Not entirely true. I don’t think a DJ could ever save my life, but it’s a nice idea and an all time awesome tune (Indeep, 1982). In this case, the title is more misleading than ever as I am referring to the near fatal decision to give it all up. Trying to become a DJ again that is.
Some months ago, whilst shopping in Nottingham, I wandered into Fopp on Queen Street. I often go in there for cheap DVD’s, but for some reason I thought ‘no DVD’s for me today, I’ll buy a couple of CD’s instead’. Now I hadn’t bought much music for while at this point as it was much easier (not to mention free-er) to steal it off mates and the world-wide web of peer-to-peer downloading. Now I don’t advocate illegal downloading (ahem), but I don’t feel so bad about it, having paid my dues to the recording industry in the shape of around two and a half thousand pieces of vinyl that constantly threaten to invade my living room from their tactical position in the spare room upstairs. Hold out floorboards, hold out.
Back on topic. At the back of the store is a section on ‘dance music’. Mostly filled with CD’s by artists with names like ‘Flugzeug Paraphenalia’, ‘Octopus Defamation Syndrome’ and ‘Agog’. Mostly stuff I have never heard of and have no need to know about – no-one really needed Lou Reeds original ‘Metal Machine Music’, let alone variations on the theme. I had no idea what I was actually looking for but knew that these were not it. What did catch my eye was the bright yellow sidebar next to the picture of a breakdancer in textbook ‘Streetsounds’ corporate style. An electro CD. Cool, and only a fiver. Bargain. Close by, was another CD that caught my eye, mainly for the sidebar that informed me of a one hour mix of 45 tracks. Being a proper, turntables DJ myself, I realised that 45 tracks in an hour is pretty hectic. My old ‘one side of a C90’ mixes had maybe fifteen tracks on, so three times that many is going some. Looking on the back of the CD, I found lots of records I had never heard of side by side with tunes I never expected to see. 10cc, Lords of Acid, Dolly Parton, The Cramps, Lil’ Louis, Felix The Housecat, they’re all there. I later found out that it was put together on a laptop, as is the way of things these days, but that’s not the point. The CD was ‘As Heard on Radio Soulwax Volume 2’ by 2 Many DJ’s and it changed my life.
To cut a long story short, I took this and the Electro CD to the counter, paid up my fifteen quid and left. When I got home, the CD went on. From that point on, over the next hour, I sat watching my laptop where the CD was playing in a mixed state between elation and devastation, one minute shaking my head in disbelief, the next grinning like an idiot as the boys from Belgium made me realise what a fat handed, unimaginative mook I am with regards to beatmixing and putting a DJ set together. If I had been fully invested in deejaying, I would have stopped there and then, sold my turntables, mixer and record collection and moved to a cave in the Peak District. No point, no future. 2 Many DJ’s are the only deckspinners you’ll ever need. If I were hosting a celebrity launch party/after party/premier tomorrow, I’d hire 2 Many DJ’s. If you don’t dance to them, you’re dead.
What sets them apart from most other mix sets is how the records overlap. They make the best use of instrumentals and acapellas that I’ve ever heard. There will be one instrumental playing, with the vocal from another track over the top, then they’ll beatmix in another instrumental while the vocal is still going, then mix the whole lot into something else. The concentration and skill needed to do that on turntables is immense, I sometimes struggle with the whole plate-spinning fiasco of mixing two records, let alone three or four with overdubs, samples, loops etc.. As I said before, it’s all done with the smoke and mirrors of computer witchcraft, but I would imagine that they do something similar live, there being two of them and all. It is also worthy of note, as I found out while listening to their various mixes, that I had already experienced their work without realising it. Many of the bootlegs on the internet (I hate the term ‘mash-up’) are the work of theses boys, most notable, the Destinys Child-over-Teen-Spirit track that has been doing the rounds (‘destiny’s child vs. nirvana – smells like booty (soulwax remix)’ to give it it’s full title). You have probably already heard 2 Many DJ’s even though you don’t know it. A beautiful example of online viral marketing, whether they meant to or not is another question.
This CD is great enough, but to find out that there are thirty or so others on their site at 2manydjs.free.fr is pretty amazing. I haven’t listened to all of them yet, but I will, I am also not going to go into their resume here as it is already well documented on the aforementioned website and would be a waste of your time and mine to repeat it here. The other facet to Stephen and David Dewaele is their band ‘Soulwax’. The fact that they are conventional, dare I say ‘proper’ musicians, does nothing to detract from their genius and goes some way to explaining their musical and technical acumen when it comes to the art of the DJ set. I might add at this point that Soulwax are also bloody good, part of this wonderful new wave revival of pseudo-80’s synth pop acts like Ladytron, The Presets and Goldfrapp.
Before anyone starts on at me about the whole history of hip-hop, DJ Cool Herc and his block parties, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and so on, I acknowledge and very much respect their work, but Coldcut, as far as I am concerned, started this current runaway train of party-time genre-negligence with their immortal ’70 Minutes of Madness’ CD. Liam Howlett from The Prodigy made a valiant attempt with his ‘Dirt Chamber Sessions’ but 2 Many DJ’s have perfected the art of the mix CD by having no shame or musical snobbery. They play tracks without prejudice, purely because they sound good. That is the way things should be. God bless them, and all who sail in them.