Check check: intro tunes.
As a DJ, I’m obsessed with…
Intro tunes have things to say, they say “here we are.” You’ve begun, arrived and that other DJ, he’s finished now. For the next hour or ideally more, you’re in tune to us.
Intro tunes also say “this is who we are.” Those other tracks, by that other DJ they’re gone now. That was his vibration; this is ours. This is what we’re about, where we’re beginning from and as of now on you’ll begin to see where we’re going to.
Sometimes I wish you could have two intro tunes, but it doesn’t work like that.
Why? Because the second tune’s power is diminished by the first. There can’t be two firsts. That power is what makes intro tunes unique and so magical. And because they’re your first track, it has infinite potential. No crowd will leave after one track… I just can’t imagine how bad it would have to be, so far away from their expectations for a crowd to leave en masse after one tune alone. Yes it might be possible to empty a room with one tune, but it’s… unlikely.
(As an aside Dusk and I have emptied a room with five tracks but not one, but that was because Ghetts, Logan and 34 MCs had just left the stage of his “Freedom of Speech” album launch party all at once and took the crowd (their crews/mates) with them… oh and and technically the bar staff and two lads we’ve since realized were Elijah and Skilliam were still there, but who’s counting.)
So your intro tune is completely free, utterly unbounded by expectation. It is utterly liberated from any of DJing’s confines. And DJing does have basic parameters and confines under which it operates, just like dance music production, and it’s better for it, lest it descend into a chaotic, amorphous mess. The genius then is not how you can remove those confines (“I don’t need to mix! I don’t need decks! I don’t even need music!” “Err, OK mate, now what…?”). It’s who can find a new twist or a unique space within those confines.
Personally, I love a beatless intro.
To play beatless tracks in the middle of a set, well, you either have to be looking to grind things to a halt to segue into another direction (a garage -> jungle switch for example), have mind-melting amounts of influence like Wiley did during the “devil mix” era at Sidewinder or are just looking to be a little contrary. I recall some quote from techno godfather Derrick May saying that a good DJ should be able to take things down to nothing and back up. In any event, if you drop something beatless mid set you’ll need to rebuild all the momentum you’d built prior to that.
But with an intro tune you have no momentum, you’re starting from absolute zero and in some ways beatless intro’s are perfect for that. They’re like a palate cleanser, wiping away the expectations and momentum from the previous DJ and resetting things from which to rebuild.
Some DJs like to come in with an absolute banger; I’ve seen that a lot from dubstep DJs who are singularly focused on hype. The problem is: where do you go from there? If your intro tune is a 10/10, you better have about 9 more 10/10’s in the bag otherwise your set is an anticlimax. It’s that old adage about there being “no loud without quiet,” you can’t get louder than loudest, by definition (time for a “turn it up to 11” Spinal Tap reference? No, thought not…). Actually, thinking about it, those DJs who do intro with bangers, their sets tend to take a different shape. Instead of steadily building up in intensity, which I prefer, or declining in intensity, which seems a little perverse, each track is mellow/hype cycle in itself. 32 bar chilled intro followed by massive dynamic range change, mid-range drop and lots of compressed “loud” sounds… before the next intro comes in… Repeat cycle for an hour.
I also like the ability of beatless intros to express an another emotion other than hypement. Yes I saw certain critics slewing of the James Blake/emotional end of the dubstep spectrum but really as a DJ what I’m looking to do is generate strong emotional reactions – and that doesn’t just mean “arrrrghfkjskJFKKEK RELOADDATBUMBA!!!!,” though that is fun. I’d also like to create intense warmth/happiness, heartbreak/melancholia and even introspection as well as disorienting and overwhelming urge to dance with every cell in your body. Because of their power and potential, intro tunes are a good place for that kind of emotion.
Intro tunes: as we enta.
- Both photos, as ever, by Nico Hogg.