FOREWORD FROM MARK SETTLE
From time to time, we like to post editorials designed to challenge conventional thinking, and to stimulate discussion. They’re often written from the hip in reaction to something we’ve seen in our assorted timelines, and other times they’re considered cumulative feelings summed up in a single thought piece.
What we have here is an article written by a DJ about their craft, and how they perceive it being held back by slavish adherence to the old ways and long established paradigms. It is articulate and passionate, thus contains some salty language that while uncharacteristic for DJWORX, is perfectly in-context for the tone of the subject. Don’t worry — it doesn’t signal a change in style for us. We won’t be routinely effing and jeffing our way through press releases as the norm, but for this piece and others like it, we’re perfectly happy for the full uncensored version to appear.
I’ll also close this with a disclaimer — all manner of opinions appear on DJWORX, both from us and from you. We actively encourage this, but that doesn’t mean that we have to agree, but they’re generally worth reading and thinking about. Thus the opinions expressed in this piece are not necessarily those of everyone at DJWORX, or indeed you.
And for balance, if someone wants to write a piece about how vinyl is saving DJing, or how the two turntables and a mixer metaphor is the only way to play music to a crowd, we’ll happily take a look.
Anyway, on with the piece.
DJing is dead, and vinyl is what killed it
Not a popular opinion I know. When I think about a DJ, I’m supposed to think about guys wearing Adidas scratching wicki wicki on Technics 1200s and a mixer. Sorry, but I can’t do it. When I think about driving a car, I don’t think about using a hand crank to start it, or driving around on big ass wagon wheels. I think about pressing a button to start it, engaging insane mode, and going from 0 to 60 in less time than it took you to read this sentence.
Our lives are full of technology, and have been for a very long time. I carry a little slab in my pocket, smaller than a paperback book, which has more processing power than the desktop computer I owned 6 years ago. My alarm clock connects to the internet. All I have to do to get an answer to anything is to start my question with the words “Hey Siri.” I’m connected to everyone, all the time. The idea of big movie studios or major record labels seems stupid to me now. Who needs them? I can reach more people with an interesting YouTube video than a big label can if they took 6 months and spent $500K.
So yay, technology is awesome. How does that turn into vinyl killing DJing? The antiquated idea of DJing is so iconic that it’s kept the industry as a whole from moving forward. I’ve never seen this in any other business. It’s not like there are still people that won’t drive a car because it doesn’t have a horse out in front of it. But it’s been 10 years since computers have become totally accepted in the DJ booth and there are still people asking for stupid platters and complaining about sync. Companies that make equipment are scared of anything that doesn’t stick to this old idea of DJing. Software developers are still taking up UI with fucking spinning circles even though there are a TON of DJs out there now that have never touched a vinyl record, and never will. They don’t care about vinyl. They don’t scratch. They don’t want to – just like they don’t want to break out a harpsichord and play a fugue (or wear an itchy white wig).
When you look in other areas of production, this mentality doesn’t exist. I don’t have to check alignment and bias on Logic Pro before I record. When I load Padshop Pro into a session, it doesn’t detune based on the ambient temperature in the room. When I want to edit a sample, I’m not presented with an on-screen virtual cutting block and razor blade. And if a software developer decides to incorporate that kind of interface into their software (like Reason) no one recommends I start using it so I can “keep it real”. Why is it that the DJ products industry never learned to leave that shit behind?
I think it’s because the people making the decisions are either too old to understand how things can be different now, or they’re too sheepish to do something modern and original. And that’s fucking things up for everyone that might be interested in something new, and likely better. Why is my only real choice right now for some kind of alternative way of working in the “DJ idiom” a program put out by a company that very obviously looks down on DJs (I’m talking about you, Ableton)? It seems like the mentality out there is that DJs are too stupid for full blown live production solutions. And guess where that idea comes from? It comes from the mouth-breathing DJ masses that refuse to understand even the simplest of concepts (like gain staging) – let alone side chaining and MIDI clock. Got 2 turntables and an “Awww Fresh” sample? Great, you’re a DJ and you’ve progressed as far as you’ll ever get. Well I’m not cool with that.
And manufacturers, instead of sticking your head in the sand and pretending it’s still 2003, why don’t you try and figure out the next big thing? Everything is so homogeneous now it makes me sick. What program is that guy using? I don’t know, because they’re all the fucking same now. Oh look, there’s another controller that’s pretending its 2 turntables and a mixer – how original! I would tell you guys to just wait until someone else breaks out a new and original product so you can copy it, but it looks like you’re all on the same page now. You know what happens when no one decides to hang their dick out there and do something different? Nothing. And I get it, the DJ business is scary now and the money isn’t what it was before. You know why? Because it’s been almost 10 years since most of you took a chance and did something new. Now everyone’s busy chasing Pioneer or Native. Here’s a news flash. You’re NEVER going to out Pioneer Pioneer, so stop trying. Instead, why aren’t you trying to figure out something new that you can totally own? I hope you guys learn that fact soon, because NO ONE needs another MC-NSXDJMixBeatControl4.
I don’t think that the world would be a better place without old school DJs. Quite the opposite, actually. I appreciate the history of DJing, and acknowledge the contributions made. I also don’t hate on anyone that still wants to DJ with 2 turntables. That’s what you want to do, and I’m fine with that. But I don’t understand why everyone else has to conform to your idea of DJing. I think it’s old and outdated, and I want no part of it. When I think about where we would be if the DJ industry as a whole hadn’t followed the luddites for the last 10 years and instead fully embraced new technology as it became available to us, it makes me sad. I look at DJing as a whole right now and it makes me sad. DJs don’t have to be like guitarists or drummers. We don’t have to be shackled by our instruments, because what we do is an idea. We don’t have to be defined by a piece of equipment. We’re here to make people dance. We’re modern day shaman, and we can grow and evolve. I just wish more people understood that.