Friday, 23 July 2010

Girl, put your records on

For the first weekend in a while, I'm not meant to be doing any deeJAYing as my mum, god bless her, always calls it. I am quite sad about this. As I mentioned in my last blog, DJing is the most fun thing I do and I love it with a passion.

I started DJing completely by accident - an accident for which I am now very grateful. Some friends of mine were organising the music for a party for the forum we all post on. I was joking with them about how I'd like to put some of the music I like on (it's a very dance music orientated forum, and I don't really give that much of a crap about most dance music - there's some I like, and there's a little bit I love, but generally it says nothing to me about my life as dear old Morrissey would say) and see what everyone made of it. It was going to be a goth-hop set; a mixture of the Sisters of Mercy and Missy Elliot. Somehow the joke got carried on and carried on, and before I knew it, I was being told that I was doing a back to back with a girl called Elaine who I knew a little bit and who could teach me how it was done.

Those same friends decided that we should be the headliners, for reasons I'm sure were logical at the time but which no longer seemed that sensible when several of our other so-called friends were demanding their money back if they were really going to have to sully their pure euphoric trance (yes, I know, try not to giggle, it's rude) ears with dirty, dirty pop music at the end of the night, and those reasons became even less clear when the two of us were sitting through the rest of that party, clutching each others' hands with fear and practically vomiting with the nerves as we waited for our turn to begin.

We came up with the formula that I would play two tunes and then she would play two tunes. I put on Railing by Roni Size followed by Renegade Master by whoever-its-by, and then she put on Planet Rock by Leftfield and then Music by Madonna. It took us four tunes to get to the pop, but then we stayed there for a while. We called ourselves the Queens of Mean and our set list (which I keep in the draw of my bedside table) includes such tips and gems as 'wibbly - FAST MIX!' and 'respec'ful silence.'

We finally went on at about 4.30 in the morning, I think, and a friend related to me later that he saw my face turn from sheer terror to sheer joy as I pushed the crossfader across from my first tune to my second tune and realised that playing people the music you love and them thinking you're brilliant because of it is the greatest feeling in the world.

We made so many technical errors its not even funny (one deck got switched to phono at one point and we couldn't work out why it didn't work - we had no notions at all about how to control volumes on a mixer - we tried to mix DnB with pop with no seeming musical links at all) but Oh My God did it go well. As soon as we finished, I turned to Elaine and said to her, 'we're doing that AGAIN!' The bouncer asked us for a demo CD and we were booked for our second gig (a birthday party) before we'd left the decks.

Fast forward six years and Elaine is my best friend and DJ life partner, and what started out as a bad joke intended to annoy some of our friends has resulted in us getting real gigs at actual festivals and clubs and weddings and people actually paying us occasionally and appearing to take us seriously. I'm sure it also annoys a lot of our friends as well, though, so it's not a complete dead loss. ;-)

We decided that Queens of Mean was too similar to Queens of Noiz and became Twisted Kitten about two or three gigs in, I think. We got the name by looking in a hip hop slang book that Elaine had - Twisted means drunk, wrong or on drugs, if I remember correctly - and by nicking a word from Hello Kitty and messing with it a bit. We still get nervous enough to vomit before most gigs, even though we've been doing it for six years now, but as soon as the first record is on, the world falls away and all that matters is the music and each other and the crowd (I say that word with my tongue firmly in the cheek, as the average Twisted Kitten audience is around 5 or 6 people strong).

I have been recently reading about a concept called Flow, which was dreamt up by a fella called Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced cheeks-sent-me-high). If I've understood and remembered it correctly, being in a state of flow is when you're engaged in an activity that you have to work at, but that which makes time stop and everything else stop mattering. It doesn't, in itself, make you happy at that moment, as you're lost in it and working, but the more flow-like activities you have in your life, the happier you generally will be. If you have no flow activities, but just try to make yourself happy with gratifications, it ain't gonna work and you're going to be a sad panda. Doing sport is a flow activity... watching TV is a gratification. Making clothes is flow... buying them is gratification. There's nothing wrong with gratifications, but you need to spread them out and you can't entirely rely on them for happiness, cos essentially, they're empty. Yoga for me is a flow activity - doing it at the time doesn't necessarily fill me with joy as it hurts, but it definitely improves my life and makes me happier overall.

DJing, I think, needs a new category all of its own. It has all the plus points that flow has - it makes time stop, I have to work at it, nothing else matters when I'm playing records and people are dancing and my best girl is by my side... but it's also a gratification, cos it brings me SO MUCH JOY right at that moment. What is it about being able to put on loud music that you love and seeing other people love it too that is so incredibly enjoyable? On the one hand, I don't think I could ever explain it... but then on the other hand, I'm not sure it needs any more explanation than what I've just said. Loud music that you've picked and that other people love - what could be better than that?

I watch friends of mine who are in bands and I take my hats off to them - there's clearly more talent in what they all do than I have in my littlest headphone jack - but it looks like so much WORK. All that lugging equipment about and practicing and writing songs and sound checks and band meetings... I could never! DJing (at least, the easy-peasy, who-needs-to-beatmatch-when-the-tunes-are-this-good DJing that I do) is the cheaters' way to celebrity, the easy peasy route to being a legend in your own lunchtime, and I think that's part of what makes it a flow activity (cos you have to work at it to an extent) and a gratification activity (cos you can stop and listen to the music and JUST HAVE FUN) all at once.

Keen followers of my blog, and what a terrific audience you are, ;-) will recall that I have a bit of tinnitus. Nothing too awful, but I can hear it when I wake up and when I'm trying to get to sleep. As as result, I've had to stop using my iPod, which has been a very sad and heartbreaking process... there was very little I loved more than a long walk and a loud iPod. But after about four months without it, I've managed to train myself to the point where I don't really miss it that much any more... not unless I think about it for about ten minutes. When I started to realise that the tinnitus was becoming an issue I couldn't ignore any more, I had to make a choice between my iPod and DJing, and DJing won. Life without DJing would be really quite bleak.

We're playing at a punk and ska festival the weekend after next, which is going to be quite hilarious. We're being punk by refusing to confirm and putting Beyonce on. They're going to bottle us. I shall report back.

In other news, life on the straight and narrow is still going well. Another festival is under my belt and I didn't even get a twinge this time. I think this is now the second longest I've gone without any of mother's little helpers since I was 15 (a frightening 18 years ago), and the first longest was an enforced break that, while I got through without too much difficulty, I definitely counted the days through until I could resume my old lifestyle. Something in my brain has turned over... a friend was getting a bit worried the other week cos she couldn't get what she wanted for the weekend, and I really couldn't comprehend why she even cared. Smugness is surely only a stone's throw away.

1 comment:

  1. There's a guy called Andreas Burzik who teaches about an instrumental practice technique called "flow". It works on the principles of Mihaly what's-his-name.

    Getting in the "flow" when I'm practising is a rare but wonderful thing. Often there's too much external "noise" (pressures of achieving, distractions etc) going on but sometimes it comes and 2 hours slip by, I still feel relaxed and I can play much better than before.