Our resident DJ / Producer, self-appointed industry critic, and all-round music-bore Harold gives us his views on ancient Greece, Victorian industry, and digital technology. Yes, really…
One of the worst things about digital technology, from a DJs point of view, is that DJs are still talking about the pros and cons of vinyl and digital. Still, apparently, there are also countless people worldwide who suffer from insomnia so perhaps we can put these two facts together and create a win-win scenario.However, one of the very best things about digital technology, from a DJs point of view, is that it has unburdened DJs from having to spend ages getting their records in time, leaving them free to spend gig time doing more interesting stuff.
For some DJs, this has resulted in a widening of the DJ skill set to include some production techniques, and they use their technology to mix multiple tracks together and perform live remixes, sampling and re-edits on the fly. For others, it has simply meant that they are free to leisurely peruse their collections searching for the perfect next track.
It’s unfortunate, however, that the rise in digital DJ technology happened at the same time as the rise of celebrity culture, during an age which values stardom, praises fame and rewards notoriety. This resulted in some DJs mistakenly thinking that a good use of the extra time now available was to draw attention to themselves with garish tricks and props, and with that whole heart-hands / Jesus-pose / air punching thing. It’s unfortunate because it takes all the attention off the people who are actually generating the atmosphere – the dancers – and puts it all back on the DJ. Our thing – dance music – was always about the group, the community, the tribe. It was the opposite of the star-centered rock world, where everyone lined up in rows to be entertained by songs that they all knew. Our thing was that we danced together and we created the vibe, the DJ just provided the soundtrack, they weren’t the actual thing that we were there to watch.
Watching you, watching me
You watch DJs for long enough and they’ll start compensating for the lack of anything visually engaging in their performances by insisting on a fucking glitter cannon. And surely if you have to bring a cannon to work with you – glitter or traditional, any type of cannon – then that clearly suggests there is some kind of workplace problem that needs addressing.
If digital technology had arisen at a different time in human culture – say during the classical Greek period when philosophical enquiry and the skills of rhetoric were what people thought was cool – then perhaps DJs would have used the additional time afforded them by sync technology to improve their rhetorical prowess and to further define their philosophical positions.
Or if Serato, Traktor and Pioneer had been around during the Victorian age, when the values of industrialism, self-reliance and self-improvement were paramount, then perhaps we would have seen DJs contributing to industrial innovations in factories and mills, rather than taking selfies, wearing muscle t-shirts and having stupid hair.
But it wasn’t and they didn’t: the impact of digital technology on the music industry has been somewhat mixed, to say the least. However through it all, the central role of a DJ – picking some really good music for a party, then blending it all together in a deliciously irresistible audio stew that simultaneously gives a crowd what they want and what didn’t know they needed – that part has remained the same. I’m joking of course, the central role of the DJ remains as it always was – to argue and fight with other DJs about which format is the best, until finally there is only one DJ left remaining in the entire world.