September 16th, 2005


DJ Dasai

I'm sad to announce that I'm DJing at my favourite Berlin record store, Dense (Danziger Str. 16, Berlin 10435, U-bahn Eberswalder Srasse, U2 line), tonight at 9pm. It's part of an evening featuring performances from Scottish bands Planningtorock and Vernon+Burns, and is loosely tied in with Popkomm, the big three day music conference currently going on in Berlin.

The reason that I'm "sad" to announce this happy occasion is that DJing is the least cool profession in the world. It's uncool for the following reasons:

1. Too many DJs. There are, as 2ManyDJs imply with their name, too many DJs. If I open the Popkomm brochure at the artist index, there are more than 20 sheep DJs listed in the D section. There's DJ Boozou Bajou, DJ Des, DJ Dirk Rumpff, DJ El Pogo, DJ Flush, DJ Johnny Fistfuck, and a team calling themselves DJs are Rockstars, amongst many, many others.

2. What do you stand for, DJ? DJ stands for disc jockey, right? A jockey is a short person who rides a horse, right? But instead of riding a horse, you ride a record, right? So you're really, really short, right? Where do you ride your record to? Fame and fortune? If DJs are really rockstars, where's your limo? Where are your groupies?

3. What do you create, DJ? Now, I don't want to be too rockist about this, but artists create something out of nothing. Well, okay, not exactly nothing, but we do manipulate the culture we find and leave it somewhat different, by "composing". But what does a DJ create that wasn't there before? A mix between two records, a match between two BPMs. It's not really very impressive, is it? Ah, you're a curator, I see! That changes everything. I'll picture you riding a very small horse around an art gallery.

4. You're hopelessly 90s, DJ! Let's see, it's the early 90s, the Pet Shop Boys put out a single called "DJ Culture", Simon Reynolds publishes a book about rave and ecstasy culture, Bjork sings "There's More To Life Than This" live from the Milk Bar toilets, and it's about sneaking away from the boombastic boredom of the DJ: "Let's sneak out of this party / It's getting boring / We could go down to the harbour / And jump between the boats..." And now it's 2005, and the Pet Shop Boys have made a soundtrack to "The Battleship Potemkin" with the Dresdner Sinfonica, and Simon Reynolds has written a book about postpunk, and Bjork is doing Eskimo throat singing and gagaku... and you're still DJing.

5. Beats are beat! The DJing I tend to see now is beat-free. Schloss Lanke, for instance, has a beat-free policy for its DJs, and when Anne Laplantine DJs she tends to mix children's music and musique concrete. There's nothing more wack than the unstoppable sequencer chaff that DJs spew out, especially when they're cigarette-lighter-in-the-air populists who start quiet and then get more, ahem, slammin' as the night goes on. Let me tell you, there's no connection between beats and dance. I love dance, and I can do it to anything. The dance I like to watch, contemporary dance by choreographers like Boris Charmatz, doesn't feature regular beats. You can dance to the sound of a washing machine on spin cycle! You can dance to the irregular sound of your bare feet hitting the floor and squeaking sweatily across it!

6. A music culture dominated by interpretive artists is a museum-bound culture. Sorry, crate-digger, your artform is an interpretive one, as museum-ready as most classical music. Like the classical music world, the DJ world is dominated by people who merely shuffle the sequence and interpretation of a fixed canon of masterpieces. Don't just spin and juggle the old stuff, make something new! Don't dig that crate, dig deeper and create!

7. Caveat Although DJs are inherently uncool (Japanese: dasai!, French: vous etes naz, les gars!) I wish to spare from the foregoing comments DJ Elephant Power, Nicolas Baudoux, who is very, very good. God knows what he was thinking when he chose his name, though.