Still spin­ning af­ter all th­ese years: hats off to the the DJ di­nosaurs who kept evolv­ing

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM -

As far as I can work out, French critic and nov­el­ist Jean-Bap­tiste Alphonse Karr had lit­tle truck with mu­sic dur­ing his time at the writ­ing desk in the 19th cen­tury. How­ever, Karr’s most fa­mous line, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”, comes to mind on a reg­u­lar ba­sis when you’re throw­ing an eye over the acts and mu­si­cians cur­rently do­ing the rounds.

We know that her­itage acts can still earn good money and com­mand de­cent at­ten­dances on the live cir­cuit as they keep tour­ing decades af­ter they first had a se­ri­ous hit. But it’s not just live mu­sic where the more things change, the more they re­main the same.

Over the years that I’ve com­piled club list­ings for this pa­per and many other pub­li­ca­tions, I’ve seen many names be­come fa­mil­iar fix­tures. The names of the clubs and venues may have changed, and the peo­ple on the dance­floor may now be the kids of those who were around in the past, but some of the DJs seem to be ever­green in their longevity.

In the next few weeks, you’ll have DJs such as François Kevorkian and John “Jelly­bean” Ben­itez play­ing in Dublin. Slam, Jeff Mills, Todd Terry, Ian Pooley, Oc­tave One, Sven Väth and other veter­ans all reg­u­larly fea­ture in the list­ings too.

Of course, book­ers are also go­ing for the new school – and it’s re­as­sur­ing to see the many fe­male DJs on the ros­ters, an oc­cur­rence that was the ex­cep­tion rather than the norm for many, many years – but it’s strik­ing how those leg­ends of old are still in the game. Per­haps this is down to the wide­spread use of USB keys and Ser­ato, which means they’re no longer putting out their backs with those boxes of vinyl and bags of CDs, as used to be the case.

Some are go­ing well be­yond the call of duty to keep us in­ter­ested. Look at Paul Oak­en­fold, who re­cently be­came the first DJ to play at base camp on Mount Ever­est . He may be one of the most bor­ing in­ter­vie­wees you’ll ever en­counter, but you can’t knock that kind of com­mit­ment.

Few of those who started out in the late 1980s or early 1990s prob­a­bly ex­pected to make it this far and that’s not be­cause of any sort of he­do­nis­tic life­style choices. Back then, club­bing and dance mu­sic were ex­cit­ing, life-chang­ing and gen­uinely ground­break­ing, but weren’t re­garded as the stuff of a long-term ca­reer.

But this be­gan to change and dance mu­sic be­came a multi-lay­ered, mul­ti­mil­lion-euro busi­ness. Many club run­ners be­came venue own­ers and started to di­ver­sify into other ar­eas. The record in­dus­try copped that dance mu­sic could shift units, and that there was even scope to de­velop some de­cent al­bum artists as a re­sult.

The real game-changer was for the DJs them­selves. Those who came to promi­nence as house and techno be­came sounds with both main­stream and un­der­ground ap­peal saw their pro­file and fees rise.

Yes, some did the dog and burned out, but the smarter op­er­a­tors turned this into a ca­reer. They got in­volved in dif­fer­ent mu­si­cal projects and pur­suits (it must be time for the fad for DJs per­form­ing with or­ches­tras to be­come a fad for DJs col­lab­o­rat­ing with jazz acts again), and kept com­ing back with some­thing new to bring in a younger au­di­ence or to keep fes­ti­val book­ers happy.

For those DJs start­ing out to­day, the name of the game is to think long-term and re­mem­ber you might still be do­ing this into your 50s and 60s.

Some are go­ing well be­yond the call of duty to keep us in­ter­ested. Look at Paul Oak­en­fold, who re­cently be­came the first DJ to play at base camp on Mount Ever­est

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