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Heart of darkness: The Secret DJ on touring

And how it turns even the nicest people into monsters

  • The Secret DJ
  • 21 July 2017

There’s a quote from Francis Ford Coppola about the famously troubled making of Apocalypse Now: “There were too many of us,” he said. “We had access to too much equipment, too much money, and little by little… we went insane.” How else to explain some DJs’ behaviour when they go on tour?

“I can’t stay here! The wallpaper is too weird”. Someone really said this. In my time in dance music, whether behind the decks or putting on parties, I’ve heard a lot of DJ bad behaviour stories. In fact, I kind of collect them.

With my own long-abused ears I have heard “these ice cubes are too cloudy”, “the thermostat is too complicated”, “there’s not enough magazines in English” (in Malaysia) and someone needing an entirely new luxury room because “the pot-pourri smells funny.”

“The toilet is in a stupid place” is another and one of my faves, as is the nameless superstar who insists on a heated floor wherever they go, and yet somehow refuses to consider shoes.

There are major American DJs who feign injury when things aren’t to their liking, and try to get people fired. There are one or two who barely bother to turn up, after insisting on being paid in advance. I know DJs who seem very nice but will instruct their management to charge a venue their already colossal wage twice if they miss a flight, threatening to get on a plane home without playing if they aren’t paid again for the inconvenience of not being able to catch a plane properly. I’ve seen DJs who are working half as often start to charge twice as much to make up for it – which is about as concise a description you can get of the insane thinking of our agents and managers, who are pricing DJs right out of the game.

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