Stranded In Stereo: Love in the Time of Mashups

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Love in the Time of Mashups

Music is as diverse in form, power and dynamics as the ocean itself. Like the ocean, music can be calm and powerful, beautiful or violent; it can bring pain or health, it can isolate and it can communicate on a level that reaches far beyond language, symbols and time. DJs are the captains that navigate the uncharted oceans of music that connect our world. Like the seafaring captain, the DJ, turntablists and party rockers risk life and limb, career and reputation to control and navigate through the often hostile, unpredictable and uncharted landscapes of audience and technology all in an effort to make people move and transcend.

So why risk it all in an already unstable world? The answer, quite plainly, is love: Love of music, love of adventure, love of life. Many a musical mariner has run aground in pursuit of sirens like fame, glory and money. Long after the remains of these novices have sunk to the depths, it is the pirates and the captains who will sail on. Why? Because love was and remains the purpose of their quest and DJing is most definitely a lifelong quest of love.

It is getting harder and harder in 2008 to keep your love for the sea. Celebrity DJs and mash-up cracks pollute the waters. Technology is replacing skill. Emotion is automated. What you are about to read is a first person account of the sea life, the DJ life, from a young man with the heart of an old salt.

This is Love In the Time of Mashups.


A random first entry. It’s 12:41am on technically Sunday morning.

I have to DJ for another hour and 45 minutes. My partner in crime for these select evenings at the Golden Bear bar is DJ Riff Raff; as a duo we are called Jive as Fuck and I feel we completely represent the double-sided nature of this name. Riff’s mixer had a malfunction earlier in the night so we were an hour late starting: this is jive as fuck. I totally didn’t care; it’s the night after Halloween and its dead. All chodes, no rhythm and no open minds: It’s the worst possible scenario for a DJ like me. I just ordered a White Russian to kill some time. Boredom always gets me in the end. I always do the worst shit when I am bored.

So back to tonight’s venue sucking: tonight sucks.

I always try to imitate the example set by my favorite DJs: Built For Speed from San Francisco.

These two DJs, Fashion Hooker (Dee) and Platform Whore (Rachel), play only what they want, the will of the crowd be damned; these two are jive as fuck. They seem to be against the traditional role of the DJ as a crowd-pleaser. DJs are there to cater to the will of the mass at weddings, clubs, whatever. These two ladies completely dismiss that notion. I don’t know why they DJ then? To amuse themselves? Share music with unknowing masses? It’s definitely not the reason I started DJing: namely to please my high school peers and make a name for myself in the adolescent abyss of my teen years.

It worked, though. I made a name for myself: Rob Fatal. It got me recognized, but for what? Maybe I am idealizing their nature, but it seems as if Dee and Rachel don’t need DJing to exist. I myself often wonder who I’d be if I wasn’t DJ Rob Fatal? But then again, who would any of us be without the things we did? For example my professors, filmmakers, artists, friends who sell drugs, etc… The list goes on. People need to be known for something; to have their identity tied to something. Is that not the true nature of identity? DJing is not a bad thing to be known for. At least I’m not Rob the asshole or Rob the homophobe or Rob the burnout.

But who are any of us?

I look around this bar, at all these faces, and ask the same questions as countless people before me: who are any of us without our clothes, jobs, hair styles, drink orders and words.

I like DJing because it separates me from some of these sad fucks.

I have a purpose here; I mean something, have worth and standout in this collage of people.

But what good does that do when some chode I despise and seek to differ myself from heckles and gives me shit about the music I play?

It’s as if I’m a server in the food service industry: I try to hold power, but ultimately I serve this paying customer.

But not tonight. While getting heckled I start to play the most alienating music I can in an effort to get him, his Diesel Jeans, $700 leather shoes and striped collar shirt the fuck out of my venue: Eddie Cochran, Sam Sham and the Pharos, Nancy Sinatra, Brazillian baile funk and Ukraine gypsy punk; Anything to make him doubt his sexuality, nationality or privileged white male superiority.

I smile as he leaves in a rush, frustrated that he can’t sing along to songs in another language or at the thought that he is shaking his anus to the Scissor Sisters’ “Filthy Gorgeous”; a tune countless gay men he is terrified of have copulated to mercilessly.

I give a nod as he scowls on the way out.
You don’t fuck with the people who serve your food DO NOT FUCK with the people playing your music. Dee and Rachel I think would smile if they saw me tonight. Oops, time to get back to work.

1 comment: said...

No doubt, the writer is completely right.