Does a DJ set have to be perfect?
Everyone loves smooth transitions, but they aren't always the be-all and end-all of a good set
It’s understandable that if a DJ is getting paid top dollar they must possess the necessary skills to mix cleanly, but when taking a judgmental approach, there’s much more to DJ set than beat matching. The music is the focus and the star of the experience, and taking risks can disrupt the cleanliness of a blend. These risks yield a DJ set that’s raw and real. For Rush Hour boss Antal, an artist who delivers an eclectic collection of music with each performance, the technical aspect is obviously important, but rather than dwelling on perfect mixes, track selection takes the lead.
“Technique has always been important in Amsterdam,” he says. “If a DJ made two trainwrecks in a night, people would talk about it. But now I think I don't care so much. I like it when all the mixes are smooth, but if it's not smooth I also realise it can say a lot about what kind of decisions I'm making. And sometimes if I'm experimenting and improvising a lot, then I cannot expect all my mixes to go right. Track selection is really important. If I play only house at a certain tempo and I'm doing it through rekordbox, it's hard to get it wrong. I remember, people would write all the BPMs on their records, but I never went that far. I really don't want to care about it. And then if I make a mistake, whatever.”
What many people love about Antal’s DJ sets is the improvisation, free flow and unique track selection. These are the aspects that have made him one of the top tastemakers in house, funk, disco and various world styles in recent history. His ability to dig deep into the past, while also being in-tune with the future, has earned him great respect around the industry. His beat matching ability isn’t necessarily his calling card.
On a similar note, legendary DJ and producer John Digweed has touched on how the ability to perform a seamless mix is only half the battle: “Beat matching is only part of being a DJ, track selection and the ability to read the crowd are just as, if not more, important.”
The best DJs in the world have the complete package, they can beat match, their track selection is brilliant and they know how to build and release tension to get the crowd engaged. Some skills can be learned, but track selection seems to be one that’s refined and unique to an individual, it reveals who an artist truly is.