We caught up with Nichols to discuss why DJs still use vinyl, despite the limitations, and what DJs can do to get the most out of their records while playing in clubs.
Seth Nichols: I know some DJs just collect the music they like on vinyl so they can have it in their archives. I have always thought that your physical music collection is like a journal of the evolution of your tastes from the past to the present and of the music reaching your soul. Not all music played by a DJ has such a deep effect, and those fill-type tracks probably wouldn’t make it into the “DJ collector” archive.
I also believe these types of collectors enjoy having these discs handy for playing at home as well as playing locally with easy media transit. They probably wouldn’t bother bringing records on a plane for a traveling concert, and that’s a plus that the digital format offers as well. For someone like me who prefers to play vinyl at all times, I mostly collect vinyl for my sets and will always play it when I can, locally or while traveling. However, I also save my vinyl in a lossless format so that I have a skip my music player available for those times when I am not able to use turntables.
There are several reasons why I still prefer to play vinyl, despite the extra cost and shipping taxes, to digital. One being the tangible practicality associated with the imagery that I can associate with the music. It’s a little romantic, but I also like the aesthetic and the tradition of playing vinyl as well as seeing other people doing it. I respect the extra work involved in playing vinyl and the “truth” aspect of mixing records compared to digital formats which allow the use of tools such as synchronization and key matching.
Some would argue that these tools allow the DJ to focus more on other elements of the mix and not waste time worrying about matching rhythms. I agree, but I also see the value of performance in doing all of the things and popping it the same way, or even more so because the DJ is forced to be more engaged in their mixing process, which, in my opinion, can bring an added benefit to their end result.
I’m also excited about the extra margin for error in the vinyl mixing process, and that makes it more exciting to witness the process knowing just how bad things could go.
In my opinion, digital mixing is often outdated and redundant to listen to or watch because it is so perfect and produced and error free – this is where the excitement rages and is part of the performance aspect.
What are some things vinyl DJs need to watch out for when trying to spin their vinyl in a club?
A solid floor under the table is a big help, that’s for sure. There are several ways to cushion or hang tables so that they can float and are not affected by bouncing the floor or vibrations from subwoofers passing through the bottom, which can cause feedback. I have a set of rubber feet that I keep in my bag that can help with feedback issues, but hollow, bouncing ground under bridges will require more attention to be installed properly and will not affected.
If you are outdoors, it is also a good idea to pay attention to where the sun is and will be throughout the day and to keep your drives out of the sun. Heat isn’t as much of a factor as direct sunlight, which can rock a record in no time.
I actually went to a show at the Pawn Shop in Miami in 2007 and saw Richie Hawtin playing vinyl that was in the sun. While the track was playing, there was a wedge of sunlight hitting the record, and by the time the record was finished the needle was jumping off the record, it had become so wavy. It was quite the scene, and everyone was getting up to help rotate the shadow line to bring the stage back into the shadows.
There is a bunch of them, but from the start, I always liked the sets of Poten, Sean Michaels, Cartoon bull, StÃ©phane B, Jonah Brotman and AndrÃ© Orcutt. There are many more that I can see coming up in this arena soon.