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TVFTB Blog Post #1 - One Year In
Some of you may have been following The Mighty Mojo's musings on THE VIEW FROM THE BOOTH blog for a while, and will be well aware of the frequent insights from a DJ's perspective. Some may be new converts, while others may be stalwarts of TVFTB's whole first year of blogging. We're wagering that the majority of you are new to this, however, so we thought we'd use TVFTB's celebratory look back at the blog's first year as your way of an introduction.
We'll be posting one special TVFTB blog each month on bidolito.co.uk especially for your enjoyment, but you can view them all by getting yourself over to theviewfromthebooth.tumblr.com.
So here we are. One year of The View From The Booth. I’ve gone from being a music obsessive who talks to himself a bit too much, to a Sub-Editor and aspiring journalist for a magazine with a monthly audience of 10,000. I started this with no real expectations of where it would take me, and considering my history with technology, no expectations of making it this far. That I have is totally down to you, the readers. I am continually overwhelmed your response. Whether you read it every week, now and then or just whenever you get the chance, it makes me proud to know that this column has become as much a part of your lives as it has mine. So thanks.
In many ways DJing is a false world - it drapes you in illusions. There’s the illusion of being out having fun all the time, when in reality you’re at work. I went out to a drum & bass night last Friday for the first time in a long time, and it completely shattered me! It’s remarkable how much more tiring it is to dance with your whole body, as opposed to just swaying in time.
If you’re like me, another illusion is that you have hundreds of friends; friends whose names I don’t know, that come up and say hello, laugh at my jokes and tell me how awesome I am. That, kids, is thanks to our good friend Mr. Alcohol. The fact is, if a lot of those people saw me on the street on a Monday afternoon, running errands in my Tramp Pants (you’d know them instantly if you saw them) they wouldn’t recognise me. I find this not only ironic but pretty funny, as despite being compared at some point in my life to every single black man who has ever been on TV, I’m quite easy to pick out of a line-up. I’m not sad or angry about this - it’s not like I don’t have plenty of friends whose names I do know, and it’s not unusual for people to cross over from group to the other - but the booth is a powerful place, and it pays to remember that.
Of course the most powerful illusion at work in the life of a DJ is adulation, particularly when it isn’t earned. Many times I’ve played a mash-up that people believe I have made myself, or even that I have mixed live before their very eyes. Sometimes I have a bit of fun with them. I must confess to flicking up a volume fader with real feeling and emphasis at the point of a mix, even if there’s no CD loaded in the other side. You’d be surprised how many people are fooled! I do always correct them, unless the name of the real artist escapes me, or sometimes in a moment of weakness if the awestruck fool standing in front of me is particularly attractive.
There have been times when people have made ridiculous statements, like “You’re the best DJ I’ve ever seen”, “You’re too good to be playing in here”, or my favourite “Take my card and give me a call - I can get you a gig earning xyz amount in front of xyz people”. Again alcohol (amongst other drugs) play their part in this, but it’s important to see through the bullshit. Too often I see aloof, sourpuss DJs who believe the hype, which is why people are still surprised that there are DJs that smile at people. At the end of the day no matter how artfully you have mixed two records, you didn’t write those records. There’s a big difference between good DJs & bad DJs, but until you earn the royalties from records you are not at the top of the musical foodchain.
Seeing as it feels like a “Drop some knowledge on yo’ asses” kind of column this week, I thought I’d share with you some of what I’ve learned this past year, in case any of you are thinking of doing something similar. If I only have three tips, they would be:
1) It doesn’t hurt to slag off people in the public eye
Now I’m not saying you have to turn into Perez Hilton here; all attacks have to be justified. However, based on the rudimentary numbers I have at my disposal, four of the top five most read editions of The View From The Booth have featured a tirade - against Azealia Banks, Snoop Lion, The Smiths & The Brit Awards. There’s a good dose of schadenfreude at play here, as there’s a part of all of us that enjoy the rich and famous being brought down a peg or two. Twitter is awash with people gegging in on other people’s arguments, often throwing their oar in for bad measure. This isn’t always a good thing - just ask Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Lewis Hamilton or any of the people who’ve been jailed for Twitter abuse - but the real problems begin when this is all you have.
Let’s examine the NME.com template. Every story on their site appears to follow a strict formula:
- Some salacious titbit about what this band said about that band;
- Another three follow-up stories about what that band thought about what this band said;
- Another on what Noel Gallagher thinks about the situation.
The result? Plenty of views for the ad men to salivate over, but a comments section full of frustrated music fans wondering where the real news went.
Using famous people as an example is an easy jumping off point, a great way to attract casual readers. But you better have the words to back it up, or they’ll be gone again just as quick.
2) Treat your audience with intelligence and respect
There have been a couple of quite heavy subjects I’ve spoken about here, from death to racism to homophobia. I have at times been quite flippant within some of those columns, but only because I trust you, the readers, to recognise the context of my words. The Niggaz in Paris issue was something I have wanted to talk about for years, but never found the right environment to talk about it openly, even amongst my oldest friends. The happy consequence has been that now I have opened the doors, people feel able to discuss it with me, and they have. I’ve probably had more conversations about that column than any other all year. A friend of mine, whose job is to help integrate people new to the country, told me that my column was cited in one of their meetings - a fact that still blows my mind to think about.
In the wake of the Frank Ocean issue I’ve had conversations with other DJs about the lyrical content of the songs we play, and to what extent they represent us. I’ve even discussed homophobia with members of my family, which I can assure you does not happen every day!
These issues are important, and feature in all of our lives regularly. To ignore them here because it might be difficult or awkward to talk about would be to admit to a lack of faith in your audience, as well as your own ability to express your opinions clearly.
3) Honesty is ALWAYS the best policy
Point three kinda follows on from point two, but is still worth a section of its own. When writing for a large audience, especially an opinion piece, it’s natural to want everyone to agree with you. It gives your words more authority, especially if those words are then repeated en masse. I’m sure it’s the driving force behind this popular DJ/audience conversation:
“Have you got ……………….?”
“No, sorry I haven’t got that one I’m afraid”.
“Oh, but it’s a tune though, isn’t it? That’s a big tune that one!”
A lot of people seek validation in having their selection endorsed by the all-powerful DJ, even after they know they won’t get to hear the song. In writing, this often translates to saying what you think people want to hear, rather than what you actually think. That is a completely pointless exercise. If you don’t believe in your opinions, how can you expect anyone else to? When you submit a piece for a newspaper, and the editor tells you he wants to change most of it, what defence will you have? None.
Don’t be afraid to be unpopular. As I said last week, my position on The Smiths has cost me the chance of sex, which is a high priority in the mind of most single men, especially at 2am on a Saturday night. I got a lot of abuse at the time for this, but I’m actually perversely proud of it. A Morrissey-powered femme fatale was no match for the strength of my convictions.
I would describe my writing style as simply reprinting the conversation in my head. The way I speak to you is exactly how I talk to myself. If you can’t be honest with yourself, you’re gonna have bigger problems in life than no-one reading your blog.
So there we have it, a few simple rules that have served me well this past year, and will continue to in the future. I hope you find them helpful, or at the very least amusing. In the name of helping each other, here are a few more things to think about the next time you approach any DJ booth, not just mine. There have been many lists floating around the internet of things not to say to a DJ, but these are more things to remember when speaking to a DJ:
1) Biggie Smalls’ recording career does NOT begin and end with Juicy.
2) It is possible to like Aaliyah but hate Rihanna.
3) If a DJ tells you he’s already played the song you just asked for, he’s not gonna play it again.
4) Typing the name of the song you want on your phone and holding it up in front of the DJs face is REALLY FUCKING ANNOYING.
5) If you are rude, expect to be ignored.
6) Songs from 2005 do not count as “Old School”.
7) Just because a song isn’t in the top 20 doesn’t mean it isn’t new.
8) Just because you’ve never heard of a band doesn’t mean they aren’t popular.
9) If you’ve been in a club for at least 30 minutes and you haven’t heard the DJ give any shout-outs, that means that club does not do shout outs. Don’t waste your breath.
10) Wu-Tang Clan’s recording career does NOT begin and end with Gravel Pit.
And if you don’t know, now you know.
I’m a lot busier now than I was 12 months ago, but fear not - The View From The Booth will continue into next year and beyond. The mammoth task that is the review of 2012 has already begun, and there’s plenty more ideas in my head ready to be fired out through my fingers.
This year, I’ve been mostly listening to………………….
As much as there have been some corking new tunes to enter my life this week, from the likes of Grizzly Bear, Zion-I & Angel Haze, this felt like the perfect time to take stock of the great tunes I’ve shared with you over the last year.
I spent a few hours yesterday turning most of them into a YouTube playlist. Alas some of my selections are too obscure even for YouTube, but there’s still 43 songs that amount to over 3 hours of gold soundz (Copyright Mr. Andrew Ellis) from the Beatles to the Beasties, from Django Django to Jacques lu Cont. Stick it on and have a little dance.
The Mighty Mojo
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