Yes…I know….Looking for the cloud around the silver lining again!
In the last 4 days I have managed to spin a decent Electro House set, A bangin’ “Theme” based Hardcore set, and fairly wicked Hard House set. I want to talk a little about each of these as they each represent a step forward doe me in their own way. I will take them in order of occurrence. If you prefer otherwise…feel free to skip around a bit! J
Electro House: It has been nearly a year since I last took the decks to mix Electro House. To be perfectly honest, when I last mixed this style of music, I had very basic mixing skills and limited understanding of the structure of the tracks I was mixing. While I had my Midi mixer at that point, I was not using it as a proper tool. About 5 maybe 6 months ago, I tried to spin a set of my old tracks and I just felt flat, rusted and completely lost. My drops weren’t really drops and my blending was horrible at best. Over the last several months, I have been slowly collecting some proper electro tracks and have been looking at track structure of the tunes I purchased. I finally have a small handful of Electro House tunes that I really like. As it happened, Saturday night there was an opportunity to mix at Club XxesS, unfortunately it was at 2 am, I talked DJ Cheeky into splitting a set with me. I would mix the first hour and Jamie would mix the second. I decided to break out the Electro and give it a go. I was a bit nervous about mixing this style again, but seemed to fall into a groove quickly. The hour passed in a blink and I was shocked when it came time to hand the decks over to Cheeky. I realized that much of my “inability” to mix this was in my own mind. I was also easily able to apply the skills I have developed in the last yearmixing harder tracks. Unfortunately, I forgot to record it so that I could have a real listen to the set after the mix and do a post set analysis. Overall though, I am extremely happy with the outcome. Cheeky took the decks after me and whipped up an amazing Hard House set. What an end to long but fun evening. Pop over to his Soundcloud and have listen, you will be glad you did.
Hardcore (UK or Happy Hardcore): On Monday I was to mix for a themed event at the Zapp Club. My partner and MC for this event “Taki” aka Takingover Resident (love that name btw) came up with a Heaven and Hell theme for the event. Taki is a very creative and passionate MC and we work very well together. His passion for music may exceed my own and he is an extremely creative force in his own right. We talked about this a week or so before the event and I really searched my catalogue of music as well as shopped all of my Fav online stores for music to match the theme. I was able to assemble enough music to support about 1hr and 15 minutes of the 2 hour mix “in theme”. I also was able to put together a rather unique opening using a Hard-ish House version of Carmina Burana boosted to Hardcore BPM a sound sample. Although it was a quick “oneshot , hit-or-miss” drop into the first proper hardcore track it went rather well. My play list consisted of Heaven tracks (angels, heaven, love etc) and Hell (tracks Hell, Devils, Judgement Day and darker themes) and some other right bangin’ tunes I wanted to drop afterwards. So for the first 75 minutes I was able to alternate between the heaven and hell tracks. This did add a level of complexity to the mix. Not only did I have to find tracks to match the ones in the mix, I also had to alternate themes. I worried a lot about this before the set, although once I was in the mix, it seemed to flow pretty well. One questionable drop and one heavy handed drop of the hand landed my hand on the queue button of the primary track in the mix….BLOODY HELL…NOOOooo…dreaded silence!!!!!!!…..LOL…. This time around, I didn’t panic. I reset the queue point… dropped the track at the queue point, mixed in the second track and was off and running, never even breaking a sweat. However, I am sure many of my neighbors wonder why used some particularly colourful words, where exactly I learned them, and to whom was I shouting them. This type of error would have made me insane in the past and had an impact on the mix for at least a couple tracks (if not the entire remainder of the mix). I realize now that these things happen. I WILL be more careful of where my hands are (perhaps I was dancing a little too much at the time…shrugs). But it is live mix…not a studio set. What hit me later on was that I had the ability (and confidence) to set it right, recover…and move past it quickly. I am very happy about that. This set was truly a boost to my confidence. I made some other mistakes around drops and timing/queues and was able to recover all of them effectively. I am really pleased with this set over all. In spite of these minor setbacks, I was in much better control of this set from a mix standpoint. I have been slowly improving my Hardcore mix technique over the past month. My goal is to mix it similar to the way I mix Hard House, layering sounds, intros and outros and not just transitioning from one track to another. My basic approach is to use each track to supplement and enhance the ones before and after it, making the mix unique and my own. This is the first Hardcore set I have mixed where I felt I was able to do this consistently.
Hard House: Its Tuesday, I am just off an extremely strong set from the night before (yeah you just read about it ….I know… …bear with me let me set the stage….lol). I slept little, worked a 13 hour day (NOT as a DJ unfortunately…lol), and had to mix a late set (11pm -1AM). To say that this is going to be an extremely difficult set for me is an understatement. Sometimes having a really wicked set is almost a curse. The desire to mix again at the same level is intense. You know you CAN do it…you are just not sure you WILL do it. Generating the energy to mix another 2 hour set at a level of proficiency I am happy with can sometimes be a challenge…and if I don’t “feel” the music…it shows in my mix. My MC (Seras) for this set (Seras) Resident…no relation to Taki…erm..at least that I KNOW of) was also feeling a bit poorly. Just Like Taki form Monday, I am blessed to have Seras (and Taki) as friends. We share a bond with the music but also as people. Seras and I seldom get an opportunity to work together these days. She is much in demand and our diaries don’t always mesh well. I decided to do something a bit different. One night late last year I was experimenting with some tracks that span the border between Hard House and German Trance. These tracks differ in structure, style and texture from what I normally mix. I find them a challenge to drop (at least in a pleasing kind of way..rofl). Seras happened to catch some of this set and loved these tracks. I had a quick look and pulled a few that I knew she would like…decided on an opening using some Linkin Park and put together a set “pick” list. This set follows a rather odd path through the Hard Dance Genre wondering through some Hard Trance, Hard Dud/Wobble, into some German-ish Trance and finishes up in true Hard House (yes a wee bit Defective!). Two of the tracks I used, I have never before dropped in public. I have never ever been able to work out exactly how to drop Them if I am completely honest. The structure alone put me off them. I am right pleased that I dropped these tracks live and that it wasn’t a complete shambolic disaster (as I had suspected it might be). I actually believe I did a reasonable job with these tracks. My transition into them was good…my transition out of them and back to Hard House was acceptable (not epic…but good enough). The crowd seemed to like the mix and I feel over another hurdle.
I am feeling so strong and capable just now. I hear improvements in my mix, my confidence is higher than ever. In listening to my mix, I realized I have begun to mix up my transitions somewhat more than I have in the past. This has not been intentional (to this point anyway). I credit this to having mixed Hardcore and adapting to other structures of music then I am used to seeing. Having said all of this, I am not having a big head. I have so much more to learn. However, it seems that I am learning something new almost every day. I am not talking about quantum chunks, but small and important bits all the time.
So what now? I am sure that fairly soon I will have an “off” set. It happens. The road travelled isn’t always straight and forward. There will be detours, roundabouts and times I am completely lost. I do accept this. It is part of the journey. I don’t have to be happy with a set that is less than I am capable of. But it wont kill me and will likely make me stronger. Until then I will work as hard as I can to avoid it! J. Having done a fair bit of recent listening to my own sets and those of others I have resolved myself to change some habits I have developed along the way:
1) Less random beats. I tend to want to accent beats of the primary track with a spike in the secondary track. I am currently over using this and using it at inappropriate times.
2) Vary the style of drops I use. Be less predictable and more fluid.
3) Buy faster hands on eBay! (lol..not likely) Ok so I need to work on making my hands faster. I have improved this a great deal since November….I need to get faster yet.
4) Continue to work on beat matching and timing of drops. Better all the time…but nowhere near where I want it yet.
As always..Thanks for taking time to listen to my prattle on!