I have a confession to make. It’s not something I’m proud of. Indeed, I regard this part of myself as the worst part, the manifestation of some flaw in my psyche that compels me to dark ends. I’ve never before written these words, much less spoken them out loud, but the time has come to face my demons and perhaps, by dragging them into the harsh relief of the public eye, cast them out. So I’ll say it: I’m the guy who likes to DJ at parties.
And not just at parties. In any context where there’s music and a group of people, I will attempt to control that music and thus impose my taste—and my mood—on the crowd. I do this at my house when friends are over. I do it tailgating at football games, my playlist blasting from my car. I do it at bars that have those internet jukeboxes where you can pay extra to send your music to the top of the queue. I even did it at my own wedding, which had a live band. My request to ditch the “Mustang Sally”-era wedding staples and modernize the playlist ultimately backfired when the venue manager told us we were out of time just as the band finished playing Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade,” thus ending the night on a decidedly agro note.
Now, I should clarify that when I say I like to DJ, I simply mean that I enjoy forcing others to listen to whatever music I feel like listening to, such that bar patrons end up shooting pool to Tenacious D’s “F—k Her Gently” (yes, this is a real example of a situation I created a few weeks ago). I don’t know how to blend one song into another, or drop samples, or wear a big mascot head that obscures my identity while I spin EDM for 2,000 club kids rolling on Molly in an abandoned missile silo outside Berlin. I mean, I would love to do that. I just have no idea how. I only know that one of my college roommates was a DJ and his headphones were held together with duct tape because he kept throwing them across the room and smashing them in fugues of frustration.
So I recently decided to see whether I have any actual DJ talent, by which I mean going beyond just pressing play and then feeling superior when my fellow old white people don’t know who Lil Yachty is. So I downloaded Djay Pro 2, which is apparently the hot program for aspiring Armand van Heldens. It cost $50, but I defended my frivolous purchase the way I do many other whimsical items that incur spousal skepticism: I said it’s for the kids. This wasn’t even a total lie, as our 8-year-old recently expressed an interest in DJing after watching Marshmello perform a virtual concert in Fortnite. You know, when they remake Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Beethoven is going to be more confused than ever.
My kid initially told me he wanted to name himself DJ Critical, and I told him that was a pretty dope DJ name. But then St. Patrick’s Day rolled around and he informed me he preferred the name DJ Leprechaun, but I wasn’t having it. You can’t have a seasonal DJ name! And if you did, you’d want it to be something cool like DJ Krampus, which is both scary and relevant from at least mid-October through Christmas. But DJ Leprechaun would get booked one day a year in Southie and have to deal with dudes yelling, “Play some Dropkick!” before vomiting all over his laptop.
Anyway, before choosing DJ names, I figured I should dive into Djay Pro 2 and master my tools. I was so confident in my abilities that I skipped right over the tutorials for lame baby stuff like mixing one song smoothly into another. I wanted to go straight to making mashups, the hottest musical genre of 2008. Look out, DJ Girl Talk! You’re not the only one who can play two songs of different genres simultaneously. True story: I send myself emails when I get mashup ideas, so my inbox includes messages like, “Simple Minds ‘Alive and Kicking’ and Biggie ‘Hypnotize.’ ” I told you I’m insufferable.
It turns out I’m also inept. The controls for Djay Pro 2 look like the flight deck of an Airbus A380—but more complicated. You can have up to four songs in a queue, and then you can loop parts of any one of them, or drop samples, or change the speed or pitch or volume level, and you have to understand terms like measures and bars, and anyway if I had headphones I would’ve destroyed them by now. My wife’s patience is also exhausted because of her status as an involuntary audience for the Zero-Skill DJ Crew. Please give a warm welcome to DJ Seven-Year-Old, who will now drop air horn effects over “Whoomp! (There It Is)” for the next hour. It’s the soundtrack to your nightmares.
But I’m going to keep at it, because if my mania for musical control won’t abate, I can at least add some artistry. Hey, who wants to hear some 21 Savage over “Downeaster ‘Alexa’ ”? Well, too bad. DJ Krampus doesn’t take requests. ◆
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