What, exactly, is a DJ these days? Brent Crampton on the past and future of an art form, vinyl and House of Loom…; Skypiper, The Big Deep tonight…
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
While listening to Neon Trees at SXSW, one of their lyrics jumped out at me, a lyric that I can’t find online (maybe it was made up on the fly?): Paraphrasing: “Anyone who can play a record calls themselves a DJ.” Frontman Tyler Glenn sung the line with a certain amount of venom — odd when you consider that a band like Neon Trees would seem to want to court DJs. Regardless, Glenn’s attitude reflects a lot of people who think that DJing is far from an art form and is no more difficult than playing good music (not necessarily records) in a logical sequence.
That idea was at the center of an interview conducted with DJ Brent Crampton Monday night, and is the theme behind this week’s column, which you can read in The Reader or online right here. Brent answers my inane question: What exactly is a DJ? Most of his answers are in the column; but some didn’t make the cut due to space. Among the edits is Crampton’s response to those who diss DJs as being nothing more than highfalutin stereo operators. “I think a lot of criticism comes from DJs who get put on the same level as bands, and the two are different things,” he said. “Personally speaking, being a DJ I only have to deal with myself. A band can have four, five, six members, and half the battle is just staying together.”
Being a one-man shop can make DJs a more affordable option. “I feel like dance music is recession-proof,” Crampton said. “There will always be a need for people to dance, especially when things are tough. During the recession, I was getting more gigs than ever, and there were house parties every weekend. People are living more poor. You can buy a six-pack and hang out with friends until who knows when, and dancing is free.”
He also pointed to the history of DJing going back to the disco era of the ’70s when DJs began to replace live music. “The gay rights movement really came out during that era, and disco was the tugboat that pulled it out of the closet,” Crampton said. White America took out its homophobic fears on disco in the form of stadium events where piles of disco records were literally blown up. But DJs lived on.
“Historically, rock very much has had a thing against DJs from the get go,” Crampton said. When it comes to comparing live performances to DJs “really they’re apples and oranges,” he said. “We need both. There’s a need for what we do.”
Also not in the article, Crampton’s take on where DJing is headed. “History tells you it’s going to follow the technology,” he said. “You’ll get more and more away from traditional forms of DJs. It could be a blend of other people’s music and live mixing. On the flip side — that element of technology could go so far that purists will go back to vinyl. There’s something magical about vinyl. People are just blown away by the skill level it takes to mix two records together. All kinds of things can go wrong.”
Finally, we talked about the current financial state of House of Loom, the club that Crampton operates with partners Jay Kline and Ethan Bondelid. “I’m pleased with what’s happening,” he said. “It was a very difficult process. None of the partners had owned a bar before. With our heads to the ground we fumbled from one point to the next. There were some humbling moments. I don’t think I was expecting it to be as difficult as it was. And I’m surprised I didn’t get as much warning from my friends in the business.”
Crampton and Co. had an advantage over other start-up clubs — six years’ worth of branding built up from the Loom concept. “It wasn’t like we had this idea from scratch, there was a lot of groundwork,” he said. That groundwork is paying off, but it’s a lot of work…
Like I said, the full story is in The Reader, which you can read here. The column supports House of Loom’s Friday Afternoon Club program, of which I will be the central participant this Friday from 5 to 8 as the club’s guest “DJ” or “non-DJ” as Crampton is calling us. His description is accurate. I am not a DJ. And as a result, there (probably) won’t be any dancing going on at Loom Friday afternoon, but it could still be a good time. Details here.
Tonight at The Slowdown it’s a four-band bill headlined by Skypiper and featuring The Big Deep, The River Monks and Great American Desert. Early 8 p.m. start, $7.
And speaking of DJ gigs, Darren Keen’s Good Speakers series continues at House of Loom tonight with Bad Speler (Keen), DJ Kobrakyle and Kethro. The real deal. Check out Bad Speler’s latest Illegal Art track “Superman,” below or at the Illegal Art website. 10 p.m. and free.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
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