Category: Tales From The DJ Booth

In The Line Of Duty…

Mastermix Producer Jules Little chats to fellow DJs about the times when they’ve been injured in the line of duty, but had to carry on regardless!

I’ve just been looking through old photographs of gigs that I have done with Absolute 80’s, and one stood out to me. Two years ago we had Tony Hadley performing, and as he pulled the microphone back it swiped against his nose, cutting the skin & causing him to start bleeding. He finished the song, wiped himself down with a towel, then got a plaster from somebody in the crowd and placed it over the bridge of his nose leaving him looking more like Adam Ant rather than the former lead singer of Spandau Ballet. Ever the “True” professional, he carried on with his amazing set, pure “Gold“. (How many more Spandau titles can I squeeze in this paragraph? I’m certainly not going “to cut a long story short”… quick, someone throw me a “Lifeline” (groan!)

OK back to the point… this got me thinking about my experiences as a DJ, have I been injured in the line of duty and still carried on regardless? I have played whilst having a broken toe (not funny if you are standing up for a 4 hour set), I have played whilst on crutches when I was recovering from a car accident & shouldn’t use my left leg at all, yes, I’ve been a true warrior of the wheels of steel (as it was back then). So who else? I needed to find out. So I asked the question of a few of our mobile friends. I figured that as they have equipment to set up & break back down again, they would be a rich source of stories. 

These legends are true warriors (of a MacBook Pro & Denon controller?)

  • Ade Sands

While leaving the house one night to a gig, I went over on my ankle coming down stairs in the house.

It hurt a bit, and so hobbled on to gig, was late and absolutely no chance I could have got cover. Carried speakers and gear down stairs, and set up gear – ankle and foot starting to swell, to a point where I had to take my shoe off. Did gig, left gear there for collection the next day, and drove to A&E afterwards. The doc checking my ankle out was not amused, told me off for not going when it happened, and then treated my ‘very badly sprained’ ankle..

  • Andrzej Biliński

I had a DJ booth with a shelf made of 2 metal sides that you join together and tighten up with locks… Well I hadn’t tightened them up correctly and part A slid down onto part B with my finger between them… I cut out a huge chunk of skin and a little bit of juicy meat from the finger. Ouch!

  • Alistair Gillies

I use a “dancing on clouds” effect and at one wedding I had forgotten to bring my knife that I use to cut the dry ice box open. I asked the venue if I could borrow anything to do this and they gave me a pair of scissors. As I proceeded to run one of the open scissors across the seal it slid and not realising how sharp they were I almost sliced off the top of my finger! There was blood everywhere and we had to delay the first dance until the blood stopped and I got bandaged up. As the saying goes “The show must go on” & it did! I went to A& E next day and ended up with a few stitches. I still have the scar to this day!

  • Stephen Brown

I was at a wedding of a friend and provided the DJ services as a gift to them. Long story short, I had to head to the car to grab batteries for my radio mic and when I went out the door of the venue slammed shut on my hand resulting in a broken finger! Excruciating pain! My hand was swollen and completely black but as they say the show must go on. I was in agony throughout the night and it completely restricted my hitting of the sync button!

  • Daren Deakin

I had a similar injury to Tony Hadley as described above, I was doing a 16th birthday party in a school on the stage with a polished wood floor. I had completed setup when I noticed my fog machine on the overhead bar was pointing too far up. So instead of the sensible option – getting my small ladder back out of the van (I’m not the tallest person BTW) I used a school chair. This slipped from under me and I went down full force vertically, and hit the floor, full force! I lay there stunned for a few seconds and saw stars. To my horror my nose was split open so I  put a big plaster on, and carried on albeit with massive headache, and the Adam Ant look! 

  • Liam Smith

You could say I’ve got form here. A poorly assembled folding stage collapsed during my set up resulting in 3 broken ribs. Twisted my kneecap unloading the van at a venue. Slammed my hand in the van door breaking 2 fingers on my right hand. On all 3 occasions I did the gigs.

  • Adam Chapman

Just got resident spot at a hotel and first wedding and I torn the MCL in my left leg. Hobbled on but was off for 2 weeks after that. Had to do a Cartman…. MUUUMMM and got a roadie. Everywhere I went I was called happy feet after that!

  • David A. Thatcher

Came out of hospital had a tube in me to help me pass water for a week while in there. Had a friends party booked, I didn’t want to let them down. I arrived and partially wet myself in the booth. No one knew, until now…….

  • Ashley Duncan

And finally this EPIC tale….

On my way to a gig in a club in Dunfermline during the January storms of 1989. Driving to the gig I hit over a foot of water on a road passing Knockhill. My van skidded off the road and nosedived into a ditch and I did three nose over tail somersaults at 70 Mph. In the process I went through a dry stone wall, knocked down two railway sleepers and the van ended up on its back doors pointing up into the sky! I still made my gig at Lourenzo Marques that night. The next day it was a trip to hospital as I couldn’t walk.

Have you got a story to tell the DJ community like this? Then get in touch with us here at Mastermix, we’d love to hear from you. 

In the meantime, can we suggest playing songs from the Crash Test Dummies & Men Without Hats ‘Safety Dance’?


6 Funny DJ Moments

We’ve been reaching out to our fellow DJs on social media to dig deep and share their most embarrassing or amusing tales from the DJ booth! Here are just 6 of the stories we’ve selected that are worthy of a retelling!

  • Starting with DJ Karl Hession:

“1999 I played in a local pub in Leeds, never forget I played Jonesstown -Sweet Thang. The landlady and all the locals bowed down in front of the booth and called me a DJ God. The locals at the time were all 40+!!”

Good skills!

  • Thanks to DJ Daniel J Stone for this lesson in checking your facts:

“I took a booking last thing from a DJ who fell ill, it was such short notice that I was getting directions when I was on my way in the van. I got there to see a lady in a tiara wandering around in track suit, hair done and make up on. The organiser introduces me – this is ……. the bride who was married in Cyprus few weeks ago. Now it’s clicking into place, I ask her if they had a nice time, getting along well, asked for anything special that they want and finally ask if the groom around. The response floored me. She told me that yes SHE’S over there in the other tiara and tracksuit. 🙈 They saw the funny side & I even referred to them as bride and groom all night as they requested!”

  • DJ Jason Phillips had somebody push a cake into his face whilst DJing. Obviously a Tiswas reunion gig!
  • An absolute gem from DJ Debbie Claridge:

“I’ve had someone from the dance floor hand me (still warm) a gel pad. Women put these in their bras to give the appearance they have something to fill the bra. They asked me to put an announcement out for whoever has lost it to go pick it up from the DJ. I didn’t. I can’t imagine any woman owning up to that!”

  • A case of Karma without the Chameleon for DJ Ian Thompsett:

“I had a particularly awkward & rude client, whatever I did wasn’t good enough. They were on their way toward me to have another moan about something when they tripped right in front of the DJ console in full view of everyone to rapturous applause! Knowing that everyone was laughing at them, they scuttled off to the back of the room & didn’t bother me again for the whole night!”

  • The size 12 feet award goes to DJ Shane Daley:

“A few years back I had a playlist, just a few songs on there. One of the songs was Madonna – Like A Prayer. During the night the bride came up and said could you play the Madonna track and say it’s for Fran. I said no problem, I got on the mic and shouted Fran down to the dance floor, making a big thing about Fran getting onto the dancefloor. At this point the bride told me it was in memory for her friend Fran who had recently passed away. I literally I could have dropped dead myself!”

OUCH!

Just a few classic clangers to keep you amused over a cuppa! Do you have a cringeworthy tale from the DJ booth that could rival this corker by Mastermix Producer Jules? Share your embarrassing anecdotes with us on our Facebook Page! Thanks to Jules for taking the time to gather and collate these gems!


Hands Free…

Mastermix Producer Jules Little shares his most cringeworthy DJ experience…

2002 or 2003, DJing in a packed, VERY well known venue on Broad Street, Birmingham’s “Golden Mile”. It’s Saturday night, the venue is at capacity (1300), one in, one out, party in full session. Now the downside of having a full night is that you don’t get the time to talk to your guests much when they ask for tunes, and not wanting them to feel ignored I hired a student to help me across the night, take requests, play music whilst I crossed to stage etc. His name was Nugget, total party guy, perfect! It is wise to point out for the purpose of this story that I wore a head mic as “get your hands-on the air” carries more sway when you have the ability to do it yourself!

This particular night the whole place was bouncing, I felt like the conductor of a large orchestra of people, magnificent.

Nugget approaches me. “Jules, can you read this?” as hands me a filled in request slip. I look at it, nothing apparent to me. I turn it upside down, still nothing. I flip it over, totally indecipherable.

“Who gave you this?” I asked him still struggling to comprehend the scrawl that emblazoned the paper before me.

“That lady over there!” says Nugget as he points to the lady waiting patiently at the bottom of the 3 steps that lead to the raised DJ booth.

As I don’t drink when I am working generally, I have always found it amusing when people ask me for records trying to sound sober when they are anything but. Writing when drunk however, that is just art! I approach the lady to ask her what it says.

I however had neglected to turn off my head mic….

Especially important as you know that to talk to somebody in a noisy environment requires you getting very close to each other, mouth to ear almost…

“Hiya!” I approached her cheerily. “I’m sorry I can’t read this. In fact, I would go as far as to say the in all of my years DJing, it’s probably the worst handwriting I’ve ever seen. You must be having a great time & downing a few!”

(Remember that head mic, still switched on…. And now, a breakdown in a track)

“In fact, I’d say REALLY DRUNK! (Remember that mic). What have you had?”

Then it happened. Mid track breakdown with microphone on & 1300 people within earshot of the powerful sound system.

“I’ve had a stroke!!!”

You know that moment when your stomach hits your feet? I do!

A huge gasp went throughout the venue, then a huge cheer! The lady then realised it was on the microphone too. She took it in good spirits, Jack Daniels from memory, I paid for her drinks all night!

True Story.

 We reached out to our fellow DJs on Facebook to ask them for their funniest and most embarrassing tales from the DJ booth… here are just a few!

The Christmas Party Set List

Mastermix Label Manager Richard Lee takes a look at Christmas Parties past and present!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Unless you are The Grinch there can’t be many who don’t look forward to Christmas. As a father of 2 young sons, who are at that age where the magic of Christmas is at the highest level, the festive season delivers an abundance of happiness and a life-time of memories but as a DJ it can be a different story! For many DJs it is the Christmas Party season that ensures a full diary and a healthy bank account…but at what price?

For many DJs it will be a residency that will be their place of home for the festive period which often means working most weekends, mid-week nights and some afternoons too…not to mention New Years Eve! Christmas Party Nights can start as early as mid-November and have been know to carry on into the New Year to meet the high-demand of customers. It’s one thing playing festive songs throughout December and another on a cold, wet night in January!

In the late 90s I remember being the resident DJ for all the Christmas Party Nights at one of the large hotels in the city. I performed there for several years including all their Christmas Party Nights which usually amounted to 20 dates. The most events I ever did in one month was December 1999 when I performed 32 events at that hotel. This included the usual Friday & Saturday nights plus mid-week events and those afternoon parties that, if truth be told, never quite got going!

One of the challenges I faced then is a challenge I still face to this day and I’m sure so do many other DJs…how do you retain your sanity whilst having to play the same songs over & over again!

As with most events a Christmas Party can be split into sections which allows a DJ to programme music for each one. From early evening music as guests arrive to music for dinner, party intro set, main party set & end of night songs. Technology has advanced with many DJs using digital content for their events. Play-out software allows DJs to create playlists with ease and it is this has helped to alleviate the tedium that can come from playing & hearing the same songs throughout a busy December.

I have always advocated the importance of music programming over anything else. Of course sound, light & decorations in the room are essential but ultimately it is the music that gets people on the dancefloor and what you play as a DJ will be remembered long after all the balloons have been popped & the last piece of tinsel has been ripped from the ceiling.

Creating playlists for each section of an event is part of the fun and when done right can often ensure that you stand out from the competition. Guests don’t always need to be dancing to react to the music played. I have had many guests compliment me on the music selections during dinner which helps create a bond and to build the atmosphere ahead of the main party. There is no set rule as to what to play & when to play it. It is down to our skills as a DJ to observe each audience and cater the music accordingly.

As guests arrive I often use a selection of festive tracks to ensure the Christmas mood is evident as they arrive in the room. Grandmaster Warm Up: Christmas features a selection of Easy Listening & Swing classics from artists including Dean Martin, Brenda Lee, Frank Sinatra & Michael Buble with the latter allowing a transition from classic to modern Swing if I choose to continue with that style of music. Whilst some DJs like to play mixes like Grandmasters there are others who prefer to play or mix the tracks themselves and products like Classic Cuts 137 – Smooth Christmas feature individual tracks from artists like Lady Antebellum, Pussycat Dolls & Christina Perri that offer alternate festive tracks to add to your set. Classic Cuts 138 – Modern Christmas features artists like Justin Beiber, Cee-Lo Green, McFly, Girls Aloud, Kylie & Destiny’s Child all of whom are perfect to create a festive vibe but with modern twist! You can choose to stick to the same playlist each night or move things around to suit different audiences & age-groups. There is nothing in the rules that states you have to play festive music all night and I have on occasion being asked to play something other than Christmas music as guests arrive and also throughout dinner. The Good Groovin’ Grandmaster range never fails to hit the spot with other favourites including Grandmaster Swing Party & the Grandmaster Warm Up mixes all of which offer an excellent option as alternate music choices. Whatever you choose to play as guests arrive it shouldn’t be under-estimated how important this music is. It sets the scene for the rest of the night allowing each section of the night to compliment the one before.

I apply the same principal to the music played during dinner. Again there is no set rule as what to play but careful music programming can make the difference. Once again Mastermix has plenty of options. Grandmaster Christmas features all the big hits and builds in pace throughout the mix. Individual tracks can be found on products like Classic Cuts 153 – Christmas Cuts and for a more gentle pace I often favour Music For Food: Christmas all of which compliment the other tracks that I program as part of this section. I like to create playlists for dinner that remain as background music but aren’t boring. The days of sticking on any old Christmas compilation are long behind me and I like to create innovative playlists that my guests enjoy whilst they tuck in to their Prawn Cocktail or Soup followed by the standard Turkey dinner with all the trimmings and finished off with a festive pudding – leaving many with full stomachs and no intention of moving anywhere for the foreseeable future…until the main party kicks off!

I watch the room carefully as dinner service comes to an end. Taking the music up in tempo and adding a few more of the bigger festive hits to build the atmosphere in the room. I have played at some venues in the past where some tables have finished eating whilst others are still on their starters. I’m sure things have moved on since but it may still happen somewhere and if it does it can make for an interesting situation for a DJ. Selecting music that appeases all guests isn’t easy. I personally like to stick with the festive tracks and add a few crowd pleasers like Last Christmas‘, ‘Mary’s Boy Child&Christmas Wrappingall of which pick up the pace and often attract early revellers to the dance floor.

When it’s finally time to move in to the main party set I like to play an opening track that signals the night is changing from background music and that it’s time for guests to get their dancing shoes on! I favour the Dean Martin classic Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!. It’s an iconic song that sets the scene perfectly and allows me to make a general welcome along with any additional announcements before heading in to the main party set.

The main party often throws up music selections of all kinds and no two nights are ever the same for this section of the party. There will be many songs that will be played on each night of course but I’m always amazed at the variety of music that is requested. As a DJ we have the unenviable task of not only trying to play them all but in an order that keeps everyone happy. I usual start my set with some current hits before mixing up the big floorfillers from every decade making sure to include a few more Christmas anthems like Merry Xmas Everybodyby Slade & my personal festive favourite Merry Christmas Everyoneby Shakin’ Stevens. I find the DJ Beats range to be invaluable for creating innovative sets. The collection has all the big hits and with the bonus of added intro & outro beats it allows me to mix seamlessly from track to track, decade to decade and cut in & out of tracks with ease to ensure all, or at the very least most, of the requests are played…the guy requesting Iron Maiden is probably going to be disappointed!

Of course, the whole evening won’t be filled with non-stop Christmas tracks… even the most ardent of festive fans might get a little green at that idea, so as well as playing the current big chart hits, I like to dip into the collection of failsafe mixes from the Christmas Collection and Christmas Party ranges. These albums are the perfect resource for Christmas parties, containing a variety of mixes to suit all times of the evening and featuring both festive and non-Christmas themed tracks!

Another good resource if you’re looking for mixes are the Deleted Classics Christmas and New Year albums! From the Mastermix archives, these are mixes that have really stood the test of time and can guarantee a full dancefloor if played at the right time!

The end of the night usually concludes with Mariah Carey –All I Want For Christmas Is Youand as the song fades, and the house lights come up, it would be rude not to leave the guests with the greatest Christmas song ever –Fairytale Of New Yorkby the Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl…pure magic! Both of these tracks could easily be played at any other time during the night and that is the great thing about music and our skills as DJs to know when the best time to play a song is.

The Christmas Party is a strange animal and one that some DJs struggle to tame but with a little preparation, some careful music programming, and a fair bit of tolerance you’ll find that its bark is worse than its bite – Happy Christmas everyone!

 


To Dance or Not To Dance… That is the Question!

A Valuable DJ Lesson Learned by Mastermix Label Manager Richard Lee!

I have been a professional DJ for over 20 years now and in that time I have done almost every type of DJing there is! Youth Clubs, Kids Parties, Weddings, Birthdays, Retirements, Anniversaries, Nightclubs, Theme Nights, Awards, Stadium Announcing, Radio…you name it…I’ve probably done it!

Theme Nights

Of all the work that I have done it is probably theme nights that I enjoy the most. Why? Because most people attending are coming to enjoy that specific genre of music so you don’t have to worry about different age groups wanting different styles of music so you can be more experimental with your song selection and create a really exciting playlist which the audience will lap up as each track takes them back to their youth. There can be nothing more fulfilling for a DJ then watching their audience enjoy a rollercoaster ride of musical memories created from the music they are playing.

The Scenario

My particular favourite theme nights are the 50s/60s & 70s nights. Many years ago I started DJing for a group of people who arranged a Golden Oldies night to raise money for a local charity. The music was mainly 60s with a few 50s classics & Rock & Roll tracks thrown in as well as the occasional 70s tune to keep the night flowing. 20 years later and that same night is still going strong!

This night is so unique! The audience hasn’t changed much in all those years and we have become like one big family. I know exactly what tracks will work and when. They will dance to whatever I play and work with me to ensure the most amazing night is had by all and that each event pushes the boundary set by the previous one.

A recent event though caused me to realise that you never stop learning in this game…even after 20 years! It was a 60s night with a few 50s & 70s thrown in…perfect! I’ll give them a similar show to my tried & tested one as I know that gets them dancing all night. Once the guests had arrived and settled themselves I decided the time was right to start playing a few tracks to get them dancing before the pie & pea’s supper!

The Problem

All the big hits were coming out – ‘Baby Love’, ‘Oh! Pretty Woman’, ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You’, ‘Hold Back The Night’, ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’, ‘Move It’, ‘Runaround Sue’, ‘I’m Into Something Good’, ‘From Me To You’…and did they dance? As they say in Yorkshire “Did they eckers like!”.

What was going on? This was the same set that I played only a few weeks ago and they were dancing from the first track. Was it too loud? No! I always check that people are able to hold conversations around the room, especially when it’s an older audience! Were the lights in their eyes? No! I’d used subtle LED lighting to create a colour wash that was bothering no-one…so what was the problem?

I played some of the biggest hits of the 50s, 60s & 70s and no-one danced. Right…that’s it! I texted the wife to inform her that this would be the last time I would DJ at this event due to no-one responding to the music I’m playing. I was officially having a ‘showbiz strop’.

My first set ended and the lights went up in the room to signal the start of the pie & peas supper. The guests were out of the blocks in order to be amongst the first to get their food. So they are all still alive then…I was beginning to worry!

I slumped off the stage and headed for the exit in order to get some fresh air and clear my mind, especially as I had another 2 hour set to come.

The Explanation

As I approached the exit I was confronted by an elderly gentleman and his wife. “Are you the DJ?” he asked. “Yes…yes I am” came the nervous reply as I waited for the barrage of comments telling me that ‘I’m not very good as no-one danced’ or ‘It was too loud which is why no-one danced’…but I couldn’t have been further from the truth. The couple wanted to congratulate me on playing “the best selection of 50s & 60s they have heard in a long time”. They commented on the level of the music and that the lights were perfect as they don’t really like “all those flashing lights”.

I was shocked but before I could soak up what the couple had said I was approached by another gentleman who also wanted to congratulate me on some wonderful music and wanted to apologise for him and his wife not dancing as they had both “recently had hip replacements”.

A third man also wanted to comment on my music and also offered an apology for not dancing but he “fell of his bike recently and his back still hurts”.

Suddenly the penny dropped and the light bulb above my head glowed into life! I wasn’t a rubbish DJ after all…I was still ok! The reason no-one had danced was simple. In the words of the organiser “We are all getting older!”.

The Solution

So my ‘showbiz tantrum’ was all for nothing. I wasn’t a bad DJ – but I still needed to learn a valuable lesson! Just because people aren’t packing a dancefloor doesn’t mean that they aren’t enjoying themselves. By taking care with the music, sound level & lighting, I had managed to create the perfect environment for many of the guests who were content to sit and enjoy the music whilst still being allowed to engage in conversation with their fellow guests…often to reminisce about one of the songs being played.

Even after 20 years of experience I was still able to receive a lesson in life and DJing!

I texted my wife to inform her that I wasn’t retiring from DJing just yet and would probably be performing at their event next year after all…which prompted the simple reply…’x’