OBLIVEUS BLOGSPOT

Here you will find everything to do with me, DJ Obliveus. I make edits, mix beats, book venues, do graphic design, dig for 45's and live and breathe music in Melbourne, Australia. Hit me up if yer in need of something as I love working with new folks on many things...

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Beats Working...

Beats Working




So before I moved to Australia from California in 2000, I'd fallen in love with a new style of music (to me, at least) called breakbeat. To put my DJ life in perspective at this time, know that I didn't purchase turntables or a mixer until the fall of 98 and all of my first purchased records were either hiphop, funk or reggae that I dug or house music that was prescribed to me by a very good friend of mine who got me into DJ’ing in the first place. So let's just say, i hadn't really found "my feet" as a DJ yet.

Fast forward to 6 months after I got my decks, which happened to be 6 months after quitting my long-time band, I flew out to Australia to visit my girlfriend (who has now been my wife of just about 18 years now). On the visit to Melbourne, we went out one night to this party at Colonial Stadium to see some techno act and danced are arses off all night. As we were leaving we went to the side room to say goodbye to our friends and these two DJ's were just about to start, who just so happened to be Soul of Man. Let's just say we didn't leave and we found enough energy to dance our arses off again until the sun came up.

The label that started my love affair with breakbeat.

It's safe to say everything played by those two cats was exactly what I wanted to be playing as a DJ, i.e. funky breaks, which I didn’t even know were called breaks at this time as they just sounded like sped up instrumental hiphop beats or upbeat funk…all I knew was I loved it. In reality, they really reminded me of this new act that I’d just gotten into, called The Freestylers but with a bit more of an "underground" vibe to them. So of course I hit em up after their set and they were kind enough to give me some stickers with their record label URL on it (something quite new back in 1999).

Upon returning to San Jose, I drove over to my mom’s place to use her partner’s computer as he had the Internet and I didn’t at my shared house in the city (wow, times have changed). With a slow dial-up connection that took forever, I managed to get on the Finger Lickin Records website and then found the links for all of their records through the ‘Hard To Find’ Records website (I wonder if that is still around). At this time, there were only about 5-6 records, so I bought everything.

Over the next 6-months, I started gobbling up everything I could find with a breakbeat as the music spoke to me in ways that no other music spoke to me at the time. Fatboy Slim, more Freestylers, The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers; you get the idea. I came to Melbourne less than a year later for what was supposed to be a 1-year graduate diploma course before adventures overseas with my girlfriend, but then life went a bit left of centre on us and our first son was born, then our second and next thing you know I’ve been happily living in this part of the world ever since.

But back to the start…

Two weeks after moving here, I played an open decks night at the Laundry Bar in Fitzroy (a place my wife had taken me to before she was my wife). It was a Tuesday afternoon with the sun still shining and I carried a crate of records in to play (having never actually played a real gig before – house parties only up to that time for me). With 2 cleaners (I shit you not), 1 bar manager and my new best mate in the world, Mark Spies (below), in tow, I played a 1-hour set of hiphop, funk and reggae (quite poorly, as I couldn’t beat mix to save my life), but the manager liked me enough to offer me another (free with a pint of beer) 1-hour set the next week at a better time, which I accepted on the spot.

Could not imagine my life without this legend being a major part of it.

I came back for that set and did the same thing and this time got an OK reaction from the semi-full punters there on a Tuesday night and this time the manager asked me when I was done if I was interested in playing weekly at their new bar in the CBD, called The International Lounge Bar (of Ding Dong fame). Of course, I said yes and within a month of moving to Australia I had my first weekly residency playing 12am-4am every Friday night after these two dudes named Mark Brand and Nick Thayer (you may know em). Pay was $25 per hour, so $100 for 4-hours of work each week until 4am. Think about that for a second, young DJ's.

So I played that Friday night every week for about a month or two and got better at beat mixing, reading crowds; you know the drill. It was about this time that my girlfriend and I found out we were pregnant and that this year-long holiday may go a bit longer and I was completely and totally OK with that as my grad dip was going well so a career was just around the corner, my hot girlfriend was happy to have a baby with me, all my new mates (especially Spies) were the best and I was playing weekly at this cool venue. Winning at life!

Then one night I realised that I wasn’t getting to play the breakbeat records that I loved (the ones which had now morphed into 2 crates worth of my blood, sweat and tears of digging). So I called up and got myself onto the roster for another open decks gig at the Laundry (not very hard as I was already one of the company’s resident DJ’s) and asked for a late set after midnight on the Tuesday. I did this specifically so I could play my breakbeat records, many of which had never been played out in Australia other than at an occasional house party at our place in Hawthorn.

So about a week later, I rolled into the venue on a Tuesday night and, sure enough, it was dead. I didn’t care though, because all I wanted to do was play my breakbeat records on a sound system and that’s exactly what I did. While I was playing these records on a system for the first time, I noticed a rather dodgy looking short bloke, who I assumed was from Franga’s, walk in. You know the type and so did I, so I immediately checked that my wallet was attached to my belt, brought my records in a bit close and clenched my fists in case I was going to have to defend myself.

Jokes!

Obviously, I’m talking about Scotrod aka Scotty C aka the Hampton Park Shuffler. Whilst he did look a bit dodgy, he walked up to the booth and set his record box down (being the next DJ to not get paid to play to nobody in the venue) and then he sat down near the booth to have a smoke (remember when smoking was legal in venues – I do, yuck)! Anyways, he didn’t really say much and when it was his turn to take over, he barely said a word to me and then pulled out a phone receiver (like those old corded phones from back in the day)…I shit you not, a phone receiver. This was going to be his headphones for his set and I immediately thought, “I gotta see this”.

So you can say I was on a high because I just played all my favourite records (to nobody but Scotrod), but I played them and that’s all that mattered to me at the time. 99% were Finger Lickin Records tracks, a few Krafty Kuts tracks, Freestyler tracks and other assorted bigbeat jams that were big circa 2000 so you could say I wasn’t really schooled on nu skool breaks yet, but boy was I in for a lesson from this dodgy looking dude with a phone wedged between his ear and his shoulder.

From our second party at the International Lounge Bar (we already paid for a banner - decor was a big deal to us). Notice the phone headphones that Scotty C is using.

Before I even sat down, Scotrod played his first track and a sound I’d never heard before engulfed the room. I think it was a Kraymon track or something like that, but it was dark; it was tough; it was futuristic. I did the quickest double-take of all time and bailed up Scotrod so fast it wasn’t funny to find out what this record was and he showed me the cover (or the label, I cant remember) and I wrote it down on a napkin. Then he played his next track (probably Rennie Pilgrem) and I wrote that one down, too. After biting his entire set, we got to talking and before we knew it the night was over and the venue was closing down.

Scotrod and I shook hands and said our goodbyes and I went outside to catch a cab ride home with my bag of records and whilst waiting, a white van rolls up beside me and the window comes down and Scotrod is peering out at me and offers me a lift home. I accepted and we’ve been mates ever since.

The second BW flier ever (cuz Scotty C had already tried a BW before that fell on its arse)

Soon after that, Scotrod came to a house party at my place to play some records and met my circle of friends, including Mark Spies aka MC Direkt, and they hit it off like I knew they would. Soon after that, Scotty and I did the first Beats Working party in Bendigo (where Scotty C worked as a resident DJ every week at this hotel up there – for real, he’d go up on Thursdays and stay til Sunday every week). That led to another party up there, which I cant believe as neither really blew the doors off the place and before you knew it, I had played a couple of breakbeat parties. Soon after I would play my first Out of Order party at Lounge in the CBD, which was a very big deal to me at the time.

Anyways, whilst my soon-to-be wife was blowing up like Violet Beuregarde from Willy Wonka with our soon-to-be born first son, Zach, we had a Sunday morning get together (or I should say our flatmate Sam had a bunch of mates over after a big night). I had been home with my pregnant girlfriend on call (as I was working as a shift allocator for a nursing agency whilst getting my grad dip) so decided to play some records that everyone seemed happy with and this led into a daytime party at our place (those were the days). It was at this party that I met one of my flatmates good friends boyfriend, a dude named Hans (who my flatmate had been trying to introduce me to for ages). Anyways, Hans (who was not the Scandinavian I presumed he would be) and I hit it off and either he played some of my records at this party or he’d brought some records to this party. Regardless, he was an awesome DJ.

My fav pick of the original Bee Dub DJ's and MC. L-R: Direkt, Scotrod, me & Hans

So it was only natural that my two new DJ mates and I would decide to throw a little breakbeat party called Beats Working so I asked the manager at International Lounge Bar if we could throw it in their back room and he said yes. We’d do it differently this time, too, as we wanted our good mate Spiesy, MC Direkt, to hype the crowd like drum’n’bass MC’s were doing at that time. We also made some of our "decor" and worked really hard to make the room look like it was ours...something that we'd always maintain throughout the life of the party.

Hans and I designing some of our first decor pieces in my back yard in Hawthorn.

That party went much better than the Bendigo parties (mainly because Hans knew – and still knows – everybody; and also because we had Direkt get on the mic to hype the crowd up) and that led to another party there in the back room. 

So many familiar faces in this original Bee Dub crew pic

A young Hans-DC...doing a rat tail long before they were ever popular with bogans.

Without a doubt, the best thing that ever happened to me. I'm lucky!

Possibly our first party at the Laundry...notice the Scotrod sound manipulator thingy. Still have those decks in my DJ room.

Reggie with her hands near the crotches of Nick Holland & Tony Woods (from the mighty Hawks)

This then led to a party in the main room (which had Shane Crawford in attendance – I shit you not) and then that led to us taking the party to upstairs at the Laundry and eventually we got both levels of the Laundry and it would be fairly packed every month for our “little” breakbeat party called Beats Working that was completely a “word of mouth” party with very little promotion other than the fliers we’d hand out after the show finished for our next party and our first website designed by a good mate.

WTF was I thinking with this mohawk?

Anyways, whilst all this was going down and my first son was born, we all starting getting booked for festivals, bush doof’s, club nights; you name it. It was a really good time to be playing breaks in Melbourne. 

This baby is now 16 years old and taller than me.

Our first flier produced by the venue...we got these out everywhere.

Due to my Lounge connections, I got us onto a VS night. Much fun was had...

This was the first 33 1/3 I played...about 6 months after getting out of the hospital. Joh brought the kids to meet me after my set so we could celebrate Zach's birthday in St Kilda. 

A standard Bee Dub poster...name brand recognition of a simple design worked well for us.

Down the track, I started playing gigs with the new breed of breaks DJ's coming through the ranks. This was one of those gigs and Rock Like This are still killing it.

An old flier from 02, featuring our good mates in Fizard (always a supporter of these cats and they should have gone bigger -- Weapon X's first band, I think).

Everyone was doing these big parties where a plethora of DJ's all played on the same bill from multiple crews. This was one of the first ones and is what inspired me to later do Melbourne Breaks Unite with the Bee Dub and Gimme A Break boys.

I think Tiesto was on in the main room when I played...one of the first BIG gigs I did at a stadium (albeit the side room of a stadium, but I took it)

I came back for this one off breakbeat party with some ol mates. Don't think it went well in terms of heads, but the cats doing this party were legends in my mind (still are).

 Always happy to play one of Drew's parties because he put his heart and soul into every event. This one was off the hook, if I remember correctly.

Dopest fliers ever!!! I knew cats that wanted to play these parties simply to get on Guyno's artwork. This party went off, but I knew after this gig that my heart wasn't into Nu Skool Breaks anymore and I pulled the pin on doing strictly breaks sets after this night and went to what I've been doing now for the past 10 years or so...play everything!!!

I played a chilled drum'n'bass set in the side room at this party, but it was such a big night. Local breaks act...packed venue. Direkt on the mic killing it with the dude from Triple J. Breaks were HUGE!!!!

Unfortunately, although we had some good parties here, this was the beginning of the end (for me) with breaks. Soon after this party, I went into the hospital for my operation and came out feeling "different" and didn't want to keep doing it the way I had been up to that point. My style would change...

Cats like Phil K, Brewster B, Ransom, The Alias, Nick Thayer, Ben Shepherd, Ides, Heath Myers, Agent 86, Ducky, Shane Ford, Ben Stacey, EK, Boogs, Ferris, Gsan, Blueprint, Keltec, Lynt, Guyno, Little Evil, Dan Mangan, Kilroc, Hound, Khalil and Brainstorm (Lilstormer & Brain) were everywhere and played breaks in one form or another (yeah, a lot of electro crept in but that was alright with me) and everyone was bringing their own twist to it. Of course, there would be countless others that came to the party soon after (many of whom I still book today), but these DJ’s I’ve listed (apologies if I missed anyone) were the people who inspired me to get out there and keep spinning records nightly when I first moved here and first started playing breakbeat in nightclubs.


Melbourne Breaks Unite Press Pic, 2006???

So I’m not getting sombre and this isn’t one of those, “where did it all go” blog posts. It’s actually a happy celebratory post about a brief period of my life where I moved overseas to a far-away place for a girl and what happened next was a new life that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.


The mix you’ll find a link to above was recorded back in 2010. I’ve had it laying around on a hard drive for ages, but forgot about it until recently when I posted a bunch of old fliers I found when cleaning out a box from my garage. It contains all those tracks I used to play weekly (I’m actually amazed we got away with this type of stuff, but we did). 

Hope you enjoy the mix and I hope this is inspiring enough for a bunch of old breakbeat DJ’s (and MC’s) to get back out there for a night sometime soon to celebrate the broken beat.


Peeze, Eric OB

Monday, June 11, 2018

What makes it all worth it?



As I celebrate almost 18 years of DJ’ing most weekends, I thought it a fine time to reflect on why this “game” (yeah, I said “game”) is still important to me. Basically, I’m still in recovery mode from a big night 2 nights ago and the adrenaline (and nothing else) is still pumping through the veins. For real, I was basically on the waters, 2 drinks and one Red Bull all night and my wife wasn’t happy to hear about the Red Bull either as the last thing my A.D.D. riddled body needs is sugar, hence me writing this when I should be finalising my school reports.

So why the adrenaline?

The adrenaline is there because I played one of my weekly spots on Sunday night (a public holiday eve) for 6 hours (a rather long set, but I’m used to rather long sets) and this particular set went down well for numerous reasons that require some reflection. It’s the reflection that I’m hoping sheds some “inner light” on this DJ game we all play for those that are uninitiated or think that all we do is “press sync buttons” or hit up our emails whilst getting paid to drink and look cool. Trust me, I don’t look cool.

So the first reason for my adrenaline rush was that a core group of long time friends were there at the venue when I got there (unexpectedly). They actually just happened to be there and had no idea I was even playing and they told me upon my arrival that they planned on leaving soon. Being that they were in good “spirits” and the fact there were few people there when I arrived, I decided to play a special set just for them hoping they’d stick around for an hour or two. Knowing their tastes, I played stuff I knew they’d like and, sure enough, within 20 minutes a few of them got up to start dancing in a semi-empty bar before 8pm even hit. Mind you, it’s still early in the night and I wasn’t playing peak time house music, just some upbeat nu disco type flavours that I dig. Flash-forward to 8:30pm and all of them are up dancing, which enticed some punters off the street to come in and start dancing and before you know it, what was once a slow and “barely open” bar had turned into a really energetic venue with everyone going off. And it wasn’t even 9pm yet.

The thing is, I knew playing upbeat music this early wasn’t good for building the night so I wasn’t even playing “big” party tunes. I was keeping it on the funk, boogie and nu disco tip (and not even the popular funk, nu disco and boogie tip), but because I knew these punters, I had them right where I wanted them without resorting to massive, peak-time tunes. Maybe a few of the tunes were big, but it wasn’t “over the top” big. It was perfect, but I knew it wouldn’t last. Sure enough, 9pm rolled around and they had to leave to go to some other (and bigger) party at some well-established nightclub, i.e. not our very cool bar.

So I bid them all farewell, high fiving a few on their way out and I immediately brought the vibe back down to what it should be earlier in the night. Background boogie and hiphop was where the current energy was at as there was still a good crowd sitting around drinking (which made me glad I didn’t take it too big or too loud earlier on) and there was a fairly massive crowd outside drinking and having a good time. So I was actually where I thought I’d be when the night started.

This was when the first “lull” of the night occurred.

From about 9pm – 9:30pm, nobody was walking in off the street and a few other people finished up their drinks and left to go to someplace “bigger” or home, I don’t know. Regardless, this meant the venue began to look a little like a ghost town. Normally, this wouldn’t make me even wince, as I know a crowd is always just around the corner, but because a big group had just been up dancing and having fun, I couldn’t help but think it was me taking it too big too early. This is when my first spike of adrenaline probably seeped out of my pores, too. 

Self-doubt: the DJ killer.

So after 30 minutes of mental soul searching due to the fact that the venue seemed to be emptying out faster than high school after the Period 6 bell time, I came to the conclusion that it could only be my horrible musical selection that was causing this drop in venue attendance. Obviously, I screwed the whole night by going big for mates earlier and now I was playing crap music that wasn’t keeping people “there” drinking. “There” being the venue that was kind enough to let me provide their musical selections to paying customers and I was failing at doing so.

I shit you not, this is the type of stuff I think about when nights aren’t going so well and this night wasn’t even “not going so well”. So due to me being fairly energetic, I have to walk around when “lulls” like this occur. Regardless of a lull or not, I’m very much of the opinion that all DJ’s need to understand their surroundings, so I normally walk around the venue checking for any of the following (after throwing on Taana Gardner’s ‘Heartbeat’, of course):

- Volume of music,
- Vibes in each section of the venue (inside and out),
- Foot tapping,
- General feels from the staff, i.e. bar staff, security, management, etc.

On this particular night, I also spoke to the manager to hear his opinion and his reply was a-typical of the bloke (a great operator, actually). He basically thanked me for holding onto the crowd for as long as I had so far as it had been a fairly “dead” night up to that point and my little “David Guetta” funk, boogie and nu disco set was the only thing that had kept folks and at least they had been drinking (and spending). With the self-doubt still creeping in, I kind of agreed but then again, I kind of didn’t. But the bottom line was that he wasn’t unhappy with my set, so I was at least assured we were good.

And then, adrenaline spike two was about to begin…

While we were chatting, a massive group waltzed in and literally doubled the size of punters in the venue in one hit. So I immediately went back to my work station feeling better about the night, which brings me to the second reason why I’m still amped from the set.

Part of the group that came in was a very vocal group of younger females who immediately asked me to take off “whatever this shit is” and play something “more modern”. I could have been offended that they didn’t dig Taana Gardner, but the honest truth is that I understand. I may love Taana Gardner, but I’ve been listening to funk, boogie and disco music for most of my life. An 18-year-old kid hitting Chapel Street with her friends isn’t coming out to be schooled by a 43-year-old American guy on great 70’s disco by mostly unheard of artists. Well, at least not at this particular venue. I’m a realist and because I’m a pro, I do what is right by the venue and decided to play something more “modern”, but OB styles.

So by “modern”, I’ve come to determine that what punters mean is nothing their parents listened to or still listen to, unless, of course, they have cool parents that schooled them on good music. This is becoming more normal these days, actually. The Spotify/Smart Phone/You Tube generation has grown up with so much easily accessible music that nothing is off limits anymore. At least, that’s my take on it.

So I dropped some 90’s hiphop and RNB (probably what their parents listened to judging by their age) and sure enough, they started dancing to it. Obviously, this meant the vibe in the venue went back up again, punters rolled in off the street and the bar was packed for the next hour or so with everyone having a good time. Once again, my night was perfect and another spike of adrenaline ensued. I was in my element and controlling the music without resorting to overt cheese and all of the stuff my good mate, Mr Lob, hates. Well, maybe I was playing a bit of cheese, but with the amount of it I normally churn out, this was practically underground territory. Jokes. So…

Not being a particular “destination venue”, by 11pm, the crowd was thinning out again and I was again drawn to that introspective place of doubt about my abilities as a DJ, knowing full well that it’s not just me but a range of factors that lead people to leave a bar that is not a “destination” venue. Factors such as: late night venues that will have long lines if you don’t get there by midnight, people wanting to dance to a much better sound system than the bar speakers we roll with, friends who want to see a particular DJ or band somewhere else and a host of other such factors. It’s all good with me though, I understand. I do play a few “destination” venues so know what it’s like getting the late night spikes when punters exit the bars they’ve been drinking in for hours only to dance their arses off til a much later closing time with us behind the decks. It’s part of the business.

But this time, because it was 11pm by now, I knew I couldn’t play background boogie and hiphop vibes, so I brought the BPM’s right up from the hiphop and RNB I had just been playing and started playing party funk tunes to a fairly empty room. Luckily, it didn’t stay empty for long.

Immediately, probably during the opening beat of ‘Get Down On It’, everyone who had been sitting down around the venue (and even a few from outside) all got up and started dancing around tables, on couches and, most importantly, all around the bar area so the venue looked packed. People kept piling in off the street, too, so I was actually better off by 11:30pm than I was when it seemed busier at 10:30pm. That, my friends, is what we call a winning formula.

This brings me to my third, and final, spike in adrenaline for the night and I’m not even going to feel guilty about what I did, regardless of what my chin stroking DJ mates may think of me. Because it was during this time that I began to mix in some fairly stock-standard (and cheesy) 80’s tunes and within 20 minutes, the entire venue is going off.

Now I’m not one to rip on the 80’s as I’m a product of the 80’s. Say what you will about MTV and the cheese that came from that era, but I love 80’s music. The best pop music to me is Wham, Prince, Madonna, MJ, Hall & Oates, Jimmy Barnes, Dragon, Pointer Sisters; you name it. It’s what I grew up on and I love mixing it into everything. I was a pop music freak long before I became a hiphop head. It’s probably why all of my gigs are so much fun (definitely for me) and if smiling faces and everyone jumping around acting like they’re still kids can be counted as proof, I reckon I know what I’m talking about.

Young punters go off to this stuff, too, but you have to pick and choose wisely when you’re going to drop it and this was the right time to drop it, hence young and old having a grand old time during this set. But, of course, all good things do come to an end and closing time arrived at 1am and a fairly full venue was forced to vacate the premises. I collected my pay, got a bro hug from the manager and headed home victorious in my role as a regular DJ hack.

Welcome to the life of a working DJ hobbyist, folks.

I don’t know if I could have made this any more real for you, so hopefully you got a bit of insight into what it’s like to do what we do regularly. It’s not always pretty, but this is what nights are like for the non-superstar DJ types in cities around the world and I actually count myself fortunate to be able to still do this 18 years on after buying turntables and a mixer all those years ago in the Bay Area.

But how do I even find myself in venues doing what I do. As it is, I’m not a working DJ in the sense that it’s a job. It’s strictly a hobby of mine that I do for fun. But the fact of the matter is that I’m 18 years strong in this DJ game and I’ve seen a lot of people come and go and I’ll probably be seeing quite a few more come and go before I decide to hang up the headphones for good. Actually, I doubt this will ever occur and my wife agrees (reluctantly, I bet).

The “grind”…

So it wouldn’t be a story on this here blog without a bit of background on the weekly life of someone in my position, so I’ll continue there. Actually, let’s start with a term anyone who works knows of. Let’s call it the “grind”.

The “grind” for normal people, most people, is as follows: work, raise kids, pay bills, work again, deal with automotive, personal and/or work related stress, keep working, keep paying bills, deal with family, deal with friends, deal with dickheads and eventually get to a point in life that you no longer have to deal with the “grind”. Unfortunately, this usually means you are dead, so most of us will deal with the “grind” til the day we die.

For DJ’s this is the same, but you just need to add in all of the DJ type activities to everything I just mentioned because, for the most part, anyone that gets into DJ’ing does so as a “hobby”. The “grind” is very much different for DJ hobbyists out there and looks a bit like this…

The “grind” is real if you’re any type of DJ that must hustle to get the gigs on the regular, i.e. you don't have a manager to do all of the daily hustle for you. Being one of these types for all of my life as a DJ, I think I have a bit of knowledge on this subject, but I’m listening if someone disagrees with me, as everyone is different.

The “grind” is what DJ’s must do if they want to play regularly and aren’t interested in becoming weekly/daily/monthly superstar, touring types. Big props to those who are on that level as I give much respect to the work they put into their careers, but I have my own career that is as far away from DJ'ing as you can get and I love that career. I also love my family more than my other career, so this DJ game comes in at number 3 in the "most important things in my life" league table. But I digress from the grind...

The “grind” means you checking in monthly, if not weekly, with current venues regarding your set times and dates. The “grind” means you’re constantly on the lookout for new venues to ply the trade as this industry of ours is quite fluid and rarely will gigs stay the same forever meaning you can be bumped out (leading to lots of meetings at weird times). The “grind” means being on the lookout for new music to purchase, download, dig for, make and share, because, let’s be honest, no matter how much we all love music (it’s why we all do what we do), it gets boring playing the same music over and over again. This means it also gets boring for the bar staff and venue staff you work with weekly and can lead to you getting the chop when someone new roles around. This brings us to another meaning of the “grind”, I.e. maintaining professional working relationships with venue staff. This one is actually quite easy, assuming you get along with the people you work with, but when you add in variables such as alcohol and long/horrible hours to the mix (pardon the pun), sometimes relationships can be strained. The “grind” also means promotion. Historically a “bad word” amongst DJ’s, or artists, promotion is now just accepted as part of a regular gig. Everyone has Facebook, so everyone (or most venues) expect DJ’s to promote their gigs through Facebook and/or other online means…it’s just a fact of our life now. As well, the “grind” invariably means producing music or mixes and, most importantly, sharing these regularly updated musical opuses with those who may decide on their drinking location based off of your shared musical journeys. The “grind” means graphic design as that promotion you will be doing requires some form of striking imagery to entice the punters to attend your event. The “grind” means networking (not promotion) at all times of the day and night. If you’re not out there making a name for yourself, someone else is and they’ll be the ones getting the gigs if you’re not. The “grind” also means chasing up payment for sets from unscrupulous promoters and/or venue owners who sometimes try to take advantage of kindred spirited DJ types…I’ve seen it happen so often, it’s not funny.

In reality, I could probably break this down for 10 more pages, but I think you get the picture. The reason I mention it like this, bearing my soul as I do on this outdated blog of mine (Shan, I’m looking at you), is that the gig I was talking about earlier is actually one of my favourites. Even with the two lulls in the night, I had a ripping time sharing music (of all styles) with folks throughout the night. People had fun, danced, sang and left the venue at the end of the night with smiles on their faces. I know it wasn’t only the music that caused that, but it I also know it was a major contributing factor. 

Self-doubt may have seeped into my veins for a couple of brief moments, but you get that sometimes. My belief in this hobby of mine may bend from time to time, but it will never break (jeez, I sound like a self-help guru now).

As I have discussed with my partner in funk, Mr Lob, on more than one occasion, it is a privilege to do what we do and I am forever grateful for being able to do it. Therefore, the “grind” I go through on a daily/weekly/monthly basis is worth it for me, for now. Hopefully, and this is all I can really hope for, the worthiness of all the gigs will stay the same because I love playing this “game” of ours.

Peeze,


OB

Monday, April 9, 2018

This DJ game...




So it’s absolutely packed and going off to a healthy mashed-up dose of punk, rock, pop, hiphop, rnb, bass and assorted party music (as I do). The current standard way to request at a place like Lucky Coq (due to me playing in a truck —fer real) is to hold up your phone whilst I ignore said phone. 


On this particular occasion (this past Sat night), a phone is thrust into my vicinity and waved around viciously just over the mixer. It’s obvious that this punter is not very accepting of my ignore tactic, so I play the game and look at the phone in a polite “you gotta be fucking kidding me” manner. 


I have to hand it to this particular punter, as she has written a full page on her phone, like, an entire page of text. And just to get me on side right away, quite clearly, it says, “You’re a sham! We’ve been here watching you for almost 2 hours and you haven’t played one relevant song yet. Play something modern like Chris Brown.” I may have added a few subtle points, but it was pretty much this. Mind you, the place was packed and going off — everyone was having fun. Also, yes, she used the word “sham”.


So I’m going to break this down for posterity sake:

  1. I was taken a bit back for a millisecond as I’d just played a Chris Brown track. So her final point was about as valid as my relevance. That said, I played Chris Brown before or after Rancid so she may have forgotten this when everyone was skanking and jumping around on her designer shoes (which I’m guessing she was wearing). Regardless, I felt it was a bit unfair on her part to even mention his name as I had just played him, thus debunking her shit ‘relevance’ line. Maybe she was too engrossed in writing her dissertation to notice or maybe she was pissed that I played ‘Beautiful People’ and not that Lil Dickie track my 13-year old son likes, but it was a poorly researched statement nonetheless (and I hate poor research).
  2. Who actually takes the time to write an entire page of text in a very busy (packed) nightclub where everyone is having fun, then makes their way to the front (which would have taken time), waves their phone around until the DJ notices and then expects the DJ to read a rude (and, as it turns out, misinformed) statement calling them a “sham” in the hopes they will then realize their inadequacies and play Chris Brown? Apparently, she does.
  3. Actually, I’m taking the piss. I couldn’t have cared less and just went on my merry way into Journey or something equally “less relevant” (Big Rich, I’m looking at you). 

So...


3 songs later and the night’s over (I closed with Guns of Brixton as security requested that and it’s a great track — I love The Clash). Of course, this means it’s now time for the girl with the phone to come tell me how shit I was and how my playlist is about 10-years too old. It’s actually waaaaaaaay older than that, so ha!


This is when I realize she’s an American tourist (the worst — jokes). I ask where she’s from (hoping she’ll hear that I too am an American tourist and we’ll just laugh it off) and she says she’s from New York. She asks where I’m from and I say, “West Coast, the best coast” (Paul Roman styles). To be a smart arse, I even flashed a Westside. Again, Paul Roman styles.


This leads to a verbal tirade about how I’d never cut it DJ’ing in the USA as they’re more “forward thinking” and they play “relevant music”. I literally laughed at her as I had no actual comeback to that. “Chris Brown” and “forward thinking” are not two concepts I equate as one, but, hey, I am waaaay behind in the times. So I just laughed, which made her even angrier. This is when security began to escort everyone out and she continued to tell me how shit I was and how she’d never come back. She literally was yelling at me from across the floor. 


I thanked her for her comments (actually, I I think I yelled “God bless America and make America great again!”) But I digress....


Anyways, her message got me to thinking. What is “relevant music” these days? 


I mean, I’ve loved music since I was old enough to play pots and pans along to Sesame Street and I was in bands since I was 14, playing in bars and clubs since I was 16 and have DJ’ed now for 19 years.


I like to keep my fingers on the pulse as much as I can and buy a lot of new music, but find that the new music I like the most isn’t the music club kids are into (at least not at the majority of places I play). For the sake of this post, I won’t go into all the new music I’m into as it’s quite varied and anyone that knows me knows that I love ALL music and have not a chin stroking bone in my body. But in terms of club stuff I play that borders on hiphop, dancehall and RNB, I’m into Leikeli47, Fab Boyz, Mike Darole, SZA and Vince Staples and I’ve noticed these acts don’t get the same crowd reaction as classic hiphop and RNB like 50 Cent, Biggie, Snoop, Mary J, Missy, etc. 


In fact, playing one or more of these tracks often kills the dance floor during peak time sets (not bad for opening sets, but you gotta play the jams to hold a dance floor at more commercial venues — I’m not afraid to admit it). So I gotta play the new stuff sparingly with the old stuff if I want to seriously rock (and pack out a dance floor — in my experience). Nothing new here, as any DJ who plays similar venues to me can attest to.


So therefore I play a lot of mash-up to keep it interesting for me. If yer wondering what “mash-up” is (OB styles), at Lucky Coq (I only do the closing sets there), I’d say it’s 70-30 in terms of rock/punk rock/nu metal/pop getting 70% play and hiphop/rnb getting the remainder. At other venues, I’d mash it up with house, drum’n’bass, reggae, bass, disco, etc but this was not one of those vibes or venues on this particular occasion. The packed room going off was validation that I was actually doing something right, but I was cheesing it up big time. Having fun! I make no qualms about this...I get paid to rock the house. 


So I completely understood where she was coming from about the lack of relevance in my set, albeit she was rude as hell about it. Hence, me being a dickhead back to her. 


But here’s my take on why I play club sets the way I do...


With the iPod generation now being regular club attendees, I’ve noticed over the past 10 years that kids like quick mixes, many styles of music and lots of anthems. Older heads (like myself) are happy to kick back, hear songs out and go on that journey (I fucking hate the word “journey” when it comes to DJ’ing as it sounds so wanky, but I love saying it for the sake of Big Rich — he loves Steve Perry). It’s why I’m mellower with the Bar gigs.


So mixing in the commercial type clubs I play is way different to mixing in the bars I play (where you can play the underground stuff). I guess it’s always been that way, but the lines of demarcation have never been so contrasting to me as they are now. Luckily, I have my feet in both camps...but for how much longer, I don’t know. Maybe I’m not relevant at all and kicking it way past my bed time.


That’s the thing with ‘relevance’. 


I’m sure Axl Rose thought he was still relevant when he played to half-empty theaters when he toured with that horrible version of GNR. Is my time coming? Or did my time already come and I didn’t see it? I guess 20 years in this DJ game is a good run and I’ll keep doing it til nobody books me anymore, but there are fewer and fewer of my contemporaries still playing. I’m 44 this year, is that too old?


So I guess I’ll end with what I think is relevant music:


Relevant music to me is anything that sparks an emotion. If it makes you happy, it’s relevant because it’s brightened your outlook on life (for even the time the song is on). If it makes you sad (due to an attached memory), then it obviously has some form of relevance to it that will hopefully be cathartic in some form.


Why put a year or time frame on what makes music relevant or not? Timeless jams like ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ (Big Rich, I love you), ‘Juicy’ or ‘Funk Phenomenon’ will always rock a dance floor (well, ones I play, at least), so why pay a person out for sharing what they love about music?


This DJ game...