“What do you mean, you don’t produce your own tracks?” That’s an increasingly frequent question DJs find themselves confronted with, as live acts fill a greater and greater part of lineups these days. It seems like only those who produce their own music are invited to play on stage. We talked with DJoanna, the chronically cheerful blonde from Waldfrieden, about this phenomenon. She played on the main floor at Wonderland Festival for the first time when she was 19 – that was 15 years ago. So much for “The scene is getting younger and younger”. Although she hasn’t released much she’s one of the most popular DJs of the German Psytrance scene.
We ask DJoanna: Do we still need DJs in the Psytrance scene?
Let’s cut straight to the chase: Is there still a need for DJs?
Yes, absolutely! In my opinion the Psytrance scene doesn’t appreciate them enough. Interestingly, other DJ scenes don’t even ask that question. Actually everyone knows what a DJ can do and a live act can’t: A DJ creates a spontaneous collage of her / his favourite music and is able to react to the atmosphere on the dance floor in real-time. Among DJs we call that “Crowd Reading”. I don’t think there’s a term like that for live acts.
So the problem is that live acts can’t react spontaneously to the vibe on the dance floor?
I wouldn’t call it a problem. Let’s put it like this: Usually you’ll have a pretty good idea what to expect from a live act, simply because the set is pretty much the same for the entire season, there’s very few variation. A live act is a fairly “reliable” thing, so to say. However, if this set just doesn’t fit into the atmosphere, there’s hardly anything he can do. It’s the responsibility of the booker to select and to schedule a live act very carefully. Where the live act is reliable, the DJ is flexible. A DJ picks her/ his personal favourites from the mass of music releases, and then creates a real-time mix that is unique, never heard before, and usually created live on stage. In this way, a DJ set can be extremely fresh, surprising and entertaining for the audience.
Are you alluding to the fact that many live acts just press play, that their repertoire is exactly the same for every set?
No, that’s not what I wanted to say. Live acts are important, without them we wouldn’t have all this amazing music, and it’s also great to see a producer on stage in person. But it’s true that a DJ is usually more “live” than a live act, and I really don’t like how that doesn’t find any recognition in the scene. For instance, there’s barely any DJs as popular as live acts and barely any party or festival that has a DJ among its headliners. We shouldn’t forget: Eventually it is the DJs who makes a newcomer producer popular, because it’s DJs who play new, underground music which probably nobody ever heard before. Who brings the music of new acts to the dance floor if not DJs?
Since a couple of years you are responsible for the artist bookings for the Waldfrieden events. What’s your approach towards DJs and live acts?
I really enjoy booking DJs, and for the reasons I just explained I’d like to book even more – if only the focus of the Psytrance scene wouldn’t be so much on live acts. The lineup of a party is essential for the promotion, and that’s why it is essential to have a catchy lineup. But there’s only a handful of DJs who enjoy international popularity. These factors interact with each other. DJs are extremely valuable for a good booking, just to keep up the flow of a dance floor. If you have two different live acts, like e.g. E-Clip and Hypogeo, it’s super important to have a DJ who moderates between these two sets. If Tristan and Protonica play the same night, I need a DJ who brings down the tempo from 145 to 138 BPM. That’s another reason why DJs are essential for a good party.
Everyone knows what a DJ can do and a live act can’t: A DJ creates a spontaneous collage of her / his favourite music and is able to react to the atmosphere on the dance floor in real-time.
DJs are extremely valuable for a good booking, just to keep up the flow of a dance floor.