Adam's Links


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Dj competition...
This is long. Skip it, I'm ranting. But if you're interested in a technical breakdown of a live mixset done on 3 hours sleep, read on!

Well, I came 3rd, and got through to the next heat.

Let's talk about the competition a little here; there were 4 DJs, each of which had to play a set on 2 record decks, between 10 and 20 minutes in length. Being a veteran of these competitions, I brought along an alarm with big red LCD numbers, to ensure I didn't get only 17 of my allotted 20 minutes.

So, we turn up early, before the people running the event, and get comfy. When the promoters finally turned up, I negotiated recording the event ("We can't let you due to legal reasons mate"). If I got permission from the DJs to record, that was fine, and, unsuprisingly, all of the DJs were perfectly happy to let me; why wouldn't they be?

I went over to the judges, and decided to see what I could find out - they stressed that the most important thing was being different, being original, being imaginative. "Oh yeah", I thought, "I'm sorted." They made it clear that music style wasn't at all important, just what I did, how I did it, and how well.

The setup was quite good... there was a video camera pointing at the decks, hooked up to some plasma screens on the wall, so every trick and move I did could be seen.

So, suprise suprise, I'm up first. I hate being first, in some ways. Everyone isn't nearly drunk enough, it's not dark, the bar isn't full. On the other hand, I've thoroughly enjoyed going first, then seeing other Dj's faces as they come up to me and go 'How the bloody hell am I supposed to follow THAT?'

So I nip off and get changed. Usual DJ compo get-up for me, bright white trousers, obscenely memorable top (BRIGHT red, with pills all over it, and 'E' ('X' to you Americans) on the sleeves), and glowsticks wrapped around my wrists, hidden under my coat.

Plug the alarm clock in, and get ready.

Lemme break down my set for you, with a quick description:

1.In Effect (old skool hardcore)
2.Champion Sound (oldskool DNB)
3.Bits and Pieces (hard house)
4.Harder, Faster, Stronger (dj tool!)
5.John Peel is Not Enough (freeform)
6.Forever Together (happycore)
7.Air Head (bouncy techno)
8.Fugees or Not? (jump up dnb)
9.Shooting Star (happy hardcore)
10.Boomstick (gabbbber)

So, I start off with In Effect. This is a great, crunchy old skool hardcore tune, in glorious 8bit 11khz stereo. I brought my first slice across from Champion Sound 35 seconds THIRTY FIVE SECOND. The mix was in full swing in 50 seconds, and was gone in just over a minute. That's fast, REALLY fast, it was clean, it was a good mix. 23 seconds later, I brought in the beats from Bits and Pieces. This is a very different style of tune to Champion Sound, it's proper hoover-style hardhouse. Hands up here, when the actual mix came in, it wasn't as tight as it should have been, and I really struggled to keep it together; I was FAR too heavy handed with trying to keep it there. Quick spinback, and I'm into the break of Bits and Pieces.

The beat kicks back in, I start matching, I bring across a slice FIVE SECONDS later! A nice 25 second mix, and I'm into Harder, Faster, Stronger. This tune is very unusual, it changestempo from 140bpm to 175bpm!

So, the tempo's changed, there's a HUGE difference in the feel of the set suddenly. The first beat at the new tempo kicks in, I start matching, and 11 seconds later (!) I bring in the first slice, themix settling into constant at about 24 seconds.

Just to give you an idea, most DJs you hear will bring that in 4-6 minutes later.

Couple of mismatched beats on the mix, but it was fairly tight. Just to recap - we're just over 5 minutes into the set, and I'm on my FIFTH tune - most of the other DJs only played 5 tunes in the entire allowed 20 minutes.

John Peel is not Enough is a great tune, it's to support hard dance on the radio, how NO-ONE plays anything above 145 bpm, despite the huge following these 40-50 styles of music have!

A few scratched kickdrums, and John Peel kicks off into the main break, then the beats. 45 seconds of mixing later, and we're into the first cheesy tune, 'Forever Together'

You can hear me scratch in the intro once the record's on the deck, and the speeds are matched 14 seconds later. FOURTEEN BLOODY SECONDS LATER!!!

Now, this is one of my trademark mixes... we've had 5 tunes in 5 minutes, now let's go to the other extreme. This mix is 1 minute 48 seconds long - just shy of 10% of my entire set. There were 48 crossfader cuts during that time, too. Count 'em!

5 Seconds after the beats kick back in, I bring across from snares from Fugees or Not? This tune is a classic drum'n'bass tune, no kick drums, written in an afternoon by Dj Zinc. A huge anthem, well loved. A slightly flat mix (AirHead has an incredible amount more energy than FoN?, making it tricky!), but nothing untoward. The judges are clearly loving this tune, I can see them out the corner of my eye!

As FoN? builds towards its first break, I match and brings some beats in, and spinback. So, nearly there now! The kickass rolling break in Fon? starts, and it's a dnb tune, backed by 4/4 hardcore beats! Again, this mix was slightly woolly, but it was reasonably tight. Lots of x-fader chopping, and we're into Shooting Star.

This tune is huge, it's loved by so many people, and it's been an anthem for years. I do my best attempt at scratching over it, let it play through, the turn the deck off, as I have a couple of minutes left. I grab Scott Brown's 'Boomstick'... this is a fast (190bpm+ at +0%) gabber tune, it's LOUD, it's EVIL, it's so far removed from the first tunes I played that it's unreal.

I do my best to scratch at gabber speeds, let it play through, and stand back. I'm done. I've built from 130bpm to nearly 200bpm over 20 minutes, I've played, on average one tune every 2 minutes, I scratched, I did spinbacks, cutting, I used the x-fader and levels, I adjusted EQs to emphasis the punch in the mix. I made 2 fuckups, but overall, it's one of the better mixes I've done. I'm happy, I shake the hand, grab my stuff, wish the next Dj luck, and sit back down, all knackered.

Dj Subliminal

He played DNB. Mixing was overall tight. No scratching, no tricks, no anthems. Little set building over the 20 minutes, but some there. Stopped when the promoter pointed out that he was out of time.

Dj Tom

Uhm. Not entirely sure about this. No set building. No tricks, scratching or anthems. End of set the same as the first. Again, not a planned set, just grabbed what he wanted, and stopped when he ran out of time. Mixing was fair. He got maybe 6 tunes in?

Dj Olly

A friend of Dj Tom (Tom borrowing Olly's records!), he played exactly the same style as Tom. Some early tricks, mixing over breaks, a spinback or two. No scratching. No anthems. No building. Ran out of time and had to be stopped, and stood there looking lost.

None of the DJs did a single bit of scratching, played any anthems, worked the 'crowd' OR changed styles during their mix.

So, the promoter stands up to give the awards out.

"Dj's olly, tom and XXX YYYY go through!"

He said my name. my NAME? my FULLNAME? I'm on STAGE ffs, I'm projecting a persona up there! I dont want my fucking NAME there, how the hell are people supposed to know and remember me?

So, ok, I'm through, I go up to collect the recording I made, and chat with the judges. I asked to see my score sheet, and was told that I couldn't, with the judge having this amazingly smug, self-satisfied grin on his face. Alarm bells are ringing here. I explained that I wanted to know where I had gone wrong, where my weaknesses were, how I could improve my performance for the next heat. All he would say is that I got 48 out of a possible 90, and that I came third, and the #1 dj got 51.

So I'm like, er, hold on a sec here...

3 of the categories (which I can assume were worth 5-15 points each) were techniques (scratching, etc) - they all HAD to get zero for that, Crowd response (there were maybe 15 people there, and there was no crowd response for anyone, really... listen carefully and you can hear people cheering after my name, but no-one elses, and 'imagination'

What... imagination? They didn't show any. None. None of them. Not at all. NONE. I made 2 screwups on the mixing, but overall I did fucking fantastically.

The sets are available if you ask nicely, and I would love some totally unbiased criticism on this.

Oh yes.. just one more thing.

Dj Tom is obviously a good friend of Dj Olly. They shared records and set.

Dj Olly is a good friend of the promoters, the judges, and the record shop sponsoring the event.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions.
posted by A 3:36 PM

Thursday, July 15, 2004


posted by A 2:55 PM