As a DJ, you encounter a lot of strange situations. A lot of them involve patrons of the establishment you work for. If it’s a big club, a lot of time you’re sequestered away in some high DJ booth overlooking the crowd like a king does his kingdom. I really hate that. I like to be down on the level of the people I spin for. I’m not better than anyone else because I have records. I have no control issues, and for me, I don’t mind being on floor level, or on a riser just a little bit higher than the floor. This, however, invites a lot of different scenarios. This week Mr. Finewine of Downtown Soulville fame spoke online about an incident that is becoming more and more frequent not just here in NYC, but throughout the DJ community: people touching your records or trying to play “DJ” as you are working. This is something on the rise here, but throughout my DJ career it’s happened more times than I can count on both hands.
The atmosphere we are in is conducive to weird behavior. Most likely there is alcohol involved, we are in bars and clubs that serve it. People want to get loose, dance, and have a great time. They get uninhibited and think they are invincible. They even think that having a few drinks entitles them to be able to talk to the DJ any way they want. Last Saturday I had a young lady and her friends sit right next to the booth (or makeshift booth if you will) at one of my DJ spots in NYC. It’s probably the smallest DJ booth you’ll ever be in, it’s on castors, and it comes out of a book shelf. When it’s set up, it is cool. You are among the people, and a table for patrons is very close to your left. So close, people are always asking about the 45s I play, what is this music, usually pleasant conversation. This particular night, I heard someone screaming loud. It was this young lady. She is yelling: “NOTORIOUS! NOTORIOUS! NOTORIOUS!”. So I leaned over casually and pointed to the 45s and nicely explained we do funk, soul, jazz organ, latin, and garage 45s. It’s not that kind of hip hop party, but have a drink and enjoy. You’ll be on your feet soon. And they were. They stayed the whole night and had a good time. I can deal with that. Banter, pleading, even some conversation. What I can’t deal with is someone who thinks they are are all of a sudden a DJ after tipping back a few. Here’s the deal jocko: keep your hands off of my records. Keep your hands off of the turntables, and lastly, don’t touch my needles because I may have to beak your wrist as you squash down the most important part of the night besides the vinyl. Ok, we know alcohol contributes to this, but let’s be honest folks, how many of you out there have actually done this? Would you ever have the balls to got to a concert and grab the microphone from the led singer? Action Bronson has taken that seriously and proceeds to clothesline or body slam anyone that gets near him when they invade the stage. Wouldn’t that be nice? Recently a patron tried to scratch my record while I had my back turned. I flipped and screamed at the couple, who thought it was no big deal. I explained through gritted teeth, this is my job and is it so hard to respect that. “Well your job is stupid” was the reply. That’s when I took the headphones off and walked away from the booth towards them. I wanted to have this conversation a bit closer. They did get the hint and left. It’s amazing the set of nuts on people sometimes.
What gives you the right to just come over at take the needle off of the record, or decide you want to be Funk Flex and attempt to cut up one of my records? Besides the point that it might be a rare record, not easily obtainable, or in fact, my favorite record to play out, why are your hands on my property? I’ve known DJs who have physically removed people. Neil Nice doesn’t mess around, and you might find yourself on the floor if you touch his vinyl stash. Hell, some DJs might give you some sort of karate kick or chop and still crossfade the record smoothly. I’ve done my share of pushing after I’ve warned someone one or two times. I’ve even indadvertedly pushed a club owner who I didn’t know was a club owner after they bashed into the booth and skipped the record. When someone is extremely annoying, I have gone as far as the ask someone what they do and where they worked. They think I’m being friendly and tell me. Then I say, “What time will you be in the office Monday?” When they reply, I tell them I’ll see them there, and I’ll be standing behind their desk for a few hours while they are trying to work. Shocked, they usually just jet. But this conversation is more about why people think they can touch your records and equipment while you’re working. Would you go up to a chef and just start chopping with his knife? Would you grab the traffic cop’s whistle and direct traffic? If you wouldn’t, just sit back and enjoy the music we’re playing. You may or may not know it, but we do know this: get your hands off my records fool. Would love to hear any of your war stories you’d like to share on this subject.