The Culture: 5 Mag interviews with DJs on DJing – the culture, the craft, the technique, style and importance of the art of DJing. Often with an exclusive mix.
I’ve always had an intense veneration for the original DJs and producers stemming from New York. Not only because of the breadth of their musical knowledge, but also by the fact that they refuse to trend-spot, staying true to their signature sounds.
Benji Candelario is a veteran of the New York clubbing scene, an OG that has graced the decks of almost every major club imaginable, including residencies at Studio 54 and Ministry in London. He’s had numerous productions since the mid-’90s, releasing on iconic labels such as Nervous, King Street and Dope Wax and within the next few months he’ll be putting out more music on Nervous Records.
Here we ask Benji about his art to approaching the turntables, and how much things have evolved since he began. He also gave us one hell of an exclusive mix to jam to.
Your bio is quite astounding with all the big artists you have worked with so early on. How did this type of exposure inform your music working with more underground elements?
My true passion has always been the gritty – the bass-pounding, sweat-pouring, drum-banging type of tune. But my inspiration has come from all sorts of genres and cultures. So having worked with so many different artists has given me the perspective and experience to understand what a good production consists of. When I approach a project I always tend to overproduce it, so that I can then scale it down to what I’m really looking for. I have parts that most underground productions won’t have.
I try to search for tunes that will have longevity in my sets, tunes that will inspire other DJs to want or need… I feel that as DJs, our goal is to expand others’ minds musically.
Does a good DJ mixtape differ from a good DJ set at a club or festival?
Yes I strongly believe that there’s a different approach when doing mix shows or mixtapes than when playing a live set. When you’re playing live, you’re thriving off your dancefloor, experiencing the connection with it and knowing when and where to take it. When creating a mix show you need to keep your listeners’ attention by consistently keeping your show moving… Your programming and selections need to be seamless to the point where your listeners are captured and on a journey. Unlike on a live set, you can tell how long you can play a tune before you start losing your floor. With mix shows you need to anticipate what your listeners are feeling and make sure that your next selections will take them even higher.
Let’s talk about the format and the tools you use. What sort of turntables or gear are you most comfortable with? If you have a rider, what’s on it? And if you don’t, what would your rider say as far as mixer, etc.?
So when I started playing I played vinyl and at that time my rider was 3 Technics 1200 mk2s and my mixer of choice has always been the Urei 1620. I have always felt I have more control with rotary mixers than sliders. The setup was the 3 Technics 1200s side by side with the mixer in the middle in front of them. Today my rider is 3 Pioneer CDJ2000 Nexus2s and though I would still prefer the Urei 1620 I have conformed to the Pioneer mixer DJM-900 Nexus2. And always a huge must: left and right booth monitors with their own separate volume control.
Listen: Benji Candelario – A 5 Mag Mix 79
How do you find new music? Are you constantly digging through your old records? What’s the method to your song selection?
I’m constantly looking for tunes everywhere possible. I visit weekly sites like Traxsource and Beatport. I go on other DJs’ charts and listen to weekly radio shows. It’s a process but exciting at the same time.
I’m really selective on what I buy or play though. I’m always driven to drums and bassline grooves, especially if they have a good song in them. But I’m also very experimental and will look for tunes that may have some uniqueness that makes them stand out from what’s being played at the moment.
I may also find a tune which I only like one section of it. I will either play it from that point only or I will do my own edit to it. I try to search for tunes that will have longevity in my sets, tunes that will inspire other DJs to want or need….
I feel that we as DJs – our goal is to expand others minds musically.
I’m curious to know the connections between making music and playing music for you.
The funny thing is that making music was never in my foresight. It was just something that happened as so many others DJs were transitioning to it at the time. My goal was to be a mix show DJ, getting my own show on a Friday night at one of the popular New York stations that played underground music.
But I think that once my DJing started being recognized I started participating right away in the studio. At first it was editing records, and then slowly making the transition to producing with the help of my longtime friend Aldo Marin.
I think DJing has always been a big influence on the tunes I have produced. Though I’m notorious for never playing any of my own productions, I believe that the backbone to my productions have been the experiences I’ve gotten from DJing.
Do you think the best days of DJing are ahead or behind us? Do you think the culture will survive technology & popularization, and has the latter made DJing better or worse?
Whoa that seems like a loaded question! I believe that like everything that becomes popular DJing will eventually have its downfall. But in saying that I feel it will then return back to its true art form.
Now as for the better days being behind us or ahead… My answer will always be biased. In my eyes DJing was about sharing your musical experience with others and making them dance. But I can’t overlook the fact that today and with the technology available the art form that I once knew has soared to levels no one would have imagined it to be.
Some say technology has hurt DJing. But I don’t feel that’s true. What has hurt it are people embracing the technology and not understanding the culture behind it. DJing is about expression and sharing, but most of all it’s uniting people in dance. So once the popularization of it falls and the smoke settles, DJing will return back to the true believers.