Monday, 16 March 2015

A Lesson In DJing With One Deck

I was ridiculously busy on Saturday.  Housework, studying, watching football, 2 hours of ironing, 2 hours helping my best friend move her stuff – lots of heavy lifting.  It got to 7pm and I was shattered, and still hadn’t had a practice mix.  I had no idea what I was going to play.  And then I fell asleep.

When I awoke, post disco-nap, I did my usual slightly nervous thing, finding any excuse not to go anywhere near my decks until I eventually forced myself, poured myself a glass of wine and pressed play.  I was absolutely on fire.  That practice hour was probably the best I have ever mixed – I was playing quite tough, kind of tech-house but tracks with personality.  My mixing was really good and my timing was spot on every time – plenty of invention too.

Then I arrived at the club and it was dead.  It soon became apparent that one of the decks outside was not working.  I resigned myself to not playing, got a drink and chatted to a few friends.

The DJ before me had given up but I decided to give it a crack anyway.  The right-side deck in the garden has long had problems of a sticky play button – but now it was totally unplayable.

So all I could do was play a few tracks and fade them in and out.  I tried a few different things before settling on disco – it made more sense as disco music is not quite so designed for mixing, and it has good musicality.

It didn’t really get much busier and the night ended early.  I waived my 4-figure DJ fee.  I doubt the headliner did.

Why was the night so quiet?

I don’t think it was the music.  Eli & Fur were a good booking, they should have appealed to those in Reading that go out clubbing.  There was no lack of effort in promoting the event.  External factors may not have helped – the Annie Mac night is possibly overshadowing other events in the town at the moment, the weather was cold and it was Mother’s Day the next day.  Town did seem quieter than other Saturdays.

However I think the problem itself is, I’m afraid to say, Zeus.

Personally I quite like the club.  It is one of the few places in Reading where promoters can run events that are not common-denominator banality music-wise.  Indoor has one of the better sound systems in Reading.  The garden is a good place to be during the summer.  I always have fun there.

But most of my friends don’t like it.  When I tell people that I’m playing at the Purple Turtle, they are interested and persuadable.  Tell people that I’m playing Zeus and they turn their noses up.  There isn’t much I can do to persuade people to come and see me DJ at Zeus.

Zeus does now have a lot of competition in the area from venues that people might go to instead – RYND, Purple Turtle, Sub89 (at least for Cubed nights), Coconut, Oakford, Milk, you could probably add Matchbox, Revolution and the new place, Treehouse, to that list too.  Several of those are new places, or newly refurbished places, and people always like the feeling of going somewhere new.  And clean.  Even the Oakford is rumoured to be getting a refurbishment this year.

Those places also look a lot better than Zeus.  To me, how a club looks is the least important factor.  But I’ve lived in Reading long enough, to know that people in this area like things that look nice.  Zeus looks tacky inside and a cross between a sauna and a bin shed outside.

Without a refurbishment and a relaunch, I don’t see how the house music type of crowd will start flowing back.  Zeus could concentrate on the drum’n’bass kind of side which is popular in the town and not very well catered for.

Or it could have a proper re-design, take out all the tacky elements in the main room, lower the DJ booth to the ground so the crowd can interact with the DJs without straining their necks, paint the outside, remove the weeds from the roof, perhaps expose the brickwork inside like RYND have done – you could even have some eye-catching edgy art on the outside – make it talked about.  The garden should be turned back into a welcoming garden – with the heaters switched on during winter, a clear and crisp soundsystem and decks that work.  And the name needs to change – who the hell dreamt up the name “Zeus”?

The space itself has plenty of potential – those of us that have been around for a while know that it was “the place” during the Mango days.  It might seem that I am being overly critical but it is only because I care and I want to see that venue do well.

Next up for me is the Purple Turtle on Friday night.

I’m playing midnight until 130am and will be playing good quality house music.  Perhaps getting a little techier towards the end.  And all the equipment works there.  It feels good, there will be a good little crowd of us and if you hate the music I play then you can always go in the garden or upstairs.

Come down and join us.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Knowing Your DJ Set Times In Advance

There are some annoying things about DJing.

Actually.  Let's get this right, there are some annoying things about promoters.

Firstly, I want to know what my set time is in advance.  I can perhaps understand if you are booking several international jet-setting DJs and are juggling around flight times, etc or their agents are being a pain in the arse, but if you are doing a local night in Reading there is no excuse for telling your DJs the night before, what time they are playing.

Of course some DJs will just play the same set no matter what time they are booked.  Some DJs have their pre-planned and practiced set that they will not change no matter what.

I like to think about my sets well in advance.  I am sat here at my desk all day, listening to music and constantly coming up with ideas of tracks to play.  This applies to all of my life as I am rarely without music.  I am always thinking about what to play.

I don't plan my sets in detail but I do like to have a pool of tracks in my head that excite me, that I want to play and that I think might fit the moments.

The second thing that annoys me is short DJ sets.

It was fine when I was first starting out and nervous to be playing, to be playing just an hour.  But unless you are just bashing out the big tunes, then an hour isn't enough with the kind of music I play.

I have seen some promoters, two particular ones who are two individuals that I really like as people, offer 45 minute DJ sets.  How the hell can you create and perform your musical vision in just 45 minutes?  What do the crowd think about having such a schizophrenic line-up?

We all know why they do it, I am not exactly letting go of a secret here but the more DJs you book, the more people you have in the club as they will all do your promoting for you, at minimum by bringing their friends.  At least that is the theory.  I'm not sure it works - I promote more when I feel special.

I am a DJ.  Not a promoter.

I now refuse to play for less than an hour and a half.  If I am going to DJ then it has to be something special - I'm not interested in the merry-go-round.  I have to be able to do create something artistic - at least in my brain.

Thankfully I am working on a regular basis for two promoters that are well-organised and running decent nights with set times advised well in advance and where I can play for longer than an hour.

This coming Saturday 14th March, and then Friday 20th March.

Please come.

I think that is my promoting duty done.