‘I will never take requests’ Confessions of a Brighton DJ

There is more to it than just pressing play

The student DJ, ever the elusive individual often seen bopping their heads to house music and arguing with others stating they do more than just press buttons. The student DJ in their natural habitat are fixated on Ableton, unable to drag themselves away from generating the next sickest beats that they have been playing in their heads ever since the 9am lecture.

There must be more to this sub-culture of students, the lives they lead are surrounded in mystery like a game of cluedo. Thrusted onto a level of near omnipotence, what on earth are they up to performing on their house alter, playing to the masses of gurned disciples in their church of club. What is, the life of a student DJ like?

Eager to find out, I caught up with Fin Evans. The house DJ hails from Sussex and is the station manager of the on-campus radio station URF. Fin has been DJing in Brighton, Guildford, Manchester, London and many other different places in the UK. Fin also manages to fit education into his busy timetable, currently studying 2nd year Computer Science.

I was keen to ask Fin some burning questions I had about what is it he exactly does. So, we met in a pub for a quick chat.

Fin DJs on radio every Monday

You’re essentially picking tracks, using a mixer that has four CDJs.

They used to be CD players but nowadays they’re more like media players so you can put your USB into one and access all your tracks. Each one is identical and has things on there which you can use to change the audio of the track you are playing.

You then the hub in the middle (the mixer) which controls the volume levels and the EQ for each track. You can split the track into the lows, the mids, and the highs and you can mix between each of those track by removing each one.

You blend into each of the tracks you have whilst playing with a bunch of other effects.

There is a few mistakes that every DJ makes…

There is one that every DJ does at least once which is upload a track onto a CDJ which completely stops all the music in the club. The other is to press the cue button on the CDJ which takes the track right to the beginning.

I haven’t spoken to a DJ which this hasn’t happened to, some more expensive DJ kits have ways to stop this from happening.

Commercial DJs will stand there and not enjoy themselves

I usually have one or two beers before a set to loosen myself up. In the club it is much nicer to have a couple of beers, get into the groove.

Speaking from the perspective of a underground DJ and I like the music. I know that there are commercial DJs that will just stand there and not enjoy themselves.

Fin at Thirty3Hz in Guildford

Mandy? Ket? Pills?

It’s sick, it’s all about the atmosphere. The more people dancing and fucked up the better. You always get that guy that shakes your hand or fist pumps with you, telling you how “sick your set it” and then forgets that he’s done it and does it again – over and over again – I find if you watch these kind of jokers you can literally see them forgetting everything they’re doing, as they’re doing it.

Mandy? Ket? Pills? – there is always one guy uttering that under his breath, walking around with a bucket hat, bum bag, and jumper tied round his waist.

I never take requests

No. Especially if they are a completely different genre to what I’m playing on the night. I’ve had people come up to me and request drake five times in 20 minutes when I’m playing strictly house & techno. So annoying. The classic way people do this is usually by getting snapchat up, writing the request down and increasing the text size and then waving it about in your face until you read it.

I’ve had people come up to me before and ask for me to play ‘something with a big drop’ – not really sure what the fuck that means. All the stuff I was playing I would consider to have big drops.

“I’m a DJ, do you mind if I just quickly play one track” – this is another common one, the really fucked person who seriously thinks that I would consider letting him come behind the decks and spin a quick tune

There’s always one girl in the crowd from somewhere like Essex who shouts ‘FUUCCKK OOOFFFFF’ every time a track drops – always makes me laugh.

I don’t like to tell people I’m a DJ…

People don’t react particularly well, I don’t like to tell people I’m a DJ. If you say to people you make music, they tend to give you a better reaction rather than say you’re a DJ.

I think a lot of people try to be a DJ and give it a bad name. When you say you’re a DJ they always think that you are the DJ in the cheese room in Pryzm.

If you go up north, a lot more people are into house and drum and bass so there are a lot more clubs that cater for house DJs meaning that you can have a better reputation as a DJ up there.

I don’t like to tell people it, people get confused over the fact there are two types of DJs.

What are the two types of DJs?

You have DJs as a producer which plays music that inspires you, that you’ve created, and stuff that you really have a passion for. I often go to see other DJs perform and it is mainly about them, their genre of music, almost like going to watch a band play.

You have commercial DJs, like the ones in Pryzm, who are essentially crowd pleasers. They play the top 40 charts and take requests.

With underground, there is more a connection with your audience

I think again there is a split within clubbing. You have underground clubbing and student-led clubbing, the former focuses more about the music and the DJ whilst the other is about other stuff.

No one really cares about the music in a commercial club they’re just looking for a place to dance and drink. With underground, there is more of a connection with your audience.

The DJ in the cheese room is probably being paid £40 and a bag of coke

It doesn’t pay well, not at all. Until you can prove that you will bring in a audience then clubs won’t pay for you to go.

They need to know you can pull in a crowd. You have to get to a stage where you are making enough music to bring in a crowd, you could get a grand for just a hour.

Commercial DJs I don’t know but it isn’t a lot. The DJ who is in the cheese room in fucking Pryzm is probably getting £40 and a bag of coke.

What is the worst thing you’ve experienced as a DJ?

In general, a lot of people fucked off drugs. You can easily tell who they are because they charge right to the front, hold onto the railings, and start dancing madly to your music. A club I play in Surrey, which is probably around 100 capacity and more like a house party, a guy always comes to the front and tries to grab me.