The Modern DJ: Skilled Mix Artist or Profiting Production Pincher? - Producer Week


Written by Alexandra Arena

Our generation receives a lot of flack for our music. I’ve sat through too many car rides with my parents where they’ve switched the radio station on me, obnoxious comment in tow. “What is this shit?!” being one of several choice phrases.

A DJ hard at work. Photo courtesy of DJ Hazel.

Coming from an era of Renaissance musicians who did it all, our parents just can’t wrap their heads around dance music, or why we’d want to listen to repetitive, super-bass songs just for the beat. While part of me understands this sentiment, (‘Fill up my cup, Mazeltov!’ isn’t exactly the deepest lyric in the world…) let’s face it: when you’re out partying, nothing compares to a great dance track. And in the world of electronic dance music (EDM) DJs reign supreme.

By definition, a DJ is a person who selects and plays recorded music for an audience. However, according to Carles, the blogger/writer/editor-in-chief/journalist behind HIPSTER RUNOFF, the modern DJ will have to do more than just spin records or press buttons.

“He will be a true showman, taking ‘crowd participation’ to the next level. The modern DJ is somewhere between a priest in his pulpit and a rap super star.”

Recently, there has been some major dramz amongst the DJs of the world when Canadian DJ and producer Joel Zimmerman, professionally known as Deadmau5 came out with comments slamming so called “push-and-play” DJs.

Please excuse his French…

“It puts me to fucking sleep to be quite honest. I don’t really see the technical merit in playing two songs at the same speed together and it bores me to fucking tears and hopefully with all due respect to the DJ type that will fucking go the way of the dinosaur, I’d like them to dis-a-fucking-pear.”

Deadmau5 continued, “It’s so middle man. They’re like fucking lawyers. You need them, but they’re fucking cunts. God bless them, they’re my number one customer, right, so I’m not gonna go diss every fucking DJ. But to say you become this massive up-on-a-podium performer by playing other peoples’ productions at the same speed as someone else’s productions and fading between the two of them, I don’t get it.”

This isn’t anything new for Deadmau5, who had previous Twitter beef with DJ Pauly D and called his work:

“Typical [bottle-popping], [play-pressing] garbage I’m sure everyone’s sick of.”

These no-sugar-added statements received an array of responses from fellow DJs who thought Deadmau5 was discrediting their work and that he was being a hypocrite.

British DJ and producer Mr. C retaliated, stating:

“Mixing isn’t about counting to four; it’s about selecting the right record at the right time to CAPTURE THE MOMENT in creating extended long DJ mixes (beat matching) that make the tunes sound like live remixes…”

“FYI Deadmau5, there’s a magic that happens when two tunes are mixed properly together by a real DJ. Now you run along and carry on button pushing to play your cheesy pre-organized shit to children in fluffy boots and stop bothering us adults all with your uninformed opinions and lies. FUCK YOU IN EVERY ORIFICE,” wrote Mr. C.

To which Deadmau5 replied, “Let him go back to being no longer relevant.”

Unlike Mr. C, California-based mega mixer Lorin Ashton, better known as Bassnectar didn’t exactly retaliate against Deadmau5’s comments, but still took the time to defend the modern DJ further:

“I view DJing as an art and quite frankly as an honor to perform for a captive audience in a world of short attention spans and overstimulation. During a set I work nonstop, frantically combining unlimited loops, sounds, samples and effects into customized live remixes. I also get the fuck down. I let myself dance and enjoy the music the same way I do when I am at home working in the studio. I LOVE music and I have been producing, remixing, sampling, synthesizing, creating and DJing for over 15 years. Most people love music, I think…”

In Deadmau5’s defense, I must say that despite his comments, he does fess up to his own tendency to click buttons in his Tumblr blog post titled “we all hit play.

“I’m just so sick of hearing the ‘NO!!! IM NOT JUST DOING THIS, I HAVE SIX TABLES UP THERE AND I DO THIS THIS AND THIS’ like… honestly, who gives a fuck? I don’t have any shame in admitting that for ‘unhooked’ sets I just roll up with a laptop and a midi controller and ‘select’ tracks n hit a spacebar. Ableton syncs the sh*t up for me… so no beat-matching skill required. ‘Beatmatching’ isn’t even a fucking skill as far as I’m concerned anyway, so what, you can count to 4. Cool. I had that skill down when I was 3, so don’t give me that argument please.”

Bottom line is everyone’s entitled to his or her own opinion. I think Deadmau5 was trying to relay his disdain for those who pose and try to take credit for more than they’re responsible for. Respectfully, I don’t think it’s a good idea to generalize or attack your clicking comrades when your work isn’t incredibly divergent from theirs. In a sense, Deadmau5 was discrediting himself.

While I share in Deadmau5’s distaste for posers, I believe there’s something to be said about the modern DJ, whether they’re production pinchers by pushing play or not. DJs are creative and talented in their own right and when they’re good at what they do, they achieve success. Getting up in front of a crowd of people takes a showman and putting out great mixes is a skill. Believe me, I’ve been handed my fair share of crappy mix CDs. So as long as credit is given where it is due, I believe the modern DJ has a special place in the music world as an artist in his or her own respect.

If you love it when a party’s taken to the next level, I get a good feeling you agree.