John Digweed, International DJ sheds some light on how to become a DJ
When I first though on an article for "how to become a DJ" I realised that the best method is to learn from the people already in the business. People who have made it. This editied and adapted interview from the Digital DJ guide with international DJ John Digweed is a good starter
What were you influences?
Heaven 17, New Order, Talk Talk, electro, hiphop and some chart radio. I used a tape recorder to record off the radio. I used to hunt for tracks that people never heard of- big tracks, and then play them for people months before hand. I bought a cheap Denon turntable (it never had pitch control), a Technics (that did) and a cheap mixer. I worked odd jobs to pay for my records (I used to work out the BPM for each one).
Did the record shops help?
Yes. Establishing a rapport with the sales staff and the owners got you the best and newest records. As you get better known they would help you more which saved you time.
What do you do now?
Be professional as possible. If you are paying money to see someone or to enjoy yourself- like at the cinema or restaurant you want to see professionalism and that is what I try to achieve. Some people will travel many miles to see you so you must not wate that stickiness power that you have. Every show must be good, every performance must be good, every track must be good. How to become a DJ? research into your tunes, buying your tunes and sourcing your tunes are all important. People will look at you to play them some new/ breaking tunes and sounds.
How about GIGs?
You have to look at them roughly the same. You could be playing to 500 or 50,000. It doesn't matter, that professionalism should still be there. The difference is probably the sound set up. Bigger gigs sometimes need bigger records. You also need to check out the sound system, lighting, what time you are playing, who is on before you, the time of the actual show...etc. That is why I take alot of music with me you just have to be versatile. You can not go in blinkered to any event. if you do a poor gig then it reflects poorly on the promoter (who will not thank you for that) and it will also reflect poorly on the actual scene/ genre that you are Djing. If the audience sees that ever gig is poor because each DJ doesn't care then they won't turn up to the clubs...and you will be out of a job. It is a bad idea that some DjS WILL SAY "I will only play for 2 hours". Thats silly, if a crowd is jumping for joy you want to carry on...not stop.
Buy, download or sent music?
50% bought, 30% downloaded, 20% sent directly to me, and from those I personally edit 30-40% of all the tracks I use.
The playing field has been leveled...is that a good thing?
For people learning how to become a DJ they must realise that only certain equipment actaully allow you to beat match and even then you must be able to use it in a skillful way. What you actually play is important. Ableton allows some amazing things to happen, but it removes the beatmatching and callanges invloved in DJing- but it is important to remember that DJing is something unique and that is what people like to see. But when you add FX and complex mixers to a set it increases the difficulty back again.
You are a record label boss...what has electronic music meant to you?
The record is dying and the download generation has sprung up. We went into this with both feet and it has paid off. Exposure is bigger, it is much easier now, and for a label it is more cost effective than the manufacturing side of things. The transfer of music is much more fluid, allows eaier promoting and shorter lead times.
If you want to become a DJ then the best place to start is with a Pro. International DJ Danny Rampling has created an ebook with everything you need to know about how to become a DJ. Check that out first here: How to become a DJ like the Pros