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Diary of a night DJing

What happens from start to finish

A legacy - but one that still works

This is a legacy page from the older version of the site which I WILL eventually get round to editing down, but for the time being, I think it's quite interesting to read it after you've read the book - as you'll notice a lot of themes, questions and answers stem from experiences like the one mentioned below. Reading through it, I still can't believe this happened almost 7 years ago! As, for the time being, there's no much on this site about playing live, this 'Diary' covers everything I would write in a bit less of a formal way, hopefully still getting the points across, just without the waffle from me!

One Friday Night

This page was originally designed to answer some questions that were put to me about what to do to prepare for a night in the Dj box.

Rather than just including straight answers to each of his questions, I decided to write a 'Diary' of a night in the DJ booth in a club I was working in at the time. Unfortunately, I deleted most of the questions he had for me, so I'm gonna have to wing it!!

As far as I can remember, these were the questions:-

  • What happens if you don't know the tune the guy before has just finished?
  • Do you bring your own headphones? Which ones do you like best?
  • What do you say to the other DJ's you met that night?
  • When do you ask for the money?
  • Do you start with softer tunes and get harder?
  • Do you clean each record before you play it?
  • How do you arrange your tunes in the box? Alphabetically? By Genre?

Actually, I think that's all of the questions he asked me. I may have a memory like a sieve sometimes, but hey, it's useful to make pasta!!!

But, I'm not going to answer them. Well, I will. But not yet. What I want to do is to take you through a diary of my own, which I was recording to be part of this site. It deals with the first night working at a (in my case - new) club - something I experienced last friday night (10/12/99) when I started a new residency at a club in Paisley called Pravda.

I know this is straying from the point of this page really, but I want to go through the whole thing, from how I got the gig to driving home after it.

I got this gig through the old Networking thing. One night when working at the pub, a friend of the guy I do the night with came into the pub. We got to talking about the DJing side of life, and the subject of my losing my Saturday night residency came up. Eric (the friend) said that he was about to leave his residency at Pravda, and after hearing me play that night, said he'd put me forward as his replacement. (Nice of him!)

So, I sent out a tape (upon request) to the team at Pravda, and after a few teething problems, was phoned and asked to go along for an audition. We had a chat about musical policy, length of time I was to play (which at this point was about 2hrs) and then money. This is my downfall. I hate talking about money - it's like you're in love with yourself. "Oh, I want £XXX for the night (coz I'm THAT good!)" I prefer them to make me an offer, then either laugh or faint! Fortunately, I was asked what I was getting paid for my last residency, which makes life a LOT easier to cope with. I just added on 25%, and hoped they'd be ok with that. They were...

So, now we get onto the subject of arranging your tunes. Although we'd had a chat about what kind of stuff I'd be playing, it was still arranged that I should take most of my collection along, so that a few pointers could be made about what was too heavy, what was too crap, and what was baby bears porridge.

Bearing in mind that I was still under the impression that I was only doing a 2hr set, I thought I'd spend some time working on a set. I've said before in this site that you can spend all day preparing a set sometimes, yet you turn up at the place, find the people are in a different mood than you thought, and end up scrapping the whole thing. But it does have the advantage that you have something to fall back on if you start to lose the plot a bit, get flustered, or can't think of what should go next.

Half-way through this finely honed set, I get a phone call from the bookings guy, saying there's been a change in plans. (There's a sentence to make your stomach churn). It turned out good though, the guy who normally does Fridays wasn't going to turn up, so I was to do the whole night - which I prefer anyway. So bang goes the set list!!!

Friday comes. I'm a real bad one for pre-match nerves, always have been, ever since I played drums in a band - so I didn't get that much sleep the night before (about 5hrs) - kept on going over stuff in my mind. It helps to be a dim-wit at times, without a clue or care in the world - you get more sleep that way!!! So anyway, after playing through some tunes, just to make sure I hadn't lost the ability to beat-match (it could happen!!!!) I started packing up my gear (check out the book for a handy checklist, and chapter for the Top Ten things you should take with you when DJing.

So I've got the gear, stuck it in the boot of the car, gone to the garage, filled up the tank and bought my Irn Bru, Marlboro Lights (I used to smoke back then), Jelly Babies etc, and it's off the see the wizard........

I got in about an 90 mins before the club opened - mostly because I still has to go through the tune selection with the man! But I do like to get to a club AT LEAST 30 mins prior to opening. Many reasons for this, if you're late by fifteen mins, you're still early - if something's bust - you've got time to fix it - if you've left something at home, you've got time to go back to it (as long as you're not past the point of no return). But the other reason I got there early was because it was a new system I was using - got to learn a new mixer and all that.

So we had our musical talk, and I jumped on at about 22:15 (45 mins before opening). Time well spent. I don't want to put down the club, but the mixer is a real piece of....... (fill in the blank). It's not that bad, but there's things missing like no control to view the strength of the signals going into the channel, so you don't know how powerful it is until you move the fader. There's other stuff like working out the acoustics of the floor, the level the monitor needs to be at, headphone levels, where to stash your Irn Bru and Marlboros etc. which all need to be sorted by the start of the night.

The night itself went smoothly. A couple of visits telling me to increase the volume a bit, or to take the energy down a little, but apart from that, smooth as a babies backside!

End of the night was pretty simple too. Had a chat about how well the night went with the guy who booked me, a word with the managers, the directors, and the guy in the toilets - (apparently, no-one complains to the management anymore when they have a bad time, the guy who hands out the Lynx and Brylcreem gets the brunt of it - tip him at the beginning of the night, and ask him at the end of the night for feedback from the relievers.) Then just hang around to pick up my loot, make sure I've got the job, pack up my stuff, and drive home.

So, the nights over, you get home to bed, and lie awake until 6 in the morning going over the night in your mind - bugger!!

Other questions

That was my night then, but I've not answered a couple of the questions:-

What happens if you don't know the tune the guy before has just finished?

First, ask him how it finishes. He'll still be behind the decks, making sure you don't hurt his tune when you take it off, so ask him if it ends with beats, fades out, or keeps a musical refrain going - then stops. The first and last are pretty easy to deal with, the fade one's a pain! Just do what I've heard Oakey do - announce your arrival. Stick on the next tune, cut the Eq's and cut the level of the last tune a little then whack the cross fader across - don't even bother beat matching it - at least you've announced you're on!!

What do you say to the other DJ's you met that night?

Just ask them what kind of night it's been so far, what people are asking for, what it's taking to make the crowd bounce, are they a friendly lot? All that kind of stuff. Just make sure to be polite, friendly, and talkative. Remember that most of the people you take over from will be warm up Dj's, who could do with a little reinforcement about their skills. It costs nothing to be nice.

Oh yeah, if you get some guy coming up saying "You know, I'm a dj myself", smile, nod, then walk away. They're only after one thing, to try to blag their way on the decks. Ok, this is probably a poor assumption, but it's my experience. Unless of course it's Sasha, in which case, get on your knees and beg him to play a set.

Do you start with softer tunes and get harder?

Depends when you're playing. If you're doing the whole set, like I did, then yes, most places like you to start off soft, and progressively get harder. Some places want you to do a RollerCoaster effect, taking the crowd up and down through the night - fine, as long as the crowd is receptive to it. If you are going on halfway through the night, the warm up guy has already warmed them for you - so you can normally start playing what you want, when you want.

Do you clean each record before you play it?

A half hearted wipe with the sleeve of my shirt if it looks manky is really all I give it. As long as you keep your tune in their covers, and there's no static in the sleeve, then the tunes shouldn't get that dirty anyway. Some places keep a brush next to the decks for dirty records, you can tell just by looking whether they need a quick once over with a cloth or not.

There's more in the book

(I'll add more here when I get a chance though)

Once again - there's more on all of these subjects and concepts in the book. I don't want to keep pushing it each page - but this is just a small part of the information contained. Put it this way - I'm giving you THIS info for free in the hope you'll still buy the book based on the amount of info IT contains - it must be worth it...


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