Random questions posed by NHC editors and readers and answered by ecstatic DJ Michael P.
Asking Michael P.
Q. What is your pre-game routine prior to DJ-ing an ecstatic dance event? Tell us about your food choices, meditative rituals and organizing tasks.
Q. To continue with rituals, what state of mind do you try to achieve on the day of an event? Are you too busy with playlists to think about that or are you trying to centre yourself so that whatever unpredictable moments occur, good or bad, they become part of the flow?
Music and the search for new music is is a big part of my life. That means that i am committed to keeping my ears open and investigating new leads to new music as it arises. For example, as i am typing out this email, i am also listening to a set by Esmeralda on Soundcloud. If the music being played catches my ear, i have an app called shazam on my mobile which i use to identify the track and the artist.
At the end of the week, i’ll try to find the tracks through either itunes, bandcamp, juno downloads or beatport and purchase them. After purchasing the tracks, i’ll run them thru a tag editor/key analyzer called “mixed in key” and then process them thru a second application called “platinum notes”. The latter “cleans” and equalizes the volume of the track and adds a bit of warmth.
Once those tasks are completed, i’ll import them into itunes, where they are automatically sorted into various smart playlists by their musical key. If i am facilitating at a number of ecstatic dances in a three-month period, i’ll make corresponding playlists in itunes and work on all of them simultaneously. This means that as i am going thru my new music i’ll pay attention to an inner voice that will tell me which playlist it should go into and what the invitations/themes are going to be for each event. For this quarter (July to September) i am playing at Ecstatic Dance Toronto, solar rhythms and at The Move.
Closer to my gig, i’ll look at how much music there is in the playlist that i will be using. For a two-hour set, i would typically have four or five hours’ worth of music. Working on my playlist, i make sure i know how i am going to start a set and how i am going to end it. i also make sure that i have various types of music that will cover the parts of an ecstatic dance set, i.e., ambient, warm-up music, medium, fast.
Once i am happy with my track selections, i will then work on the playlist in my dj software. So that the application can access the tracks quickly during the event, i have the dj software batch-analyze the playlist. Once that is done, i’ll load each track and start setting cue points. Cue points tell the software where to jump to in the track. Putting it simply, it can either be the first downbeat or “the one” or any other point in the music that i find interesting. i also back up my playlist on my mobile just in case something happens to my computer during my gig. That way the night carries on because i can dj using my mobile device. It’s worth knowing that when i’m playing at an ecstatic dance, the four-hour playlist is being transformed into a two-hour set, depending on what i am sensing from the dancers.
I try not to rush putting together and prepping a set. But in a pinch, i can create and make ready a new playlist in about three hours. Ideally the playlist is done at least a couple of days before the event so i can rest my ears and keep it fresh. i try to get at least six or seven hours of sleep the night before. i tend to look, listen and fill in the details of an invitation/theme when i am not working on the playlists. Getting good sleep pays off on the day of the event and i am on site and i still don’t have an invitation or theme. =)
I am often nervously excited during an event. i’ve been playing at ecstatic dances close to a decade so the nervous excited energy is more manageable now. The challenge is not burning out during the day when i am working at my full-time job. i find that having a petite bouche before playing really helps keep my blood circulating while taking care of my body’s nutritional needs. A fruit smoothie or banana with peanut butter or slice of bread—but definitely coffee!
On my way to the site, i’ll start visualizing how the event is going to be and how i am going to be at the event. This usually involves banishing or ignoring or embracing my self doubts before the desired visual is achieved. While i am facilitating, i’ll be mindful of how i am breathing and i’ll moderate the speed in which i talk. Or try. Haha. i’ve gotten better at recording my sets, including the warm-up music, during the event. After the event, i’ll upload the recordings to my Google Drive, where they can be downloaded by whoever asks for it.
If i am facilitating on a Monday or Thursday, my ritual after an ecstatic dance is to be cleaned, fed and in bed before midnight, the logic being i will at least have five hours of sleep to power me for the coming work day.
I have found eight new tracks since i have started typing this out to you, the last being: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kwz2l7cDy1o
Hope this all makes sense. Wishing you a wonderful dreaming!
Feature image: Thomas Hart Benton
Inset photo: Michael prowling the turntables.