Laidback Luke's take on DJs "doing the same sets over and over"

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“It’s got to the stage where it’s all about what we call The Playlist,” said Jono Grant of Above & Beyond’s American adventures in a recent Mixmag feature. “There are about 12 records that these DJs are playing.” It’s an argument we’ve been hearing plenty of in recent times, with A-Trak one of the most vocal head-scratchers on the phenomenon of dance music déjà vu. “After any big EDM festival, look up the DJ playlists,” the Fool’s Gold boss wrote in his feature for the Huffington Post, ‘Don’t Push My Buttons’. “They’re frighteningly similar. This scene is turning into a caricature. Explosions, private jets, standing on tables (I plead guilty to the latter), and now carbon copy playlists.” Just last week, fellow turntablist Z-Trip wrote a Guest Editorial for inthemix ‘DJs should bring back the danger’, which echoed several of A-Trak’s points.

One DJ who has been engaging with the topic on Twitter is Dutch high-flyer Laidback Luke, who’s returning to Australia this summer for Stereosonic. The leader of Mixmash Records has been busy on the festival circuit over the Northern summer, taking his Super You & Me arena to Electric Daisy Carnival, Tomorrowland and Creamfields in the English countryside this weekend. He’s in a good position to report what’s happening on mainstages at dance festivals around the world, and inthemix had him on the phone from the Netherlands this week.

“A lot of DJs are comfortable with what they play at various festivals and are doing the same sets over and over again,” he told inthemix. “To me, what real DJing is about is anticipating the moment, the location and the crowd. Playing the same set would be impossible for me. For me, DJing is about improvisation in the moment. Sometimes DJs bring out confetti and fireworks that needs to be synched, which I don’t really see the use of, to be honest. You could have a button that says ‘Fireworks’ and when you think the moment is right, you just press it.”

He also added that breakout producers often haven’t had enough time to finesse their DJ skills before being thrust in the limelight. “A lot of famous DJs these days are famous because of their productions,” he said. “These guys came out of the studio and don’t really have a DJ background, so you have DJs who play their tracks, but they’re essentially not very skilled.”

“It is going really fast these days,” he added. “Talent comes and goes. It’s the ‘goes’ part that makes me worried. I’m here for the longevity; it’s about the whole trip. Being accelerated very fast can do strange things for the kids who aren’t ready.”

When inthemix caught up with Laidback Luke back in 2010, he laughed about how some promoters familiar with his new releases have the idea he’s an inexperienced DJ. “I get that often,” he said. “I think it’s flattering at my age that people think I’m a newcomer! Sometimes I get the benefit of that. Promoters will hire me to play for them for the first time. They’ll be like, ‘Okay kid, this is your shot, if you mess this up, we’re probably not going to book you again, but if you do good, we’re going to make you big in this country!’ Having 13 years of DJ experience, I can manage stuff like that. It’s cool to surprise people, coming from an underdog position.”

Stay tuned for the full interview with Laidback Luke on inthemix soon.

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B_Rainmaker said on the 29th Aug, 2012

The conflict that we're seeing there is now there's a machine of sorts involved with the intent of capitalizing in a huge way.. I won't say "off the scene" because it's not the scene we once referred to, it's their scene... There are huge PR campaigns at play... The traditional DJ and related skills really are somewhat of a hindrance to this new "EDM Monster"... Why? Because they don't play well with others... They have opinions - hard won opinions... They call people out. They name names and blow covers and drop dimes in interviews... They have values (or often do)... They make others feel bad... Basically, they're bad for business, and much of it is connected, i.e. from MIDI Controller manufacturing and sales, Software Development/marketing, Online mp3 sales, Festivals, as well as certain blogs designed to 'cover' those subjects. Oh, and big label "interests"... It's not at all that there's only one or two left... It's just if you bring "The DJ back", he'll have everyone questioning themselves and each other.... and they "don't need that"... and it's unlikely that you will see too many in the coming years either, as they're trying to make just the idea of a "traditional DJ" extinct... Trying to fake people into thinking that "controllerism" is DJing... or like turntablism and djing are the same thing... They do that too so you heavily associate the Turntablist, who started out or can't be denied being a DJ, okay, but there's the fake... Two different hats... A good turntablist has mad skills, and puts on a show... and nothing to scoff at, but in turntablist mode they've taken off the DJ hat, call them DJ So and So still, but there's an overall fakery trying to be pulled on the masses... There comes a certain point where you can't control a seasoned jock what to do or how to do it... AND, you can't sync pyro to a DJ who is being a 'real DJ'... ...and nobody in their right mind would give pyro control - to me... let's say.. :-) or any other DJ... Liability... Also, of the significant (and well respected amongst their peers) DJ's that are out, working regular and doing their thing, there's a bunch that just wouldn't take the sort of gig that includes synced pyro... Put it this way, if there's synced pyro, more chanes than not, it's a pantomime that the DJ is doing... Laidback Luke may have his shit worked out, and that's cool - whatever one does, I guess... It's just that there are conflicting notions at hand, and 'out there' and being pushed and/or passsed around... It's like this: Don't go to Disney Land if you wanna see The Pope... DJ's and how they're being discussed here... They're not going to be well represented on the main stage... Find a tent... Any tent... If you want to see skills well-represented, find someone playing that doesn't have the laptop between them and the crowd... RESULTS MAY VARY... ;-) I'd say more what I felt, but 'today' i don't wanna be 'that guy'... If you were to just believe me when I say "badass, real, practicing DJ's are still very much 'out there'... Go find them... If you were to do that, the "issues" would eventually come quite apparant... Figure it out... It's worth the effort....