Name: Beth Lydi
Occupation: DJ, producer, label owner at SNOE
Current release: For Burnheart Remixed, violinist and composer Johanna Burnheart has asked some of her favourite electronic artists to rework select pieces off her self-titled 2020 full-length. Beth Lydi is one of them. The EP, which also includes contributions by Acid Pauli, Nesa Azadikhah, and Pilo Adami, is out November 19th 2021.
[Read our Johanna Burnheart interview]
[Read our Acid Pauli interview]
[Read our Nesa Azadikhah interview]
If these thoughts by Beth Lydi piqued your interest, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
Tell me about your first DJ gigs, please. How did you approach them and how do you look back on them with hindsight?
Ah yes, the first shows. In the very beginning I was actually planning my sets. I made tracklists for the shows as I felt so unsure about everything. Getting up on stage stressed me, finding my way with the technology in the dark stressed me, the chance of fucking up stressed me. So I was really in no mood to try to be experimental. But as the experience and confidence grew I started valuing the spontaneous playing more and more, and today everything is just a beautiful and spontaneous mess. (laughs)
I think every set is still a learning experience, I often listen back a couple of days after my sets to hear through what I did. The other day I was listening back to some really old sets and was quite surprised how much better I have become. It is a steady process that you don’t notice that much, not something that happens over night.
What were some of the artists, technologies and clubs/events that changed your perspective on what DJing could be?
I think the first technology that really blew me away was Traktor.
After starting out with vinyl I was introduced to Traktor and the Faderfox controllers which were mind blowing. Just the opportunity to loop and beat jump was amazing and allowed more flexibility in DJing for me. However, at some point the constant setting up of the whole shebang got annoying. You feel kind of always in the way and it takes up a lot of space in your bag.
We decided to buy some XDJs for the studio to see what these things could do. And of course that was very practical. I fell in love with them instantly. Now you just need headphones and a USB stick when you travel. I think the development of CDJs has been amazing, and they now give you the same if not more flexibility and accuracy with their features.
How would you personally rate the potential for expressing yourself with DJing compared to producing? What can be expressed through these two different disciplines?
With DJing you are part of something bigger happening right then and there, when you produce you sit alone in the studio thinking what you do is amazing - or not. (laughs) But you don’t really know until you have played it out.
DJing and producing are different ways of expressing oneself, and I think that is ok. A producer does not necessarily have to be a DJ, just as a DJ doesn’t have to be a producer. This is a myth that unfortunately puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on artists who actually just want to DJ.
DJing has always – at least partially – been about presenting exciting music. In a club, however, people are dancing and in a community with other guests while they're listening rather than sitting at home or listening on earbuds while travelling. How does this change our perception of the music, do you feel? What makes the club experience unique?
Oh, this is exactly what I love about DJing. Because you are part of the group. You are part of what is happening on the dancefloor. And together with the people you decide the journey you all go on. I think this is the true high for a DJ, the exchange of energy and vibing together.
You go on a trip with everyone in the room, and you get to play the music you love for them, hopefully showing them something new that they didn’t know they loved yet.
Can you tell me a bit about how your work as a DJ has influenced your view of music, your way of listening and perhaps also, if applicable, your work as a producer?
DJing influences my work as a producer a lot. It is the best way to test new tracks. You immediately feel if something is out of place or missing when playing it for a crowd, and then you can go back and make changes.
What role does digging for music still play for your work as a DJ? Tell me a bit about where and how you're looking for music that excites you and music that will work in a set?
It is a love hate relationship. (laughs) It feels like you always have to listen to a ton of crap (not necessarily crap, just music that is not right for you), before finding the gems. And you never know what you will like. It is not like you can just go to one genre on Beatport and skip through the new releases, because the good stuff is always spread out. One nice track here, one nice track there.
It takes a lot of effort to find new, good music. I usually look at Beatport and my Inflyte promo pool.
I've always wondered: How is it possible for DJs to memorise so many tracks? How do you store tracks in your mind – traditionally as grooves + melodies + harmonies or as colours, energy levels, shapes?
Ah, this is indeed difficult and this is where a good sorted playlist comes into play. I try to sort my playlists after groove or energy level, but to be honest it is always a bit difficult to keep the overview. Every now and then I have this “oh, this track would fit perfectly, it goes like dum dum diddum, but damn, WHAT was the name or artist behind this track”, and then I search and search and don’t find it. Very annoying moments. Then you have to be quick to find a good plan B. (laughs)
But I also like this way of working, because on your way looking for one track you see another where you are like “oh true, this one will work even better, yay”. Don’t know if this even makes sense or I just have a terribly chaotic way of DJing. (laughs)
Let's say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like, from selecting the material and preparing for and opening a set?
I always try to find some new songs to add to my selection but besides that I don’t really prepare too much. If I play an opening set I know I have some very nice smooth opening tracks I can choose from when I am there, and then I will continue and see what I feel like playing next from my warm-up folder until there is enough energy to move over to the main folder or the next DJ takes over.
It is rare that I open a floor with a banger you know, when opening a floor I feel it is a very important job to dynamically build up the energy. When taking over from another DJ it is a different story though. Then there is just a whole lot of other considerations.
How does the decision making process work during a gig? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
I think I usually plan between 2-4 tracks ahead. The decision making process goes something like “Oh yes, now this one will be a great fit! Oh, nah not so nice, oh, but THIS one! YES! *excitement while pre-listening on the headphones* and after that, THAT one will be great! Wohoo!” (laughs)
What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit?
There are so many factors, groove, energy, harmony that are always in the background. But the most important thing is that the crowd decides the next track. Even something that theoretically is not a good fit can turn out to be great if done right, but these things usually just happen spontaneously because you feel it will fit then and there in the moment. These ones you can’t really plan in advance.
Kode9 once said: "Many DJ sets go from drop to drop, so the biggest part of the track is always when it comes in. That kind of DJing I find pretty boring and that kind of DJing would be better done by a machine. I prefer to hear tracks in the mix together for extended periods of time, and I like to hear the tension between two tracks." What's your take on that?
Well, I will have to agree with this. Also this going from drop to drop is a bit boring because it is easy. It is the nice in-betweens that really take the people on a journey. Take it down a notch, do something different, and rebuild tension. Ah, I get goosebumps just by talking about it.
But I think this trend is partly because of the curse of social media. Everyone is just posting videos of the big drops with all hands in the air (I do it myself as well) because this is what looks good, and I fear many new DJs think this is what it is all about. But most of the time people should also be able to close their eyes and dance to the groove and enjoy themselves.
I am a sucker for good grooves. Also I try to use as little effects as possible when playing, I like that the tracks can speak for themselves, the way they are meant to be heard. But maybe that comes from my production side, I don’t make tracks that I feel need a lot of extra effects when played.
Even if tension between tracks is not a goal for you, pieces can sound entirely different as part of a DJ set compared to playing them on their own. How do you explain this?
I think it is because they are part of a journey, a bigger picture, a wholeness.
In terms of the overall architecture of a DJ set, are you looking more for one consistent level of energy or a shift between peaks and troughs – and why?
I think in the shifts, if done well, lies the interesting parts of the night. Taking it in other directions and building new or different tension is definitely something I appreciate a lot in a DJ set.
You know, I am a raver myself, my love for music was born on the dancefloor and I still love to go clubbing, so I always try to see myself as part of the dancefloor when I am DJing.
Many DJs have remarked on collaborating with the audience. Others rather want to present their vision without external input. Where do you personally stand in between these poles?
Oh, I can’t imagine a more terrible situation than forcing through your music and not taking the dancefloor into consideration. I am definitely more on the collaboration side. I think this is also why I don’t want to be a live act. It seems very boring (except when you are KINK. (laughs) He just looks amazing every time and like a lot fun). I want to be flexible and also play other people’s music.
But, it is also maybe important to mention that you don’t always find these connections. These are the worst nights, you don’t get the vibe with the audience, you don’t know what to play next. It is not often, but it happens. And then it is good to have some sure shots to play.
A DJ gig, just like an improvisation, is a fleeting experience which can not be repeated the way listening to a record can. How has DJing affected your view on life and death and the importance of memories?
I think in general DJing and working with music has given me a lot of perspective on life, society and the way we live. There is a certain freedom in it.
I am a very “in the moment-person” especially when it comes to emotions, so this is probably a good fit.