Casie Lane, a Singapore based DJane and owner of The DJPreneur read my "Traktor, Thailand and CDJs" post and asked me for a video interview on the topic. We had a great time chatting about that holiday trip of mine and also covered a few topics like 'DJing on vacation' and 'Mixing in Key'. Here is the full transcription of the Interview with Casie Lane - enjoy.
Casie: Today with Deejaypreneur. I’m Casie Lane here and I have an amazing, amazing story to share with you, with a DJ DanoEF. He is the creator of the Traktor DJ course. I don’t want to say anything because I know that he can explain himself, and what he’s doing much better than I can. So welcome Dano.
Dano: Hi Casie. I’m very excited to be here. Thank you for having me. Yeah what’s behind it? Maybe I just start with my little DJ story.
I was always fascinated with music. I was playing piano as a kid and electronics at the same time. So technology and music, and arts that was always there. The passions I was about. Age 15 I created my own synthesizer. I was very much into electronics, DIY stuff and finding out how to make things work. I was really this kind of nerd, sitting at home finding out how to make the circuits work. At the same time I was into music. So it was always between these two passions, design came later. But that’s how it all started. After school I went to study Jazz. I learned the saxophone and piano at a Jazz school in Munich. After the jazz school I started learning how to sound engineer, so I joined a PA company in Munich and went for all these big concerts. Once I even did a monitor mix for Prince.
Casie: What! What! That’s amazing.
Hey we need a mixer urgently because Prince is doing an after gig show
Dano: Yeah I just came back from a gig actually, and there was this guy calling. He said, hey we need a mixer urgently because Prince is doing an after gig show, and we need a monitor mixer. And I was around so I said yes I’ll do the job. So I remember going there and building the stage for him, and carrying this 200kg B3 organ on stage.
Casie: Oh my God.
Dano: Because he needed to have that. So we were all waiting for him to appear. He was playing at an open air festival in Munich, and we were expecting him after the show which was around 2am. I remember all these false alarms like, "he’s coming now". Everybody was rushing and buzzing, and then "no, no he’s not coming". 15 minutes later, "he’s coming, he’s coming". Everybody was very excited but eventually Prince showed up, played a show from 3am-4am and after that show he was still sitting there, on the flight case and dangeling his legs like "what are we going to do next?". I remember thinking 'wow, what kind of being is this?'. He’s just out of this world.
Yeah so that was an exciting time. And at the same time, I was buying records. I bought my Technics 1210s, deejaying at home and doing my best to get into the groove of things. Then one day we were equipping a new club in Munich, and we were talking about the PA system. What to put where and how to equip the place. So I asked the owner: "what about the DJ’s?" and he said they had none yet. So I introduced myself and asked if I could play. "Okay you can come tomorrow and we do a test run" he replied. So I came by I played my best Acid Jazz records, a bit of house and some drum and bass, and they like it. So that was my first DJ gig actually in 1994.
Casie: I love that. How you just saw this opportunity and just like took it.
Dano: Yeah it just happened like that.
Casie: And you’re like created this opportunity for yourself. Very cool.
Dano: Oh yeah this is something I talk about in my, "How to get DJ Gigs" post. It’s mostly about going out and connecting to people. There is not really a 'digital way' I think. Sometimes it works out, but I think this whole social media and what not you do on the web is always just a backup and support and give you more credibility. At the end of the day you have to talk to people. You have to go and introduce yourself and deal with rejection. They say you need to get into people’s face seven times before they remember you. Before they’re ready to work with you.
Casie: Very cool. So let’s fast forward. Right now you are in Malaysia; you’re a neighbor of mine. So that’s cool. Did you come from Germany right over to Malaysia, how did that form?
Dano: Yeah it was in 2009 I think I came here for the first time, for a wedding. At that time I was self-employed working from home and quite independent. I was a bit bored with Munich, especially with the weather in Germany. It kind of ticked me off. So I was looking for a new environment, and I came here and I really like it. I liked the warmth, I like the people. I was able to ride my bike all through the year, which to me is a biggie. I was riding my bike for one year without a number plate, and I didn’t get into any trouble. That was another experience I thought "wow I love this country". Try this in Germany for 10 minutes and you’d be in jail.
I enjoyed the freedom here, the opportunities. Of course after a short while I also started checking for gigs. That was another challenge to come to a completely new city and find myself gigs. I was also writing about how I did this, it’s actually covered in the post of mine. But basically the same strategy to just go out, to get a list of clubs. I just literally walked up to almost every single one of them, and introduced myself and gave them a demo CD. Eventually I think 3 weeks later I had a residency.
Casie: Oh wow that’s actually a really fast process. I want to share with the audience a little bit, how I found you. I was actually trying to find other articles on like landing DJ gigs, and I fell upon your YouTube. Where you were talking about getting a residency on a vacation, and I think this is a really interesting story because I would love to do that. And I think there is so many opportunities out there. So can you tell us about this story, and about how all this came about?
Dano: I was really surprised myself. I went to Ko Lipeh for a vacation. Ko Lipeh is a small very, very beautiful island in Thailand. It’s the nearest island from here. So I went there just to spend a week or so, just to do nothing. But I did bring my laptop, because I’m a bit email addicted.
I walked into a bar where I saw a DJ set – CDJ’s – so obviously something is happening there, so I talked to a guy behind the bar. "Is someone playing here?" I asked. "Well yeah, sometimes" he said. Turns out he is the bar owner and he’s kind of a DJ himself. So I asked: what’s happening, who’s playing, do you book DJ’s, you play yourself? He’s playing himself, he said and asked if I was a DJ. I said yeah I am. "You want to play?" he asked. It’s kind of a no brainer, but at the same I’m thinking 'come on, I’m not here for work. I just came to relax'. But of course playing is always fun. So I said yeah let’s do it. Then I had to figure out how to connect my laptop with Traktor Pro to the CDJs. And that’s also something I covered in the article, because I thought that's something I would have liked to know before I went.
Casie: Right, right.
Dano: Because it turned out to be quite an adventure. We tried so many ways, because he had this interface but I didn’t have traktor scratch. I only had to traktor pro, so I couldn’t use the time code connection. But eventually we found a way to make it work.
Casie: How long did it take you to actually hook everything up, and figure out the correct mapping for this?
Dano: Well after I followed the right path trying to create the mapping for CDJ’s, it took like 2 hours or so. But before we were trying to hook up my traktor with his time code interface, and that didn’t work at all. So we tried to download Traktor Scratch for me. The download took like 5 hours and it didn’t work in the end. Like always when you know how to do it, it’s very easy. So now it takes me like 5 minutes to get everything up and running. And that’s what I like to share with the people who care, that’s why I just write these articles to make life easier for other guys and girls who might be in the same situation. Like you maybe, you said you want to try the same strategy.
Casie: Definitely. So let’s break this down into steps for everybody. So if this was something that we wanted to do when we go on a holiday, to some really cool place in paradise. Your first step actually would be to go to that post and learn how to do it, and learn how to set it up.
Dano: Yeah I would definitely recommend to read this post.
Casie: And everybody to check out how to do that mapping. You never know what you’re going to be stepping into.
Dano: Yeah. There are a few steps involved, so it’s easy to get confused if you miss one out. Like if you don’t change the MIDI channel on the second CDJ it’s not going to work. So you have to know a few things. If you actually plan to go on a holiday and play, first of all I would recommend to get your stuff on a pen drive. That’s obviously the easiest way. And use record box and record buddy to get your cue points. But I still really like the convenience of having a big screen and using Traktor which is my favourite DJ tool. So if you bring your laptop – just bring 2 USB cables and that’s going to do the job.
Casie: Excellent. I love all the tips that you’re giving me and the rest of this community. I really think there’s like something special here. So you’re on to something. I really want to like dig into a little bit of what you’re doing with your Traktor DJ Course. For me as a DJ, I only use USB. I do have Traktor and I do use a controller when I do special events, but I’m not master at it. I see tons of reference on your site about mixing in key. So can you explain a little bit more about why that’s important, and what it means for that next stages of DJing? Because honestly I want to have my sound have that edge, and I think a lot of people do.
Dano: Yes I think so too. I think it’s a very important asset that we have today, which we didn’t have 15 years ago. I mean 15 years ago yes by chance, you could find 2 tracks which would be in the same key and in the same tempo. That’s what you needed back in the days to actually mix in key. But digital technology has opened this opportunity which I really value very highly. It’s one of the things I enjoy most in Traktor, also because I have this musical background. And to me not mixing in key is like disrespecting the harmonic part of the track, which to me is as important as the rhythm. So to me sometimes when people completely ignore the key of a track, it’s like not doing your beat matching properly. A track has rhythm and it has harmonics. These 2 components are to me equally important. When you mixing key, the possibilities for your mix and your blend over become so much bigger. You create remixes actually on the fly, and you don’t have to rush into the next track before the main part starts and the melody starts to clash. You can actually make them play along together, and something completely new comes out of that. To me this is like what I enjoy the most. In my course I deliver one key component I think is very important for mixing key: to be able to key shift.
The first step is to know what a key is. The second step is to detect your track key, so you have to know which track is in which key. The third step is to know which keys match, which is basically following the circle of fifths. And the fourth step is to use key shifting. If you use your tracks as they are, of course your selection becomes very narrow.
Dano: Out of 12 keys which we have, theoretically only 2 of them match. So only 16% of all your tracks will be actually available for your next mix. That’s why many DJ just drop this whole thing and say: "Come on, if I’m mixing key I only have like 2 choices to mix from this track which limits my options quite a bit". But if you use 'key shifting' and the key shifting map which I created (and I offer for download), you can shift your tracks by one semitone up and down using your controller. This way your options to mix from one track to the next one triples, because you can adjust the next track by one semitone, up or down.
I actually wrote a letter to Native Instruments about how the existing interfacing and controller do not support mixing key really. Because you just have this tiny knob on screen. With your mouse you can click and change the key by 10% which is not practical at all because you never want to change your pitch by 10%, you want to change it in semitone steps.
So I created a mapping for my S2 controller which allows me to shift the key by one semitone up and down. It's essential to me in order to make mixing in key work live. To share this feature is one of the reasons why I created the DJ course.
Casie: That’s really great. So just before we stop here, I do want to get your opinion. I know this question might be a little bit difficult to answer. But what do you see or what would you like to see in the next few years, with either digital deejaying or deejaying and beyond?
Dano: I would like to see more broadcasting I think. I would like to be able to just dial into DJ’s playing wherever on the planet, and listen to them playing live right now. This technology already exists, but is not being used so much. Listen to other DJ’s play wherever they are, and also broadcast my own stuff at the same time. I think that would be something interesting, and connecting more. To make more international connections of like-minded music lovers.
Casie: I love that. I hope that with the Traktor DJ Course and with the Deejaypreneur, we can help create that community along with other people that are doing some really cool things online. So tell these people where they can find you, if they want to stalk you online. Or if they want to come over and check out what you’re doing, over there at the Traktor DJ course. Let us all have it.
Dano: Yes sure. The website is traktordjcourse.com. There’s a Facebook page also, a YouTube channel and SoundCloud.
Casie: Excellent. Well thank you so much. I really appreciate these stories, and these tips. I’m excited to get into the Traktor DJ Course myself, because I know it can really help expand in my services, in the gigs that I get. So on behalf of all the deejapreneurs out there, thank you so much Dano.
Dano: You’re very welcome. Thank you for having me, it was a great pleasure.