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Interview with DJ Satan
What is your Web site?
www.dj-satan.com. I have an e-mail list for anyone who wants to sign up. Contact me from the site.
Describe the DJing you do.
I mostly just spin at local parties, thrown in and around LA by a group of my Burning Man friends called Gigsville. I started out as a DJ among them, and they're the ones who know me best (and who originally gave me my name ). I haven't really expanded my reach, although I get nibbles here and there to spin at remoter places for different crowds.
Figure 7.7. Photo of DJ Satan by firstname.lastname@example.org .
I like breakbeats the best, always have. Ever since the early rave tunes, when they used to mix up the styles inside each track. Now the dance genres are a lot more ghettoized, but that does make it easier to describe and select the types of music I'm after. I also enjoy trance, especially what I call "desert trance." You know what I mean, tracks that sound best in the great outdoors. But I have a newfound taste for house, and I can be heard spinning it at any given time. It almost always goes over real well. When it's specifically a Gigsville gathering where I know pretty much everyone, according to their more freeform ethic I make it known that people are welcome to bring their CDs to the console and request me to play their favorite songs. It could be anything, really, and for them I'm always happy to.
My spinning style is pretty straightforwardjust beat matching and mixing for the dance tracks I spin, and then just standard radio-style segueing when it's normal rock/funk/disco or old school tracks. I've just started to become comfortable at turntable scratching, so I've been doing some of that lately.
Do you use turntables, samplers, sequencers, keyboards, and other devices and programs? Which of each do you use? How do you use them?
I have a variety of equipment, which I use in different musical situations. I have the typical Technics 1200 turntables, which I bought used, plus a dual CD deck (a Denon 1800) for my actual DJ gigs. I've been spinning for 4 1/2 years , and as I said I'm starting to do more freeform things like scratch. I have a very run-of-the-mill mixer, however, the Stanton RM 100, which has a noticeable level dip when you move the crossfader. Therefore, I don't feel comfortable scratching on that mixer. It has no way to adjust the crossfader level setting, either. (Folks, save up and get a Pioneer or a Rane instead!) Being a DJ turns out to be a very, very expensive hobby when you're not getting paid up front.
I have a Mac PowerBook laptop that can run either OS9 or OSX, and an older Akai 2800 sampler that I use for my electro-industrial act, Fifth Column Fetish. I will have that going again, I think, as soon as I get MOTU Digital Performer and the new MOTU 828 Mk. II interface, because that thing has eight digital audio channels, MIDI, and a couple of different remote sync functions. Then I can start making more DJ mix CDs; I only have one out now, done with the help of some friends. I also have a couple of vintage drum machines, a Roland TB-303 and a TR-606, which I will be able to sync via the 828.
Do you use existing creations to work from, create your own, or both? Describe what you do with each.
My drummer friend Matty Nash plays in a nine- or ten-piece percussion ensemble called The Mutaytor, which he and I basically founded. If you live in LA, you've likely already seen them; they've played everywhere Burning Man-type events have taken placeacoustic and electronic percussion, very colorful , lots of fire spinning and hoop spinning, costumes and such. When we started out sometime in 1999 it was just me programming my own patterns on the 303 and 606 and playing them over Matty's drumming, manually matching his tempo. He would hear me through a monitor turned way up and sync up with me as well. I later borrowed and used a newer Roland 505, which has more diverse drum and synth sounds on it, but then I quit Mutaytor in 2001, about two years ago. They've expanded since then and gotten more elaborate, but I'm just not really into playing extended drum jams; I'm now looking to get back into electronica and rock 'n' roll, actually, do FCF again and other things.
Whenever I played with Matty, though, it was as DJ Satan, although I wasn't strictly playing records. I beatmatched using my own rhythms . When I DJ normally, most of the time people expect to hear others' records anyway. During the years that I did Mutaytor, occasionally there was a gig or two where I was scheduled to do Mutaytor and open or close with my DJ set. So, I had to set up my turntables and the P.A. and my Mutaytor setup. That got to be way too strenuous and nerve -racking to do all at once, and horror stories would happen: I would forget to bring crucial pieces of sound gear before driving 100 miles to the gig, because I was struggling to get through my workweek while preparing for basically two acts at once. From then on, I vowed it would be just one thing at a time.
I didn't start out with a very big record collection. All I had was pretty much the weird alternative and industrial stuff I listened to and collected during college. So when I started, I knew I had to accumulate enough techno 12s for at least an hour and a half set that I would want to spin in the first place. It took a while; shit's expensive, even when used! And most of the time I'm collecting new 12s anyway, since I want to have some leading edge and keep my dance vinyl set from going completely stale.
Over the years, as soon as some event came up, I'd learn that they'd want me to play a downtempo set, so I'd go out and shop for downtempo vinyl; then at some later party, they're wanting to hear disco and funk, so I'd need to go and pick up those pure funk and pure disco compilations. And meanwhile I wanted to keep my eye open for as many of what might be considered old school "classics" as I couldjust in case I had a chance to earn a little respect from those who'd been around and heard it all. The good news is, I now have the tracks in hand, and at each gig down the line I have a little more flexibility and latitude to deal with what a crowd may expect. But to me the ultimate lesson in collecting music to spin is that every gig is potentially different, and you have to be ready to play anything .
Any closing comments?
In wanting to DJ in the first place, I saw the opportunity to fill a niche that no one else occupiedentertaining friends and others by both playing them things they wanted to hear and introducing to them my favorite things I think they should hear. But after a while, people's expectations can get the better of your own expectations. I can't tell you how many times I'm somewhere spinning, playing my funkiest track, and I'm approached by some chick telling me, "Can you play something we can dance to?" Then I have to decide whether that person's just being an asshole or whether I'm actually killing the vibe. The point is, as the DJ, you end up being responsible for the entire party. Not the guys who put it on, not the bar-tender, not whose house or space it takes place in, it's you. So if you've never DJed before and start spinning for others, your responsibility for everyone's vibe can catch you off guard.
But it can be a ton of fun. It's a real rush when I've done a perfect beat match, and I hear a cheer or two rise from the floor. I've emptied out whole rooms, but I've filled rooms back up, too. As long as you have a vision in mind of where you want to transport people throughout the evening, you can't really go wrong.
Whew, I've said a mouthful . Thanks for the interview!
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