“Know your sh*t!”: DJ Cable Shares Advice for Aspiring Artists
Get acquainted with all types of DJ tech and platforms, always take back up media, be yourself and don’t be a social media sheep
Multiple DMC winner, 1Xtra broadcaster and longstanding touring selector, Cable has a lot of insight to share. From his schooling entrenched in DMC VHS tape studies to his current dominance as a club DJ known for all shades of hip hop, grime and all beats in between, over the years Cable has seen it all. He’s operated on his fair share of high-tech, fine-tuned booths but he’s had to deal with some pretty shoddy set-ups, too. Either way, he always gives the dancefloor what they need.
We called him up to find out how we can learn from his experiences…
Let’s kick off with DJ nightmares. Those moments when you turn up and the set-up just isn’t working at all.
So many clubs have pushed turntables to the side. They’re not serviced, they’re gathering dust and just cup holders in the DJ booth. The cables might not be working properly, the needle is shit, all these elements for interference. I had a gig one time where the turntables weren’t working and they didn’t have CD players there so I had to an hour’s set working from internal mode in Serato which was interesting. I just looked like I was checking my email for an hour.
You need to be prepared for every scenario
Stress! You can’t blame your tools, can you? That doesn’t wash with the crowd…
That was a corporate thing luckily enough, I was just in the corner and no one really noticed but it wasn’t a pleasant gig. I think the best advice I can give to any DJ is that you need to be prepared for every scenario. The equipment isn’t always going to be exactly what you want. The mixer or the decks might have a compatibility problem or you’re unfamiliar with the controller. That’s something I can’t stress enough actually; be familiar with as many platforms and technologies as possible. Know how to use different controllers and decks and mixers.
Great point. Just a basic knowledge so you can jump in and play straight away
Yeah that’s the thing. You don’t have to own one, just watch some tutorials or test one in a shop or borrow a friend’s one. They all follow a similar logic so if you know how to use one you’ll be comfortable using a different one. But I’ve turned up one time and the phono cables have been nicked. Or the decks aren’t working at all so I’ve got my laptop out of the car. You can’t risk just taking your USB keys.
It seems like tech has caught up with what turntablists want though. Especially with the motorised platters.
It’s very exciting. Rane have got the Twelve player which is amazing and suited to any conditions. The same for the Prime series and the SC5000. The response is sick, it’s just like a vinyl turntable and it does open out to a lot more creativity. I’m really excited by what Phase are doing with their controllers you can use on turntables, too.
I think in the UK we lost our way with turntablism
Let’s go back to your earliest turntablism schooling…
There was no YouTube and only a few forums so just watching the DMC videos at half-speed and work out what they were doing. Then you’d try and go and recreate that. It was an exciting time. Fun but also quite stressful. You have one slight f*ck up on the night and that’s it, you’re done until next year. Very high pressure, but it’s really good for discipline and being able to bring that into a club environment helps.
Having the battle technique in the vocabulary but being able to smash it…
Definitely. It helps you put your set together and structure it. Having DMC skills and bringing them in to the set makes it more interesting. I think in the UK we lost our way with turntablism. Only recently with the rising popularity with 3Style has it picked up again and inspired people to learn the more technical side of things.
With longer routines, 3Style tournaments have added more of a party or at least a narrative aspect to the performance…
Definitely. DMC is a very intense experience and so technical, which is amazing. But 3Style is more of a perfect representation of what a club set could be. Great selection and some real ‘wow’ moments along the way.
What was your personal battle-to-club switch?
Doing guestmixes on radio stations and doing mixtapes online. Then a friend CJ Beats got a show on 1Xtra and started bringing DJs through for guestmixes and, off the back of that, I was had more broadcasting opportunities. That and being active, utilising SoundCloud and Mixcloud. Social media has played a massive role for DJs. It’s really obvious advice, but for anyone looking to not necessarily get gigs but build a fanbase then paying attention to your socials and doing them right is a massive help.
There’s some big ‘no-no’s on social media though. Do it badly and it’s just cringe…
Yes. One trend I’ve seen is when a DJ does a photoshoot and then they’ll put some Drake lyrics like ‘God’s plan’ in the text.
Sometimes I just want to go off the grid and concentrate on putting music out
Or some type of motivational slogan, right?
Yeah, ‘live your dreams’ or ‘follow you goal’. It’s great to inspire people but you look like a sports model. You might as well be selling F.I.T.T while you’re at it. Everyone is hustling though, everyone is working out how to use social media and how they can make it work for them. Some artists and actors and models do the motivational thing well and it works for them. Everyone is different. A lot of DJs are posting videos of playing a well known tune and cutting it out for the crowd to singalong. I’ve got a running gag on my Instagram where I do it every week and take the piss out of everyone. The best advice is to be yourself. If you’re geeky show it. If you love trainers then show that and you’ll get more interaction than standing there looking pretty in a photoshoot.
Showing enough of your own personality so people feel they get you…
You are your ‘brand’, right? I hate using the word, and I know it sounds cheesy, but people like to relate to you and get an insight into your daily life. It’s a very voyeuristic society so you have to play to that a little I think. Although sometimes I just want to go off the grid and concentrate on putting music out and making music. But you’ve got to play the game.
But also make sure you have enough time to be an artist. Self-promo has been important since DJing began but being a 24/7 media savvy content creator wasn’t on the list when a lot of us started a few years back
Definitely, a lot more was done in real life, face to face, and I think it’s still the best way. Going out and meeting people, having that human interaction. That’s crucial advice to end on: Don’t get caught up with as many likes and follows as possible. Yes, they hold weight and promoters do look at them, but it’s not what will make or break you in the long run…
What’s most important is that you smash the dance!
Exactly. You can be the most popular person on Instagram. But if you’re whack you won’t last that long. But if you’re a great DJ who really does smash it every time, regardless of social media, there’ll always be work for you.