Despite being, as he calls it, "semi-retired", Armand Van Helden still has plenty to say about the current state of DJ culture.
In a new interview with inthemix, Van Helden gives his candid opinion in response to a question comparing the feel of the '90s rave scene versus now. "For most of the ‘90s, I was a travelling DJ with vinyl in heavy record cases. You didn’t move, you often didn’t look up at the crowd. You would show up to a gig and the guy before you was in full trance-out mode or playing trip-hop. In the moment you had to improvise and come up with a set," he explained. "It’s a totally different thing to the way DJs are now. It’s all a no-brainer. They don’t have to think about much up there – as long as they don’t fall and twist an ankle while they’re jumping around."
Van Helden goes on to explain that little footage of DJs in the '90s exists because most of the time was spent knee deep digging through records with little connection to the crowd at all. "When we were doing it then, it was very stressful."
He continues, crediting much of the shift in performance attitude to the era of Justice, MSTRKRFT and Crookers who blended electronic music with rock, plus the shift in technology when computers arrived, which gave DJs more freedom "to goof off" behind the decks.
Diving into his own experience dealing with the shift, he turns to his time spent with A-Trak together as Duck Sauce. "He was from that generation, so he was about putting on a show. He was about stage antics and going over the top. It was a brand new thing for me, because it isn’t my personality. But I get it. You can stand there and spin your records and people will still like it, but you can also take it one level higher and really go in. Bring in crazy lights, pyrotechnics, dancers, you name it – put on a whole circus act."