Every few months, some hoo-hah blows up when a venue or promoter stomps their feet in a hissy fit and declares they “don’t want to see a controller/laptop/whatever in their booth” or that real DJs should know how to use CDJs or GTFO. Some quarters of the scene nod their heads in agreement, yell “PREACH” and continue to draw stick figures on the walls of their caves with their own faeces.
But one club night (Liquid Sky Berlin) has decided to buck that archaic trend by embracing the diversity of [native..?] instruments that we, as DJs and electronic music performers, have at our disposal by kicking media players and turntables from their booth.
A good thing
Speaking as a someone who runs a night, I know full well the hassle of limited space for your space shuttle controls, but we’ve always done our best to accommodate the needs of DJs and artists that come to perform. We even sacrificed the shape of the dance floor to make use of a long bench for our equipment.
Looking at booths in the mainstream however, there will always be the bulk of DJs that are happy to use the house setup, sticking a USB drive in and mixing from A-to-B, and that’s fine. Some of my best friends mix from A-to-B. But there’s a definite culture of hostility towards anyone that dares to stray from the expected norm, that either makes you completely unwelcome, or forced into established conventions.
Here’s a scenario for you:
You’re in your late teens, you’ve been in a band with friends for a couple of years, and finally get offered your first gig at some dive in town. You’re all excited, and on the day, you duly pack up your beat up old van with your worn out drums, guitars, harmonica, mics, amps, kazoo, etc. You get to the venue early, nerves twisting your insides, grab a pint at the bar, when the manager comes out and says “I’m afraid there’s no room, so you’ll have to use the house instruments”. Your heart sinks, while your guts fly into orbit. You weren’t expecting this! Can you even get this old crap working?
But don’t worry, that’s almost never going to happen. Bands are expected to bring their own gear. In fact, they’ll want their own gear, since it’s what they know.
And with such a wide range of equipment available to DJs, shouldn’t we be able to bring our own gear too? Of course, there’s no harm in learning a wide range of gear, but your instruments were tuned by you. This is actually something I ran into at BPM over this week: Denon DJ gleefully let me step onto their stage to do a set on the Prime setup. I had my USB key. All my preferences, music, playlists were ready and waiting, but when I got up there, I realised: The mixer preferences I’d spent a couple of weeks tweaking don’t get transferred! It’s just enough confusion to throw you off your game slightly.
I’ve come to realise that this hostility is partly why people are a bit ashamed to bring their all-in-one controller to a gig, opting for the house CDJs, even though they might not be as comfortable for them to use. We are literally conditioned to be off our A-game by this obsessive culture of only letting certain gear be considered professional.
So I say “well done” to this small Berlin event, for setting a precedent and making the wider range of new DJ tools completely welcome. Maybe they’ll even have room for Ray’s setup, one day.