Rocco - How I DJ
French Deep House export Rocco Rodamaal began his DJ career over two decades ago in Lyon. As a well respected producer, Rocco has also compiled an impressive back catalogue of releases on some seriously heavyweight labels such as Freerange, Defected, MN2S, Real Tone and Nervous.
Rocco is now celebrating the release of his stunning 5-track ‘Quantum Project One’ EP with the Atjazz Record Company. The ‘P3 Jazz’ jam has already been creating some serious heat on the world’s dance floors, with this package featuring remixes from the likes of At One, Peacey and the main main himself, Atjazz.
We sat down with Rocco to discuss his mixing methods and what makes him tick behind the turntables, as we found out exactly How Rocco DJs.
Are you more of a DJ or Producer — or one in the same?
I started to DJ more than 25 years ago and I started producing music in 1999, so I guess I can now say I balance between both activities.
Describe what makes a good DJ.
Confidence, originality, open-mindedness, technical abilities.
Who or what inspired you to become a DJ?
My older brother was a DJ back in the 80s and was doing monthly parties in my neighbourhood. I was only 13 years old, so that was a huge inspiration for me. I also grew up in a house where they played music every day; that also gave me inspiration.
Later I discovered Dimitri From Paris and he definitely inspired me to become a DJ. He has a unique way of playing dubs and vocal mixes of new releases. He was introducing a lot of new music to his listeners via his amazing radio show called ‘Skydance’ which started around 1987. I never missed one show at the time and recorded the shows on tape. In those days, we only had FM radios to listen to fresh music.
When did you know you wanted to DJ?
As soon as I understood how to mix two tracks together and have the crowd go crazy to my music selection!
Who to you is ‘The DJ’s DJ’.
Dimitri from Paris and later Louie Vega, who for me is the Master of the game! I love how he DJs, which actually reminds me of the way Dimitri’s plays by putting a special dub version with an acapella then a full vocal version. By chance I had residencies in clubs where I saw a lot of guest DJs who inspired me, especially Derrick Carter.
Describe your main and preferred DJ set-up.
I love the DJR 100 mixer from E&S (now replaced by the DJR100 D) + X3004 Isolator (also from E&S) with 3 or 4 CDJs 2000 MKII + 2 MKII for vinyl, but I must say that I mainly play vinyl in my city of Lyon. Most often I end up playing on a Pioneer DJM 900 with 3 or 4 CDJs 2000 MKII.
Do you use a laptop? If so, what platform/program?
No, I, use USB sticks when I am in a club or at a Festival. I only use Traktor Pro to record my radio show; it is more intimate.
Why do you choose this way of playing?
Using USB with CDs in clubs or festivals makes me feel more comfortable to look for and play my music in a more instinctive way. I tried to use a laptop to play in clubs, but I lost the feeling we used to get from vinyl. I can’t focus on a screen. I love to take risks by looking for the next track that I’m going to play when I only have 58 seconds left on my last track! ha
Any special, unique, crazy things on your rider?
I make sure that I have a grilled chicken ready after I finished my set.
Beverage of choice while playing?
Water and sometimes lemonade.
Favorite country, club and city to play?
• Ambassade Club in Lyon; my first true house residency back in 1995 and Manoo is still a resident DJ there. I love to play there from time to time, and I love this club. I feel at home! Also:
• Djoon Club in Paris another home base.
• N.E.U.H.M. party in Naples, insane!
• Warehouse 702 in Tokyo. I love Japan!
• Deep L.A. and Miami Get Deep party.
• House 22 in Pretoria (no compromise it’s DEEP!)
• Shaguma Garden Café in Midrand (South Africa) last week was just crazy!
• ‘Spring Fiesta’ Festival (Johannesburg). Our stage was so good!
• Pacha Dubai on the rooftop. Won’t forget that one!
• ‘Le Sucre’ in Lyon has a crazy good crowd!
Do you Sync, what’s your view on this? Has it levelled the playing field for the better or worse?
I am an old-school DJ and I don’t use it and don’t need to use it. My ears are doing the job of synching. I’m already using so much software to produce music so for sure I don’t need this sync thing. I trust myself on doing my own loops etc…
Any DJ Controllers?
I tried but not anymore. CDJs are good enough.
Favorite or ‘go-to’ EFXs while playing?
On the Pioneer mixers, I love to use the Trans & Delay effects.
Read the crowd or just pound it out?
Always read the crowd and see in which state they’re in so I can bring them into my world.
Big festivals or intimate clubs? Why?
Clubs for sure! I love the fact that I’m close to the crowd, so we build a night together. I feel a real link with the people. A long DJ set allows me to play all kinds of music including some classics from the 80s, 90s and different styles of music from Disco to Techno.
For few years now I have been playing at big festivals but I found it just as challenging to play in front of 10 people as it is to play in front of 30,000 people. In less than 1 hour I have a mission; it’s to make them love my music even though 70% of them came for someone else. I am always testing my new stuff like I did last year with ‘P3 Jazz’ at a big Festival in South Africa. It got great feedback from the huge crowd.
Ever miss the CDs or Vinyl days?
I think we are lucky having all this new technology and we must use it as it helps us a lot. No more heavy boxes! ha! But I miss the time I was spending in record shops looking for new music, it was really exciting! I won’t forget the smell and the touch of acetates! But vinyl is back again as I see new shops opening every month. I also have a new EP coming out on vinyl too.
How do you maintain your music library?
I receive promos from many labels in very different styles; I add all the new tracks to a monthly folder. However, I do buy music on Traxsource. I also have a secret weapons folder for the tracks I love and feel are special.
AIFF, Wavs or MP3 and why?
I prefer Wavs or AIFFs because of the quality but, to be honest, I also play 320kps MP3s, and it’s really difficult to hear the difference on a sound system. I can’t go below 320kps MP3 quality because below that level I start to hear a metallic sound.
Any tips for aspiring young DJs?
For me, becoming a DJ at 16 years old was nothing about money; my dream was to make people dance and play in a club with a great sound system. I was feeling the music physically and that was and still is making me happy. So I would say, play what you love, be inspired by DJs or producers you love and add your own touch to create your own unique sound and selection. Be yourself and creative.
Thanks to the internet, one can get access to billions of music libraries from Soul to Techno. Be curious and explore different styles of music because inspiration comes from everywhere! It won’t be easy, but if you believe in yourself and if you are a hard worker, everything is possible. I remember the first time I went to WMC in 1998 I was blown away and after that I knew that DJing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I didn’t know at the time that I wanted to produce music, I only knew that I wanted to play in clubs.
How do you combat the ‘Everyone is a DJ’ mentality?
I don’t actually combat that because I let anyone have a dream. I personally make sure that my DJ sets offer something special via my music selection, with some unique unreleased mixes or I create live while mixing.