I reckon I’m not an a-typical DJ (or human for that matter). Never conformed to what I was supposed to do (hello college football, life in the states and lack of home ownership for better or worse). I can’t really peg it. I do remember hanging with my friends in primary school and if they all got up to go somewhere at lunch or recess, I’d purposely wait 2min to get up and follow or not follow. For some reason, I could never bring myself to “go with the flow”.
Coming to the end of university, I was actually well-placed to get my bachelors degree, a teaching credential and live and work near my home town of San Jose, which is what my family expected of me. But then I met this girl (yeah, we know how that turned out).
Anyways, this lack of conformity has translated well to my DJ life as I have never listened (or currently listen) to what people tell me I’m supposed to play. I do my own thing. That said, I always nod politely when punters request tunes and always agree to styles the venue wants (knowing full well I’m going to do my own thing anyways and that it will work — it always does). I always nod politely and tell every punter, “yeah, I’ll totally fit that in...great idea”; knowing full well it won’t be played. Unless, I feel like playing it later (it always has to be much later).
It’s not that I’m a dick, I just like being in control when DJ’ing and trust those instincts. Not a chin striker either. I’ll just as easily drop Whitney Houston as I would some groovy number from Roy Ayers; I don’t give a fuck. I either like it or I don’t.
I’m only saying this because although we hit that moment where punters want every and any song they can think of because, “hey, anyone can DJ now”, they are now getting ruder and ruder about it. Self-entitlement is at an all-time high.
It’s now an expectation the DJ will play YOUR song and when YOU want it played, I.e. “wait 10min, I’m going to the toilet before we leave and want to walk out singing along to Stevie Nicks.” FFS!
This leads to many verbal confrontations with punters these days because not only do I NOT play their songs, but I’ve usually forgotten the shit request the moment they walk away expecting to hear it. When they return (they always return) demanding the song, I just say it’s not the right time or, “my bad, that songs on my other laptop. I brought my wrong laptop tonight.” And that usually works.
People actually believe this shit...like I have multiple laptops for different nights.
Regardless, due to their obvious anger which I realize I have had some part in creating (cuz I can be a dick), the next step in this charade is when they always go to, “but I have it on my phone”.
Which leads to...
“Yeah, this program doesn’t work like that. Really sorry, anything else you may like? If I got it, I’ll play it.” Which is really another lie.
Or this old chestnut...
“I’ve only got these 45’s tonight and that song was never released on a 45.” Not a lie.
Which then results in...
“Wow, CD’s. How old are YOU? Ok, let me go have a think about it.”
Hook. Line. Sinker.
3 hours later (long after they were supposed to leave), she or he will be losing their shit to something I chose, not them. Usually, it’s something polar opposite to what they wanted in the first place, too.
DJ mental warfare usually goes a bit like this:
Shania Twain? No thanks, but thanks for making me think of System Of A Down because I saw some Shania interview in SF whilst channel surfing back in 2003 when she toured there. Of course, this memory just so happened to remind me of an old mate of mine who managed my friends Bay Area band Salmon (Gary Avila) and he hyped me to SOAD way back when as I think they opened for them at The Edge in Palo Alto (near enough to SF) but I didn’t go and now regret it.
So I’ll play SOAD instead and it will work for a sizable chunk of the crowd. The rest will walk off, grab a drink and will probably be back on the floor 2 songs later when I play Shania Twain after the initial requester has probably left.
I really do think like this. I’m also a dick!
See, I don’t see music for genres. I either like it or I don’t. Pop music: if it’s catchy and I can sing/hum along to it, I generally think, “this will work on a dance floor”. So I play it. It can be any genre because I don’t see music for genres.
Oftentimes, I make genre specific mixes for Mixcloud, cuz that’s for “listening”, not “dancing”. I actually have gotten to the stage in my life where I like to listen to particular genres for long stretches as it calms me down (you can probably tell I’m a bit all over the shop).
But all bets are off when I play gigs, because genre hopping is what it’s all about (for me). But I want catchy tunes when I play out; there’s gotta be a hook.
Even with instrumental tracks, there needs to be something memorable there that I can instantly recongnize and process as “catchy”.
I inwardly laugh when people play out pop music like it’s some tainted bastard of mediocrity. I reckon the vast majority of these people have very little idea how difficult it is to create great pop records, songs, albums; whatever. It’s an art unto itself.
Just because a song is picked up by commercials, movies, game shows, sporting events, etc doesn’t mean it’s shit. It means it’s that good. We may all hate it whilst it’s force fed to us by the minute, but it’s still a good song.
I don’t care if it took 20 songwriters to write it, a good song is a good song. Popularity does not factor into that.
Still, as a DJ, I tend to stop playing songs that are currently popular, not because they are bad, but because they are expected. I usually won’t play them again until they are forgotten and sometime will never play them again (unless it’s a wedding where all rules are off lol).
So yeah, pop music. I love it. Til it’s requested. Then it’s shit. Til it’s forgotten. Then it’s good again.
BTW Peter Andre Rocks!!!