'Fake DJs': A Brief History

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Google ‘fake DJ’ and you’ll find plenty of reading material. Whether any of it leaves you enlightened is another question, but if there’s one topic that’s guaranteed to boil the blood of dance music’s keyboard warriors, it’s this one. (You might prefer to read the stories about Nathan Fake and Fake Blood that show up instead.) There’s even a scrappy Facebook page, ‘We Hate Fake DJs’, dedicated to the witch-hunt.

The cry of “fake DJ!” usually begins with a surreptitious photo or video taken in a club or festival showing an unplugged mixer or otherwise dodgy sleight of hand. The evidence will then be chewed over with varying levels of coherence in internet message-boards and on Facebook. Finally, if the dissent gets loud enough, the accused DJ writes a message explaining how everyone’s got it wrong. A few tenacious muckrakers will then attempt to pick holes in the defence, while the rest of the internet moves on. Often the “fake DJ” tag sticks anyway, ‘cause what fun is there in ambiguity?

A classic example of this cycle emerged in 2008 when a photo was taken of Justice in the booth at Manchester’s Warehouse Project. In the photo, Gaspard Augé is controlling a MIDI controller that’s not plugged in. Cue the schadenfreude. “Yeah, shit happens,” Augé coolly told URB in response to the ‘controversy’. “I didn’t notice at first, because as you can see I was looking at the computer to launch the next vocal hook and right after I realised that the blue screen went black, so there was no way possible it could work. So I plugged it back in, big deal! And the next thing you know [there] is this picture.” Way to ruin our fun, Gaspard.

Back in 2007, in my early days at ITM HQ, I wrote a story called ‘Peter Hook’s fake DJing exposed?’. The offending video (since removed by the user) showed the former New Order bassist furiously twiddling away to a pre-recorded set onstage at Exit Festival. It was not an accusation Hooky took lightly, calling me out personally on his website. “SO JACKT What you up to?,” he wrote. “I’m flattered you think I’m important enough to expose, I’m sure we’ll bump into each other sometime, so I can explain! In the meantime you’ve lost me 4 gigs.”

His response was actually refreshingly straight-up. “What a shock tho, some djs play pre-recorded music????,” he went on. “My mate did the lights for a very famous English DJ, he was doing a three-month tour of America and mimed to a 100,000 people a night! Just used a DAT tape and just pretended to put the records on. Naughty boy!” You can read his full riposte over at The Fader.

There was one comment under my story that has stuck with me. “It was pretty obvious watching him at Parklife he was faking it,” JayP wrote. “But you know what? i didnt care one bit. they were great tunes being played, his antics were funny as, and after all, it is Peter Hook.” And that’s usually what it comes down to with these ‘fake DJing’ blow-ups: if it gets you dancing, does it really matter? While Hooky got past his DJ deficiencies by slipping in a pre-mixed CD, the alternative could’ve been worse. Case in point: producer of the moment Mylo at Parklife in 2004. “He didn’t know how to DJ,” said Fuzzy’s Ming Gan in our Parklife retrospective feature, and the train-wrecks on the day were indeed unmissable. Maybe sometimes a bit of fake DJing is better for everyone.

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Comments

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pomrocks

pomrocks said on the 16th Mar, 2012

nice work with hook jack :thumb:

JackT

JackT said on the 16th Mar, 2012

I felt bad about Hooky, actually.

mlirosi

mlirosi said on the 16th Mar, 2012

hooky is a really cool story, did you bump into him again as promised?

lawlietskyy

lawlietskyy said on the 16th Mar, 2012

Didn't know that JackT actually went that far and hooky took notice, JackT Respect points 10 (level up).. The Angello comment is quite interesting, If you take a 128 bpm track and mix it with another of the same BPM ... And you know the track inside out ... You CAN nail a perfect beatmatch/mix only if you know 100% that you've hit the play the button at the perfect time... Still - Considering it was front of xxxxxx people .. The risk it bears - I'd have to go with pre-mixed.

I've said it once and i'll say it again - Hooky is chief wiggum trying to get back into the B-Sharps.

Heist9000

Heist9000 said on the 16th Mar, 2012

So because a U2 or a Muse show has mad lights and the band is mad popular, does that mean they no longer have to play their instruments? There's more than one way to synchronise a fireworks show surely... Betty Boo lost a promising career over this shit, why do these goons get away with it?

Protokol

Protokol said on the 16th Mar, 2012

Great article! Rocking up to a gig and pressing play on a cd is indefensible, no matter the production setup, same goes for pretending to play controllers. Just to make sure, we're not saying midi controller dj's are fakes are we? As in Paul Kalkbrenner fires clips from ableton and doesnt use headphones at any of his gigs as far as ive seen, thats totally kosher in my opinoin. I'd take that type of performance over someone beat-matching records any day. As soon as Paul Kalkbrenner plays a recorded set and pretends he's fiddling with controllers then its all over...

sonicc

sonicc said on the 16th Mar, 2012

Ha ha you cost Hook gigs. Trolltastic

patrickbateman

patrickbateman said on the 16th Mar, 2012

fake djs are pathetic. however this article made me think of daft punk's alive 2007 tour. every set is exactly the same... the album is the exact same thing i heard when i went to see them. was it pre-recorded? probably. did i care? nope. still one of the best nights of my life

JoeMayberry

JoeMayberry said on the 16th Mar, 2012

SHM played the most obviously pre-recorded naff medley set @ FMF Sydney. Nobody seemed to notice/mind.

m_xt

m_xt said on the 16th Mar, 2012

^^(@patbateman) I agree, but it would be very hard to come up with a whole live show to start with using only your own material, you wouldn't change it everynight, you'd base a whole tour on it, I'm sure the same set was played each night during the Alive 97 tour when they were using more analogue equipment.
Lol at Mylo being booked for a dj set when he couldn't DJ, that's the promoters fault, he played a great live show the year before.

sHaRp-b0y

sHaRp-b0y said on the 16th Mar, 2012

Haha, i like that Steve Angello video. He can barely keep his arms up for a decent Jesus pose.

Marshwah

Marshwah said on the 16th Mar, 2012

Nice article Jack.

Your comparison between a festival set and a gig is fair, and I only feel a little dead inside about it being pre-recorded than a lot.

For what it's worth, I rocked out at the Hook Parklife gig in Melbourne front and centre - the guy was a showman - and it didn't really matter.

zsmiles

zsmiles said on the 17th Mar, 2012

A lot of big name djs fake it, hell, I saw one EXTREMELY famous dj play Umek - Fire Fight at stereo 2 years ago (link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csxIdppm2EU). There is a particular sound that hits at 1:00, 1:04 ect. Every time that sound came on he pretended to fiddle with a nob so it would seem he was causing that noise. The song played exactly the same as the original. I had to leave :/

Anyways, I've got to realisation that most big name dj's will pretend to dj, hell, a lot them (from what I've heard) play facebook games on laptops and then switch songs when one is done. I always check what a dj is doing, it's what I see them for.

zsmiles

zsmiles said on the 17th Mar, 2012

P.S. a lot of people just like the show and don't give a shit about anything musical. For example, most pop artist just mime, and people go nuts for it.

firebatathome

firebatathome said on the 17th Mar, 2012

Ok so in regard to daft punks alive tour. All the music was triggered by midi controllers. The lighting changed in accordance to those midi commands. Put simply these guys added more automation rather than a 'pre recorded' show. So if for instance daft punk strech out or pitch change the clock tower sound from 'one more time / aerodynamic' the lights will reflect this change. But this obviously requires loads of pre production and isn't possible for most DJ's or electronic artists. Touching on the concert crowd is here to see a show idea, the lighting guy is paid to press buttons and move faders with the music, ideally a reasonably well off dj should have their own lighting guy that knows the music well and can predict when the 'builds and drops' will be. I've seen many fake DJ's and many real DJ's. Quite simply we all like real DJ's here at ITM. We just need to give a little room for them when it comes to festivals. (seriously is anyone close enough to really care?)

Juzzy9

Juzzy9 said on the 17th Mar, 2012

"All the music was triggered by midi controllers. The lighting changed in accordance to those midi commands."

Sorry dude but midi is not that fast......

firebatathome

firebatathome said on the 18th Mar, 2012

Sorry buddy but it accually is that fast. I use it all time for theatre show to trigger sound effects and lighting cues. So what do you think the speed of midi is? :)

slackas

slackas said on the 18th Mar, 2012

@juzzy - you can use other beat sync'd communication methods to send data from your DAW to lights etc.

RGB Parade

RGB Parade said on the 18th Mar, 2012

I picked up a Magic 8-Ball the other day and it said 'Outlook not so good'. I said 'Sure, but Microsoft still ships it.'

Juzzy9

Juzzy9 said on the 18th Mar, 2012



yes controlling shitty lighting for a theater show is fine but using midi to control several moving images across massive led panels in real time is absurd and has never be done, and never will because of all the problems it creates.

lawlietskyy

lawlietskyy said on the 18th Mar, 2012

What is the speed of dark?

ticketsplease

ticketsplease said on the 19th Mar, 2012

The only thing worst than fake djs, people who say they don't care.

TJAY

TJAY said on the 19th Mar, 2012

So some DJs think prerecording their festival set is ok because it's only a few hours? FFS it's not like they're lugging crates any more.

People who actually PLAY music don't prerecord their show, why the hell should someone who plays someone else's music think it's ok? Especially for the fees and perks they're demanding.

What a crock.

What do they do if something happens on the day? Are they so talentless they can't mix it up? Sure preplan your set but come on. Sick of playing the same songs? Imagine how Elton John or any other artist feels doing it show after show for hours on end.

MIDI, laptops, programs, whatever should be there to enhance your set. But the punters deserve to get what they paid for, and they didn't pay for a CD recorded in a studio, probably by someone else too.

Achal

Achal said on the 20th Mar, 2012

Considering now days people with laptops that automatically beatmatch tracks are called DJ's how much of a stretch is it from that to prerecorded sets? (PS talking about the laptop djs that are laptop dj's because they can't beatmatch, i.e. they don't use the effects and other bling)

annajay

annajay said on the 20th Mar, 2012

If someone is being promoted as a DJ and I am paying $$ to see them DJ then I want to know they are mixing live. That is part of the show. If, on the other hand, they are being promoted as "pressing a button and playing a pre-mixed set" then fine, I can decide if I want to pay for that or not. What I object to is the deceit of someone claiming/pretending to DJ when they are just playing a pre-mixed set.

thesuntoucher

thesuntoucher said on the 20th Mar, 2012

Oooo can you do a one on trainwreck sets next JackT?

SANDSHREW

SANDSHREW said on the 20th Mar, 2012

EXPOSE KONY THEN EXPOSE PENIS

Richie Allen

Richie Allen said on the 22nd Mar, 2012

No excuses for not mixing live imo. Any DJ who does it should ashamed.

firebatathome

firebatathome said on the 25th Mar, 2012



HAHAHAHAA....... You sir have no idea.

MIDI is simply a trigger event. it doesnt process the lighting or vision. Processing for say vision will be done by a seperate system.... Catalyst, Arkaos, Maxedia etc....

Hate to be that guy but 'Absurd and never been done?' yeah it acually has. for complex lighting designs, MIDI or MSC can be used to activate the console executor and change cues but as I said before massive amounts of time are needed in pre production to get it working properly.

As for your comment 'shitty lighting for a theatre' next time you walk inside one have a look in the roof, you will find a ton of intelligent LX and depending on what show you go and see screens will also be in the rig. Those are the shows Im talking about.

So please, do your research before you hit the forums next time.

User_264621

User_264621 said on the 4th Apr, 2012

I enjoy a good train wreck, especially if the DJ handles it with class, shit happens. If you don't know how to DJ or are not that good yet then wait to gig til you get your skills up to par. Faking art in any form is morally wrong in my opinion.

LunarCat

LunarCat said on the 6th Apr, 2012

Love the article. Amusing, informative and nicely written. Was surprised to read the bit about Peter Hook. The whole "you cost me 4 gigs" part sounds whiny..

And Fake DJs should really stop claiming to be DJs and think up a new name for that what they're doing... :P

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ArmySniperDan

ArmySniperDan said on the 1st Sep, 2012

David Guetta and Skrillex should be mentioned in this article, they're both fake DJ's as well