Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do life and creativity feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I definitely don’t have any kind of routine. I’m sure I would have one if I was home for more than a few days at a time, ever, but it’s more of a fast moving flow that I’m in as soon as I wake up - when I wake up that is. I don’t really sleep a whole lot or regular hours so that alone makes a routine impossible for me. A typical day off the road goes a bit like this: Wake up at 4 or 5pm because I’ve gone to bed around 10 or 11am. I’m trying to change this part but I’m pretty much straight into emails before I even make it out of bed, just the stuff that’s come in overnight and needs urgent attention. Then I’ll try to take some time for myself before I dive into any real work. I’ll make breakfast, hang out with my animals while I do that, and then if I’ve got the energy and had a decent rest I’ll get to the gym to get the blood flowing. If I’m working on a song at that time I’ll probably blow off any “office work” and just head straight into the studio and that’s where I’ll be till my next sleep. I’ll take 30 minutes here and there for short meetings or calls so that my team has answers they need from me but I’ll be pretty stuck in to the studio for days or until I’m finished whatever I’m working on. It’s actually quite hard to get me out of work mode when I’m off the road. If I’m not working in the studio I’m usually still working on something. Could be the labels, the charity - MAAC, or any of the projects I’m currently involved with. I’m trying to fix that, too, and make more time for a life at home.
As for the second question - you cannot separate life and creativity. They’re one. I don’t think they exist independently.
Let's say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?
It’s not what it used to be. I used to dig through the record collection and pick out what I can fit in a bag for the show. I would have an idea of what I wanted to do and that was what they’re going to get because that’s what I’ve got with me. Now I don’t really do much prep to be honest. I have an enormous collection with me between vinyl and my hard drive. We’re talking like 650 GB of music available to me to select from and it’s organized in several different ways that cater to how my brain works. Because of the way I’ve organized my files it’s pretty easy for me to navigate through this much music, so I just decide what I’m going to do in the moment from the minute before I get on until the last record. It’s more improvisational now than it used to be. I’ll do a bit of prep if I haven’t DJ’d in a week or two because it can take a minute to get back into that mode where finding the music on the fly is as familiar as breathing.
Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
My state of mind is present. That’s what it has to be and the most addictive and enjoyable part of DJing for me hands down. I’m so present when I’m playing a show, so totally in the moment ... the way you are when you’re having sex for example … when it’s amazing. I don’t know about everybody else, but for me there are very few things in life that can make all the noise just fade away and bring you right here into the moment. Playing music for people is one of the things that support this, or amplify that state of mind. Can be anything from sharing that moment with someone, like a DJ partner, substances can also do that but that isn’t exactly the same because you’re not coming by it naturally. Distractions can be anything from the wrong people around you to just daily life and whatever happens to be going on with you. People don’t realize that while they were in the mood to go out and party that night and that’s why they’re in that room with you, you might be ill, going through some family shit, or split up with someone. A lot of times, any personal turmoil can disappear for that few hours while you’re performing which is a beautiful thing as well, but that’s not always the case. sometimes you’re just somewhere else. But I’ll tell you what the biggest and worst distraction is for a DJ that is almost impossible to ignore: Technical problems. If the rig or the sound is fucked, it’s really difficult to find your flow and playing your set can be a daunting situation.
What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
Aside from the technical attributes of a song like the key it’s in, how it’s mixed, for me it’s the energy. Assuming you have some kind of method to your madness, whether it’s playing songs that sound similar in terms of aesthetic or whether your style is playing a mash up of shit that may or may not work together, the factor that I consider most is the energy that the next record will carry in that particular setting. Do I want to maintain this energy, do I want to take it down a bit right now, and begin to build towards something, or do I want to light it up …
I’m usually trying to work towards creating a place within the set that’s comfortable and as exciting as possible for a few particular songs that I’m really excited about. If I’ve got a new record or one that I’m really into at the moment, I’ll be trying to create a really nice setting for that song to be played in so that it’s an exciting moment hopefully and also maybe as digestible as possible for people. I want everyone to love the songs as much as I do right, so I want to play it in a context where they will really get it. I don’t really plan it to the point where I know I would like to play a certain song say 45 minutes from now, but I’ll play music that is complimentary or paves the way for it and work it in when it feels right while considering the room. Personally I find too much planning will totally work against a DJ, that’s why I really enjoy having so much music with me, so that I can go in any direction at any moment and hopefully keep the floor interested.