Continuing on from where we left off on Post #1, wherein I detailed my brief DJing career and the downside of doing a job you love in place you kind of hate. From the Big Beats, we move on to the house/trance gems that were forced upon unsuspecting drinkers and shoved down their ear canals until they LOVED it, or at least, hated it a little less.
We’ll start out with something dark and long (and not actually by Underworld). I’ve found that Deep Dish’s originals tend to be hit-and-miss affairs, but they are unstoppable when operating as remixers. This is their epic take on Love & Rocket’s Resurrection Hex, a track off their latest (ha! – it was like more than a decade ago!) and apparently L&R’s last.
There’s a ton of breathing room in this track despite the 4/4 pounding, which I often filled with HAL 9000’s modulated death threats and death throes. (“My mind is going… I can feel it…“) In fact, I did this often enough that it became the preferred version. Deep Dish + L&R+ HAL 9000. Sure, 90% of the requests came from the bartender but when you’re allowed to drink on the job, this is the person you want happiest.
3 THINGS A DJ NEVER WANTS TO SEE
Some more DJ info for you, scientifically gathered via personal anecdotal evidence. Also this: the fine love/hate notes you see scattered in these posts are courtesy of No Breasts No Requests who lovingly aggregate the best passive aggression ever scrawled drunkenly on a cocktail napkin/coaster.
1. Bachelorette Parties
If you’re not familiar with the “thrill” of an incoming bachelorette party, you might actually think the world “thrill” should have the quotes stricken from the record. A bunch of theoretically unattached women drunkenly escorting the bride-to-be from bar to bar. It would seem like a match made in heaven for drinking men everywhere. And maybe that’s true. But it does nothing for the drinking man handcuffed to the DJ booth.
The problem for the DJ is that this pack of women is under the mistaken (and usually, drunken) impression that the entire bar revolves around them for as long as they deign to grace us with their presence. This means they will travel to the DJ booth multiple times, usually as a group, to state their music preferences and constantly remind the DJ that “X is getting married,” as if getting married was some sort of extraordinary act that hadn’t been performed by millions of others before them, a large percentage of which have ended in failure.
[Quick break for some more music. You’ve met Deep Dish and their exceptional remixing skills. This track is just another example of why they are like knob-twiddling gods to me and, to a lesser extent, the dancefloor denizens who were alternately pummeled and soothed by this colossal remix. Not one, but two (2)(!!!) HUGE, verging-on-bombastic drops that are as drop-dead gorgeous as any sweeping vista you can imagine (and subsequently instagram into some sort of postcard). I do mean HUGE. The first breakdown runs from 3:54-5:10. The second runs from 8:25 (with a full drop at 9:10) to 10:51.]
Not only that, but bachelorette parties have, collectively, the worst taste in music. I don’t know how it’s possible, considering every bachelorette party represents a cross-section of women in general, but apparently something happens on this “special night” and every reasonable request is replaced by a plea for horrible pop tunes that even the most die-hard Top 40 fan wouldn’t touch. Every novelty pop hit that burnt itself out long ago is given mouth-to-mouth by this group of trying-so-hard-to-party-so-hard girls, much to the dismay of everyone else. On top of everything else, they’re just visiting. No bachelorette party ever stays in one bar for the full night.
[More music. System F (a.k.a. Ferry Corsten) has been a trance icon since before trance was cool, as well as during trance’s heyday and continues to hold his “icon” position well past the sell-by date. Mauro Picotto pumps up the pace and sets dials to stun for the breakdown. As with all great back-in-the-day trance, Out of the Blue is nothing if not subtle. No, wait. The last part: “not subtle.” Big room trance, brighter than daylight and built for pleasing crowds. There’s a reason it was immensely popular.]
2. Office Parties
I didn’t often hit the decks before 9 pm so I usually caught the tail-end of these rather hollow experiences, whether it was something “officia”l (like a birthday) or just a “hey, let’s all go out and have some drinks” occasion. Either way, the cross section of the late 30s-early 40s demographic and people who didn’t normally go to bars meant you were instantly inundated with requests for disco, classic rock and Jimmy Buffett. Someone might mix things up by requesting something “current” (meaning a track off a half-decade old MTV/Jock Jams compilation).
If obliged (and I was, as the normal crowd was still on its way), the playing of said musical “gems” would sometimes be accompanied by the half-hearted awkward dancing of people who a.) didn’t normally dance and b.) would be off to free up the babysitter in another hour. The question “Do you have…” would normally be followed by “No,” which would then be followed by the person staring skyward as they dusted off the record collection of their minds. “What about…” Again, “No.” Helpful suggestions were made. “Well, I have…” I’d offer, dusting off the unused parts of the CD collection. “I guess. How about…” After this unproductive back-and-forth, vague suggestions about “disco” and “fun music” and “not rap” were made, accompanied by my mostly internal eye rolling and giving of the finger.
[Timo Maas’ rerub of Azzido Da Bass’ Dooms Night conquered dancefloors everywhere, but most subjectively, it tore apart the one I was in charge of. Taking Mr. Oizo’s Flat Eric as a blueprint, Dooms Night shook speakers with eruptions of overcharged bass noise. Pre-dating dubstep’s fascination with the drop, Timo Maas extended and morphed the distinctive tone into an instantly recognizable whomp. And so it went: whomp whomp whomp whomp whompwhompwhompwhomp. Fists were raised and pumped. The uninitiated left us to our own devices and looked on in bemusement as the unholy brown noise echoed around the bar.]
There’s nothing sadder than a bunch of people trying to have fun because they feel like they’re having fun. The dancing and lyric-mouthing and outdated hand gestures gave off the desperate air of someone trying to convince a kidnapper they were indeed “not going to breath a word of this to the cops if you let me go.” Gun-to-the-head enthusiasm mixed with it’s-getting-kind-of-late attitude does not make for a pleasurable experience. Not for the DJ and certainly not for the office party, which would get a handful of tracks thrown in its general direction before the “real” music started and they all faded quietly into the night, never to be seen again.
The Space Raiders were another Skint signing, joining such illuminaries as Fatboy Slim, Midfield General and the Lo-Fidelity All Stars. More house-oriented than its labelmates, Space Raiders played slightly left-of-center in their chosen field and operated with a welcome sense of humour. Disko Doctor hollas back at disco while keeping one foot in the present with its loping, looping take on disco-house. Vocal samples get filtered, vocodered and spun backwards, riding atop an ear-worming, good-natured house beat.
3. Radio DJs
Seeing them in the crowd wasn’t an issue. But more often than not, you’d see these poor souls in the DJ booth as the result of periodic aneurysms that management mistook for “ideas.” This was followed by an attempt to “leverage” some sort of “cross marketing” by bringing in a DJ from whichever radio station the club was advertising on. Someone would say “free advertising” and actually believe it.
The logic seems to be complete. People listen to x radio station and therefore, they’d come to listen to x radio station’s DJ do his day job, except at night. Overlooked was the fact that, yes, many people listen to the radio but with very rare exceptions, no one cares who’s playing the music. Plus, DJing at a club is much different than DJing in a highly-regimented format plagued by intersitial ads and “hilarious” banter. Club DJs know their crowd. Radio DJs know playlists and demographics. A “crowd” and a “demographic” both involve groups of people, but they are very different things.
Most of these radio DJs didn’t last very long. Seeing that no adoring audience was lining up to hear you play tracks in a this-works-on-the-radio fashion has to be a bit of a blow to the ego. Having people visit the DJ booth simply to tell you that you suck and ask “Where’s the other DJ?” doesn’t help. Some DJs can do both but in my experience, not a single one of these DJs could.
Electronic music was never mainstream (except that now it actually is — go figure). Roaches is the Trancesetters’ “Positive Affirmation of the Day,” validating the freaks’ love of repetitive beats and occupying the edges.
Underground will live forever, baby
We just like roaches
We were the kids that weren’t like the other kids. While the others were happy with their Top 40 and their crossover country hits, we were driving out to open fields in the middle of nowhere (and one time, memorably, the VFW) to hear DJs spin pounding, strobelit “techno.”
Josh Wink tore acid house a new one with his twisted and screeching Higher State of Consciousness. He then went back to the studio and tore house music some new ventilation, operating with enthusiasm trumping technical skill (although he has plenty of the latter). Don’t Laugh is a dare, I suppose: a quasi-house beat paired with a constantly-fucked-with laughter loop. To sing along is to appear insane.
On the other hand, sanity seems overrated in the face of constant laughter, pitched to and fro by Wink, with both hands on the knobs and tongue safely secured in cheek, landing on just this side of “annoying novelty single.” and pointing our way towards Vol. 3 in this subjectively nostalgic series where I’ll be throwing out a selection of the noisiest stuff I got away with playing. Until then…