A Practical Interview With a Prominent DJ (5th in a Series): Miss Shelrawka
by Dave Segal
on Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 3:16 PM
Earlier this year, we were thinking about running a feature called DJ Survival Guide. I interviewed several Seattle disc jockeys for the piece and accumulated thousands of words of wisdom re: the selecting, mixing, and playing of music for other people’s pleasure, but the thing never achieved publication. So I’m going to post those interviews on Line Out, because there’s enough solid advice to help a lot of aspiring jocks… and because the replies are interesting in and of themselves. This week’s installment is with Miss Shelrawka, who represents the o:BASS:ity crew. One of Seattle’s finest purveyors of deep, minimal tech-house, Shelrawka next performs at KRAKT Fri. Oct. 5 at Electric Tea Garden. Check out her Plasmodium podcast here and follow her on Twitter here.
The Stranger: How many hours a week do you practice/prepare? Miss Shelrawka: It depends. There are times I practice 1-2 hours, 3-4 times a week. If I am getting a set ready for a gig, I normally will work 2 hours every other day to give myself time soak in what I am trying to convey.`
What’s your DJing format of choice and why? I prefer the analog sound of vinyl, but since it's too expensive for lots of producers to press I will mix it up with digital vinyl controlling with Traktor (.wav and MP3s).
What are your recommendations for headphones, needles, turntables, CDJs, DJ-oriented software programs? Technics 1200 MK2 turntables (although very hard to get unless someone is giving them up), needles-Technic cartridges and normally use Ortofon needles on them. Headphones- UltraSone DJ1 Pro S-logics. I prefer Traktor for software programs; it’s not as user-friendly as Serato, but you have more options and flexibility in it.
Where are the best places to obtain music, both in brick-and-mortar shops and online? Will name a handful as there are many. These are some of my top places:
Dope Jams (Brooklyn NY), Clinton Street Records you find some gems (Portland), Juno Records in the UK (for vinyl), Vinyl Dreams. Online: zero inch, satellite records, Downtown 304, XLR8R, Beatport, whatpeopleplay.
What are the most effective methods for procuring gigs?
Being from NYC, this is something I'm still struggling with here. I'm used to promoters of ether events or clubs seeking out talent and wanting to showcase them. What I have found to be the most effective here is to attend the events you want to play. Get to know the crews and the crowds. Going to venues and dropping off a press kit and a mix I have found to be the least effective.
In a hyper-competitive field, how do you set yourself apart from other DJs? I like to create a journey by combining the melodies of all kinds genres. I like to warm up the dance floor by well-delivered tracks rather than stale anthems. I actively promote events I play. I've only seen DJs around here to invite to an Facebook event, but not go out of their way to flyer or help poster. Most of the time I ask the event's promoter to leave extra flyers at Platinum Records so I can pick them up if we can't find a mutual time to meet. I also enjoy going out to hear other DJs and watch the crowds to see what works for that venue, myself, and those listening/dancing.
What have you found to be the most efficient ways to fill the dance floor (with dancers, to be specific ;)? It's hard to be specific because of so many variables; you have to watch the crowd for what's working and what's not. I would say stay true to the event's crowd while bringing your own flavor, because you want to keep it bumpin'!
Is beat-matching absolutely essential for a DJ? I believe it is essential in order to be a DJ you should know how to beat match. There are times when technical difficulties occur and you may not get the track lined up in time before the other track is about to end—it does happen. That does not mean every song is completely played in its entirety, however; fading is a good option. [If you're trainwrecking] track after track, I would not consider [you not] to be a DJ who is ready.
How do you deal with requests? It depends on what type of event I am doing. I have been asked to play Dolly Parton or something tropical (I kid you not) while playing a large party and I only had vinyl so my options were very limited and I politely let them know this. Most of the time I do not take requests, and if asked multiple times, I put a sign up :)
How effective do you think flyering is? Hand-to-hand promotions are much more efficient as you actually get to connect with people. Putting up posters work to a degree, but you have to go out and reposter multiple times as they get covered by others. Sometimes putting flyers in very high traffic locations by people can be beneficial, but [I often] overlook the flyers.
What have you found to be the most beneficial ways to promote your gigs? It’s hard to say. Sometimes one way you promote works that week or that month and other times it doesn't work. You have to cover all the bases: Hand-to-hand flyers, posters, online forums like NWTekno, and social sites like twitter and Facebook. If you're lucky, the venue will promote the night, as well and that's when it really works! I think it also matters who you bring in for that event. Meaning larger names or well-known local people; people will come out more.
If you have an overarching philosophy about DJing, please discuss it. Play to the time slot you were booked for and don't play like you're the headliner if you're not. And for the love of all that is good, keep the levels on the mixer out of the red. Know the difference between gain and volume.