LIVE SET VS DJ SET: THE BREAKDOWN
A Conversation with DoubtingThomas
Walk into any club or festival and everyone wants to peek at what the DJ is doing behind those decks. We all love to watch the DJ work, creating that synergy that produces energetic magic. DJ sets aside, what do we mean these days by a LIVE DJ set? Therein lies a show that moves beyond playing records in the traditional sense to becoming a live performance, a one man band so to speak.
It should be noted that DJing in and of itself is a live performance, interweaving tracks together is an art that some would say is taken for granted. For many DJs that’s where the pleasure lies; selecting the best records and arranging them in the perfect order of transition. Technically speaking DJing itself has been deemed “a simple act” that is in truth phenomenally hard to master when done right.
Technology today offers a vast number of possibilities when it comes to creative performance. This affects how the DJ wants to express his/her sound, which ultimately develops, detaches and navigates away from the old school record playing and mixing. Enter “The LIVE DJ set”. The focus here, therefore, is to shine a light on DJs that push boundaries in their musical expression. The best way to describe a live DJ set is to envision someone taking their studio from home and putting it on stage, creating/playing original music live for all to witness.
With a tireless work ethic and a focus on creation rather than infamy, DoubtingThomas’s rise has been a slow and steady one, with releases on key underground labels including Eastenderz, Little Helpers, MusicKollektiv and many more. Alongside this, he has been allotted prestigious residencies while playing international gigs in places such as Los Angeles for the famous Dialogue party to Sydney, Australia, directly across the globe for the massive Subsonic Festival happening in December. It goes without saying this is an artist worth paying attention to.
We got to speak with DoubtingThomas about his LIVE performance; the difference between a LIVE set and a normal DJ set, and what the limitations of these are.
What do you do differently to prepare for your LIVE set?
DT: “Preparing a Live set takes a very long time as each and every sound has to be designed individually to create clear and understandable musical sentences. Each and every sound is sequenced on the spot and they need to work with each other while being played live, preparing it takes a lot of testing. Composition and sound techniques [are needed] in order to get the right amount of soul and energy to bring it to life.”
What was your decision making in performing LIVE instead of a normal DJ set?
DT: “Live performance takes electronic music to a whole new level I feel. Although I used to DJ in the past, I always felt I was more of a producer and it became more and more a natural progression into my musical research. Then comes the feeling of playing your own stuff out loud and getting it right. There is absolutely nothing quite like it.”
Is there a different feeling during the live performance (mental state, do you feel the crowd responds differently)?
DT: “I remember DJing was never too stressful and very enjoyable although the techniques behind playing records was always challenging in its own way, getting the right records at the right time and reading the crowd was always very interesting. A live performance doesn't really allow you room for many mistakes nor much time to raise your hands up in the air! It's a lot of processing and thinking to get it all right and flowing nicely, but obviously playing your own sounds doesn't leave much space for adjustment if the crowd isn't responsive. That's a make or break situation to take into consideration before each and every show hence why it can sometimes be a little worrisome for a second. Having said that you are bringing a sonic experience to a place where sound can be a little static sometimes in terms of volumes and Q, so when it's done right in the best conditions a good crowd would (hopefully) really appreciate the jam changes.”
What's the most important aspect of playing a LIVE set at a club?
DT: “Club sound quality is of course number one, you're playing your own compositions on the spot and it's very frustrating when the frequencies and energies you spent such a long time putting together don't shine through. I believe you can only experience and appreciate a good live performance in good places with spot-on sound systems.”
What are some limitations of playing LIVE?
DT: “Time is one. Live sets vary from one to two hours although if you do it right, meaning splitting sounds sequences and using hardware, anything over two hours can be extremely intense for the performer as much as it can be for the audience I feel. Space is often another, most DJ booths aren't designed to take all your equipment at once unfortunately.”
Do you have any advice for up and coming artists that want to make the switch to playing LIVE sets?
DT: “Just do it, get a feeling for it and see how it goes. It gets better every time you play.”
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The Advance began with the intention of creating community and dialogue around what the future of live entertainment looks like, how we are pinpointing places for growth, streamlining processes, highlighting advancements, and shaping it as a collective. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org