How I Put Together a DJ Set Pt. 1: When Spotify Comes in Handy

This week, I’m documenting how I put together a DJ set for Underground. Even though my sets are, ultimately, spontaneous, I try to spend a little time every day working on them. We’ll see how it all works out on Friday night. RSVP for Underground’s Siouxsie and the Banshees vs. Yeah Yeah Yeahs night on Facebook.

Sunday night, I found out that this week’s theme at Underground is Siouxsie and the Banshees vs. Yeah Yeah Yeahs. My first mission, then, was to figure out which songs from those two bands I want in my crate. Yeah Yeah Yeahs doesn’t have a massive catalog, so I can bring whatever I have with me. The Banshees, on the other hand, have a couple decades of albums– all of which I have– and many singles. I own a few of those too. The challenge is narrowing down the picks for the party.

My first gigs were at goth clubs. Back in college, I spun regularly at Coven 13, a spooky party so massive that Siouxsie and Budgie played there as The Creatures.  You would think that might make Siouxsie and the Banshees easy terrain for me to cover. It doesn’t.

Spinning at a goth club is different from any other scene simply because of the way people dance. Goths usually go for the slow, serpentine beats. They spin and dip and do all sorts of dramatic moves on the dance floor. There are plenty of Siouxsie and the Banshees songs that fit this style of dancing. Also, when you’re playing at a goth club, you can make a very safe assumption that most of the people there are intimately familiar with the band’s output. You can dig a lot deeper, play B-sides and such, then you can anywhere else.

At Underground, people bounce, bob their heads and do other things that probably aren’t very goth. There’s also a good chance that we won’t get the amount of hardcore Siouxsie fans that show up at goth clubs. With that in mind, I have to make sure that I pick out songs that have a relatively conventional beat and are kind of familiar.

There are songs that will automatically go into the crate, stuff like “Peek-A-Boo,” “Cities in Dust,” “Spellbound,” and “Christine.” There is also a lot of stuff that I know I won’t pack: Songs I can’t bring myself to play, like most of Superstition; songs that I love, but am convinced will sound horrible in a club, like “Icon”; and songs that I think would sound great, but know will clear the floor, like “Stargazer.”

The easiest way to sift through music is to use Spotify, as it doesn’t require flipping through ten shelves and five crates of vinyl. Also, I tend to multitask, so listening to Spotify while I’m working on a deadline helps get two jobs done at once.

I started to go through the Banshees’ Spotify selection album by album with the intent of listening to everything. As it turns out, I still have all those albums memorized from my days as a teenage Siouxsie fanatic.

Instead, I clicked through the songs that might work. Maybe “Red Light,” the goth club staple, if I play early. “Dazzle,” which is my favorite Banshees song, could end up working quite well later in the night. It has the dance beat.

Ooh, but I think I might really want to play “Slowdive.” Will people know that? Will they want to dance to it? It has a killer groove. And, don’t the strings make you want to freak out on the dance floor? Decision made, this is going in the crate.

And then there are side projects. Should I bring The Creatures? At the very least, maybe I could play “Right Now.” How about The Glove? I’ve actually been wanting to play them at Underground for a while but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

There are so many songs that I want to play, but whether or not I will play them is another story.

To be continued.

 For more on my club work, see my DJ bio.

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