The Request Line
A video recording of a woman recently complaining to a DJ about the ‘nasty ass house music’ has gone viral. Unfortunately, this is an all too familiar sight to many of us working DJs across the globe. Over the years, I’ve had many evenings ruined by people who won’t leave me alone whilst DJing all night. I’m pretty sure those very same people claimed I ruined their night too!
For 1% of the world’s DJs, it’s all heart hands, private jets to exotic locations with champagne and models on tap. But for the rest of us, playing on the ‘front line’ can be a real effort to not only control the tempo of the room, but also the temper of the people inside it!
Back in the day, I remember very few requests during an evening at work. It was generally ‘what’s this tune?’ or occasionally ‘this track is ace!’. This was even how I started building my record collection; going out in London and asking DJs what the names were of the amazing tunes they were playing. I would write them down on a piece of paper and then try to decipher the text with a sore head in Quaff Records or Blackmarket in Soho on Monday morning. I only ever ended up buying a handful of the ‘amazing’ tunes, as it was astounding how much better the track sounded on a serious system at 6am on a Sunday morning!
Was I annoying the DJ by asking him what tracks he was playing during the night? Quite possibly yes, but I was so passionate about the music that it ended up being my career for a number of years. So unless today’s hecklers are planning a full time career in face to face trolling, there has to be some kind of understanding where the line in the sand is.
The main point I’m trying to get across is that we just didn’t bother the DJ about what WE wanted to hear back in the day. We were too busy having an amazing time to the soundtrack the DJs were curating, as we created our own magical memories that have lasted a lifetime. These snapshots were then stored in the hard drive between our ears and they didn’t need an Instagram filter to improve their look either.
Over the coming years, many of us were suddenly seen as nothing more than human jukeboxes, who were ‘shit’ if we didn’t play exactly what the requester wanted, when they wanted it. The look on that woman’s face in the video that went viral is something I’ve dealt with for many years. The shock, the horror, the inability to comprehend…
that I didn’t have any Mumford & Sons.
The sight of someone slowly zig-zagging their way across the dance floor towards the booth fills me with dread. I’ve now learnt to say absolutely nothing. If there’s no dialogue, there’s no argument. I just listen to what they have to say, nod, then carry on with what I was doing. I have been known to congratulate people when they have asked for a good request, though they are very few and far between these days. 9 times out of 10 it’s just a load of abuse, so you learn to be as distant as possible for the minimum amount of fuss.
I’ve had letters of complaint written about me to management because I didn’t have Tiffany ’I Think We’re Alone Now’. I’ve been physically manhandled; I’ve had my CDJs purposely turned off whilst I wasn’t looking and phones passed to me to play tracks that I don’t have. These usually end with complaints that I don’t carry the correct wiring with me to plug their phone so THEY can play the latest One Direction track.
‘Call yourself a DJ without a phono to headphone cable?’
It even got to the stage where I had to find my own amusement, convincing a pair of punters that if they did some Morris Dancing for me, I would ‘definitely’ play some rock music instead of this, and I quote, ‘trance’. I even got them some white napkins from behind the bar to use as authentic, decorative dance accessories.
1% of the world’s DJs might be larging it up and living the dream, but for the rest of us, we’re just trying to make it through the night without having our parentage questioned over our lack of Nicki Minaj and Jason Derulo.
‘Have I got anything good? Anything you can dance to?’
Yes. Yes I have. Instead of shouting at me, try listening to the music for longer than a minute and you might be able to hear it.