Defining the role of the DJ: breaking down the 3LAU and Z-Trip debate
“We’re not Beyoncé or David Copperfield.. we’re DJs.” – Z-Trip
What is the role of the DJ? It’s a question that’s been debated since Frankie Knuckles first lit up the Chicago underground in 1977, but one that’s particularly relevant in today’s landscape. With the variety of performance styles that have emerged and the phenomenon of ‘producers-turned-DJs,’ it’s an increasingly gray area that no longer holds a singular definition.
A few weeks back at EDMBiz, the great debate was personified by a particularly heated argument between 3LAU and Z-Trip. As the latter — a turntablist legend — touched on the value of improvised sets, 3LAU soon intervened to defend pre-planned performances: “I grew up… I don’t know how to DJ. I don’t know how to mix. I don’t know how to beat match… I was the kid in the dorm room in that new Zac Efron movie who just wanted to play the sounds.”
3LAU represents a new generation of artists who became famous before ever touching a pair of CDJs or turntables. It’s a more common phenomenon than you think — with the advent of SoundCloud and YouTube, a new producer can find himself on a large festival stage seemingly overnight. This is where the problem arises. Now the artist must find a way to ‘perform’ their songs (many will recall the story of Porter Robinson who taught himself how to mix right before his first gig). In an effort to minimize errors, many producers shy away from using CDJs or more traditional gear and pre-plan their sets entirely.
3LAU noted of his EDC set for instance: “The truth is, for the hour set that I’m going to perform at EDC, that set isn’t the hour that I’m putting in when I’m playing. It’s the five days of work that I’m putting in thinking about what to mix in, what’s going to work in what key, what acapella am I going to put over the new Martin Garrix record.”
It’s a different type of mentality, and one that has been born out of the main stage world of festivals with pyrotechnics-synced drops and firework finales. As a result of this extensive planning, however, performances often become rigid and recycled. What is the DJ to do if the crowd is not enjoying the set?
This is where Z-Trip’s logic comes in. In response to 3LAU’s pre-planned methodology, he says, “You can still do that, and still factor in a bit of time to go off the track a little bit.” What Z-Trip is proposing is that DJs take the time to embed a bit of spontaneity into their performances. He admits that’s it’s ok to have pre-arranged sections — everyone has routines after all — but hinges on the importance of offering a unique experience every time one takes the decks.
He ends with a particularly poignant line. As 3LAU cites the premeditated approach of an illusionist like David Copperfield, Z-Trip retorts: “We’re not Beyoncé or David Copperfield motherf***a… we’re DJs.”
It’s a sentiment that bears repeating. In some ways, artists have become so caught up in the “show” aspect of sets and festivals that they’ve lost touch with the roots of the craft. While one shouldn’t go out and ditch their setup by any means, a little bit of improvisation here and there can only be a good thing.
Via: DJ Scribble
Hats off to Z Trip for dropping it at the Edc EDM conference we ain’t Beyoncé or David Coperfield WE ARE MOTHER FUCKING DJ’s #preach my friend!!!! #djculture
Posted by DJ Skribble on Thursday, June 25, 2015