DJs play other people’s music. This shouldn’t come as a shock to most of you. If it does, here it is again: DJs play other people’s music. More recently, DJs have been playing smaller and smaller parts of other people’s music, with some people like Magda or Richie Hawtin making whole albums out of techno’s greatest ‘hits’. You just take Baby Ford’s kick, Zip’s snare, Wink’s hat, combine, and repeat. Voila! Nothing’s more up-to-date, more hip, and (let’s face it) more minimal than that, right?
But what if we went the other way? I mean, maybe it’s time we thought about presenting combinations of far larger chunks of another artist’s music? What I’m suggesting is: why don’t we start mixing mixes?
Think about your favourite mix CDs. Think about their sublime moments, where the mix is no longer about getting from A to B but suddenly creates something more magical than the parts themselves. Or maybe there’s a sequence of five really killer selections you love that you could pinch from an otherwise average live set you downloaded.
Now, imagine if you then took the best fifteen minutes from twelve of your favourite recorded mixes and sequenced them: you’d have a three hour set that would re-present both the tracks in their already magical inter-relationship with each other and create an additional flow between all of them. Provided your own mixing was up to the task, we could be witnessing the birth of a heretofore unheard of way of making music, one that could potentially condense a collective total of hundreds of years of collection and selection into one performance.
No doubt this has already been done in an oblique fashion by novice bedroom DJs, armed with nothing more than two CD-Js and a pile of mix comps. But it’s hardly anything a self-respecting DJ would openly do. I mean, there are all those horrible rumours about lazy superstar DJ having ‘piss discs’ – CDs with two or three pre-mixed tracks on ‘em, long enough for said jock to lay a cable or lift a line in the bogs. But you can hardly imagine a big-name DJ openly playing another DJ’s mix, can you?
But why the hell not, really? If Stevie Ray Vaughn can play Hendrix’ ‘Little Wing’, why can’t Sasha play his favourite Digweeeds? With the CD-J revolution almost complete, and with our already bulging archive of mixed sets, maybe it’s time we prised open the mix-matching closet and ‘outed’ this ‘art that will not speak its name’. I can see you’re hesitant, Mr DJ. I mean, ‘mixing’ is your art, right? And mixing mixes, well, what if his mix is longer than yours? Maybe we’re crossing more than channels here. Hmm. If you’re hesitant… what are you trying to hide?
But c’mon now –with the exception of turntablism, mixing has always been about presenting a piece of music as it relates to two others, and removing the lowlights so you only play the highlights of each. But with mix-matching (or metamixing) it would be the mixes themselves that we’d be showing off – you’d just be highlighting the highlights. It’s just the same process of collection and selection, taken to the next degree. Conceptually, it’s no different. You’re just playing other people playing other people’s records, kind of ‘DJ ²’. If the idea of this makes you feel slightly queasy, is that because it’s wrong, un-natural, or because there’s something a bit subversive about the whole thing? It seems unthinkable, but really, it’s a logical step. I doubt there’s a DJ in the world humble enough to give it a go. But go on, I challenge you to be the first. Then imagine trying to explain it: a DJ ² is a person who plays other people playing other people’s records.
Originally published in Inpress, February '07
© Peter Chambers 2007
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