• James Hewlett

Back to Basics

So this past Saturday night I was DJing at Sara’s bar. She’s spent weeks arranging a music festival for a local mental health charity ‘Solent Mind.

The whole day was great, it was definitely a long one though. I said I’d help her set it up so at 8am we’re there throwing a ball of yarn back and forth to each other from separate levels of the bar to string up bunting and decorations.

This was the band that headlined, I was playing just after them.

I haven’t DJ’d professionally for nearly three years outside of one or two gigs here and there. (Usually there actually!) special occasions and helping out. As this a charity event and everyone else, all the bands and entertainment, were doing it for free I knew they would be the same for me. Due to this, and because my old gear isn’t in the best of conditions after many years of hard labouring all over the south coast followed by three years relegated to a dusty corner of the attic, I had decided that for the first time ever I was going to be a laptop wanker.

I used to despise seeing DJs using laptops, it just felt and looked so lazy.

When I first started people used to come up and criticise me for using CD’s instead of vinyl. I would always try and explain that it was mostly a convenience thing, bringing six wallets full of hundreds of CD’s allowed me to have many more options on a given night. That was totally true but it was also just a simple fact of that was how I learnt. Vinyl is a completely unique skill and one that I had never attempted to learn.

So when the rise of laptop DJ’s was happening I started resenting the apparent lack of talent and skill needed to make a night sound good. I could get into the business side of it and how it was the beginning of the end of a generation of entertainers but that’s a another post for another time.

So Saturday night was going to be my first time playing with just a laptop and software. I’d had a play, learnt the relevant shortcuts and stuff and got the right connectors to plug into the mixer and was ready to do a sound check. That’s when I realised that both the mixers on site can’t plug into the pub sound system, different cables, weird set ups, I won’t bore you with the details.

So at 10am, twelve hours before I’m going to start I’m running around town trying find the right cables or adaptors. In the end I gave up, came home and clambered over boxes in the loft and dig out my old busted ass mixer. I knew (hoped) that at least one channel on it was still working okay and because I was using a laptop, technically that’s all I’d need!

So I get back to the bar and am sat on the floor having a play. My confidence came straight back as soon as I turned the volume up, it was like riding a bike. A bike I’d never ridden before, with all the controls in different places but still a bike. I could figure out the rest.

The gig went amazingly, best in years, going back to when I was doing it full time. Everyone seemed to have fun and I definitely was. I fell right back into my diversely eclectic crowd pleasing ways.

So my opinion of laptops in the DJ both has changed… kind of. I do still believe they are an easy option, lazy is another word for it. As long as you know the controls and what they do you don’t require any talent to put on a night that sounds as good as any pro. But it doesn’t mean that someone who already has that talent can’t use it as just another tool with which to play. I hope I call at least closer to that category if not fully in it.

I don’t want to go back to DJing full time. When it starts becoming a job you stop enjoying it and the nights suffer. When I do a one off gig like Saturday night though and have that much fun it comes through. I look forward to doing more one offs in the future, once a month or every couple of months feels about right!

This one got long huh?! Come back tomorrow, it’ll probably be shorter.

#music #work #charity #nightlife #djing


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