Do you remember the moment that set you on the path to becoming a DJ/producer?
Well, my sister took me to a rave when I was 13. I had been to the rave. Got the t-shirt. Now I wanted to make the tunes. I was at school and didn’t know what I was going to do with life, beyond wanting to be part of music. So it was like, “Start now.”
Let’s get philosophical: What does DJing mean to you?
It’s life. It’s energy. You could be in any mood. I could be ill. Not vibing. You get out there. You start playing records. You see people dancing. You feel the vibe.
DJing feeds the soul. And it’s like you literally need that vibe every week.
Perfect answer! Everyone has their own style – what makes your DJ sets uniquely yours?
I love those bits where you take it left of centre. Or you get two tunes in the breakdown going together, and it drops and becomes an emotional moment. There’s a connection. People are like, “Oh, yes. I needed that. We’re in for a good night.” You need to slow it down to do those bits. Maybe they’re the personal parts.
The double drop is still alive?
More than ever, mate. The more decks the merrier. Everybody expects triple drop extravaganzas, because I’m still on turntables.
How important is the crowd to a great DJ set?
Crowd interaction is the one. You’ve got to spot the parts that are dancing – you can learn a lot from them. It’s a two-way street.
And can you explain how you feel after playing a great set?
Amazing. (Laughter) There really isn’t anything like it. You’re replaying all these moments in your head, and you’re like, “Wicked. I’m going to do it all again next week – but it’s going to be completely different.”
What’s your setup? Do you still use three turntables?
I do, yes. Presently Technics or Pioneer. I have an Allen & Heath Xone:92 and a Traktor Audio 10 audio interface. I have a controller to select tunes, a Korg – I only use that one because it’s really small.
Why stick with turntables?
It’s who I am, man. The irony is I played an old-school gig in London the other week. There were three turntables… Two didn’t work. I had to play for 45 minutes on one turntable, fading tunes down…
It’s those moments you’re like, “I’m never using turntables again.” Then you go home, and think about it, and… It’s just who I am. I do Technics – that’s my thing.
Tell us, in a nutshell, about TRAKTOR’s role in your ALIVE audiovisual sets.
It was 2011, and I was talking to you, saying I wanted to involve Traktor and Native Instruments in the show.
Allen & Heath just released the Xone:DB4, and I remapped it for MIDI in Traktor. Each button created a four-bar macro of three effects, sending information to the Lighting Desk to change the screen.
Literally the first or second show, I was like, “That’s it. I’m DJing with Traktor forevermore.” It opened up everything… “Do you want to do a six-hour set at Fabric?” I was like, “Yes, alright – I can now.” Because I haven’t got to take bags and bags of dubplates.
Do you have a special high-end setup for digitising vinyl?
Some people get totally audiophile about it. I get that, but I don’t like wasting time on that shit. I get a good needle. Good record deck. Put it in the computer. Take out clicks and hum with iZotope RX. Bounce it down. Chuck it in Traktor. Easy-peasy.
Any special tricks you rely on?
Yes, mixing three tunes at once on turntables. That will do. Whilst balancing on one hand, with a vodka bottle. (Laughter)
Do you have a favourite TRAKTOR feature you use a lot?
When I did ALIVE, it was the internal effects. You know the roll, where it would do a drum roll and remember where you were? I created it out of the delay, but I had the macro where it did the delay effect and went up.
The feature I use most, honestly, is the finding feature.
That brings us to an important point: since you rip so many vinyls, how do you keep tabs on your TRAKTOR collection?
My folder tree has grown to many branches. It’s just muscle memory. I don’t do labels, comments, ratings or anything like that. It’s just folders of stuff, and I know where they are. I’m sure it’s very personal to everybody how they organise their stuff.
But do you sort it by genre? By year? By feeling?
Not by genre, because it’s all drum and bass. Yes, feeling, and tunes that work in the parameters of each other. So if I go into that folder, I can create the vibe. A nice one is when you jumble it up, for those different odd mixes.
When I played vinyl, it was a chronological hierarchy: new tunes at the front. Whereas now it’s all in folders. If they disappeared… (Laughter)
And what if they did?
Thank God I’ve got backups of backups of backups. My house is littered with backups. If a laptop goes down, my Traktor is backed up. Because you rely on it so much.
photo credit top banner: Chris Davison