Will Lynch talks with Jeff Mills about the art of DJing. The more I read about different artists
, the more I realise there is a certain misnomer around what DJing actually means. I remember growing up with the perception that it was just about scratching records, but as Jeff Mills explains, it can be about making those records too:
Do you shop for music much?
Not as much as I used to. I would first try to make it. Or I would alter someone else’s track, just for me to use, not to sell it. But if say, I like someone’s track, but just the bassline and the drums, I’ll make a special version of that just for me.
This reminds me of Mark Ronson’s album Versions, which he produced in order to use in DJ sets.
Another word that Mills uses is ‘programmer’. This is in reference to the connection between the DJ and the audience:
To be a programmer, you have to put yourself in the audience’s position. Not only that, but you have to really know your audience, and you have to anticipate what they want to have, and what they need to have, at what time. When I think of these type of things I think of DJs like Larry Levan. He knew his audience, because he was part of his audience. He knew exactly what to do at what time for those people. There was no division between what was happening in the DJ booth and in the audience.
Jeff Mills also provides an insight into the curative mind of the DJ. He explains how he only listens to the last quarter of songs, because that is usually where all the parts have been mixed together:
So when I buy music, I typically focus on the last quarter of the track. And when I’m DJing also, it’s the last quarter that I’d prefer to play more than the beginning. The track breaks down in the last quarter and becomes more solidified. That’s where you find the better mix between sounds, that’s where you find the real groove of the track, and the most important elements of the track. All in the last quarter.