Last month, Guardian columnist Emma Freud took to Twitter to ask a simple question — “what is your biggest regret?”. Back came an outpouring of emotional depth that she hadn’t expected. This in turn made me examine my life (I have no regrets in this respect), but more importantly my DJ life. Do I have any regrets with my DJ career?
I’m a believer in the maxim of life is what you make it. And the deliberate choices I’ve made over the years have got me to a pretty remarkable point, one where I continue to pinch myself at the position I find myself in within this world we call DJ. So I had to dig deep to really discover things that I feel remorseful about. So to get the ball rolling, here goes:
I never finished that Acid House album and gave away a TB-303 — well more accurately I never got as far to where finishing was in sight. All I know is that even in their unfinished decidedly non-producer state, the tracks I’d done were absolute bangers, and such fun to make too.
Those 4 track recordings are long gone, and while I can get Roland gear all over again, but it won’t be the same. I’ve learned many things over the years, but one is not to try to recapture the past. I could restart skratchworx all over again to capitalise on the portablist scene, but that’s just looking back. It was great, but now new challenges await.
But having written this and read it back, it’s clear that there’s not point regretting it at all. I could recreate it, but it wouldn’t change anything, nor I suspect would having actually finishing it in the first place either.
I haven’t done a decent mix in years — specifically it’s not that I can’t, I just don’t. There’s a particular moment last year when it all culminated in the realisation that in my role as arbiter of DJ technology, I haven’t been much of a DJ at all. And despite the constant churn of technology passing through and subsequent flow of content, the amount of actual DJing I do is pretty minimal, to the point that I probably haven’t done anything resembling a mix of more than a few tracks in literally years.
What was that moment? Fellow DJWORXer Ray came to BPM 2016, and at the same time stayed over to see the new Worxlab. One evening, we had a cook-off at my house, and while I was prepping my dish, Ray had disappeared into the original skratchlab (just off the kitchen) to play with my gear. I’d put on my Spotify favourites (a meander through all manner of genres over the years), and Ray decided to play with some vinyl I’d just bought, mixing in some new Acid house with whatever was playing on Spotify at the time.
He disappeared upstairs, leaving me alone with simmering food and some good music. So I stepped up, and without the pretext of pushing gear through the reviews machine, simply mixed. It wasn’t for long, as I could feel Ray’s presence getting ever closer. But it was enough to make me realise that I couldn’t remember that last time I’d actually DJed for fun. Sure, I’ll stand and scratch for a while, but that’s just a small part of who I am as a DJ.
Even writing this and sharing it with you gets me quite emotional. The realisation that I haven’t performed a single set in almost 15 years of skratchworx and DJWORX is quite profound. Given my profile, you’d think that it’s all I do. But running a website about DJ gear is not the same as DJing. I’m so focussed on the technicalities of gear that I’ve lost sight of the reasons why I ever became a DJ. Moral of this story — don’t get caught up in the gear. It’s all about the music.
Luckily I’ve realised this before it’s too late, and is a regret I can fix. I’m slowly stocking up on music that I missed out on (’90 onward) and plan to lock myself away from time to time and simply have fun. And I’ll use my own tried and trust setup to do it as well. I expect it’s easy to go down the reviewer rabbit hole and focus on things I don’t like on review gear, rather than get lost in the music moment. One thing is certain — I’m sure as hell not playing out again. Stepping up to decks in front of people is hard, especially when surrounded by some amazing talent in the team. Perhaps the odd mixtape though, but don’t hold your breath. I only ever DJed for me anyway.
For me, it’s not what I didn’t do, but more about what I have yet to do. I have an unwritten bucket list of things I’d like to achieve (pressing vinyl and cutting my own are ticked). But I’m focussed on making sure that I do the things I’ve been wanting to do for a few years now. I’d hate to look back in another 15 years writing another article lamenting not doing the things I truly wanted to.
Carpe diem my friends, which is of course Latin for compact disc.
BUT WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Feel free to use this moment as a cathartic release. It doesn’t have to be a deep as my fundamental self realisation. Did you miss out on a killer gear deal? Did you do something that killed a dance floor and your career? Perhaps you stopped DJing and wish you hadn’t sold your gear and vinyl. Whatever it is, feel free to unload. Nobody will judge you or laugh, although expect the odd Picard facepalm.