“Button pushing” DJs in the spotlight at EMC 2012

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At last week’s inaugural Electronic Music Conference in Sydney, one of the first panels to stir up debate was ‘Beyond Button-Pushing: What Makes A DJ?’ The topic has been a consistent talking point in 2012. Firstly, there’s the fracas that followed Deadmau5’s Tumblr post ‘We All Hit Play’ in June, which inspired an impassioned and considered response from Bassnectar and straight-up vitriol from scene veterans Mr C and A Guy Called Gerald. Running concurrent to that debate is the phenomenon of dance music déjà vu. “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.”

That point was raised again when inthemix spoke to Dutch star Laidback Luke ahead of his Stereosonic visit (“A lot of DJs are comfortable with what they play at various festivals and are doing the same sets over and over again,” he said), and written about by Z-Trip in an inthemix Guest Editorial and A-Trak on The Huffington Post. It seemed like worthwhile territory for an EMC discussion.

Leading the panel was Sydney DJ and host of triple j’s House Party show Nina Las Vegas, joined by Laidback Luke himself and two hard-touring Australian DJs, Goodwill and Sam La More. You can watch the full panel below, which touched on the Deadmau5 blow-up, what a residency teaches a DJ and why pre-recorded sets are dinting dance music’s credibility.

On the panel, Laidback Luke spoke about his reaction to the Deadmau5 argument. “I was very blunt with him,” he told the room. “It’s basically like saying that sex is just an up and down motion without actually naming the magic of it. Trying to explain what we do in such a way is just very basic and silly.”

“I can pretty much guarantee that he’s not going out to clubs and hearing good DJs DJ,” Goodwill added. “He’s playing at festivals after DJs that do play pretty plain sets. He probably never spent much time on a dancefloor, high, listening to a DJ take him on a six-hour journey.

“He exists in a world where there is big crowds standing in front of him and mostly what happens there is, artists that have released a couple of big records are forced to become DJs very quickly and they haven’t come through any schooling of dance music, which is basically just going out every night. So I think he provoked a discussion but it’s important to remember that he probably doesn’t know what real DJing is.”

Another recurring talking point was how quickly artists go from their bedrooms to DJing on festival mainstages via a few Beatport blockbusters, and the risks involved with that. “I was DJing after Alesso in Brazil about half a year ago, and he was nervous,” Laidback Luke recalled. “It was a crowd of about 50,000 people in front of him and he’s like, ‘Dude, I can’t do this, I’m so nervous; look at you, you’re so chill, how can you cope?’ And I asked: ‘I’ve been doing this for like 15 years…and you?’ And he’s like: “Ah, I’ve only been DJing for eight months now.” When I was DJing for eight months, I couldn’t even hold the needle straight in front of a crowd. Kids are literally thrown onto a festival stage and it’s actually really scary.”

As Goodwill added: “I think there’s the sort of person, like Madeon, who writes a big record and all of a sudden he’s playing in front of 40,000 people. But then there’s the other side of the spectrum of people who can’t actually produce and are actually genuinely faking DJing. That’s the bit that I get worked up about.”

The value of DJ experience – including, in the words of Nina Las Vegas, the clubs where only five people are on the dancefloor – was a consistent theme for the panellists. “I think learning to be a warm-up DJ, setting up a room for the big DJ without playing all the big records is the best schooling you can have,” Goodwill said. “A lot of the people who come through now don’t aspire to be warm-up DJs or resident DJs, they aspire to be their heroes, which is fair enough. But if you do that, and you pre-plan your sets to the point where you just want to play the big records that everyone else is playing, nothing defines you as a DJ. You have no personality.”

As Laidback Luke put it: “I’ve got Roger Sanchez to thank. I was his opening DJ for a while and I would play three-hour sets. So I feel young DJs should be able to do everything: mix fast, mix slow, blend, do tricks, learn scratching, lock into the crowd. Basically everything.” Watch the full panel video below – and stay tuned for more highlights from EMC 2012.

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katiecunningham

katiecunningham said on the 5th Dec, 2012

Laidback Luke is pretty switched on. Liked this panel!

JoeMayberry

JoeMayberry said on the 6th Dec, 2012

"it%u2019s important to remember that he probably doesn%u2019t know what real DJing is"
Goodwill re: Deadmau5

I think this is a bit of a stretch to say the least.

josh_goods

josh_goods said on the 6th Dec, 2012

ha! alesso was so shit at creamfields, nice to know i was write in dissing him... this gives me so much faith about the potential of my own abilities

JackT

JackT said on the 6th Dec, 2012

I'm not sure Luke was dissing his abilities, just commenting on the strangeness of DJing in that situation when you're green.

Shayno89

Shayno89 said on the 6th Dec, 2012

Sam Littlemore seems like a cock..

AceJaceAce

AceJaceAce said on the 6th Dec, 2012

Laidback Luke defiantly my fav DJ not so much for productions for the way he djs and the Twitter activity to his fans at his level is truly a feat of its own

lawlietskyy

lawlietskyy said on the 6th Dec, 2012

That sam la more c*nt is so up himself .. It's always sunny in doucheville hence the glasses

WLVRN

WLVRN said on the 7th Dec, 2012

gotta agree with LL, my own reply back then to that tripe comment from dm "we all hit play" was to mention that basically everyone i know that DJs FREESTYLES their mix, an ongoing evolution of soundscape that changes with their Flow/Heartbeat at that instant, sure they "pack a crate" first, but they put it together as they go to fill the night, including sectioning different samples than "planned" to mix into their output spur of moment, a Thinking Game, not a preset "hit play", ps, to digress, W(here)TF do bassnectar get off with its patriarchaic tweet the other moon about how "girls, don't get your breasts out at gigs, you shouldn't be putting that out there" gobshite??? maybe he'd be better off taking advantage of the HUGE audience of (often "mcman" [lols] tittied) troglodytes at his gigs to remind them that a Femme getting Her shirt off doesn't auto-mean "ho wanna fuck" anymore than any dude getting shirt off means anymore than "fuck it's hot today".

WLVRN

WLVRN said on the 7th Dec, 2012

gotta agree with LL, my own reply back then to that tripe comment from dm "we all hit play" was to mention that basically everyone i know that DJs FREESTYLES their mix, an ongoing evolution of soundscape that changes with their Flow/Heartbeat at that instant, sure they "pack a crate" first, but they put it together as they go to fill the night, including sectioning different samples than "planned" to mix into their output spur of moment, a Thinking Game, not a preset "hit play", ps, to digress, W(here)TF do bassnectar get off with its patriarchaic tweet the other moon about how "girls, don't get your breasts out at gigs, you shouldn't be putting that out there" gobshite??? maybe he'd be better off taking advantage of the HUGE audience of (often "mcman" [lols] tittied) troglodytes at his gigs to remind them that a Femme getting Her shirt off doesn't auto-mean "ho wanna fuck" anymore than any dude getting shirt off means anymore than "fuck it's hot today".

lawlietskyy

lawlietskyy said on the 9th Dec, 2012

What the f*ck are you on? ^^^^^^^^^^^

SlicyDicer

SlicyDicer said on the 11th Dec, 2012

Goodwill is infinitely more grounded than sam la more

DJ BOOGIEMAN

DJ BOOGIEMAN said on the 25th Jun, 2013

Do you agree that big ticket DJ's should be required to do a live sound check on stage with live video feed of them during their sets like DJ's do at the DMC World DJ Championships to verify that all of their equipment is plugged in and that they are mixing live while performing?

Heist9000

Heist9000 said on the 9th Jul, 2013

Jimmy Hendrix just stands there and plucks strings man... It's bullshit