Wednesday 21 November 2012

Beat mixing: Old school vs. New school

   My journey being a disk jockey began in the 80's when at 13 years old I started making mixed tapes of music I recorded off of the radio. My favourite place to get the latest urban music back then was 88.1 CKLM FM. By the time I was in high school I had learned to edit audio tapes nearly seamlessly. I was mostly into hip hop, but started listening to house music back in 1987.

   When house first became popular, it was a form of music embraced by the preppies for whom it wasn't an extreme departure from new wave they already listened to. As a hip hopper, listening to what the community considered "white" music wasn't very appealing. It wasn't until going to a school dance where I saw a girl I had a crush on grooving to it (although I know listening to it through loud club speakers for the first time vs. a fellow student's Walkman was the fundamental reason) I gave it another look.

  Then, 88.1 began playing house on Sunday afternoons and I incorporated it into my mixed tape selections. The combination of learning house music's true origins (Chicago & NYC's urban/gay underground scene) and it being no more than the flavour of the month for the preps, along with hip hop artists making house/dance versions of their songs (ie. the Jungle Brothers, Chub Rock, Big Daddy Kane) and the decline of hip hop's message as a voice of the community solidified my life long love for house. (I never fail to remind my English cousins about their assumption people would get bored of house music and that it would be forgotten in a year)

   It was about 88-89 when my friends and I developed a taste for beat mixing, starting off with the least expensive 2 channel mixer Radio Shack had to offer. None of us could afford to even consider asking our parents to spend $1200 of their hard earned money for a pair of Techniques 1200 turntables with pitch control (the industry standard then) so we did our best using regular record players and our fingers to slow down or speed up the music's tempo. Very low tech indeed.

   Although we wouldn't have the proper equipment till the mid 90's, we would make the journey to downtown Toronto every few weekends and pick up the latest tracks, slowly building our collection until we were ready to do it right. By the late 90's, the majority of us owned either tech 1200'sor the Gemini equivalent (which really wasn't) and I didn't have the experience of playing at a club till after 2000. I did small house parties, played regularly at Bar Babylon

and a few other venues and even played a boat cruise (my last time playing out with my partner in crime and the cruise organiser Dj Marco) It was the last time because as my friend (and owner of Alpha Planet Records) Joe advised, beat mixing by way of CD turntables was the wave of the future, and once Pioneer created a CD turntable (which quickly became the new industry standard)

   I eventually stopped regularly buying 12" vinyl singles still being sold at regular price although, 1) most Dj's had made the switch to cd's and Mp3, 2) most of the big name record stores had either made the switch or went out of business, 3)who would want to spend $200 at the speciality Dj record store and get less than 15 records averaging $10.99 to $16.99 when you could get even better remixes not available on vinyl for .99 cents each, 3) the music industry was already working on MIDI platforms that play Mp3's.

   I did what any lover of vinyl did. 1) Lived in denial, 2) hoped rumours of a growing movement back towards vinyl would blossom... it didn't BTW, then, 3) gave up thoughts of one day playing out again and bought my last 12" in 2009 ("I remember" by deadmau5 + Kaskade)

I was content to play my old records through channel one and beat mixing with new music from Rogers Dance channels, CD's played through my DVD player or itunes Internet radio on channel two. It was enough for a while, but the more I heard the new music being produced, the more I began to loath my old stuff, trade craft beat mixing 101... partiers always loose it when old songs are mixed in with new only once in a while, and I was playing old stuff every other mix.

   It actually wasn't until Marco picked up the Hercules Dj console a few years ago that I actually saw a light shining in the darkness, and this past summer I got my own Hercules console,

which utilizes a laptop and Dj software Cross 2.1

& plays Mp3s. Not only am I buying new music again, but I finally have the equipment to record, edit/track and burn cds. Don't get me wrong I will always love vinyl... and miss not having the same tactile feeling of spinning vinyl while beat mixing, but the low cost of equipment available, buying new music from the comfort of my living room and having new music to play leaves me with one thing to say to the vinyl record market... RIP.

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