Last night a DJ screwed my life

Tales of woe from behind the decks with JOSH DARE.

Pull quote: “I’ve recorded a mix before and just pretended I was mixing the songs together. It was kinda cool to relax for an hour and get drunk as fuck!”

It was the 1955 when the two turntable system was first utilized for the popular sock hops of the time, called such after the tradition of kicking off your shoes and dancing in your socks. Course, the records needed to be played by someone, so the disc jockey was born soon after. And undoubtedly, mere seconds later that DJ was wasted, tripping over wires and smashing records. “Look what you don dere did to dem Elvis re-cords, Billy Bob!”

The inherent nature of DJing is that, unfortunately, it’s hard to get noticed when you’re doing a good job – but mess up that crossfade, and the whole club will be sending eye daggers your way. Still, the remarkable thing is that DJs don’t mess up more than they do – after all, it’s late, they’re usually tired or imbibed, and unlike other occupations, there’s no safety net. Like, if I mess up my grammar, the editor can step in and sort it out before it goes to print. DJing, on the other hand, is like walking on a high wire without a harness on. While drunk.

Luckily, most DJs have a sense of humour about the whole shebang. Ask a DJ what cock ups they’ve made, and you’ll probably get a dose of music snobbery (“Playing too much Kylie,” jokes DJ Merkin), stories about persistent track requesters (asking for tracks that have just been played) or tales of extreme wastedness (like throwing up on the mixer, with the immediate concern from the unnamed DJ being that the faders were then hard to move – not, you know, the vomit every where). Hell, most of them would have to have a sense of humour if they’re choosing stage names like DJ Pressplay, DJ Cyberchrist and DJ Rubbish.

Although for DJs, when it doesn’t seem like your own name is working against you, something else usually is. “Normally when you’re first starting your set, you’ll do a sound check and all that,” relates Ambie Dextrus. “For about 10-15 minutes I couldn’t understand out why the sound wasn’t coming out. I ended up calling the manager of the venue over. Turned out the record player wasn’t lowered down to touch the record.” Whoops! That whole record arm vinyl thing can seem elusive when you’re in the midst of it, as international DJ Dr Seuss can tell. “I did a really nice transition, very clean. Then, when the transition was over, I took the needle off the wrong record. Everything was perfect, then silence. You have no idea how embarrassing that was.”

Sometimes it’s just better to fake it, according to one anonymous Melbourne DJ. “I’ve recorded a mix before and just pretended I was mixing the songs together. It was kinda cool to relax for an hour and get drunk as fuck!” Or, as another anonymous Melburnian DJ learned, to fake that you’re not nearly as baked as you are. “Halfway through my set the police busted up the rave with sniffer dogs,” the mysterious music maestro says. “Normally they just have german shepherds, but one officer had a cute beagle. As they came onto the stage my girlfriend and I decided to give it a hug – stupid idea – and we both got pepper sprayed in the process.”

Hands down though, the best story has got to be that of Perth DJ Seb Sharp. Through his vinyl philandering, he meets up to 40 new tracks a week – way too many to familiarize himself with, especially one weekend in particular. “I skimmed though them by listening to the intro, a bit of the middle, and finally the outro. Just enough to get the feel of it, and know where the mix points were. ‘I Wanna Rock’ was my favourite. It was chunky, had a great bass line and featured an unnamed black diva belting out some serious action in the breakdown. Perfect for playing at a gay club.”

“When things were really starting to take off,” he continues, “I decided it was time to unleash ‘I Wanna Rock’. I mixed it in and watched as people bounced up and down enthusiastically to its pounding rhythms. ‘There's only one - He's the one to keep you safe’, screamed the diva as I grooved on the spot, listening to the crowd yell their approval. ‘There's only one - He can take away the booze’, she continued, as I tried to work out what she meant. ‘There's only one - He can take away the lighter’, she warbled, as I began to work out that it was perhaps a gospel vocal. Then just as I was beginning to worry that the crowd would notice (hot pant wearing gay men tripping off their tits on amyl and ecstasy aren't really big on the whole 'don't drink because god loves you' thing), she stopped singing. Then the backing music stopped momentarily as she drew breath to belt out ‘AND HIS NAME IS JESUS!’ at the top of her very well trained lungs. So I did the only thing I could: I quickly mixed in the next record, dropped to the floor, and hid under the console.”

Gives a whole new meaning to ‘hit the decks’, but the next time a DJ cocks up on your night out, spare a thought for what they’re up against – and just keep dancing.