Learning to DJ and His First Gig
“I had literally never ever even looked at or considered being a DJ in my life. I started with the S4 because I had one week to learn how to DJ. So I was just like well I haven’t got enough time to learn how to use CDJs or certainly not vinyl.’ So I did a bit of research and thought ‘right Traktor, which means I’ve got sync buttons if I need to fall back on it from time to time.’
“But then obviously I released my first EP and my label [the SKisM-founded Never Say Die Records] was just like ‘alright you’ve got your first show in a week!’ and I was just like ‘[gasps for air]’ [laughs] and it was at Ministry of Sound in London as well.
“Anytime I have an issue, I go to SKisM and get advice from him and he’s always got my back, which is great, having him behind me. And he has to help me! He’s my boss, so it’s even in his best interest as well. It’s not like I’m going to some other random DJ who’s not affiliated with me and begging for help! So it’s good having him there.”
Controllers vs. CDJs
“Controllers are awesome. I’ve found comfort in it because it’s easy to use and I picked it up straight away, but now I just feel like it’s a comfort zone more than anything. I want to spread out on CDJs but I haven’t had the time to properly pick them up and do what I do live with the S4 but on CDJs, which I technically can now with the whole HID control and I can literally map CDJ-2000s out to work exactly like the S4, because you can use all of them as MIDI mappings and control everything in Traktor through it as well. So it’s just going on to a bigger console and not having to take the S4 around. It’s also getting used to a bigger setup and getting comfortable. I just need a decent enough break from touring to just get on with it and be able pick it up.
“All that said, I use it more for sample decks and sometimes even a triple mix, but never four. I’d never go into four like SKisM and his four CDJs, but I do utilize it’s options. I tend to keep it semi-basic, just because that gives me all the time to get the energy and things right because the main thing that put me off to going on to standalone CDJs was the fact that it does take a lot of time to get everything into the mix, make sure everything is perfect and always keeping track of things and it takes the time away, so it looks like we’re just standing there a lot and it takes away from the performance aspect. If you can just shove it in straight away and then work the crowd and play with them, it works so much better.”
Performing as a DJ
“I had only a week to learn how to DJ. I did my research; first all the technical research and then actual DJ research and started watching all these videos of all these DJs performing live. I just noticed how fucking boring they all were and was just like ‘C’mon, people pay so much money to come out and see a show, at least give them a show! Don’t just stand there and play what someone could listen to on a mixtape at home.’
“It’s not like the the old days where you’re paying to see a DJ. You’re paying to see a producer/performer now [light laugh], and they’re there to hear the music. It’s definitely down to track choice as well, but simplistically, they’re pretty much there to get what they’re given as well. At the same time, you’ve got to give a performance, a show and give people a reason to come back to you!”
“My sets are quite anally planned out, actually.
“I’ve been using pretty much the same similar set for about the last six months, until now. I just completely revamped it and put in a lot more of my new stuff and loads of new stuff I’ve gotten on promo, so this will be the first time I’ll be playing out this particular new set. I go in this way because I like to have everything melodically matched and not just randomly choosing two songs that are in the same key, because I like to make sure the actual songs work together before I play them out. So I’ve pretty much got a pre-planned set, like a set list. I might stray off depending if something is just not going off, like say if I was playing some trap and people were just like ‘eh’ and so I’ll be like ‘alright, I’ve got to quickly get out of this’ but I pretty much normally just stick to quite a strict set.’
“People can know what they want, but to be clear I do change it up every set, it’s just a very good guideline for me. It’s an anal basic guideline [laughs]. I know a lot of DJs that will do partially what I’m doing and partially not. So it’ll be loads of pre-planned sections rather than one big set planned. They’ll have say a ten minute run of tunes planned that they can bring in whenever they want and then another set of fifteen minutes of a set and just rearrange it and they can change it depending on the crowd, but I pretend to. But I’m pretty prepared if worst comes to worst and people really just aren’t feeling it I can go off and do something quickly.”