Is the superstar DJ era over?

6 04 2009

Thanks to the rise and rise of Laptop DJs and live music, the era of the turntable-spinning superstar Dj may soon be over…or not? Read to find out.

Superstar DJ

[originally from LA Weekly] At the indie-meets-dance club Echoplex in Echo Park, DJs spin, but just as often these days a floor-friendly sound will emerge in the form of a band, a laptop act or something in between, as was the case with Love Grenades on a recent winter night.

The quartet’s three frontwomen dressed up like pinup girls, opera-length gloves and all, and cooed and sang in a correspondingly sultry haze, complemented by ’80s-inflected musicians on bass, guitar, drums and sequencer. The Grenades’ dance-punk sound has been remixed by friend-of-the-band Sam Sparro, another local artist who has skipped deejaying on the way to dance-floor stardom. Love Grenades don’t deejay, but their recent single, “Tigers in the Fire,” is being peddled on DJ culture’s No. 1 online retailer, Beatport. Clubland is being invaded by artists like these, dance-friendly acts that don’t need turntables to get their point across.

The dance world has been rocked in recent years by laptop-, sequencer- and band-based acts ranging from Justice and the Black Ghosts to Booka Shade. Daft Punk’s Kanye West–led resurrection last year highlighted the duo’s own immersive, turntable-free live act. And the local nu-electro festival HARD Haunted Mansion surpassed the 5,000-ticket mark in the fall with nary a superstar DJ in sight. All this has even some jocks asking if the spin is no longer in.

One of the hottest acts to emerge from the electronic–dance music arena in the past few years is Toronto-based producer Deadmau5, who got his start as a computer programmer before graduating to successful bedroom production. Because he came to deejaying from the tech-geek world, he faced culture shock on the club circuit. We can imagine him meeting all those douche jockeys caught up in drug-filled hazes of their own perceived stardom, egos stroked by groupies, guest lists and MySpace comments — all this stoke for, as Deadmau5 wrote on his own MySpace page, “some dude” who presses “the ‘play/stop’ button and occasionally move[s] a pitch slider.” Late last year, Deadmau5 was interviewed by Irish Daily Star and gave a money quote heard around the DJ world: “I don’t really see the technical merit in playing two songs at the same speed together, and it bores me to fucking tears. I’d like [DJs to] dis-a-fucking-pear. It’s so middleman. They’re like fucking lawyers. You need them, but they’re all fucking cunts.”

Here’s an artist whose music is required spinning for the biggest DJs, and he can’t hold his tongue (but his label can, and they declined to have him speak for this piece).

Deadmau5 admirer and former Angeleno Dave Dresden has worn many hats over the past two decades, including radio host, dance-music journalist, music scout for BBC Radio 1’s Pete Tong, and half of defunct DJ duo Gabriel & Dresden. He says Deadmau5 is right. “The day of the DJ as a guy who plays other people’s records might be done,” he says, pointing to newer acts like Morgan Page, who often play their own music live via laptop.

The superclub Avalon Hollywood has in recent years made more and more room for the post-DJ act while giving a cold shoulder to superstar DJs, especially those spinners who play straight-line hypnotic trance. While it still hosts plenty of big-name jocks — mostly of the minimal-techno variety — the venue has seen more than its share of hybrid live acts, including Booka Shade, Gui Boratto and Martin Buttrich.

“I don’t think it’s over, I think it’s evolving,” Avalon co-owner Steve Adelman says of DJ culture. “I think people are going more into electronic bands, live acts and semilive acts. We strive to have a whole production and visual experience that’s not just focused on watching a guy on two turntables.”

L.A.’s Frank Dominguez, a.k.a. down-tempo electronic act Aime, started deejaying 10 years ago but switched in recent years to incorporating nonturntable elements, such as keyboards, effects pads, a drum machine, a laptop and even an iPod. At 31, he plays for a generation of clubgoers more accustomed to the shuffle-play dynamics of an MP3 player than the ecstasy-fueled Botts’ dots of a superstar DJ. “People now would much rather see an artist performing with more than just changing records back and forth,” he says. “The kids go with what’s more stimulating.”

Adelman, who’s been in the superstar-DJ-booking business since the mid-’90s, says those most affected by the demise of the name DJ are local “midlevel” spinners, not huge trance names like Tiësto and Armin Van Buuren. URB magazine editor Joshua Glazer adds that some of the so-called midlevel DJs who had settled stateside around the DJ boom of the new millennium have gone back to Europe, replaced locally by nu-electro bands. Still, Glazer argues, the DJ isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“I think the reports of the death of the superstar DJ have been greatly exaggerated,” he says. “I was one of the first people to declare that death. But compared to five years ago, I definitely think the DJ is on the rise.”

He notes that cheap laptops and easy-to-use software, such as Serato Scratch Live and Ableton Live, have made it easier than ever to deejay — virtually — for a new generation of point-and-click jocks. “It might not be like 1999,” Glazer says, “but maybe we’re just not noticing.”

Links:

Justice – Electro Music With Punk Attitude

Ableton Live 8 – Out Now

View DJ products at Dolphin





Guns ‘n’ Bombs: America’s Answer to Justice

20 11 2008

Cutting-edge electro-house duo Guns ‘n’ Bombs uses Torq DJ software to conquer the underground club scene.

Guns ‘n’ Bombs has been called “America’s answer to Justice”—and the Los Angeles-based production team boasts the credits and accolades to back it up. In just two short years, the group has released a string of highly successful remixes (Chromeo, The Gossip, Klaxons) and secured a record deal with ultra-hip French label Kitsuné. Comprised of Ima Robot bassist Filip “Turbotito” Nikolic and Chicago DJ Johnny Love, Guns ‘n’ Bombs is known for taking underground clubs by storm and rocking the crowd with their ambitious style of robotic electronica. Their hit single “Nothing Is Getting Us Anywhere” practically dares you not to dance—pulsating with digitized basslines and infectious synth grooves. With a production rig based on Torq DJ software, Guns ‘n’ Bombs continues to attract international attention for their powerhouse performances and dance-friendly remixes.

Performing Live with Torq

The Guns ‘n’ Bombs sound was born from a musical melting pot of hip-hop, electro house and disco influences. To reproduce tracks live, Turbotito uses Torq DJ software for advanced control over his sound clips and backing tracks. “I used to produce a lot of hip-hop in Denmark and we always dreamed about having the vocals on vinyl so we could cut them up,” he explains. “Torq has made all of that possible. We can record a live vocal bite, add effects to it, drop it back in a sample clip and instantly scratch it into our set. Torq allows us to go beyond emulating vinyl by doing something that’s impossible with traditional records. For Guns ‘n’ Bombs stuff, it’s great to manipulate sound clips using vinyl control. I can just throw down my hand for edits and speed control—it’s really fun for experimenting.”

Turbotito was an early adopter of digital DJ technology—he initially tried out Serato and Final Scratch before discovering Torq DJ software. “Torq has extremely accurate pitch controls and beat calculations, making it superior to the other DJ applications,” he says. “It’s super precise, which makes the loops tighter as well. The looping is the best I’ve tried on any system—including CD DJ players and other DJ software.”

For live DJ performances, Turbotito enjoys the intuitive user interface that Torq DJ software provides. “I never really understood the waveform display on Serato,” he relates. “Every time I use it for correcting stuff, I kind of make it worse. I like the waveform display in Torq much better. If you are unsure of what’s going on with your beat matching, it’s so easy to see which track is behind. It makes DJing a visual experience.”

The M-Audio Torq Xponent comes with the revolutionary Torq DJ software

Unique Studio Sounds

Turbotito has developed a unique production style that involves tweaking and manipulating original sounds using a variety of hardware and software tools, including Torq DJ software. “I never use sampled material,” he states. “When I first started making electronic music, I bought a sample CD—but after six months I started hearing those clips and sounds in other people’s music. So now we only use drum samples, no loops.

“I use hardware synths and software plug-ins to make the majority of the Guns ‘n’ Bombs sounds. If you just open a synth and start playing it, it’s going to be totally recognizable. We alter all the sounds we use because I don’t like playing the presets that come with the synthesizer. The looping controls and effects in Torq are great for altering prerecorded synths and drum tracks to create something unique. Torq lets you make your own sound.”

Check The Gear:

M-Audio Torq Xponent

M-Audio Control CD for Torq

M-Audio Torq Conectiv Vinyl/CD Pack Exclusive Gold Vinyl Edition

M-Audio Torq Control Vinyl

For more information, check out www.myspace.com/gunsnbombs 

 





Rane Serato Scratch LIVE bridging the analog world of vinyl and the digital world of computer audio files

21 08 2006

 

 

Scratch LIVE is the ultimate software and hardware solution for bridging the analog world of vinyl and the digital world of computer audio files. Using regular turntables or CD players, you can scratch and mix files from your Mac or Windows XP computer’s CD or hard drive, add in a live mic input for scratching, and even bypass to standard vinyl if you wish. Scratch LIVE is the complete digital solution for the vinyl junkie — take your entire collection wherever you go and leave your precious vinyl at home!

 

The Scratch LIVE USB interface connects one or two standard vinyl or CD turntables to your computer. This extremely rugged, portable, high quality, bus-powered USB interface features two switchable phono or line inputs, a microphone input, two line outputs, and pass thru outputs for the phono/line and mic.

 

The included 12″ vinyl records each have a Scratch exclusive and unique control signal which allows Scratch LIVE to track the motion of the record, simulating the same movement with digital audio. Due to Serato’s proprietary control scheme, the result is a feel and sound indistinguishable from playing vinyl. As a producer and DJ, the track you finished today can be played on a real turntable tonight. You’ll never have to cut a dubplate again!

 

The minimum operating system requirements are either a Mac G4, OSX 10.2.8, or a PC P3-700 running Windows XP, either with 128M of ram or more. Scratch LIVE includes hardware interface, USB cable, RCA cables, printed manual, two vinyl records, two CDs, and software install disc in a display box.