Inside DJ Minds, Round 2

In the first round of questions for DJs, we talked about how DJs go about setting up their DJ systems. In round two, I asked a different group of DJs how they find new music, to give us an example of a recent find, as well as more advice for beginner DJs. As someone who actually doesn’t have music surrounding my everyday life, I found their answers helpful for my own DJing. I tend to view finding music as a chore, but maybe I need to make it a habit? Practice makes perfect, as they say…

NADJA ZILLER
BERLIN, GERMANY

 

Photo: Enric Duch

How do you find music?

I am very curious about what other DJs play at festivals or at socials. So usually from each festival I attend, I bring back 1 to 3 songs that I make a special connection with. During the event, if a song really moves me, I ask the person what the song is. This can go very deep: I sometimes remember where I heard a specific song for the first time and who played it, with whom I danced to it and how that felt. If possible, I try to carry these songs home with me … but sometimes it’s just the feeling that remains, because sadly I couldn’t find out what the song it was. And then sometimes, one day we meet again – that’s fantastic!

Speaking about coming back from festivals – this helps me to not get the blues. It is a great satisfaction to own these songs. I search for music that connects me to the event and to some of the dances I have had. I spend hours sitting, or even better lying around and listening to music, sorting out, dancing in the kitchen, daydreaming …

As well, I use Shazam for discovering interesting background music in bars and cafés, on the radio, TV series, etc… For example, I once found a fantastic Russian Rap song once in an Uber cab at Hummingbird Blues!

When I find new music, I listen to it over and over again. Actually, I spend a lot of time listening randomly to my folders and DJ’ing for myself. Otherwise I lose track of my library, which is already almost too big. Doing this connects their titles, my brain and the song’s visual context from when I found them. However, this being said, sometimes songs disappear out of my playlists.

A recently found song?

That was “Murakami” from Made in Heights. It was one of those songs, which was found, then lost in oblivion, but finally came back to me. Thank you Ramon!!!

At August 2018’s Bear Blues Exchange, the Barcelona-based Fusion-DJ-Duo Los Ramones, Marco and I were driving together in Marco’s car to prepare the venue and soundcheck. Ramon was DJ’ing in the car, playing this song. I thought “Huuuh! How great,” and I immediately fell in love with it. I asked him about the title. “Murakami,” he told me.

“Of course I can remember,” I thought, because it’s related to Japan and my favorite author. I didn’t, however, write it down. Later, I was searching for a famous Japanese martial arts author named Musashi, without any success of course. In my frustration, I forgot about the song. But fast forward to January 2019 at Ice Bear, Fusion Edition, Ramon created a video and guess what song he used for it? “Murakami,” of course. The intro to “Murakami” is quite weird and at first I was puzzled, but when the sexy beat came in, I was immediately transported back to that car and I had to laugh about myself and my efforts to find Musashi.

So writing down is always the best solution, trying to remember usually always fails!

Advice for beginner DJs?

What I also like to do is share playlists with other DJs. But this is tricky: to give out your playlist is a bit like telling a secret – at least for me, because sometimes you have songs that are like your personal signature. But besides this ego-thing, sharing playlists is a rich experience. In addition to finding new songs or versions, I also get to learn about different strategies about how to build up a set.

Use every possibility you have to find music – but once you’ve found new music, take your time to check it closely: Would you be able to partner-dance to it? What is the song about? Check the lyrics, because some songs are no-goes. Depending on your dance community, it might be useful to label your music as straight Blues, alternative Blues or Fusion, as some people are really picky about this.

Nadja’s next DJ journey will be an experimental set in the Micro Room at Double Shot Blues & Fusion in Valencia. Contact her at ziller2000@gmx.de


YAUHEN ARTSIOMENKA
MINSK, BELARUS

Photo: Elise Solovey

How do you find music?

Music is everywhere in my life. Every day at my work I am listening music, it can be on the internet, radio, lists of songs on social media, a page of my friend or even a list of cover songs on a music site. However, when I prepare music for an event, I search for new music more purposefully. This process for me is like unraveling a tangle: I’ve found one song and if I really like it, I start to search more and more. If I hear a good song of new band or singer, I try to explore their full discography. Sometimes this is impossible because their discography is too large, but I try. Also, I sometimes search for new songs in my own computer library. I have a lot of music that ended up on my computer, but I still haven’t gotten around to listening to it yet. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes not. Sometimes it is not easy to understand why you like a song. What exactly attracts you: rhythm, voice, melody or something else? But in trying to understand it, it can open new threads for finding new music, a new understanding of what you really like. If you know what attracted you in the first place, it’s easier to find something new and worthwhile.

Sometimes I get tired with my music. When this happens, I try to change genre, temp or style. I’m both a Lindy Hop DJ and a Blues DJ. I have come to understand very well that my preferences change from time to time. In times when I am tired with my music, I usually switch from Lindy Hop to Blues or from Blues to Lindy Hop. Also, listening to other DJs helps me too. In situations when even this doesn’t help me, I try to listen to totally different sorts of music than I usually like. It can help me look at what I have from a new angle. New angles aren’t boring!

A recently found song?

“St. James Infirmary Blues” – Brian Reitzell, feat. Mark Lanegan.

I recently came across the St. James Infirmary version by Hugh Laurie on the internet, and after the song ended, this Reitzell and Lanegan version started playing next. Maybe it isn’t my favorite variation of St. James Infirmary, but I like it and can already imagine when I can play this song. For every song is a special moment. Sometimes, you can be unlucky with finding not the best version of a song, but when you listen to many different versions of a song, you give each version more chances to take a place of pride in your playlist.

Also, you can find which version was the first, what is more popular, where are roots of this song. For example, ages ago I listened a lot to the band Muse. One day I found their “Feelin’ Good” song. I really liked it, but something told me this was not Muse’s song. I started searching and found Nina Simone. It was a happy time when I meet this great singer.

Advice for beginner DJs?

You have to understand that a DJ is not just someone who plays music. DJs are people who carry the culture and traditions of an art form. We are responsible for the musical tastes of our community. We must strive for perfection in it. I recommend for every beginner DJ to always learn from other DJs. At the beginning of your DJ career, you may think that you have impeccable taste in music, and that you know better than other DJs on what to do. However, 99.9% of the time it is the wrong way.

So ultimately, what is my advice for beginner DJs regarding finding music?

At first: start from the pillars of Lindy Hop or Blues Music. For Lindy Hop music – Count Basie, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman and so on. For Blues music – Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King and so on. It helps you create a strong foundation for your future playlists. After that, try to explore every way around it. If you find a new song with, for example, an amazing trumpet, try to unravel who else was on this record… maybe it’s your lucky day and you’ve found the new star for your playlist!

In addition to DJ’ing at the next Winterend Blues Festival in Minsk, Yauhen will also be playing host and organizer. Reach out to him through his Facebook profile, Yauhen Art.


ENRICH DUCH
BERLIN, GERMANY

Photo: Carlos Collado

How do you find music?

I have an unwritten, but important commitment with dancers, which is to give them new songs that they have never danced to. This makes me happy, it’s like cooking for people and afterwards they are grateful for what you cooked. Because they have just had a dish that they’ve never enjoyed before.

I am always in contact with music. When I dance, travel, DJ, play guitar, go to concerts, music is all around me. So it’s normal that I get new feedback from friends, DJs or simply when I listen to bands when I dance. This is what happens in normal life! But, I am an active music searcher.

My active way to look for music is with Spotify. This is a living catalog. Of course, not everything is there, but I feel I will never hear all the music there. This is my main source, and I listen to what I already have that I like and try to find something new, or try to find something new that I like. How? It depends, but mostly it is an intuition about a good voice, a chord progression or a good version of a hit. If you like the version, you’ll probably also like the singer or band, and right there you might have found your new pearl.

So I never get tired of music, there is always something new, a style I didn’t pay attention to, a forgotten version or an old singer with a one hit wonder that is good enough to play for dancers.

A recently found song?

“Coffee Cold” by Galt MacDermot. I meet a singer at Castle Camp, which is a Balboa and Swing festival that takes part in Germany in September, where I was DJing. She has an amazing voice, plays several instruments and has a non-typical repertoire for Swing music. Talking with her about music I arrived to this song…I think I found the song through a connection on her radio list… you know, good musicians know good music. It’s a natural connection.

Advice for beginner DJs?

First listen to Swing, Rhythm & Blues and Blues classics, so you know what good music is. Personally I open this spectrum till the 1980’s… Then look for other musicians that sound the same, that have their peculiar sound, the quality, a voice, this thing that make you want to dance again and again.

Have a personal taste. Good music is always welcome. Play good quality whether the dance floor is empty, for Blues, Balboa or Swing dancers. And if you find a song containing two styles, strike!

Take risks sometimes. A bad song among a good repertoire is not a problem, you can always erase it, but if you don’t try it, you’ll never know if it works. Be brave and watch the moves of people dancing, even people standing at the bar… their feet will tell you if they like the song.

Maybe that’s my philosophy, if dancers move their feet, I’m happy.

And dance. You will always know if a song works by dancing!

Learn more about what Enric is up to through his website, enricduch.com. Observant readers will have noticed that Enric was the photographer who took many of the photos that have been shown on this website.