Name: DJ Gregory / Grégory Darsa
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current release: One of DJ Gregory's tracks, "Demonia", is featured on the 10 Years of Popcorn Records compilation out now.
Recommendations: It's becoming a bit of a cliché but ‘E2-E4’ by Manuel Goetsching remains a masterpiece to me. I’ll definitely take that to an empty island.
And ‘Faust’ by Goethe, pretty relevant.
If you enjoyed this interview with DJ Gregory, visit his soundcloud profile or Facebook account to stay up to date with his output.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
In the Late 80’s hip hop and electronic music caught my attention, like so many people at the time. To see the evolution of those movements over the years was a real blessing.
‘Can You Feel It’ by Mr Fingers was a turning point for me for sure. After hearing that track I decided I had to know everything about house and techno music, and slowly I quit my studies until, around 1992, I was totally devoted to DJ’ing. I had the opportunity to share a midday mix on the radio in Paris with my friends DJ Deep and Alex From Tokyo. Every day, from Monday to Saturday, spreading the word and showcasing the evolution of this music. I would say that it was 1994 that it really became a job/career for me, through playing the parties/clubs etc …
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
It’s a very interesting question for sure. When I first started I wanted to make the same music as the producers I admired and very quickly I noticed that it would be a very long road. So I messed around with the machines, slowly learning, making my own mistakes. By sheer fate I created a pre French Touch hit called ‘Sunshine People’. But honestly, I didn’t really know what I was doing (laughs).
I would say that it took me 7 years to find my own path. I did find it though, and I will always say that if you follow your own path, your music will last longer and mean more.
What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you?
Back then, the people were totally focused on the music. The DJ wasn’t the centre of the party, but a very good DJ was able to take you on a journey through their mixes, creating a feeling together with the crowd. That is just unbeatable. The way a DJ plays their music also shows the relationship they have with the tracks.
How would you define the job and describe the influence of the DJ? How are the experience and the music transformed through your work?
I would say that it depends on the music you play. It can be all kinds of experiences from hysterical to meditative. The DJ plays the music, and essentially that’s all he does, but it can be done with a lot of skill, or indeed a lot of stupidity. This will always influence the level of the experience and enjoyment.
What was your first set-up as DJ like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first set up was two Technics turntables SL1200 and a regular mixer. Then, with the evolution of technologies, I moved to CD and now to USB. I guess the general evolution of most.
I’m still playing vinyl sets sometimes, but the most important development for me was not having to carry the heavy record bags, which I’ve done for many years. I do admit that it’s a relief to travel lighter (laughs).
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
The idea is always to infuse some soul through the machines, and very often it's by tweaking them where they are not supposed to go. Personally I love the accidents that happen in the studio. Trying all kinds of schemes and following random tangents to see where you end up. You may end up in a dead end, but equally something great may emerge. The human always has to take that risk.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do life and creativity feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Life and creativity are fully blended, but I do work with a certain schedule because I like to have a clean ear when I hit the studio. Sometimes, if you’re working too long or at the wrong time, your ear is not in sync and it can be tough to judge what you’re hearing.
I like to work very early in the morning, and actually if I start very early at around 6.30 am, it's a very good sign. The earlier the better for me. After 4pm it's game over until around 9pm, where maybe I can work a little more.
Let's say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?
I do prepare sets constantly, a little bit everyday, checking new releases and classics. Always working on getting comfortable with the tracks, enough to be able to play them out.
Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Good question … You never really know. The club, the crowd, this suspended moment in time where everything seems synced, puts you in a good vibe and you’re rolling (laughs). But even then, that’s not to say that distractions still won’t crash the vibe. Each will be different, and you have to be ready to react to save the moment.
What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
I usually work with short sessions. I never break from one style to another. I’m always looking to be as fluid as possible and if I do break, then its always for a purpose. Two tracks fit good when they speak to each other
Would you say you see DJing as improvisation? As composition in the moment? Or as something entirely different from these terms?
Let’s call it a controlled improvisation, because you certainly need to read the crowd and look to take them with you. Then, if the party is right and flowing, you may take them to places they would never expect.
How do playing music at home and presenting it in the club compare and relate? What can be achieved through them, respectively, and what do you personally draw from both?
Very simple ... At home I play for only for ‘ME’. In clubs I am playing for others. Both are linked by building your sound library at home, and usually through that, you’ll have a larger selection to choose from to play in the clubs.
How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience? How does this relationship manifest itself during a performance and how do you concretely tap into it?
If you’re in the right place, then the crowd expect to be entertained and they want to discover new tracks and music from you. It’s kind of an unwritten deal that you make with them.
Especially thanks to the storage facilities of digital media, DJ sets could potentially go on forever. Other than closing time, what marks the end of a DJ performance for you? What are the most satisfying conclusions to a set?
Without doubt, the most satisfying conclusion is always when the club has to close and the audience want you to keep on dancing.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
When I was much younger I wanted to be a painter, and I did study art (laughs). To me, being an artist, and I mean a real artist, you have to go through a lot of suffering, unfortunately, because you try to reach something that really you don’t have any idea about. It’s a quest.