Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Message To You Rudy

The Selector.

Like design, DJing-- and I always say this-- is not always about the technique, the maddest-skillz, or the perfect crossfade. It is about the perfect selection. And its about the happiest of accidents... sometimes when beats, and tunes, and melody and themes collide. Sometimes it is a mangled wreck as beats slam into each other or climb over each other gratingly mismatched. But other times, it makes sense- beautiful, melodic sense.

I have been making mix tapes for friends and soon-to-be-friends and acquaintances for almost 30 years now. Ever since I got a hand-me down, Radio Shack Realistic all-in-one (featuring AM/FM/FM stereo radio-record player-8-track) I have been transferring source to tape. It starts with a full LP borrowed from a friend. But taping to 8-track or cassette, you always had that extra bunch of minutes at the end. My dad used to begin the record over and repeat as many of the first fews songs he could squeeze on that fourth track (of the 8-track). Usually he got a song or two and another 1/2 song on the end. But then I started to add other songs, songs from different LP, LPs that I only liked a few of the songs or had a few favorites. Then I started to put in songs from many different records as filler at the end of a tape. Well then you think, "Hey I can make a whole tape from a whole bunch of different records!" Now we got something here!!- the mix tape was born. And I am sure the actual birth of the actual first mix tape was born of a similar light bulb experience as mine. I didn't even know you could do this?! Some people would record a LP and add nothing else, just leave unrecorded tape. Yes, unrecorded tape!!

So as you start to pick songs for the tapes- you pick songs that go good together. You start to select songs that maybe follow a common theme (we'll discuss the theme tape at a later date- ed.). Then the tapes get passed around, they get played at parties, they get given as gifts.

Well anyway, as I get older and being a bit of a social misfit, I would start digging through someone's music at a party. It begins as a conversation piece but it ends up as, "Hey you don't mind of I play a few songs do you?" next thing you know, I would be DJing the party by playing many songs in a row. Picking records and playing songs.

Then I met my friend Matthew (dj MKO and later just KO) who had a set of turntables permanently set up in his living room. "Hey you don't mind of I play a few songs do you?" So you can see where this leads to... hooking up some hand me down turntables to a cheap-ass mixer and what-do-you-know, an amateur-professional DJ is born.

Well that became a nice side job- playing music (records and CDs) in a bar. Actually a lot of bars: Old Pink, New Pink, Atomic, Concrete, 3rd Room, Crash Club (my 1st paying gig), Goodbar, Mohawk Place, Kingsnake, 658, O, Blu, Icon, Tralf, Pearl Street- and those are only the ones I can remember. Parties, art gallery openings, opening gigs for bands...

Well I have never been a beat-mixer, as the kids call it. Lord knows I have tried to match beats, seamlessly transforming songs from one to another. Sometimes it happens, and it is so sweet- but mostly I am what is known as a selector. I can pick songs, great songs (at least I think they are all great) that go together. And when you stream a lot of songs in a row that go together- you have something- the mix.

Now I have seen kids that were great precision DJs. They were like surgeons-- they could blend 10 songs together and it sounded like one long song. But that was usually 10 songs in about 10 minutes! Ten songs they picked (and practiced) to follow one another in succession. The mix was scientifically correct- a soulless flop. It lacked everything that music is suppose to be about, and it turn, what the mix is suppose to be about- heart and the soul. Like James Brown said, "Bobby, what ever it is, it gots to be funky."

Now I am not baggin' on the other DJs, the real DJs as some like to call them... some of them are my friends. I have settled into being alright with the fact that I was never, and probably will never be, a perfect mixer. I would rather be the perfect selector any day. You never know when those 2 songs, that you never planned to go together, suddenly find themselves going together. As long as you could fade one song over the next- and they are about the same tonal quality-- it works. I would often leave for a deja blu gig, not even knowing what was in my record bag. Now I would have a general idea- I wasn't carting around a lot of punk rock, Sabbath, Sugar or Doors to play at the Kingsnake- but a lot of DJs bring an exact set, a pre-planned set of music to play in a preset succession. I prefer to kind of wing it. To bring a lot things I like ( or haven't played in a while) and make it up on the spot. Things that aren't suppose to be played together can go together- it just works that way. And that is what keeps me doing it- the happy mistakes, the gut feeling, the unplanned plan- the beautiful magic of the selector when things go just right.


Anonymous said...

From Andre-

Oh have to admit, I witnessed the transformation from a fan to a pro over the course of those days in would pull some freaky shit out and lay some funky ass "Evel Kneivel" monologue....was very inspiring to me all the spoken word you dropped on ears. I have managed to maintain a very minimum amount of wax I had accumulated back in the day, I have maybe 2 full recycle bins and 2 carry bags of wax, haven't dropped science in a very, very long time(last time I was at the Dr.'s Office)...miss it tremendously.

I've also been away from the blogs as of late, been a little busy getting things in order here in the land of Elvis, but will be making my way back to adding some thoughts and reflections soon.

Peace out bro's.


Anonymous said...

m. your artistic philosophy has always been the 'let's drive blindfolded and see if we crash and burn' type...

Face it- some people like/need a road map.

when it works, it soars.
when it doesn't- ouch!

(but then there is abject beauty in the *ouch*, hmmm?)

mark said...

Happy accidents by nature, I guess. You just gotta be ready for a lot of 'ouch' to get to the soaring....

And just for the record, I have never actually driven while blindfolded- just in the artistic sense.

Anonymous said...

Dr., I remember many great days spinning at the old Richmond pad. I enjoyed the look back. Keep ridin' those wax wheels. Your pal, Caz