The Secret DJ: "Playing B2B separates the pro from the plastic" - Comment - Mixmag

The Secret DJ: "Playing B2B separates the pro from the plastic"

It's all about creativity and flexibility

  • 27 September 2018

What are the secrets of playing back-to-back and not losing my own identity? It seems hugely popular now, but honestly, doing it is scary to me. Any tips? Roberto, Naples

Good question, Roberto! I like this one. A lot of times these days the answer to nearly every question about DJs somehow contains the word ‘ego’. An awful lot of Eastern religions and philosophies, and a fair few Western ones, are about achieving some sort of peace through subduing the ego. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m about as spiritual as a lump of plasticine left on a windowsill on a hot day, but it’s clear that rampant ego is behind a lot of issues in the world, both general and personal.

The ‘identity’ you speak of I assume refers to your playing style and choice of other people’s records? It is your schtick. Your jam. Your vibe, maaaan. What you do. This will not disappear when you work alongside another DJ, no more than the ability and style of a tennis player will vanish when they play a set of mixed doubles. In fact, it will become far clearer to everyone who you are, including yourself. Perhaps for the first time.

Back-to-back is not new. I spent a fair few years doing it with many, many DJs when it was almost unheard-of. So I am eminently qualified for this one on the grounds that I have had to bribe, bully and convince many other DJs both large and small over the years that it is both safe, fun and generally a jolly good idea. My sales pitch went along the lines of “What you usually get is one DJ doing their ‘thing’, which can often be fairly inflexible and unchanging. When you go B2B you suddenly have to think quite hard about what you’re doing, and it tends to end up with two professionals working hard in original and challenging circumstances instead of one going through the motions, which can only be a good thing, right?”.

Most of all, this is a good thing for the dancefloor. The expectations of the crowd change greatly when there are two DJs up there. People become less demanding of a dishwater-dull seamless and endless drone and far more accepting of a changeable, esoteric and binary vibe that adds a frisson of ‘whatever next?’ to the mix – literally.

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