.
Ponders Spencer: “To say, ‘Hey, I am trying to be myself, but I am not willing to be one zombie more’ takes some balls. But why? Maybe it’s because generally, the cool people, those we look up to and admire, do not stand up, proudly, proclaiming... ‘Hey, there is an alternative! You can be yourself, really being yourself, and it feels so good you don’t even need drugs...!’”
Instead, the media celebrates the fallen angels by the pound -- the younger and more desperate their drugged up story, the more coverage. It does not surprise that people turn to drugs in the end... It's almost impossible to stand this hypocritical society without tuning into the same madness. Or is it?
To be yourself can feel so good you get high on it
Says Lea, an “aging” DJ of 37: “I firmly believe it’s possible to be a DJ and play not taking drugs, and actually be a beacon for those in the scene. As it stands right now, there are just a few routes down the road, the beaten path, of destiny. You can either be a drug-taking kid, and pull out of it when you wanna pull out of it, or be part of the huge league of zombies. Chances are you are being someone very grounded, with lots of interests and prospects and ideas, and in the end, the drug-taking element of electronic music, life, universe, will be of less and less importance. You are entitled to your legitimate experience, and hopefully you will be taking something out of it that’s worth telling your grandchildren about, but chances are that you will also encounter difficulties no one really articulates. No-one knows what long-terms effects are, and the price can be really high.”
“Just to be someone who is aware of these things, and communicates these experiences, and maybe offers alternatives makes you stick out of the crowd. I became pregnant but luckily I already quit any kind of drug way before this, even coffee, and all of a sudden had a sober vision of nightlife. And of myself. And I loved it, to be absolutely in control of my destiny. I did not feel excluded, or bored, or repulsed at all, just relieved I found the way out, and to be able to still enjoy my scene! I hope I can serve as an example. I have done drugs, they almost broke me, but I got out as I got bored and appalled by my own suffering, and this is -- sorry to say it guys -- the absolute exception. Most people just end up screwed up. It’s hard to escape even for someone sane, so try not to bury yourself in madness, go and be strong and yourself and don’t get too involved. Music is not drugs, and drugs are not music. Amen.”
In The Talk Hole:
Mathias Schaffhäuser, Ware label head, producer and DJ for almost 20 years, Cologne mastermind and always a correct key figure of the German techno and house scene, as he stands out with his intricate and headstrong take on electronic music talks to Meoko about his attitude towards drugs. Read on to find out more and do not forget to check his new records: His “Nuevo Romance” just came out on NOICE, and the records by his new project "Fanatico" and his remix for Ziggy Kinder on WARE are leading Schaffhäuser's label into a new height.
What is your motivation to be a DJ, a producer and label honcho?
Schaffhäuser: To be honest, I am a huge fan. I still get enchanted by new music, and it always motivates me -- I totally enjoy making music, it’s so much fun, after all.
How do you enjoy being part of a scene full of drugs, not ever taking part of the consuming frenzy?
Schaffhäuser: For me it’s not that extreme. To be honest, you would have to ask me: “How do you enjoy living in a world full of drugs?” Drugs are being taken everywhere, not only in the techno house scene but in the music scene in general, in the teacher’s room, in Parliament, in a normal pub, in the back room of a supermarket and in the bosses’ head office. It’s a total demonization to always think of our music scene as utterly extreme. Think drug consumption at pop and rock events and afterwork parties, and you get the full picture. And, please, don’t forget “mom’s little helpers”. Drugs are part of everyday life, not a night life phenomenon. Drugs also are called “medicine” and prescribed by doctors and sold in pharmacies.
How do you do this job without taking drugs? Also considering that it’s very hectic and heavy, flying around the globe, changing timezones, and switching day and night time?
Schaffhäuser: I believe I would not be capable to be on drugs and go on stage, and manage everything that goes with that. If I took drugs, I would go mental, completely. I need a clear head to get everything sorted, everything else would be scary as f%^&. And to take drugs to stay awake or clear during work is not an option for me at all.
Do you play afterhours, and if so, how do you feel in this environment?
Schaffhäuser: I always make the same kind of experience which is that the crowd is not half as wasted as people say. I love to play at 8 in the morning and never had any trouble at all.
Are you really 100% clean or do you have some cultivated little fascination with something, be it sex, chocolate or collectable rock records?
Schaffhäuser: I am totally addicted to crisps.
What kind of recommendation can you give those who are caught in drugs?
Schaffhäuser: I am sure I have no new recognitions and I am surely not the most suitable to give advice. And most people who are addicted to something or have problems with something know most of the important facts about this matter anyway. The nature of being high though is that it escapes logic and undermines reasoning. Which can be the fascination with it, but of course this becomes a tough one as soon as you reach the turning point, and fall, which causes great difficulty. It’s a great skill to be able to hold the balance and know for oneself what is okay, and how much of it, and what should be avoided. But if someone is really hooked, these ‘wise’ recommendations do not really help at all.
Did you lose friends?
Schaffhäuser: Luckily no one has died, but to drugs I definitely lost a few.
Words by Katrin Ritcher
- Published on Tuesday, 13 November 2012 18:57
These days it's impossible not to have an opinion about a wide range of matters from what's the definition of quality all the way down to if cows cause global warming by farting too much. Furthermore, one man's version of quality is another man's trash and vice versa. And when it comes down to definitions such as what is classed as House music,what determines if a musical piece is underground or not or who has the right to dictate the boundaries for such difficult questions, the answers couldn't possibly have a wider range.
It's the age of free speech amplified by the phenomenal success of the Facebook revolution. If I have ever believed in a prophet in my 41 years on this planet, it cannot possibly be anyone else but Andy Warhol. He foresaw a naturally occurring chain of events from post war prosperity to the obnoxious collective consciousness of today's global society. All he had to do to come up with his famous phrase "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes", was to study human nature and connect it with the rise and accessibility of technology.
Although I was late to join the social media phenomenon (I was partly reluctant to do it as I didn't really fancy joining millions of profiles which state the user works in the music industry), I was taken aback by the amount of debate (sometimes well founded but most times touching the boundaries of moronic) I saw going on!!
But why have we become so politically aggressive about what's happening to our scene and is this just a repetition of a pattern emerging from other aspects of society?
I am a strong believer that people are much more political when it comes down to the dance music industry mainly because there are no real, universally accepted boundaries and definitions. We do not have an "e=mc2" equation in order to study, measure and define the industry.
Anybody with a few tracks, a cracked version of DJ software with sync, a Facebook profile with an elementary knowledge of photoshop, a few friends and the ability to sequence pre-made generic samples (bought on the web for a few quid) can be called a DJ/ producer/ promoter. And the consequence of technology giving you the tools to be a DJ in an instant, is the disillusionment that you actually are a part of the industry.
But what has really happened here is that you joined the utopian world of popular culture. The massive majority of DJ's/producers/promoters out there have aspirations on becoming significant, to be in the spotlight and to become famous (and cool at the same time). Being ordinary and insignificant scares a lot of us these days and that's why we created pop culture. The notion of being a star, travelling around the world on business class and making loads of money (or even an honest living) just by playing other peoples' music is much more attractive than the harsh reality of a 9-5 job, and if technology gives an individual a chance to do so, then he or she will take that chance. I mean, to be a celebrated scientist and win the nobel prize, for example, you need to dedicate your life's work to one subject or to be a famous and successful athlete you also have to dedicate your life to the strict regime of training. But to be a celebrated DJ is an easier route to fame and fortune, right?
I, for one, don't think so!!!!!!!!
Is this vague chance of the easy road to success any different from the chances you have to become a millionaire by winning the lottery? In my humble opinion, it's one and the same thing, it's just the illusion that you can get everything for doing not much!!!
The latest craze in the wonderful and carefree world of a dance music promoter (laughing out loud) is the misuse of the word Underground. So many in the global promoter community spend a lot of time and effort trying to convince people that they are the real soldiers of the underground, they are only interested in quality, not like the other crappy commercial promoters who are best at creating media hype. And when it comes down to the DJ's, 80% of them claim to play quality underground music, which is a contradiction in itself. Underground can only exist in a minority not in an 80% majority (I must stress here that the numbers aren't in any way representative of the actual scene but only an indication!).
So, who is an underground promoter/DJ/producer (if there is such a thing)? Is there a chart or a graph where you can measure how underground or mainstream someone is? No, there isn't, but I believe there can be!
Let's firstly have a look at the definitions of Wikipedia on what is Popular (pop) culture & what is classed as Underground music.
Popular culture is the entirety of ideas, perspectives, attitudes and other phenomena that are preferred by an informal consensus within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western Culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the late 20th and early 21st century. Heavily influenced by mass media, this collection of ideas permeates the everyday lives of the society.
Although the terms popular culture and pop culture are in some cases used interchangeably, and their meanings partially overlap, the term "pop", which dates from the late 1950s, belongs to a particular society and historical period. Pop refers more specifically to something containing qualities of mass appeal, while "popular" refers to what has gained popularity, regardless of its style.
Popular culture is often viewed as being trivial and dumbed down in order to find consensual acceptance throughout the mainstream. As a result, it comes under heavy criticism from various non-mainstream sources who deem it superficial, consumerist,sensationalist and corrupted.
Underground music comprises a range of different musical genres that operate outside of mainstream culture. Such music may tend to express common ideals, such as high regard for sincerity and intimacy, freedom of creative expression as opposed to the highly formulaic composition of commercial music, and appreciation of artistic individuality, as opposed to conformity to current mainstream trends.
The term "underground music" has been applied to various artistic movements, for instance, the psychedelic music movement of the mid-1960s, but the term has in more recent decades come to be defined by any musicians who tend to avoid the trappings of the mainstream commercial music industry. Frank Zappa attempted to define "underground" by noting that the "mainstream comes to you, but you have to go to the underground."
Taking these definitions in consideration, we now have two points of reference where we can fit the whole industry inside: Imagine the whole industry as a tree, the tips of the roots are the furthest point you can go underground and the leafy branches are the overground/ mainstream/ popular culture system. A tree cannot exist without roots but a root can survive without the need to surface overground. Basically,if you are an underground DJ/producer, then consider yourself as a potato (or a beetroot if you prefer!!)
If DJ's/producers/promoters represent parts of the tree, most will choose to live overground because there is the fresh air (money) and loads to see from up there (spotlight)....but there are a few that want to keep their heads down and live a humble existence by the routes and dedicate themselves to making the tree stronger!!!!
So let's try and classify the whole industry on this tree :
The Definitive Underground
This is the place were true and pure art comes to life. It's a place where there is no compromising on what you want to create and your aspirations don't look towards either success or fame. Actually, true art doesn't have any aspirations in the first place, it's just the expression of the inner soul that matters and the most important time is the moment of creation of something meaningful, challenging and thought provoking out of thin air.
A few months back, I had a conversation with a friend who in turn had a conversation with a DJ about why he is reluctant to release all those amazing tracks that he plays at his gigs. His answer was the answer of a true underground artist. He said something along these lines: “it is much more artistically rewarding for me to play this music to a crowd that has never heard it before than to release it for the masses and make a few hundred or even thousand bucks. That moment when I play an unreleased track is the moment where magic really happens and you cannot possible put a price tag to that”.
So for me, the purest form of underground music is music that is not published or available anywhere to buy, and to hear it, you have to hear it from the creating artist himself.
Of course there are also some small groups of DJs that share unreleased music between them so they also pass with flying colours on this category!!
The Underground Record Label
These are labels that choose to release a limited number of copies (not more than a few hundred) on a unconventional medium such as vinyl (unconventional only if you compare it with the vastness and accessibility of digital mediums). This is the beginning of aspiration although the expectation of publishing such music is not fame or fortune but the distribution of quality uncompromising music within a close knit community of likeminded vinyl lovers.
The lower end of this category and thus closer to the first category, are the individuals who press the music themselves (Press & Distribution deals with a vinyl distributor) and display no information other than a simple name and a volume number. After them, there are also the labels who provide some release info but do not spend any time on building a promotional plan. At the higher end of this spectrum are the labels who operate as the ones I just mentioned but who also have a limited promotional strategy.
Such labels are usually run by one or 2 people and the more staff you add to your operation, the more the aspirations rise as more people depend financially by the success of the release.
And, as you add staff and raise expectations, the point of singularity comes into the picture. No, I am not talking about black holes (we will cover them another time), I am talking about the point where because of rising aspirations, art starts to get diluted as it gets compromised by the need to relate to a wider consuming audience than the few hundred vinyl die hards. It's the point of art starting to become something else.......Entertainment!!!! Goodbye pure art, and hello rat race : )
The Independent Record Labels
“Yeah I love the track but it's too deep, only Ricardo and Zip will play this”
If you are a producer and hear an independent label boss mutter these words, you know you have past the point of no return for true art....I am not saying that quality music ceases to exist from now onwards but I am saying that the more you go up the ladder, the more compromises you have to endure in order to make enough money to keep the business afloat. You don't have the artistic freedom to do as you like and release the most obscure track ever if you choose to, and if you are brave enough to do so, the business will be put in jeopardy.
15 years ago and before the unbelievable rise of technology, this category was like the Underground Record Label category, as the possibilities to reach millions, instead of a few thousands, were limited due to digital releases not being developed at that time. The prospect of widening the customer/ consumer base drives a label to adapt strategies usually practiced by the majors.
These days, there are different kinds of independent labels. The ones closer to the previous category are digital-only labels who exist (for example) as a hobby for a person that has a good ear for quality music and as this is not the money earner for him/her, there is more freedom to release music they like without worrying too much about a marketing strategy. Then there are the physical & digital release independent labels who run as successful businesses and try to balance between compromising for sales and releasing quality music. And then there are the labels who aspire to become majors one day, the bigger the market they reach, the more they come closer to the doors of popular/commercial dance music.
As the potential digital market grows (and shows no signs of stopping any time soon), the lure of bigger revenues will drive a large percentage of independent labels up towards success recognition and money. It's a very simple mechanism: the more you invest in your record label business by adding staff, spending serious amounts on marketing and promotion etc, the more you have to make your sound simpler and easily digestible. And the more you think like that, the closer you come to the next category.
Welcome to co-operative dance music entertainment for the masses!!
This is a world where artistic integrity collapses into a sea of flashing cameras and where money dictates the formulas and the formulas dictate the music. The simpler the message, the more people it will reach and the more income will be generated, Gangnam style!!!
Mass media manipulation, mass production for mass consumption for the brave new world of globalised society. But even up here at the dizzy heights of success and fame, you can still find quality but it's such a small percentage that you cannot actually hear it in the midst of the formulaic cacophony of mainstream music.
I am not a hater of EDM or the commercial aspect of the industry. Yes it is much less art and much more entertainment but it's euphoric formula makes millions of people happy and that can only be a good thing. We are all different and perceive life in a different way and thank God, there is music for everybody out there!!
I hope this list and my attempt to classify a basic structure of the industry will spark a debate and in the end, we can have some kind of point of reference on what is Underground, how it connects with art and the mechanism which turns art into entertainment for the masses.
- Published on Tuesday, 13 November 2012 00:16
DJing is the new rock 'n' roll, we all know that, just look at the various superstar DJs who are making their mark on the music charts of the world and picking up a huge following in the process. EDM is akin to the grunge movement of the mid-nineties or perhaps punk in its heyday, right? As the EDM scene grows and spreads around the globe so too does the need for many fans to emulate their heroes and try to become superstar DJs. We at MEOKO are well aware of this and so, we've put together a handy 'how-to' guide for all you wannabe Guettas out there to make your way to the top... pay close attention.
MIXING: If you want to make things easy for yourself, simply do what Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta have done in the past and simply pre-record a mix then play it for your adoring fans – no one will notice and, as we all know, it's all about the show and not your prowess on the ones and twos. If you do want to make things work on a more believable level, the 21st Century's greatest invention, the sync button is the perfect way to get everything moving along. Remember, there is a lot of extra work to consider where you're DJing – synchronising the music with visual elements (like fireworks) is crucial, as well as spreading your arms like a DJ God and generally being the centre of attention are just as important – maybe more so - as the BIG TUNES you're dropping for the masses. You have to let your fans know that you're serious about your shit, a massive drop just isn't the same without some vertical fire cannons or confetti guns to accompany it (preferably both in tandem).
Also in this category: Miming, timing your dance moves, how to avoid being caught out, believing your own hype, what is vinyl?
FASHION: No self-respecting superstar should appear on the big stage without his regulation outfit. After all, how can you expect your discerning fans to take you seriously if you're not dressed in an appropriately suave, debonair manner? A timeless piece, suitable for both Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter seasons, is the low-cut V-neck top – the lower the V, the better. If they can't see your naval in the back row, then something ain't right – hit up your local Valentino store and tell them you want only the deepest cut V, ask for Ramon, he'll hook you up nice. And make sure it's extra tight-fitting. Add to that a pair of skinny jeans, or possibly even leggings, a la Steve Aoki, and you're headed in the right direction. Black is the colour of choice, though if not, go for white.
For that ultra-authentic David Guetta ensemble, look no further than his very own fashion line “F**k Me, I'm Famous” - which is comprised a range of subtle pieces from a sublime T-shirt range through to exquisitely produced items of underwear, including thongs.
Also in this category: Beaded chains, gold chains, tattoos, sunglasses, baseball cap (back to front), leather jacket.
RIDER: When you reach the top there's no more of this playing for free business, forget having your bus fare home handed over to you after a big night of dropping BIG TUNES, this is the big time and because everything is bigger you can demand a hell of a lot more than a top-up on your Oyster card. Not only are you entitled to a large fee (think six figures and nothing less) wherever you play but you can also pick up a rider – that is, the stuff promoters will lay on for you when you arrive at their venue. Just like a real-life rock star. This section is all about Steve Aoki, whose rider was leaked earlier this year... over to you Steve:
POSING: As any dedicated EDM fan will tell you, festivals and club nights are all about the DJ. So, to become that hero behind the decks you must, must, must learn how to POSE, this is crucial and a key element of being a superstar DJ. For this particular skill, you'll need a mirror and plenty of arrogance. Start by watching the scene in American Psycho where Patrick Bateman is having a threesome while watching himself in the mirror and kissing his guns, this is literally what you want to be doing while you're mixing. Running your hands through your own hair, pouting, spreading your arms out like a God, pointing at the decks (or up in the sky) as your BIG TUNES drop and generally making sure all eyes are on you - leaving some space for the epic, game-changing production around you of course... more confetti and more fire. Yes.
Also in this catoegory: Going to the gym, tight T-shirts, podium dancers, self-importance...
GIMMICKS: These days you're almost nothing without a gimmick, whether you're French (David Guetta), Dutch (Afrojack) or a lover of cheese (deadmau5), a hook is essential to keep EDM's dedicate army of music lovers interested in you. Remember, the more off the wall the better – this is nothing to do with honing your craft and everything to do with appealing to a mass audience. Think about how you might dumb down your image – would a bunny outfit work? Probably. Steve Aoki has been working his magic for quite some time now, he has a penchant for the hilarious stage dive (sometimes aided by an inflatable dinghy), although this recently landed the poor man in hospital. He also throws cakes at his audience, which is a very resourceful gimmick – feed your fans while entertaining them, genius.
Also in this category: Vertical fire cannons, glitter bombs, crowd surfing in a dinghy, the correct way to dive onto a trampoline.
HIT THE CHARTS: This is where you need to be aiming if you really want to become known all around the world for your finesse behind the decks. Making a hit song is where it's at, especially if you can collaborate with someone of equal talent. The American market is there for the taking, superstars like Rihanna, Ludacris, Madonna and J-Lo are all well aware of how big EDM is, so they're more than happy to get involved with our music and help take it to the next level. Thankfully they all understand what it means to rock a big room with BIG TUNES, so there's nothing to worry about – you'll be in good company. If you need any pointers on making a hit, just call up Dr.Luke – the man behind Britney Spears hit Hold It Against Me and a multitude of other Billboard top 10 hits. Most of his music is inspired by the hottest new sounds, dubstep, electro... it's all in there. In fact, if he took to the big stage and started rocking it on the wheels of steel, I'm sure Dr.Luke could become a superstar DJ in no time. If you're reading this Luke, take heed!
Also in this category: Not selling out, maintaining integrity, BIG TUNES, staying true to the roots.
BECOME A CELEBRITY FIRST: Ok, so maybe DJing isn't quite as easy as they make it out to be or your sync button has broken, either way you need a quick and easy route into the world of the superstar. It's simple, become a celebrity BEFORE you become a DJ. Remember, nowadays becoming famous is easy – sing up to appear on a reality show or give Jeremy Kyle a shout. As long as your face has been on the small screen for 15-minutes or more, you're a celebrity – paps will follow you everywhere and you'll be booked by plenty of the world's most refined venues to perform a DJ set. Take Danny Dyer for instance, he plays all over the UK – so does Dean Gaffney. On a global scale Paris Hilton is killing shit right now, her talent knows no bounds and DJing has become yet another string to her ever-growing bow. Kate Moss has also demonstrated her prowess on the wheels of steel, apparently she charges £250,000 per half hour – more than worth it I'm sure you'll agree.
Also in this category: Date a celebrity, Big Brother, The Only Way Is Essex, tabloid exposure, kiss and tells, page 3 girls.
CELEBRITY STATUS: When you finally make it, which hopefully with the aid of this cunning guide, you will, you'll be a bonafide celebrity just like Frank Sinatra or Elizabeth Taylor. Your talent will mean that you'll be in public eye constantly, the press will hunt you down, follow your every move and hang on your every word. Even better than that, you'll be invited to all of the hottest parties in the world – from pool parties in Vegas to private shows for the lucky offspring of multi-millionaires – you'll be living the dream. So Diddy's launching a new flavour of his Ciroc vodka? You'll be there, on the red carpet, along with his homies, Kim Kardashian and Kanye, The Situation and Pauly D, Aubrey O'Day and lots more of America's celebrity elite. A sign of just how far electronic music has come, from the streets of Chicago and Detroit to the champagne popping clubs of Las Vegas. The dream..
Also in this category: How to 'make it rain', popping champagne the correct way, groupies, posing for the paparazzi.
- Published on Tuesday, 30 October 2012 15:38
Something that's become more and more apparent as we've interviewed more and more DJs is the effect that their lifestyle can have on their health. As the global DJ culture as we know it now is still a relatively new phenomenon there isn't really much insight into the side effects of what they do. Now this may sound a little bit exagerrated in comparison to the risks taken by say, someone who works in a dangerous industrial environment, but all the same this is something that MEOKO thought would be interesting to look at.
There are many factors to a DJ's job that can have an adverse effect on their health and we thought it would be helpful to speak to an expert from the NHS to get the inside track on how touring and living life to excess can be detrimental. As much as it's an amazing job to be able to travel the world playing music to people week in, week out, there are some health implications to consider and we think everyone has a responsibility to realise this and take action where necessary.
So here it is... by no means a call to DJs to stop what they're doing, just an insightful overview of how different factors of their job can affect their health.
Lack of sleep:
Staying up late and waking up early, or not even sleeping at all for days at a time is pretty much par for the course in many circles. Whether the DJ is travelling constantly, hitting after-parties or up all night in the studio working on new music, lack of sleep is probably one of the most common problems in the DJ world. As well as the typical inability to focus, reduction in motor skills and increased irritability, lack of sleep can also lead to depression. Of course, one can become conditioned to a lack of sleep, although it's not ideal.
Jacqui Jedrzejewski, a Senior Nurse at the NHS, says: “The fatigue caused by not getting any sleep can affect your mood and create problems within your personal relationships and work environment. The average adult needs between seven to nine hours sleep per night, without this it can become difficult to function normally during the day – one can become irritable and unable to concentrate. Extreme fatigue also opens one up to danger, for instance many road traffic accidents are linked to overtired drivers. Having 10 hours sleep in bed on one night a week may not even be enough to cure the negative effects of chronic sleep restriction. Recovery from sustained sleep restriction may require even more sleep during one night or multiple nights of extended sleep. Adequate recovery sleep duration is important for coping with the effects of chronic sleep restriction on the brain."
Linked to lack of sleep – the constant touring endured by many of today's DJs can have a overriding effect on their health and state of mind. It goes without saying that travelling from one time zone to the next constantly, with little sleep, hungover or on a comedown – jet-lagged and rundown – is really not good for anyone. The short space of time spent in each location means the body never really adapts to the different time zones, leaving it in a state of limbo. But touring has become a big (and lucrative) part of DJ culture, as many of the best known names from today's generation and older stars too, get booked to play the world over.
In some cases, superstar DJs have been travelling around the globe for close to two decades. Our health expert offered some insight: “Jet lag and the effect of moving from one time zone to another can have wide-ranging effects on an individual's physical and mental wellbeing. From being simply drowsy and confused to affecting one's bowels, urine production, digestion and blood pressure. One of the best ways to at least get your body used to the new time zone you arrive in is to spend time out in the daylight, which helps to adjust your body clock a lot quicker.”
At pretty much any event a DJ attends there will be a pile of free booze laid on by the promoter who has hired them, as we all know the bigger stars can demand what they like on their very own rider. Bottles of vodka, champagne, rum, whisky, beers... whatever they like, anything to lubricate the creative process and get them amped up for the night. In this kind of environment it's very easy to get carried away and drink to excess – if this is happening more than two or three nights a week, then eventually one's health is really going to suffer. The effects of excessive drinking are well documented – liver disease being one of the most common alcohol-related illnesses.
Our health expert Jacqui Jedrzejewski says: “Men should not regularly drink more than 3 to 4 units of alcohol a day, that's equal to three bottles of regular strength beer or two double vodkas for instance. If you had a heavy drinking session, you should really avoid alcohol for 48 hours afterwards – hair of the dog may make you feel better in the short-term, you might think, but long-term it's really not a good idea. Asserting a degree of control over your alcohol consumption may not be easy, but it will benefit your health massively if you can get a handle on things.”
Although it's rarely spoken about, most people associated with dance music would quietly admit that drug use is pretty common. That's not to say that everyone that plays or listens to the music does drugs, but a large percentage do and it would be ignorant to pretend otherwise. For the purposes of this piece, I thought it would be necessary to explore every possible factor/extreme – and drug use is one of them. Constant and excessive drug use has many effects, from anxiety and paranoia through to memory problems, depression and even damage to one's internal organs.
Our NHS spokesperson adds: “The long-term effects of using recreational drugs on a regular basis include mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and paranoia. The effect on one's state of mind are increased further when combined with lack of sleep and the other factors mentioned in this piece. Physical issues include liver, kidney and heart problems – for instance, coke and amphetamines cause increased stress to the heart.”
She added: What should you do if you feel that you may have an issue with substance abuse?
l Speak up! Share your concerns with someone you trust such as your GP or a therapist who is experienced in helping people with substance abuse issues.
l Get help! If you do not know where to turn for help then a simple Internet search will help you connect you with agencies which specialise in substance abuse treatment and management.
l Act now! Addiction will worsen and become more severe over time if left untreated. In extreme addiction cases the result can be severe physical or mental health issues, or even death.
Back problems have been a common factor within the DJ world for quite some time. Going back to the days when vinyl was the only medium DJs used to play their music, carrying their record bags around to gigs of course put quite a strain on their backs. Nowadays lack of exercise, being constantly sat down on flights and being hunched over the decks also contribute to the condition of their backs. Steve Bug and Heidi are two notable sufferers of back troubles in the DJ world, among many others.
According to our expert: “Back problems are common the world over and in many different areas of employment. Life in the modern world for many means that lack of exercise and being sat in a bad position all day are commonplace. It takes very little time to build up the core muscles in one's back, simple daily exercises (which you can find online) can be executed in many locations, even while on the move. By making these exercises part of your daily routine you can work towards strengthening your back and avoiding long-term ailments.”
Another hugely common, and inevitably unavoidable consequence of the DJ lifestyle is tinnitus. From the loudness of the monitor speakers in the DJ booth, to just being in a club environment on a regular basis and, for the producers, the studio environment too. Being at such close proximity to high volumes emitting from some of the world's loudest sound systems all the time, with the added pressure on the eardrums from headphones and, occasionally, really badly EQ'd systems can leave many with ringing ears. In serious cases this becomes such an imposing problem that there is almost no alternative but to quit the music business. There is no cure for tinnitus, though it can be alleviated through sound therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.
Jacqui says: “It goes without saying that one of the most important methods of protecting one's hearing is via earplugs. In a world where your hearing is paramount, DJs must take responsibility for this by protecting their ears with the necessary implements. Working in the world they do means constant exposure to high levels of volume and they must counteract this with adequate protection.”
Lack of exercise:
Aside from bopping away behind the decks and maybe making a dash to catch their next flight, there really isn't a lot of time for exercise in the average touring DJ's day-to-day calendar. Lack of exercise can lead to the aforementioned back issues, but also a wider range of problems, from heart disease, to being overweight, lethargy and general poor health. Linked to this is a poor diet, which can also be part of a DJ's lifestyle – aside from the pre-club dinners that promoters sometimes organise, the poor food on offer at airports/on planes and other fast food outlets and so on means that they often miss out on the good nutrition of a healthy diet.
Our health expert says: “Exercise and eating well are two of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Though many people lead a very busy lifestyle, DJs in particular, it's not actually that difficult to squeeze in 10-minutes of exercise into one's daily routine. This can be hugely beneficial, especially when on the road constantly. Likewise, eating well and having a balanced diet - including lots of fruit and vegetables – is also not as difficult as you might imagine, it's all about being more aware of what you eat and trying to avoid fatty, unhealthy meals.”
Depression/stress of fame:
Life on the road isn't always one big party from beginning to end, often DJs end up in their hotel rooms isolated and alone. They can become isolated from friends who don't understand the life they lead, or the breakdown of personal relationships through long distance/always being away from each other and, with the combined effects of many of the factors already discussed in this piece, can sometimes end up suffering from depression. Likewise the pressure of fame, being constantly in the public eye or in demand from fans can provoke anxiety and stress.
Jacqui says: “The effects of depression range from lasting feelings of sadness and hopelessness to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling tearful or on edge constantly. Becoming isolated from friends, or the world in general and feeling alone or misunderstood can quickly lead to depression. There can be physical symptoms too - such as feeling constantly tired, insomnia, having no appetite or sex drive and complaining of various aches and pains.”
As I said before, the lifestyle of a DJ is a dream come true for many, and many don't live their lives too excessively either. The aim of this piece was simply to look at some of the health issues that can arise from this life they lead and, hopefully, help some of them to avoid serious long-term repercussions.
By Marcus Barnes