Being vinyl only and covering multiple genres brings its own issues and demands. Firstly, obviously, I can only carry so much vinyl, and my usual set is between 3 ½ to 4 hours long. Prior to the night generally I won’t know what sort of crowd will be in. Not being a commercial DJ and not taking 2000 tracks with me on a memory stick means I need to think long and hard about my two boxes of records, which carry about 70 12”s each. Each tune will gives around 4-5 minutes play time plus anything from 5 to 60 seconds being in the mix.
The majority of my night will encompass house and its many forms, given that house music is now over thirty years old and has sprung numerous offshoots this gives me a wide spectrum to work across and I have carte blanche to take the music in any direction. The house tracks I take will run from mid 80’s up to present day, I’ll also maybe squeeze in some 80’s disco, electro, soul and funk, but once into the house vibe I’ll play everything from acid house, Balearic sun kissed sounds, club classics, warehouse and rave, through to big beat, progressive sounds and trance classics.
Musically I like to play lesser known sounds to people, mixed in with recognisable classics. I’ve always said cool but accessible, obscure but not pretentious, but I don’t do Top 40 and to be frank I don’t follow commercial sounds at all as there are a million DJs to cater for that – but it isn’t for me.
Warming things up at around 100bpm I’ll up the pace through the night to about 127bpm with what I see as some logical selections for the next track to a few surprises once I’ve gauged the response to a few tunes and get an idea as to where I can take it and as to how far I can push the envelope.
I get asked sometimes how I decide what to play next and reading the crowd is an expression you’ll hear many DJs discuss as an essential key skill. Once a dancefloor gets going you obviously look for responses in terms of energy levels and facial expressions and you want to maintain the enthusiasm of the crowd and keep those faces smiling, so the best way I’ve found to put it in words for a complete novice is break a track down into two elements, the beats/riffs and the melody/vocals. Sometimes a vocal track will get everyone going but an instrumental version does not have the same effect – the vocals create the energy – other times it’s serious beats and riffs that make a dancefloor bounce and vocal elements are not in call here, so keep working with tracks with strong beats and drum programming in the production. If you go off in one direction and the energy/smiles drop then make the next track a vocal. A simplified version of this as there’s many facets to this, but it’s a start. Are pianos doing it, a bit of a rap, etc. then move that direction.
A quick tangent here but a great example of this is Black Legend – Trouble With Me. Now this is a bootleg track utilising an early 90’s underground techno track House of God by DHS, with of course the lush vocals and breakdown from the walrus of love Barry White. Now this track goes down a bomb whenever it’s dropped but many wouldn’t care for the beats if there was no Barry. If I were in the middle of an old school rave vibe and dropping FSOL, Jaydee, Move Your Body etc. then a crowd into this would usually prefer the original techno track and would see the later bootleg as a commercial watered down crossover.
Currently though the regular venue I play at is an upmarket bar/gastro pub with a late licence and a good sound system. The clientele are anything from cool and hip, (Is that even a cool/hip thing to say these days?), early 20s through to mid-50s and occasionally older. Now it’s no good at all me playing my tunes, in any order, regardless of who’s in attendance, so I need to keep a few tunes in the box to work towards make tracks palatable to some who may not be agree-able to dropping French Kiss straight in. Now here’s one of the tough bits, using sounds to take people to sounds they didn’t think they’d like purely because you’ve put them in context using an aural soundscape. Basically this means taking a more accessible sound bit by bit into a more off the beaten track vibe by musical transition.
Generally at a venue such as this nights where people get up and have a dance are about one in three so your cues for where you take the sound next are much more subtle. Tapping feet, nodding heads, smiles of recognition, sometimes people don’t even realise they’re doing it, these are the visual tells to your next sound. That and also the number of people who come up to me and say they’re loving/loved the sounds I’ve played that night and the fact that I keep getting booked to come back again and again!
Below is a track list from my night I played on Friday 8th June at The Mulberry in Farnham to hopefully demonstrate some of the aspects mentioned above. You may recognise a few.
- Electra – Destiny
- Tim ‘Love Lee’ – One Night Samba
- Finnebassen – Baby (Ron Basejam Remix)
- COEO – Pajama Stomp
- Culture Beat – Der Erdbeermund (Instrumental)
- Sueño Latino – Sueño Latino (The Latin Dream Mix)
- Faze Action – Samba (Scat Dub)
- Saint Etienne – Rose Rouge
- Dionne – Come On And Get My Lovin’
- Black Box – Ride On Time
- Inner City – Big Fun
- Orr-Some – We Can Make It
- Todd Terje – Inspector Norse
- Street Corner Symphony – Symphonic Tonic
- Ron Hall & The MuthaFunkaz Featuring Marc Evans – The Way You Love Me
- Nu Yorican Soul – It’s Alright, I Feel It! (M.A.W Alternative 12″)
- Black Science Orchestra – New Jersey Deep
- DJ Spun – Love Will Save The Day
- Alcatraz – Give Me Love
- Mone – Movin
- D-Rail – Bring It On Down
- Xpansions – Move Your Body
- Todd Terry Project – Weekend
- D-Mob – We Call It Acieeed
- Inner City – Good Life
- Gusto – Disco’s Revenge
- Supereal – Body Medusa (The Leftfield Remix)
- Delta Lady – Anything You Want (The Delta Belter Vocal Symphony)
- Ame – Rej (A Hundred Birds Remix)
- Satoshi Tomiie – Love In Traffic (John Creamer & Stephane K Remix)
- Remake – Theme From Bladerunner
- Mory Kante – Yeke Yeke (Hardfloor Remix)
- Goldtrix – I’m Trippin’
- Da Techno Bohemian – Bangin’ Bass
- Lucky Stars – Be There At Midnight
- Aaren San – Osclownyzz (Blende Remix)
- Felix Da Housecat – Silver Screen Shower Scene
- Dennis Ferrer – Hey Hey
- Josh Wink/Public Enemy – Bring The Higher States
- Ben Burns & Serge Santiágo – The Crowd Seem To… (Burn’s Move Right Mix)
- Kirk DeGiorgio Presents Esoterik – Starwaves
- Shur-i-kan – Living Inside (Mike Monday Remix)
- Sander Kleinenberg – My Lexicon
- Energy 52 – Café Del Mar (Original Three ‘N One Mix)
So as you can I’ve journeyed through acid house, rave, garage, progressive, electro, trance, tech house, Italo House, Balearic, Broken Beats, Balearic, disco and jazz house flavours. On other weeks there will be more funk and soul, other nights more rave, depends on the weather 🙂