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Mixed on two Technics 1210’s and a Pioneer DJM-600 in London, January 2012
(58:03, 133 MB, 320 KBPS MP3)
Direct link to the mix:
01. Armand van Helden – Necessary Evil (Armed)
02. Basement Jaxx – Raw Shit (Atlantic Jaxx)
03. Subspecies – From Da East (Strictly Rhythm)
04. Frankie Bones – Under The Influence (Co-Fusion Remix) (Pro-Jex)
05. John Thomas – Shock (Sino)
06. Boriqua Tribez – Passion (Primate)
07. Oxia – Go Back (Goodlife)
08. Mike Humphries – Hangover (Punish)
09. Jah Scoop & Daddy Spanners – Lick It (Highwire)
10. Trevor Rockcliffe – Like This (Primevil)
11. Evil C & The Hustler – Let The Bass Kick (Goodlife)
12. Co-Fusion – Break Beats (Wild World) (Pro-Jex)
13. Killa Productions – Feelin’ Acid II (Side B1) (K.B. Records Inc.)
14. Extek – Muvvafucker (Primate Endangered Species)
15. Wilko – Feel The Base (Pimp)
16. DJ Funk – Pump It (Cosmic)
17. Thomas Bangalter – What To Do (Roule)
18. Killa Productions – Good Life (Mr. B Special Edit) (K.B. Records Inc.)
19. Technasia – Sentient (Technasia)
20. Boriqua Tribez – Rumba (Adult)
21. Jeff Mills – Theme From ‘2000’ (International Deejay Gigolos)
22. Laurent Garnier – The Force (F Communications)
23. Tomas Nordstrom – Jagermeister (Don’t)
24. DJ Mem – Old It (Nasty Colour)
25. DJ Deeon – What Ya Wanna Do? (Pro-Jex)
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Diary of a Mix
All images taken with Instagram for the iPhone
Step 1: Preparation
Every mix I do starts with an idea. Not a big idea, not a complicated idea, but a simple idea, one that can generally can be boiled down to a sentence or less. So, for instance, when I did That Dream Is Over, the idea was “atmospheric jungle from about ’94’95,” while the concept for There Must Be A Future was “UK acid trance of the type that I heard when I first started going to Pendragon/Escape From Samsara/Trancentral”.
At any given moment I have a whole bunch of these little mix ideas floating around my head – some of them are quite fleshed out in terms of what kind of tracks I want to feature, while others are much vaguer, just a basic concept and a fuzzy feeling that, hey, it would be nice to put that mix together at some point. Due to time constraints arising from my family and work responsibilites, I don’t have as much free time as I used to (a point I’ll return to later), so many of these ideas have been in my head for quite some time without actually getting done.
Which is the case with this mix, the third in my Morally Diminished series of house/techno mixes. I’ve been vaguely thinking about doing this mix for a while without ever quite getting around to it, but doing Taste The Rainbow back in December gave me the inspiration to finally bust out the tunes and throw it down, so a few days after Christmas I found myself pulling an entire shelf’s worth of techno and house out, ready to be picked through …
Step 2: Selection
At some point in the genesis of each mix I find myself hovering over a large stack of vinyl, contemplating the overall arc of the mix as well as pondering the question of which individual tracks will work together in what sequence to allow me to achieve the desired path from start to finish. The first part of this process involves quickly flicking through the tracks and deciding which tunes I definitely want to include – those tunes that I know will work without having to listen to them first. Then I start listening to the remaining tracks, working my way through them and filtering them into separate piles of Maybe and No, with the Maybes then filtered further to Yes and No.
It’s at this point that I sometimes find myself revising and sharpening up a hazy original concept.
Sometimes like, well, this time.
My original idea for Morally Diminished 3 had been to do another mix along the lines of Tessmix, going from housey stuff to funky techno to more electro flavors. What I found when I was working my way through the dozens of records in the Maybe pile was that (1) I don’t have that much house left that I’ve not sold off, and (2) I wasn’t really in the mood for Miss Kittin & The Hacker-style electro stuff, so I ended up putting all of those tunes into one pile to be turned into another mix, potentially the tenth Drop The Hammer (although thinking about it, it would probably make more sense to package them together as the fourth Morally Diminished). So by default this mix has ended up being a pretty straightforward techno mix, not that that’s a bad thing.
So, having decided to do a techno mix, the next thing to do was to pick the tracks to include. Picking tracks can be a bit of a chicken and egg situation – do you pick a bunch of tracks and find the flow, or do you decide on a sonic narrative and then choose the tracks to fit? There’s no right answer to this question for me, and I have taken both approaches when creating mixes, but on this particular mix I very much followed the first path. Having filtered the Maybe pile down to the point where I had about 30 tracks in the Yes pile, I didn’t really have a clear idea of what the shape of the mix would be, how it would start, how it would end, so I ended up playing around with the tracks, both literally (i.e. actually mixing them together when I had a bit of free time to see what worked and what didn’t) and figuratively (I like to think I have both a good memory and a good intuition for tunes, so part of the process is thinking through different mix combinations).
In this way, the structure of the mix slowly became clear to me, and I had it in my head to start and end with quite banging, abrasive beats, while covering a range of different stuff in between. Finally, with a halfway-decent tracklisting set up, the moment was right to record the mix …
Step 3: Combination
There are two things that I want every mix of mine to be:
- I want it to be interesting
- I want it to be exciting
Now, obviously there isn’t a dj alive who doesn’t want their mixes to do both of these things, so I should probably explain what exactly I mean by ‘interesting’ and ‘exciting’.
Essentially, I want my mixes to be ‘interesting’ in that they offer a clear and coherent progression over the course of the mix, yet they also have to be ‘exciting’ in terms of the raw mixing, to capture some of the mad energy of a live mix. As I explained in my essay to accompany Rampage Audio 6:
Often when you hear commercially-released mixes they sound so clinical, usually because they have been mixed on a computer, whereas mixes recorded live at clubs/raves have a certain raw energy to them. This is why I don’t mind about little mistakes with beat-matching, because as long as they are only brief and lasting a short time period they just add a certain quirk to the proceedings. It is also why I do little cuts, tricks, spinbacks, etc on the mixes, and why I chop and change between the tracks so quickly. So many commercially-released mixes are just compilations of segues from one track to the next right at the end of the tunes in question, and it’s boring. This is obviously a matter of taste, since I have had people complain that my mixes have too much chopping and changing and that I mix out of tracks too quickly, but I get a bit bored with mixes where every track sticks around for 6-7 minutes. You might as well just listen to the tracks on their own!
Techno lends itself to this kind of adventurous approach very well – because a lot of techno is so loop-oriented, if you don’t try to mix it up pretty well it tends to get dry fast. There are few things duller than a 75 minute techno mix with only 16 tracks. At the same time, you don’t want to go too overboard with the tricks and the quick mixing, which is why I try to reach a happy medium. Hopefully you will agree!
Structurally, I find that techno mixes sit somewhere in between how I structure bass mixes and hard dance mixes, a topic I explored in my Wobble City essay:
Since the focus of the (hard dance) track is the main riff, the aim of the mix is to get the listener from riff to riff, which has meant that I typically mix from breakdown to breakdown, usually switching the bass where the bassline comes in on the new track while keeping the old track playing underneath through to the breakdown on the new track, although it depends on the particular tracks in question as to what is the best way to accommodate the EQ work. Obviously there are different ways in which to approach this, and I sometimes mix in different ways, but as an overall structure for mixing hard house/hard trance/freeform hardcore/acid techno (the whole grouping of styles that is generally considered ‘hard dance’), this is the most common and, dare I say it, sensible way. One effect of this style of mixing is that necessarily you cannot feature that many tracks in a seventy minute mix – since each mix is long, lasting anywhere up to two or even three minutes, you can usually only accommodate 16 to 18 tracks over the course of an average-length mix.
This is not the case for other styles of music, though. For instance, with techno and electro, the focus is more on the groove than the riffage, which means that as a dj you have much more flexibility in terms of both where and how you mix between tracks. A good example of this can be seen on my Rampage Teknikal 5 mix, which features 29 tracks, far more than I have ever used on any of the mixes I have done under the hard dance styles! It is much easier to vary your mixing style with techno, to do long and short mixes, to flick another tune straight in, to cut and chop, than with the various trance-derived styles, where carving up tracks in such a radical manner usually ends up sounding pretty incoherent. The risk that is run, though, is that you can become so intoxicated with your technique that you forget that what you are trying to do is create a cohesive sonic whole, a kind of aural tapestry.
I’m sure everyone who is into techno has had the experience of hearing big name dj’s fire through tracks super-fast, so that just as you are getting into the groove of a record another one has arrived. As with so many other things in life, just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean that it is a good idea to do it.
It can be hard to strike the right balance between maintaining a flow and switching up the tracks to keep things interesting, though. Obviously, I am a big fan of quick mixing, and you can see this on some of my recent breaks and drum n’ bass mixes, and especially on this mix. I think the key difference is that the main energy element of these types of music is the bassline, and when the bassline doesn’t change, once it has dropped, why not mix quickly so you can get to the next one? With these types of music, quick mixing is exciting.
When I do a mix like this I am generally arriving at it only semi-prepared – I might have the tracklist worked out in advance, but I usually will have planned the actual mechanics of the mix for no more than a few tracks. With the rest, I’m essentially flying blind, figuring it out as I go along. Which is actually a lot of fun, if I’m being completely honest! I think sometimes these essays might give the impression that everything I do mix-wise is deeply thought through and mulled over, but in reality that’s only partially true, a lot of what I do is intuitive, i.e. I make decisions without actually thinking them through. As an example from this mix, when I originally started mixing Sentient into the Good Life remix my idea was that I would just play it a bit in the background and then do a spinback when it reached Good Life’s second breakdown, but when I actually got to that point reflex took over and I just flipped the bass to foreground Sentient. It actually works very well as a mix, and it was totally unplanned.
So, having recorded the mix, the next move is to listen back to it, and think it over …
Step 4: Contemplation
I’ll be honest here. This was a one take mix. What you are listening to here is the first and only time I have played these records through from start to finish. As such there are inevitably a few little bits in the mix that I wish I could change, and a few years ago I would have definitely junked this mix and started again, as I explained in my Wobble City post:
I will junk a mix that has been entirely perfect if I am unhappy with a particular transition. Obviously, I could just re-record the relevant mix and stitch the whole thing digitally, but I feel like that would be cheating and so I don’t do it. Or I could just throw it all into Ableton Live and get a computer to do the tedious work of beat-matching so that I could focus on micromanaging the programming and eq’ing of the mix. All of this would be easier than the heartache and hassle of turning the recording off after forty minutes because the record has skipped as I was cueing it and I have missed my cuepoint!
It suppose it is an aesthetic issue for me. It’s a bit like cooking a complete meal from scratch – you take the raw ingredients and spend the time doing all of the different tasks involved to create a satisfying whole. It is easier, certainly, to eat a ready meal or a takeaway, but there is no real sense of accomplishment or satisfaction associated with it.
Spoken very much like a 28 year-old guy in a not-particularly-taxing job with plenty of free time and no kids!
For better (mostly) and for worse (just a little bit), I just am not that guy any more, and I certainly no longer have the spare time to afford be so precious. For instance, when I mix from Like This into Let The Bass Kick there’s a little bit where the beats slide out of sync for a couple bars … no excuse, I just effed up the pitch adjustment, slowing down when I should have speeded up. Usually my mixing is quite tight (if I do say so myself), but I’m not a robot (or a computer 😉 ) so sometimes I screw up, and this was just such an occasion. A few years ago I would have junked the whole mix on the basis of that (frankly pretty small) error, but I just don’t have the time any more to do and redo mixes until I am 99% happy with them (since I will never be 100% happy with a mix).
Even so, old habits die hard, and I ummed and ahhed over posting this mix for about a month, listening to it over and over until I decided that I really liked it and , frankly, it would be pretty crazy to not post it over such a minor error.
And so here it is … enjoy!