Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dennis Ferrer Speaks on EDM & Djing

We catch up with the New York house icon for a chat about whether the EDM boom means anything to him and why digital DJs need to get a little more creative with their controllers.
Attack: 2012 has been the year when the world suddenly realised how big dance music has become in the US. How does it feel to you to watch the rise of ‘EDM’?
Dennis Ferrer: It’s the same as before, honestly. This rise is cyclical. It happens to always coincide with majors taking an interest in exploiting the scene. Fair play, though, as this is what a record label’s core business is about. Exploitation is the name of the game.
Big money gets thrown around, big name artists from other genres get remixed by ‘popular’ commercial dance music producers who then get bigger, command even bigger DJ fees, need bigger venues, command bigger studio production fees and now all involved need huge returns on anything to do with such producers or artists. Voila! There ya go – a bubble of proportions unlike any other that will explode, leaving the majority in tatters and exiting in droves like a disgusting urinal when the original invested parties are not seeing the gains they want or need.
It’s nothing new, actually. After this it will be business as usual for all of us. Underground dance music at its core will remain as it has always been in one way or some sort of slightly altered form. Same as disco, same as early 90s house, same as early- to mid-90s techno, etc.


I watch… not holding my breath.
How much do you think it impacts on what you do?
I’d like to think it has no effect on me whatsoever but seeing how much money gets thrown around excites me a bit sometimes.
What the hell… to each their own, though. At this point it’s just pop, honestly. Anyone worth their salt will attest and admit to that.  I’m not here to judge, per se, but I’ll definitely say what most of the so-called underground and purists are thinking.
Some of the new fans who’ve discovered dance music through EDM maybe don’t even know the term ‘house music’. Is that a problem or do you think there’ll be a crossover as newcomers discover the roots of this music and the culture behind it? Will that have a positive or negative impact on house?
In all actuality, I can’t really hate on what’s happened. Some people who would never have been exposed to dance music are finding underground artists and it’s refreshing. I know it’s benefited me a bit somewhat. Now, it doesn’t happen in any large percentage that’s measurable, but I suppose we can live with whatever fallout we get. In the end it won’t have as much impact on the underground scene as most think. Again, it’s cyclical. It’s happened before, and here we go again. No need to get too excited.
You’ve been talking on Twitter and Facebook this week about the ongoing debate regarding digital DJing. You’ve been quite outspoken about your belief that laptop DJs who use controllers should do something special with that equipment rather than just hitting sync and mixing in the same way that might be expected of a CD or vinyl DJ. Can you sum up your thoughts on the issue?
Let me clarify. I stated that if all you had was a controller – no CDs, no timecode control CD or vinyl, or just vinyl in general – and all you did was select a track and push sync then you are not DJing!
Sorry… Nope… Don’t even try to argue it.
DJing is synonymous with using a round plate to beatmatch and/or show feats of skill like a turntablist. It is the possibility of train-wrecking a mix that affords you the luxury of that naming convention. This is not my definition, but the one I was brought into and live by.
Now, if you’re doing interesting things like mashing loops together with FX, playing beats on pads or keyboards and in essence doing something to create your own music, then you, my friend, are acontroller-ist and what you have is a pseudo-’live show’. Controller-ists get full props from me.
There are no ifs and buts about it. In the end the only ones bitching about this, of course, are the button pushers claiming to be DJs.
We’ve already seen a small backlash from DJs who remain loyal to vinyl despite advances in CD and laptop DJ technology. Do you think we’ll see another split as people react against controllers and the sync button?
Bottom line – yes.
Did you have similar feelings about CDJs at any point?
No. Because, in the end, there was still a tactile feel to the jog wheel and the anxiety of train-wrecking a mix. I went through that explanation when I went from vinyl to CDs myself. It seems like everyone is afraid of showing up on YouTube train-wrecking. It’s understandable, though, because it possibly could affect your bottom line monetarily. Still, it’s being lazy, and if you’re an entertainer making big money then shame on you.
Is there a danger that we might let the technology overshadow the music?
Not at all. Skill sets are a commodity. I believe if the trend continues then those with the skill set will be able to charge a premium.


What do you think the most important features of a good DJ set are today? Have your thoughts on what makes a great DJ set changed over the years?
My views have never changed. Track selection and crowd reading are tied for number one. Anything else after that is a bonus.
Do we have our priorities right when it comes to DJs and how they play to a crowd? Is part of the problem that our expectations of DJs have become warped? A lot of people turn up to clubs now expecting the DJ to mix flawlessly, play to the crowd, dance behind the decks and put on a very different kind of show to what people might have expected 20 or even 10 years ago. Is that just a natural progression?
In a way we’ve all been spoiled rotten by technology. I can’t expect it to go backwards, but I’d prefer to see the technological advances in an area where it’s not making the DJ become a manual operator of a laptop jukebox. A monkey cranking the box. I mean, why even bother having someone stand up in the booth in the first place then? What the fuck are we getting paid for? To look cute? As I’ve said before, have some fucking pride, y’all!

Article sourced: http://www.attackmagazine.com/features/interviews/dennis-ferrer/2/

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