Being a DJ requires a lot more work than “spamming spacebar”. Get a closer look into the complexities of DJ performances and managing control of the crowd and the mind.
I want to talk about really goes on behind the deck and a little bit about myself. There are a ton of DJs in the known universe. I am one those people, but none of those people are me. They don’t live the same life. They have different setlists, different styles, different rigs. We all have one thing in common. We are the translators who close the gap between your synapses when the beat drops. I’m sure you wonder what is so poetically beautiful and captivating about a laptop and a pair of speakers. Let me show you.
I’ve been producing music for around 6 years. I’ve been a DJ for less than a year, and gigs continue to roll spontaneously to my doorstep. Although I love the music production process, DJing gives me a tasty head rush that I’m growing addicted to. There are moments when I am at the booth and nothing else matters. I suffer from anxiety and depression, and I discovered that mixing is a craft that frees me from it all. I honestly don’t know how I’d manage my emotions without it. I admit, I can’t solve all of my problems with a pill, but I can with a beat.
Sometimes when I’m behind the deck, people come behind the booth to stare at the laptop screen. I hate to break it to you, but there is no spacebar involved. So if you were hoping to confirm that DJing is simple and lifeless, I’m here to prove you wrong. Mixing tracks is a performance, and it’s a craft that requires me to actively think. It’s definitely a mental workout; a healthy distraction. Plus, I get a nice little cardio workout from all the jumping around and what not. I’m constantly scrolling through setlists, beat-syncing, cuing transients, applying effects, and EQing. I also have to be a quick-draw with a jog wheel, and there are 2 of those to look after (…and a crossfader).
I navigate my deck like a chessboard. I’m always several moves ahead. Lately I’ve realized that’s not always a good thing. Yeah, I get so lost that I get ahead of myself from time to time. I admit that I make the wrong moves sometimes; behind the deck and in life. Still, the beat must go on. Life is transitory and so is the mix.
Now that I’m on the subject, let me spit about transitions. The most difficult part about mixing is figuring out how to string together the whole flow. In a lot of ways, mixing is an illusion. There are 101 things going on behind the deck, but the only thing you ever hear is the beat. I could start my gig with a song at 125bpm and close with 72bpm. Still, it never stops. You are now entering the Twilight Zone.
There’s a lot in my life that people don’t know anything about, much like what really goes on behind the deck. As a DJ I’ve learned to adapt and handle transitions in the most difficult times. Even when the beat rises out of control and I’m about to drop, I have to figure out how to keep it going. It’s an onward battle that nobody knows about. If I can master a crossfader, I can master any difficult transition in life. I wholeheartedly believe that.
I learned that DJing is 100% feel. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a walk in the park, but all of the tracks need to flow seamlessly together without a skip. I can tell you what all of the buttons do and how the interface works, but all of that means nothing if you can’t feel. I exhaust so much of myself when I mix; anger, fear, happiness, sorrow. I think that’s why I feel so emotionally weightless behind the deck. I drive my anxiety to the point that I don’t feel it anymore. I have to make friends with it and turn it into a source of energy. So yeah. My worst enemy that I fight everyday fuels what I love most. When I’m in control of the beat, I’m in control of myself.
I don’t really know where any of this is going to take me, and I’m completely okay with that. All that matters are the moments behind the deck. Not a lot of people know about it. Not everyone is around to hear the whole set. Not everybody is in the room for every drop. That’s alright. Those of you who are really close to me can hear my shackles rattle everyday. Thanks for putting up with it. So, when you see me behind the deck at the next gig, just know that I’m living without the shackles on.
How do you stay in control of yourself and the crowd during your gig?
Comment below and share the knowledge!