One Friday evening, Ex-Friendly and I got together for one of our regular vinyl jam sessions with a few ideas but no particular plan. What is interesting about mixing vinyl as opposed to digital mixing is you are forced to think about your selection rather than relying on known digital mixes that you can pull together with a click of button. It sounds obvious but with the digital mixing tools and all it’s 24 bit trickery, you can draw on a huge library, you can correct mistakes, you can sync beats to produce a very slick and polished mix. Although this has its benefits, none of which we’re opposed to, the truth is far more risk averse.
When two DJs get into a room with two bags of records to do a mixtape, there might be continuity, there might not. There may be conversation, there may be an argument. There will be an awkward silence at the end of a track when you can’t find anything suitable. FIGHT!!!
What is great about a vinyl mixing is it forces exploration, it limits choices and makes the DJ look for the connections that aren't obvious, or perhaps initially feel uncomfortable and then later makes sense. Vinyl mixes can be rough round the edges, particularly when they cross genre, there is no harmonic tuning, but so what? Mixing vinyl has a raw energy, a spontaneity and exploration of chaos and order that is rarely replicated with digital tools.
Considering how we mix vinyl Vs digital a step further, we need to consider what it used to mean to look for records. Everyone talks about how you can get anything on the web because the world is now one big shopping cart. In many cases this is true, but the reality is, we mostly receive what is in our digital sphere of influence. OK, some of these influences may be personal contacts, but they are more likely to be subscriptions, digital suggestions, advertising and other commercial methods of promoting music.
Digging for music or record shopping as it’s known to the non-anorak specialist, isn’t merely the inconvenience of going to shop versus an immediate download, it is a much more significant experience. The personal contact with the record shop owners and the different cities you visit, are all food for inspiration and tell unique stories through music. There is little that is more valuable to a DJ than the record shop worker’s knowledge and opinion. Their knowledge is usually deeply informed (they listen to records all day) but most importantly they have great perspective. The amount of times that I’ve been in record shop and heard the bloke behind the counter say ‘I wasn’t sure at first but its really grown on me’ and as a result I’ve bought the record, its this kind of personal touch you can’t replicate in the digital world.
Moving out of the record shop and into the city and the junk shops is another important aspect of record buying and telling stories through music. The experience and physicality of being in a particular place affects your mood, you get inspired by the locality and you are far more likely to pick up fresh music that ordinarily you would not explore.
Building a vinyl collection over many years is as much a tale of your own journeys, it’s the stories of the people you meet and the places you go. That’s is what a great mix is all about.
When two DJ’s get in a room to play back to back, its about sharing those stories, sharing that dialogue and creating a sound track that connects different people from different places and times in one space for a usually never replicated
Image shows 'Caught in a Mess' - Part 1 & 2 Recorded Live. Rev,. Clarence L. Alvis. Bought from a junk shop in new orleans, from a rack of 'Hurricane Katrina damaged stock'.