Dj playing music

People often ask me what made me want to become a DJ. They are also often curious about my desire to travel and one of the most common questions overall that I get is whether I always wanted to be a DJ. Have I known my whole life that this is what I wanted to do?

Dj playing musicThe truth is no. That said, I do usually tell people that I always wanted this career path. I’m talking about music when I say that, but they assume from that that I always wanted to be a DJ, but that is not quite true. When I was younger and up until high school or so, I actually wanted to be a singer. Whenever you see a band playing live, the lead singer gets all the attention. And that’s what I wanted. I wanted the attention. This was back when DJs were not yet the focal point of a music festival. When DJs just played music and nobody really paid much attention to them.

But back in the 90s that started to change. I watched a movie and I would like to tell you what it’s called, but I can’t remember. It had the actress who played the foreign exchange student in American pie. I want to say her name is Shannon Elizabeth but I am not sure. Anyway she was in it and a whole bunch of people I’d never seen before and have never seen again in a movie. In short it wasn’t a great movie.

But it involved a group of friends who went to a rave. One of them went for the first time and being at the rave changed his life. I know that feeling, because my first rave was a special experience too.
But what really got me from the movie were the DJs.

It featured several DJs, but only one was really famous. That was John Digweed. Now, he is not my favorite DJ by any means, but seeing him and the other DJs in the movie really left a lasting impression on me.

The crowd really loved the DJs and they controlled the atmosphere of the crowd. The music they played ensured that people had a good time. And if they played bad music people did not have a good time. I loved that you can have such an impact on people’s moods as a DJ. And that is when I change my mind. I no longer wanted to become a singer. I wanted to be a DJ instead.

From there, I got myself a set of turntable record players and started practicing. This is before the Internet was huge and before YouTube, so I couldn’t just watch videos like you would do today. Instead, I rented books at the library and tried to follow from them. That didn’t work too well.

traveling the worldSo what I did is just went to club and befriended some DJs and learned from them. Eventually I started to get some smaller gigs that then lead to larger gigs. I also got some better equipment. It was around this time that I really got an interest in traveling.

I started dating a girl who had done a lot of traveling and her stories maybe want to see the world. I also started to watch a lot of movies about traveling and that really gave me the travel bug. Plus, my girlfriend got me into international bands, like Le Zoo, Yvon Krevé and Le Partisan. Yes, they are all French. And yes, my girlfriend was French.

I was starting to make more money from my DJing, but I gave it all up when I started to travel. At some point on the road, I realized I could use my DJ skills to make money while I travel. I would never be as big of a DJ, because it takes time to establish yourself in a location, but that was a sacrifice I was willing to make to see the world. That is how I got you where I am today.

a more modern vinyl record player

On a recent trip to Japan I was walking through one of their many old-school shopping arcades when I stumbled upon a quaint little music store. I walked in to check it out and found they were selling hundreds of different turntables. And I’m not talking about the DJ kind of turntables. I’m talking about record players. You know, the ones that play those ancient vinyl discs. And there are some cool players in Japan.

an old turntable record player
This looks like the record player we had growing up. By Hellbus – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Actually, I  hadn’t seen one of those in many years. My dad had one growing up, since at the time cassette players were the only alternative and they were far below vinyl in terms of quality. Unfortunately, all the records we had back then were crap. My dad and I definitely do not have the same taste in music and I did not have enough money to buy my own records at the time. By the time I started to buy music, CDs were the medium of choice. I did buy a few cassettes before CDs came out, so I owned a couple of those, but only a few.

During my high school and University days I amassed a collection of over 500 CDs. Nowadays they’re all gone. Everything is digital these days and by digital I mean MP3s and other files like that.

But through it all, vinyl somehow held onto a small piece of the market. Of course there were always the collectors, but there are also quite a few others who still prefer the sound of vinyl. Personally, I’m not really one of them, but I do see the appeal.

And I definitely saw the appeal on this day, walking into this record store. Actually I should say music store. They didn’t sell any actual records, they only sold the players. They ranged from incredibly intricately and elaborately designed players to ones that were quite cheap and basically looked like what my dad had when I was growing up. The prices weren’t too bad either. Basically they were what you would expect, ranging from under $100 to many thousand dollars (obviously actual prices were in Japanese yen).

a more modern vinyl record player
Another style of record player.

I talked to the shop owner for a while and learned that there is actually a huge subculture of vinyl collectors in Japan. And not just the DJs. Obviously DJs collect vinyl everywhere in the world. But in Japan there are a lot of music lovers who have returned to vinyl. Also many who never left. I found that quite interesting. It sounded like there were definitely more people in Japan percentage-wise who own a vinyl record player than there are in the US.

I can kind of guess why this might be. The Japanese have always had a love for tradition. It is a very traditional culture and they hang onto many traditions. That creates a lot of problems for them in the modern world, actually, but it also makes the country one of the most fascinating on earth. Given all this, it only makes sense that they would continue to have this love for vinyl.

You are probably thinking or wondering: did I buy one? No, I didn’t. I travel a lot and I have learned not to buy anything overseas, because you have to carry it back with you in the plane and it ends up costing you four times what you paid for them due to the baggage fees.

But I am thinking of buying a turntable record player the next time I’m back home. The only thing that’s holding me back is that I don’t have any actual vinyl records, part from A Sky With No Clouds. I would have to start a collection and that would get expensive. It’s something I really don’t need and probably shouldn’t buy, but somehow it is just alluring, especially after seeing that record store. In the end, I imagine I will probably get one.

DJ playing an international club

That’s a good question. First of all you need to be a DJ. And I don’t mean somebody who plays his friends little parties, or even as a monthly gig at the club down the street. No, you need to be much bigger than that. You need to type the biggest clubs in your city. Actually, you need to be at the biggest clubs in the country. But that’s only to be a true international DJ. Maybe your definition is a bit different.

DJ playing an international club

Maybe you just want to be DJ who plays internationally. Someone who has a long-running gig overseas. Maybe you live in Madrid and play weekly at a local club. Or maybe you live in Bangkok and rotate among the few clubs there. You’re a DJ and you’re international, so you definitely fit many definitions of the term. But you’re not what most people think of when they hear the phrase international DJ.

A truly international DJ and someone who plays music in all of those cities. You spend a month in Shanghai, maybe a few weeks in Tokyo then head to Osaka been to Seoul and to Beijing and you go to Europe for a while. You’re so in demand that the biggest clubs in the biggest cities pay you a lot of money to fly you in to play there. Sometimes you only play one night then you move on.

An obvious negative of this lifestyle is that you miss a lot of the things you have at home. I always miss my sofa and my electric drum set the most. I only recently bought an electronic drum kit, but I find it so great for a stressful day to play on it. At first I hated that it wasn’t loud, but then I realized that actually made it so I can play the drums anytime I want. Except when I’m traveling for my DJ work.

This is what the biggest international DJs to and this is what I’m assuming you want to do and this is what this website is close to help you do. But even if your definition is the other one; just someone who lives overseas and place little bit of music, you’ll find help here. Getting started is not easy, but keep reading and hopefully you, too, can one day be an international DJ.