Maybe I Should Call Myself “DJ Smoothie Criminal”

People have been asking how the DJ classes are going, so I thought I should update everyone here. I’m six lessons in, with two left before I finish the Basic/Intermediate course. I’m still not very good with all the technical terminology of DJing but I think so far I’ve learnt beat-matching, mixing in and mixing out, scratching, drumming, fader tricks, and some basic beat-juggling.

What’s been the most interesting about the lessons is how I’ve had to think about music in new ways that are quite different from my previous classical-musician or avid-music-consumer frames of reference. My classical training means Koflow didn’t have to teach me how to count bars, and it’s probably given me a good ear for timing and complicated rhythms. However, grade 8 qualifications in violin and piano still ain’t worth shit when I’m doing the frantic mental juggle of counting bars in one song’s chorus while beat-matching the next song and deciding when and how to mix it in, or trying to coordinate my scratching hand with my fader hand. I still have frustrating muppety days when I’m like “I used to play modern classical music with multiple changing time signatures in an orchestra, but I can’t fucking figure out whether this song’s 4 beats are faster than that song’s 4 beats???!!” Such muppetry is best illustrated by the following exchange during one of my early lessons:

Me, trying out something Koflow just taught me: Why does my scratching sound so shit?
Koflow, patiently: Because you didn’t switch the turntable on.

As a consumer of music, I’ve always been looking for songs which are well put together as a whole, where all the song’s elements work to take you on that song’s journey from beginning to end. But to listen the way a turntablist does is to never dismiss a song just because it doesn’t appeal to you in its entirety, but instead to be constantly on the look out for elements you can isolate from that song and use creatively somewhere else. Any clubber and mixtape consumer already knows this, of course, but passively appreciating someone else’s creativity is totally different from having to actively engage with the music on your own.

Which brings me neatly on to the news that, as new as I am to this type of listening, and as dodgy as my newly-acquired DJ “skills” may be, my friend Cherry recently took advantage of my drunken high at a good drum’n’bass night, and persuaded me to take a slot in her regular all-girl amateur DJ night, Pop My Cherry. The event’s this Friday night at Hacienda (full details here), and my slot’s from 11 to 12.

I’m a bit bashful about encouraging people to come, because I’m not actually going to be doing much of what I’ve learnt in my classes. I could give a long-winded explanation of why I’ll essentially be doing my set on equipment I’m totally unfamiliar with and how things could go terribly wrong as a result, but I decided an easier way would be to just show you my phat home setup:

Yeah, so basically I have zero equipment to practice on at home. I’ve been meaning to get some, but it’ll be the most expensive purchase I’ve ever made in my life, so I’ve been dragging my feet. Anyway, I’ve decided that for my first attempt at public DJing I’ll just focus on not being too nervous and doing the best transitions I can between tracks, even if I don’t manage to beat-match or scratch. So do come if you’d like to – I’d love the support – but if you do, just be aware that you’ll be listening to a DJ whose only mixer is mostly used for smoothies.

Kitchen DJ

12 comments

  1. That’s awesome! I’d love to have gone to hear you. DJing just sounds like the hardest thing in the world to me, especially since I’m a total retard at music. I had a decade of piano lessons, stumbled to 7th grade somehow, but don’t know how, and had NO clue every time the instructor played a piece whether it was a 4/4 beat or a 3/8 beat or whatever the hell that was. You know the thing where you are supposed to clap to the rhythm when the examiner played a piece? Yah that was me like a retard clapping completely randomly. Damn funny! I love journey DJ sets too and hopefully you’ll be putting out a mix tape (or mp3) for us to download soon! Are you able to tape your set?

  2. I’m tone-deaf and wholly musically stupid (I took the obligatory Chinese daughter piano exams by training my fingers to press the right keys rather than getting it on any level) but found this entry fascinating. Good luck!

  3. Kelly: Hmm, maybe it was bad teaching? No one who appreciates the musical genius of MJ on as many levels as we do can be a music retard! Also, you definitely got rhythm. :) No idea how to tape my set live unfortunately! Maybe I can recreate some of it with whatever software people use to make mixtapes on the computer though – will look into that.

    Jol: You realize I kinda live to make you go GAH!!!!, right? Thanks for the good wishes!

  4. I’m sure this must void the warranty.
    Hey, I think Michelle needs a cool dj name. Any suggests?
    Miss Mix-A-Lot.

  5. Hey Mich – you’re DJing tonight? Awesome! If I were in town, I’d definitely have gone just to listen to your maiden public set.

    I have never played a musical instrument in my life (other than the harmonica and recorder everyone educated in Singapore has to learn) and in spite of my uni days, am still a little terrified when I’ve got to dance with people watching, so (as they say in the US) massive props to you just for going up there and giving it your best shot!

    Love the animation and the MJ-inspired punny-as-hell DJ name… but don’t think it lends much street cred, sadly!

  6. I like the post name as a DJ name. I reckon there’s room to milk that as well. Mashups with fruit related songs? Vocals from Tutti Frutti to the music of Strawberry Fields? If you can find songs about yoghurt then that’s just a bonus.

  7. I like DJ Smoothie Criminal. what’s wrong with that? Dj Smoothie. DJ S. Criminal. DJ. Smoo.Cri. All sorts of variations can be done with that.

  8. Is it too late to play?

    next time out go by the title

    DJ JUST DIS!!!

    (That’s actually better then i thought it would be, -)

  9. Dominique: Yeah, um, the whole point of the joke animation and DJ name was kinda to emphasize my lack of street cred. I’m not actually intending to use that as a name lah!

    Matt: Food-inspired DJ names and sets are all very well, but I’d be concerned about whether organic or battery-reared notes were used in the songs, and WHAT ABOUT THE CARBON FOOTPRINT?!

    Brian: Alec can certainly attest to my dissing skillz, but I think it’s a better name for an MC. Keep the legal pun names coming though! I *have* actually been thinking along those lines but haven’t come up with anything good yet.

  10. Oh, my comment re: street cred was with reference only to DJ Smoothie Criminal and not at all to the animation. Think my comment wasn’t clear, so whoops!

    So… how did it go? :)

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