DJ Lena / Blog

Stirring the pot!

My contribution to a "friendly waters" thread about some vinyl purist saying button pushing should be a crime...

This is the way I see it - what you have is a fundamentalist religious nut that is against the liberal, live and let live, spiritual person. If you dont worship the same god, the way they do, you are damned to hell. He represents the vinyl taliban. And he is leading a holy war against the "button pushers". To me, being a digital DJ is all about unleashing creativity and accepting many ways to manipulate the music and create a journey. I am self taught so I obviously do things differently than other DJs. But is that a crime? Apparently, to him and others...yes it is. He argues that only a vinyl DJ can tell a story. That's complete BS. It's not a magic bullet. You either have a musical ear or you don't. If everyone played the same instrument in an orchestra, how boring would that be? OMG look at that guy playing a sousaphone, what a douchebag! j/k of course. I know I get caught up in some of these arguments, but the more I look at people like that and rightly equate them with the westboro baptist church, I realize I can never break through to them. But sometimes, it is fun trying!

Does using a controller not make you a DJ?

this was a question in a dj forum I belong to on antifmradio.com and here is my reply...

I actually started out completely digital in 2006. I didn't have the funds to buy CDJs and I am really bad with keeping CDs organized and I totally would not be able to handle Vinyl. I'm just not that organized. My shit would be all tore up. I mean HIT!

I started using Traktor 3 with no controller and then discovered by surfing online that I needed one. So, I bought my first Vestax VCI-100. And then I bought another VCI-100 when I found a tsi file and a special trick (button push) to allow you to use both controllers with Traktor. I was using 4 Platters before they made 4 decks available on a controller.

Now, I use the Traktor S4 and I love love love it. The fact that it is intuitive allows me to devote more time to selecting the right track or adding a touch of me to the sound, by using the effects. I don't understand why folks are so up in arms about 1 damn button (sync) when there are a lot of other buttons to hate on.

Back in the day, you didn't even see the DJ spinning, cuz they were up in some booth, surrounded by glass or chicken wire! Now you are all up in the mix with people judging your every move, whether on CD, turntable or midi controller. Before, it was about the music and whether or not you can keep people on the dance floor. No one wants to clear a dance floor, no matter what you are using!

My influence as a DJ came from the gay clubs in the 90's in Detroit (where the DJ was behind glass to protect them from getting drinks thrown at them). I remember how cool it was to listen to a track end and hear them blend in the next track. I would hang on, listening until the old track was over, while my heart pumped to the excitement of hearing the next track building up. Feeling the music and it's ups & downs. I think THAT is what is important, when it comes to DJing. Can you move the crowd emotionally, spiritually, physically?

So, in addition to my S4, I also use the Emulator DVS which is a 42 inch touchscreen midi controller. What I like about it is 1) it's completely customizable. I can build what I want, based on my style of DJing. My own template. 2) it allows the audience to connect on a different level (visually). They can see everything I am doing. 3) when I first saw it online, I knew I had to have it, because the trend a couple years ago was to make controllers smaller and smaller. I think that is kinda boring. (however, I like my S4 cuz it is just big enough to be taken seriously - in my opinion).

So, that's my 2 cents. I think now there has to be a happy medium between performance and track selection. That's just how it is now. And using a controller, you can still give the crowd something to watch, when needed. hell I just jump around and dance a lot! LOL

Woot Woot!!!

Dear DJ Lena, We are pleased to accept your act for Ferndale Pride's DJ/Dance Floor stage. We will be contacting you prior to the event with performance times and set length. Please expect an upcoming email with more extensive details. In the meantime, please let me know the number of performers and stagehands you are expecting to bring to the event. If you have any other promotional material please send it asap so Pride can help promote your act. Thank you for your commitment to keeping the GLBTQAAI pride alive in Ferndale. Julia Music & The Entertainment Committee Ferndale Pride

Bad Juju

Yes, there is energy that I call "bad juju" in the air and unfortunately it was present during a recent gig. All I can say is that sometimes when things happen it can turn into the snowball effect. One thing after the other. I couldn't find the playlist I had set up, I had just played an online show on the Emulator, earlier, so the S4 seemed almost foreign, the crowd was very light, there was no monitor speaker in the booth, the other DJs I was spinning with, well, they were not very welcoming and one of them even made fun of one of the tracks I was playing, by mimicking the vocals in a tarzan-like way. Can you say junior high? PLUS 1 hour, which really ended up being 50 minutes, because the next DJ had some bad juju and I was like, I need to get the hell out of here...1 hour is just not enough time to get in the groove...

Fortunately, the mix still turned out decent. It's strange how much you rely on something and don't notice it until it's gone. Not having a monitor speaker made it extremely difficult to get into the groove. As much as I need the speaker to mix, I also need to feel that music, that vibe - the vibrations! It really does fill me up. I felt so empty up there playing music I could not hear and feel. I could hear it in my headphones, but it's not the same. I felt like I had no connection with the crowd.

I feel like playing house music is a happy experience and I just assume everyone else is happy too. So, when there is an air of competition, jealously, animosity, my sensitive Pisces self just absorbs it. I know I have to filter that ish out and I did the best I could. Never let them see you sweat. I just wasn't my normal, bouncy self that REALLY just enjoys playing music, and moving a crowd to dance. Too bad other folks feel like it's something else entirely...and enjoy spreading their bad juju. Keep it to yourself next time!

Playing Live!

So, there is nothing like playing a live set in front of a large crowd of people. I totally bounce off their energy and push myself to keep the party vibe going. That can be a huge challenge when you can't hear the next song you want to play, in your headphones. I dont know how other DJs do it, but most times when i'm playing in a club, I can't hear shit. hence the bobble that occurs when you pick the wrong track. Oops, I didn't want to load that one. It sucks!!!! LOL. Then you scramble to find something quick and hope no one notices.

I admit that even with computers and controllers, it is still possible to make mistakes in a set. The magic sync button will not save you either! Loading songs quickly means you can load the wrong one or look at the name wrong and mistakenly think, that was another track! Yikes!!

Plus, I dont even know why I wear my headphones in a LIVE set anymore. I have visual cues on my laptop and I can hear the speakers in the club but can't hear shit n my headphones. However, according to some so-called experts, a DJ with no headphones, is apparently not DJing. Hahahahah! If they only knew. My advice to folks trying to figure out what we do, to DJ, is stop trying. Unless you have been in our shoes, you will NEVER understand. Don't judge me and I won't judge you. Just listen to the music and dance your ass off!

digital versus analog - an age old arguement

This whole rage against the Sync Button - it's tired and played out. Besides, it's a choice, to use or not to use. Even with the Emulator, I can use the button or use the pitch bend. Just cuz it is available does not mean you have to use it. And it's not always right. Plus, if you are tag teaming with someone, you can't use it. So yes, I can beat match without the Sync Button - FOR THE RECORD (no pun intended).

You can sync two tracks together and have it sound awful. Syncing (which is just same bpm) is not blending and vice versa. You still gotta use your ear.

Hating on digital DJs is pointless. It would be like me getting mad at an auto technician for using a $20,000 scan tool to diagnose a vehicle and I only use a vacuum gauge and an oscilloscope. If the car is fixed, you think the customer cares what we used to diagnose it?

Also, for the record, as far as spinning vinyl...I'm sure I could do it. Ii fix cars for a living. I teach how to fix cars for a living. I build webpages and emulator templates and program midi functions. It's not outside my realm of learning curves, By the time I was 12 years old, I could play ALL the brass and woodwind instruments. My father was a music teacher and he also worked at a music store and fixed instruments. He would bring them home to fix and let me play them. And believe it or not, I was mostly self taught with a little help from my Dad. He answered my questions when I got stuck - screaming at him - "Dad, what's the fingering for the 3rd line from the bottom?" So, I know I could do it, that's for damn sure.

I say, buy me a set of tables and I'll prove it. As it is, I have a huge investment in the digital tools that I PROUDLY use.

I know, that people judge you by the media or medium you use. Therefore, I know I get passed up a LOT because of he choice I made to start out as a digital DJ. But I'm OK with that. I am not going to change how I bring the music to the world, because some ignorant person has not a clue what goes into being a DJ. And anyway, that's what the internet is for. You can't stop me now!

Things are movin!

Detroit aint ready for me, so I am out the door! Vegas, Baltimore and Chicago, here I come!!! And I am serious. I just received the custom road cases for the 42 inch Emulator. Now, I can really be a mobile DJ, whether by car or plane, me and my tools are ready to go! I do have some gigs coming up and some gigs in the works for Detroit, but for some reason, folks outside of Detroit are more interested in me coming to play and want me to bring the Emulator. So that is just what I am about to do. Baltimore in April or November and Chicago in the spring. However my biggest outstate gig will take place on March 23rd. The Diva Dance music festival will be held in Las Vegas. Women in EDM from all over the world will converge upon Vegas for an amazing festival to be held annually. This year, proceeds will go to aid in Breast Cancer research and treatment. www.divadance.me for more info.

I am really excited! This will be my first out of state gig! Let's go!!

Lavender Dance Metro - Valentine's Dance 2/8/13

So, I just DJ'd the FIRST Lavender Dance Metro, Valentine's Dance on 2/8/13. We had a GREAT turn out of diverse women, which means, I really had to work to keep the dance floor packed. I broke out in a sweat! Some women don't like remixes, they want only the "radio version" of a song, however, I'm a DJ and I have several versions of songs, most of them are remixes. I figure if you request the song and I do have a version of it, I will play it for you. I am not a jukebox. I had the full range of requests, from salsa to Motown to women's folk music to dub step. It was quite a challenge to move through different genres and be able to keep the same energy level. I played old school and new school. So, even when the dance floor was packed, women would ask for a completely different mood song. When folks were jamming to some high energy tunes, the requests came in for more slow songs and vice versa. The key was to give everyone everything and I still had someone publicly claim that the music could have been better. If she only knew what being a DJ was really about, maybe she would not have been so public about her disapproval. But whatever, it was ONE comment out of many more positive ones (I just happen to be an overachiever so one comment affects me. I know, I gotta get over that). The best part, they want me back for more dances and the event was definitely a success with over 130 people present! Oh, did mention I also brought the Emulator to the event? It was a hit, as I suspected. And way easier for me to search for tracks on a 42" screen!!

Thursday is the New Friday 1/31/13

What a great night! It's always cool to get props from the bartenders!! They were excited to see me in the line-up. And AFTER my set, to get a "hat-tip' from your fellow DJs is also an honor. We are are own worst critics. listening to every mix, every track, wondering if they meant to do that or was that a mistake, LOL.

It also helps to follow a Queen DJ. I was totally pumped and ready to go after listening to DJ Minx throw down a great set. It challenged me to keep the energy going. She is a gracious and talented woman. I hope to work with her in the future.

The other cool part of the evening was when Detroit legend Stacey Hotwaxx Hale showed up during my set. What an honor to have her support! She watches me like a hawk wondering what the heck I'm doing on that midi controller of mine. So many buttons. Thank goodness I was able to load some tracks in decks C and D, that already had cues preset. 2 acapellas. This is a journey into sound and I'm Barack Obama. Hotwaxx kept egging me on to use it, hence the end of my set is filled with snippets punched in here and there. Fun fun fun, is all I can say. I uploaded the set from 1/31 so make sure to check it out!

Until next time, as we househeads say - Let's Go!!

Thursday is the new Friday!

I can't wait for this gig on Thursday night. I get to spin with one of the best DJs in Detroit, DJ Minx - QueenBeats - WOW Women On Wax Recording. DJ Minx has shared radio time with techno forefathers - Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, and Juan Atkins. Every Saturday night as a former Club Motor resident DJ, she did opening sets for Frankie Bones, Bassment Jaxx, Doc Martin and many other international DJs. By establishing the Women On Wax Recordings label, Minx has pushed the boundaries and raised the bar on what dance music should be. Prepare to move from the hips as she plays her funky filtered house!

My set follows her, so I gotta bring it!