My "dj Mom" aka Lady Factual, aka Dr. Dakar, aka published author Ali Neff, generously taught me how to dj in the style of the Bay area turntablist group, The Red Wine Society. I started a bi-monthly gig at The Federal in Durham which was set up by my friend Amy. I got to play tons of records there during my sets and I was able to try mixing random genres together. It was during the great Journey revival. I was trying to bring it back the the arena rock at every chance, half ironically and half in seriousness; the lyrics to "Separate Ways" are really quite ressonant to anyone who has had to let go of love. And who hasn't? At bar gigs, a dj is not expected to keep a dance party moving. One can explore songs for what they are lyrically or musically. I honed, or "Honered," many of my mixing skills during my stint at The Federal. And the 2am whiskey-induced, metal-dude Jane Fonda workouts were divine.
Last weekend, I tried out getting back to my Durham bar roots at Bull McCabes, again hooked up by Amy. (Thanks buddy!) I packed new wave, indie/electronic, and old school hip-hop. They set up the dj on the end of the bar and the super-cool manager came out to tell me to unleash the hounds of hell on anyone who messed with my equipment. I didn't have to unchain the dogs, with one exception. Amy, sitting next to me for much of my set, had intercepted some questions from 2 middle-aged white men at the corner of the bar. Amy relayed to me, "This guy wants to know what you are doing when you are moving the records around. He says he can't hear what you are doing and why aren't you just using a computer....I think he's talking shit." I told her to tell him I was beatmatching. He proceeded to tap his finger on the bar near me while I transitioned...a cross-fade, and not beatmatched. "It wasn't beatmatched," he shouted, "Why is she doing it?" I put my headphones down and asked if HE would like to try. He shied under my confrontation and continued to speak loudly to his friends about how he had "pissed off the dj." And yes, he had, and now he even has a blog dedicated to his d-bagginess.
1. Bull McCabes has a regular set of dudes who dj. Was this guy speaking up because of my gender and his uneasiness about a woman in a typically male position?
2. I'm used to fielding comments as I dj, and of course ridiculous requests (Dixie Chicks, Wilson Phillips) -- sometimes amusing, sometimes annoying, sometimes inspiring -- but i had forgotten about this particular kind of confrontation based largely on my gender.
3. If you put Baby in a Corner, she's gonna fight back, and with beats! I felt like i had to prove myself (really???), my beatmatching ability (to some dude who is clueless about dj culture), and my initial anger faded into challenging myself to make matches I hadn't before. So, i extend gratitude to you, d-baggy dude. I hope you find something to make you happy in life so you don't keep negging out your bartenders and bar-folk.
4. The negative can either bring you down, or it makes all the other nice people in the world shine a little brighter. I'm aiming for the latter.
It was good to be back in Durham. Special thanks to the guy who knew all the lyrics to "Flava in ya ear." I'm looking forward to 4th Saturdays on the decks/on the bar.
I can't get everything on vinyl.
My bf, a long-time proponent of Native Instuments, suggested that I learn Traktor. He installed it on my computer for me. 2 years ago. I largely ignored it for most of that time. I started to play with it after my DJ "Wonder Twin," Scotty Rock (of the World Famous Butta Team) literally threw me onto his Serrato Scratch Live setup at the beginning of one of his gigs. I took to it quickly and he just left me there weeding through his massive mp3 collection. It finally made sense to me since I had the visceral experience of touching the record to control the digital information. I made a jump.
Since then, I've re-realized my passion for making beats. I have a bunch of sketches on iMaschine from industrial beats to booty beats.
Now for the next hurdle: learning Traktor. I've got the beat matching part down and have accused it of being "beat matching for babies." But the draw is that I CAN'T get everything on vinyl.
My formative DJ culture experiences were back in the 90s...
*at the weekly Buzz parties in DC and the random Ultraworld parties
*at the weekly goth/industrial Thursdays at SE DC's Tracks with the epically grouchy DJ Mohawk Adam
*at my hometown's local gay bar/dance club/drag review, The Park
*observing my friend, Xist, the first female DJ I ever encountered.
Largely because of 90s rave culture, I have an affinity for big beats, deep bass, and the art of mixing and performing: I love creating an atmosphere for the crowd. I know that by incorporating some software to my sets, I can bring in this element to my mixes. My current mission is to set up loops and my own beats to sample into my sets. I know this is remedial for experienced digital DJs, but for this insistent vinyl DJ, I'm either going to turntablism hell or opening a can of worms made of a gigillions zeros and ones. Probably both.
I'm happiest when I'm playing records and blending seamlessly from track to track....and I won't be letting go of one of my favorite visceral experiences.
We do the dive