DJs should bring back the danger

Image for DJs should bring back the danger

I recently played at Coachella and eighty percent of DJs were just playing songs, not playing with the songs. Or they were just playing pre-mixes of songs, which is totally counter to the culture I grew up with and respect and admire. Not to knock them, they were cool, the crowd was cool, everyone was cool with it, but it’s just not what gets me inspired.

It’s getting harder to see DJs up there mixing it live in front of you. I miss that. I used to get inspired when I saw DJs play. I still do, but it’s becoming less and less. A lot more DJs are pre-planning their sets or doing premade mixes. It’s becoming more about the production of the show and the spectacle rather than the skills of the DJ. You can do both, but a lot of people choose not to.

You wouldn’t see The Black Keys crowd-surfing while the music keeps playing. In electronic music there is a grey area.

I equate it to you like this. You wouldn’t see The Black Keys playing a live concert and midway through their set they start crowd-surfing but their music is still playing. Then when they come back on-stage the next song is on. It doesn’t happen that way. You wouldn’t see that and, if you did, they would lose all their fans. In electronic music there is a grey area.

People like Deadmau5 say, “I just pushed some buttons” or “It’s super easy to DJ, I can do it in a few hours with a laptop”. I understand where he is coming from and don’t want to knock him. He has his hustle going on, but I clearly come from a different world and I have to rep where I come from.

I am inspired by innovators like Grandmaster Flash and Jazzy Jeff. They would perform and they were clearly doing the work. You could see and hear it in real time and recognise there was the ability to fuck up. When you are on a highwire fifty storeys up and there’s no net, it changes the stakes: if you fall, you die. If there’s a net and you fall, you get to try again. That’s what’s going on today. People are performing with a net.

For me, the bigger the risk, the bigger the game. I can’t help but have more respect and admiration for people who do that. Today, people like Craze and A-Trak and Jazzy Jeff (still to this day), I am blown away by.

To take it a step further, people can be not DJing in the classical sense, but still be up there doing work. Guys like Bassnectar and Skrillex are not what I consider to be traditional DJing, but they are still performing and putting it together. Meanwhile, other people go up and hit play, bring people on stage and throw out beach balls. I don’t knock that hustle, but I can’t really back it. In a way, it’s taking away from what everyone built before me, as well as the work that I put in and my contemporaries are still trying to build.

The technology debate boils down to the user. Technology is not at fault – it’s on the user. If you have the chance, utilise it. Use the equipment – we all have access to it, but do you want to take a shortcut in your performance? Just playing songs you made in the studio doesn’t do anything for me. If you are going to push buttons, push a thousand buttons, not four.

For me, the bigger the risk, the bigger the game. I am still blown away by Jazzy Jeff, Craze, A-Trak…

It’s also a little bit on the crowd. The crowd needs to get educated on what’s going on. Not to fault them – they just want to have a good time – but it would be great if there was a connection or education in the process. If you’re 19 and you’re at your first show and the artist is playing on a laptop and you’re not paying attention, you might think, “This guy is cool, the music is cool, the lights are cool, I’m drinking my first beer.” There are flames and lights and girls. There’s also less chance you’re going to be like, “Holy shit, he was making that beat up there.”

It’s a bit of smoke and mirrors, Wizard of Oz stuff. I would like to see more skills and taking away of the veil, so the audience understands the performance element. Then that 19-year-old might be like, “Wow, the person onstage can actually do it live.”

Z-Trip tour dates:

Thursday 9 August – Melbourne, Prince Bandroom
Friday 10 August – Sydney, The Metro (Red Bull Thre3style National Final)
Saturday 11 August – Perth, The Bakery
Tuesday 14 August – Brisbane – The Hi-Fi (Public Holiday Eve)


Comments arrow left

walkdogz said on the 8th Aug, 2012

Agreed. I'm unplugging my CDJs and reconnecting my vinyl turntables and buying all my favourite music on wax as well as digital. I'm not doing it so much to DJ as to just listen to my tunes, but that little bit of extra effort and tactility makes it a lot more enjoyable. I'm lucky to have caught the end of the vinyl wave when I started DJing so I had a soft spot for it, but those who've started in the past few years need to be educated on its awesomeness. I've gotten my 19 year old cousin onto buying records even though there's only 5 years age between us - it represents a huge gulf in vinyl years. This reaction to the moving away from vinyl to coming back to it seems to be pretty widespread and it's gaining a significant niche again. When you went to CDJs and digital it was such a great feeling to have so much more music to play with, literally 1000s of songs. But I think people, like me, got sick of so much choice of what was out of a lot of average material. With vinyl the care comes back into your music selection. Unless you're very rich you can't go getting anything and everything on vinyl and it makes DJs a lot more considered with their track selection too. That could be unhelpful to Z-Trip's going on the fly argument and not preplanning as a huge range of tunes allows you so much freedom to do that, but with a crate full of records a decent set should always be able to be made - as it was for years. Like I said, I buy vinyls to listen to and to look at - and when I do mix with them they definitely make it a lot more "dangerous" and fun. More should do the same!


robohan said on the 8th Aug, 2012

Wait till Terrence Parker comes to Aus in Decmeber, then youll see some proper dj mixing.


zsmiles said on the 9th Aug, 2012

What he forgot to mention is when dj's pretend to click buttons in time with certain sounds in tracks.

He blames the user,but the crowd is also at fault, like he said, a lot of people just go with it


kris-ko said on the 9th Aug, 2012

Great read. Can't wait to see the man back it up on Friday night.


thunderbot said on the 9th Aug, 2012


Dr Bones

Dr Bones said on the 9th Aug, 2012

He blames the user,but the crowd is also at fault, like he said, a lot of people just go with it

If he said that a lot of people just go with it, isn't he also laying some share of the blame at the feet of the crowd?


Oli-G said on the 9th Aug, 2012

People flick through mixes mainly these days, they dont long play them start to finish. The way people has listened to music has changed (for the worse). Not much care or thought is given as to whether its 1 or 10 people playing. Most scenes are almost just social scenes and taste is not that objective. Trends, hype rules, leading to a musically less demanding audience (who mainly just want to experience vibe, if the music is average .. place needs to be packed or drugs awesome or its just not there)..

I don't people actually realise how ordinary some the acts they are being dished up are. They fall victim to hype.


aguilare said on the 9th Aug, 2012

Z-Trip always telling it how it is...

Advances in DJ/Audio Technologies should be used to re-invent the wheel and not to make it easier to dj.

Cathy Guetta

Cathy Guetta said on the 9th Aug, 2012

My husband likes to arrange his set list by highest earning tracks to lowest.


lotis said on the 9th Aug, 2012

I agree completely but unfortunately its too late and i cant see it changing. Technology has made it possible for pretty much anybody to DJ and audiences just dont care. Real turntablism has run its course just like the guitar did. I didnt like it back when CDJs came out -always preferred vinyl. But those days are gone...Its a tragedy


zsmiles said on the 9th Aug, 2012

Wow, that was a complete contradiction by me. My bad. What I meant is that most people enjoy the minimal mixing. If people enjoy it, then why should a dj do more?

Dr Bones

Dr Bones said on the 9th Aug, 2012

I enjoy masturbation. That doesn't mean I don't try and have sex though.


SlicyDicer said on the 9th Aug, 2012

Not to knock them, they were cool, the crowd was cool, everyone was cool with it, but it%u2019s just not what gets me inspired.

No, stand by your claims mate, name names. Fuck this "oh they were a vibrant act that brought energy to the crowd"

name fucking names that are fucking shit


SlicyDicer said on the 9th Aug, 2012

Oh he meant every mainstream house act like avicii and aoki, got it.


patrickbateman said on the 9th Aug, 2012

i think you are missing the point... it's not about what medium a dj uses, it's how he uses it. 99% of djs today all play the same music and all mix the same way. intro ---> outro. maybe throw in some effects. repeat. there is no 'danger' in this, no matter whether you are using mp3's or records. this is as safe as you can possibly get.

z-trip mentions that the djs are just 'playing songs, not playing with the songs' and he is right. you hardly ever see djs taking risks behind the decks any more. to me a great dj is someone who not only plays great music, but someone who takes things to the next level and incorporates more than just mixing track a to track b into their sets - cutting, scratching, beat juggling, live mashups and so on.

djs like terrence parker, jeff mills & gemini all have their own unique style. you could blindfold me and i could pick out their sets from a million others because they don't sound like anybody else. to me that is special and that is what i think every aspiring dj should be aiming for.


SANDSHREW said on the 10th Aug, 2012



ARMagEDdonWATCHER said on the 11th Aug, 2012

I think I might understand your point. It's like an art form that has been whatevered. But I think it seems almost counterintuitive...with more things to play with (and things to make the job easier), DJs should be able to have more fun with their shows. Of course, I've never operated a turntable or a controller deck before (I only produce/remix music in my spare time), but I'd think you'd try to have some fun with it.

I think the issue also stems from convenience in addition to the safe zone. It's very easy to throw some tracks together, sync them, set an EQ, and play them. That's much less work than mixing tapes in real time, but, like you said, it dilutes the experience. What I don't get is that element: is it not a letdown to yourself to take the easy route when onstage? You want to give your best show and have fun while doing it. My message would be to not worry about messing up, and to just get in the zone. People are coming to see and hear your stuff, mistakes and all. If you like what you're doing, chances are others will too.

That's all a producer has to say about a DJ related issue, although it does seem to branch out to other areas as well. Producing is a challenge especially for amateurs :P


Funkedub said on the 13th Aug, 2012

Probably a bit more egalitarian than required, but Z Trip hits the nail on the head


BumblingBee said on the 13th Aug, 2012

cd's were the beginning of the end, mp3's were the end

at the end of the day it's about track selection though, so maybe the end is more important than the means

having said that, nothing beats a well constructed set played on vinyl


dirtydoge said on the 13th Aug, 2012

yeah blame it on the crowd for bringing the pre-recorded set!


Reppin3000 said on the 14th Aug, 2012

i agree the average punter is less educated than ever before as to what actually constitutes a thoughtfully arranged and built set. BUT... after all, DJs aren't actually creating anything except the vibe. Once upon a time it took greater skill to create and build the vibe due to the technology available but in todays world of traktor and serato anyone can mix 2 songs at a party. What hasn't changed is that these songs have to be selected right to build the vibe and control the room. As a producer who dabbles in the odd (digital) mix it sounds a little bit like some of the old vinyl guard are getting a bit snotty that they are no longer getting sufficient credit for dues paid looong ago in a different world. Bottom line, if you play for lovers of music then you will get the respect for your skills. If you play commercial house at stereosonic then you are gonna get none. This comes back to the vibe point, commercial sets just need crowd pleasers for the punters to be having a good time. But when you have a room of educated music lovers, or better yet those willing to be educated, then your skills will be respected, appreciated and will make the weekend for everyone there.
In conclusion hater gon hate, 'baters gon 'bate.


Spicy said on the 14th Aug, 2012

"Not to knock them"
"I understand where he is coming from and don%u2019t want to knock him"
"I don%u2019t knock that hustle"

what a pussy. someone needs to 'knock that hussle', otherwise nothing will change.


RAINESUPREME said on the 15th Aug, 2012

If this comment was made before he totally sold out himself it might have some credibility to it. This is coming from a guy that now spins some of the most horrible music known to man kind.... Spinning new black eyed peas and LMFAO in sets and hes talking about taking risks????Its all over for you Z. Its a shame... you were one of the dopest djs on the planet.


sydney_djhire said on the 15th Aug, 2012

Yeah its getting kind of boring know that your favourite DJ's arent even mixing some of the time. I would rather hear a set with a few mistakes than a pre-recorded set. Thats my 2 cents.


ticketsplease said on the 15th Aug, 2012

I remember him playing BEP at one festival, I left. It was still set of the day though.


Spicy said on the 16th Aug, 2012

was it really or you just don't wanna 'knock that hussle'

Dr Bones

Dr Bones said on the 16th Aug, 2012

Where and when was this?


ravs said on the 19th Aug, 2012

How this guy...the OG mashup king.