It also soothes my soul. There’s nothing quite like the energy of playing music for other people and seeing their reactions. That perception of a reaction from a listener is a communication, and when you open a dialogue for communication, it affects both sides of the “conversation.”

Recently I started playing over at the TESLA space in Worcester, and I’m loving the way it makes me want to create. That side of me had been in hibernation, really, and I needed to kick it back into gear. Working with other musically inclined nerds, I’ve been exploring the midi capabilities of my Traktor setup as well as just plain spinning music for an hour or more at a time. I haven’t done this literally in years, and I am reminded of how much I grew as a DJ while I was doing a radio show where I would play for five hours at a stretch on Saturday nights. I’ve always been big on playing live sets, and I know how much it helps me refine my skills as a DJ. When I’m playing from a broad array of styles (even if the tempo stays within a narrow range), I challenge myself. When I hear about other DJs being suspected of playing a CD at their “live” gigs, it’s worse to me than the concept of lip-synching for singers. Because as a DJ, I feel like my main talent is in knowing what to pick, what my audience is wanting, and how to create an environment that enhances whatever’s going on. Whether it’s a dance party, a poetry reading, or just a place for people to chill and visit, I want to put the right soundtrack underneath the action. The idea that someone is being billed as a DJ and then they’re just making the motions, especially given all the tools that are available today that make it so easy to mask tiny (or larger) mistakes or opportunities for mistakes – that seems incredibly lazy and disrespectful to your audience, not to mention an indication to me that you have no confidence in whatever skills you do have.

I’ve thought a lot about how the technology available to DJs has changed since the days when I plunked down all that money for a Denon 1200 dual CD deck back in the 90s. With all the beatmatching and looping capabilities in software like Traktor (my choice) and Serato (and all those other variants), it really has gotten almost too easy to accomplish the mechanics of what we do. But always, in the end, it’s the track selection, the way you pick the pieces to fit together, that separate those who truly know what they’re doing and those who just bought a bunch of stuff and call themselves a DJ. Even with the tools, you still can’t mix some things in a way that sounds *right* unless you know what you’re doing.

With this new gig, I’m using it as a playground to play with the equipment – to see what some of these other tools are and figuring out ways to expand the possibilities in both music making and live playing. It satisfies my creative side, and it lets me get my geek on, which I’ve needed for a long time. I’m excited to see where it all leads me, and looking forward to every step of the journey.

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