The DJ Mix tape.It has, since the beginning, across all genres, been the ultimate expression of a dj’s musical message.
While these days “tapes” have gone the way of the dodo, the idea of the “mixed tape” has persevered across all genres and formats. As we all know, these days most mixes are delivered to the masses as either a digital download, stream, or cd. This evolution of formats has of course changed the game in regards to how mixes are created, but at the heart of the recorded mix is a desire by all that the work be a real, honest, and true example of not only an artists SOUND as a dj, but also a demonstration of ones SKILLS at crafting an engaging mix.Jeno - Bang the Drum
- Is one of the most influential House mixes ever recorded, released on tape around 1993, it was made in a time when there were no 3 band eqs, no ableton, no cdjs... it is a remarkable piece of work that is mandatory listening for any aspiring house head or dj: http://ezeskankin.com/mixtapes/Jeno_Bang_the_Drum_Side_A.mp3
For most every dj, the primary goal of the mixed tape is to deliver a musical journey to the listener that is clean, moving, well mixed and properly mastered. Due to the nature of the recorded mix, it being one that is listened to over and over again; there is an inherent demand that it be generally free of mistakes. One could even go as far as saying that a dj choosing to release a mix has a responsibility to make sure his mix is free of errors such as unintentional, sudden volume changes, bad breaks, out of key mixes, and most importantly train wrecks (aka shoes in the dryer).
For ultimately, beyond all else, the purpose of the dj mix, IMHO... ...is simply to move the listener.
So many other cool classic mixes here: http://ezeskankin.com/A
s a Dj of almost 20 years, I’ll be the first one to admit that my earliest mixes (like the one above for instance) violated a number of these basic tenants . But as I evolved as an artist, and began to understand the art form, I too realized the importance of a clean and properly programmed mix. I now firmly believe that to release a mix that has glaring, obvious errors is more than just bad style, it sets a bad example … It ultimately drops the bar for all. This goes especially for high profile artists ... for a well known dj to release a badly mixed set to the public says only one thing, if I can put out shit, so can you. A badly mixed set made available to the public shows the artist is either too lazy, or unprepared, to make it legit. Many an under-ripe dj has had their dreams of headlining in Ibiza shot down before they even got going because they put out a sloppy mix, You only get one chance at a first impression.
A dj mix, like a movie, asks the listener to “suspend their disbelief” and dwell within the surreal headspace created within the music. When a mistake occurs, it can quickly snap one of out that surreal mindset and interrupt the vibe that was being created within the mix. However to make a mix that will stand test of time, one must go beyond the notion of being “mistake free”.
"Perfection" is relative...
A mix can indeed be “too perfect” and in that sense be considered flawed…. As if it was created by a robot. The most memorable mixes are ones that are not only cleanly executed, but in the process also express the quirks and eccentricities of the artist in a way that takes the listener to “that place“ and keeps them there for the duration. Ultimately, a mix spun with passion and desire, even if not 100% technically sound, will still inspire more people than a mix that sounds as if it was created by a machine.
The number one debate surrounding mix tapes, especially in this advanced digital age; is in how the mix is layed down. On one side is the pure school, all mixes must be done in one take, on the decks. Some even going as far to say that the mix cannot be rehearsed, trax must be chosen on the fly and spontaneously dropped according to the vibe at the moment. I would say there is fair argument for both approaches, for one should never rule out any means of artistic expression. All methods have validity when placed in the proper context, but to throw down a fully releasable dj mix on the fly, unrehearsed, is a challenging objective for even the most gifted of artists. This type of mix most often comes from live performances and carries with it a kind of purity that cannot be attained through any other method. As a result these types of mixes can be especially memorable especially to those who were present during the recording.Maceo Plex, throwing it down:http://soundcloud.com/maetrik/maceo-plex-crosstown-promo-mix-jan-2011
On the other side of the debate is those who choose to create mixes using a program like Ableton, this of course opens the door for un-practiced dj’s to perpetrate skills they do not possess. It is fair to say that any any artist who bypasses the beat matching aspect of the mixing process, while still technically an artist... can not be righteously called "a dj". Those dj's who have worked hard over many years to hone their skills will attest that it is an ever evolving process of learning, and using a program like Ableton to avoid true mixing is an obvious shortcut for those who would rather cheat the process than learn their trade through practice.An example of a virtually flawless live, deep house mix (in my opinion):Dave Pezzner @ Kontrol - The End Up - SF:http://soundcloud.com/r_co/pezzner-live-kontrol-endup-03-10-2009
(this is not a dj set, this is a live set, and an amazing one!)
But that said, one only need to listen to a mix like Dave Pezzners above to realize the endless creative possibilities inherent with the current advanced technology. It quickly becomes apparent that to simply dismiss these techniques would be not only closed-minded but would also deprive artists of a potential creative direction.
I think these days there is large cross section of people who tend to adopt a sort of hybrid philosophy to making mixes, one that uses a combination of one take mixes and minor post processing.
The thing is, again, despite the focus by other djs on the method used, ultimately the mix is meant first and foremost, to move the people. If, by creating a production that goes beyond a basic turntable take, you are creating a more powerful audio experience; then this undoubtedly supersedes the importance of the method used.
Of course, to ponder such is to assume that going beyond a single-take mindset is less righteous, and to many it is. But in truth, as apps like ableton, traktor, and others morph over time, the line will continue to blur. One is then presented with a set of choices that when combined come to form an expression as unique as any fingerprint. One artist is vinyl records only, another mixes cds only, another is on Serato ... One is an obsessively clean mixer, the other focuses less on flawless mixing and more on being spontaneous....
Soon it becomes apparent why being a dj is not just about mixing trax but also about the personal “spin” that each artist puts on them.
At the end of the day every dj has a menagerie of subtle techniques, tastes, and beliefs, that should, in the end, be what is expressed through a mixed tape. Regardless of how one goes about their business, if the artist feels righteous in their effort, and the work is original and moving to the listener; then the method by which the artist created their art becomes irrelevant.