Name: Ryan Raddon
Occupation: DJ / Producer
Current Release: Automatic on Ultra Records.
Musical Recommendation: Right now CID is the man. He’s an amazing producer, and the fans are starting to find him.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I started experimenting with DJing while I was in High School. I would travel into the heart of Chicago every weekend, and would be exposed to proper, true House Music. It was at that moment that the art of modern DJing was coming into play as well.
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 style?
Early on I was emulating the pioneers of House. Frankie Knuckles, DJ Sneak and Hot Mix 5. Their sounds inspired me. As I got more into it and eventually learned sound design I became intrigued by songwriting and melody. I was able to move from mimicking what was being done into using the craft of song writing to say something. That evolution has brought to me a place where the song is where it’s at.
What were some of the main challenges 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?
When I began, the biggest hurdle in DJing was simple economics. Two turntables and even a crappy mixer were hard to come by as a high school student. It’s different now, where DJing software is on everyone’s smart phone. Access has been granted to the masses, so that hurdle has been removed. The aspect of performance is fun. Standing in front of people is fascinating and keeps it relevant.
What was your first set-up as DJ like? How 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 included two Technics 1200’s and a really bad mixer. Honestly, I still have a similar set up. I don’t use turntables anymore, but I use 4 CDJ’s and a Pioneer mixer. This is actually a pretty traditional set up - I’m a traditionalist. There are people who have multiple laptops and software going, but I stay with the core. The technology has changed for me in a way that helps me move more quickly, but essentially it’s the same concept that I started with.
How do you see the relationship between the tools you're using and the creative results – in which way do certain tools suggest certain approaches, in which way do they limit and/or expand your own creativity? Do you believe in the idea of progress in DJing from a technological perspective?
I think there’s been a lot of progress because of technology. Everything is more accessible. Music is more accessible, everything moves quicker and that’s changed DJing. This is why mixed format DJ’s do so well - it was a lot harder when it was just vinyl. Overall tech has helped push everything forward.
Could you take me through the process of preparing for one of your gigs, please? How do you select the tracks you like to play, how do you prepare and how do you decide on the opening phase of your set?
I’m a traditionalist. I travel around with SD cards, which is to say I carry my virtual record crate with me everywhere. It holds between 3,000 to 4,000 songs. For the opening sequence, often times I will construct that ahead of time. I work on it in the studio and bounce it down and think it out. I build intros depending on the venue I’m playing. It all depends on the venue, and how the crowd has reacted over social media and how hype the event seems. Then I wing it and go with what’s working.
As far as track selection, I’m constantly searching for music I think will work in my sets. I’m always filtering through things I hear, promos in my email, tunes I hear people humming, looking for gems that will work and better define my live sound.
What constitutes great mixing from your point of view? What are some of the sets that have personally impressed you over the years?
Great mixing is simple fluidity. An amazing set and by extension great mixing will mean that if I’m on the dance floor, I’m not thinking about the mixing. Even if it’s short and jarring which is a valid technique, the question is: how does it flow from space to space? If you’re never thinking, “Oh now we’re going dark and minimal” and you just land there, you’ve been exposed to true talent.
The first time I saw Roni Size in 1998 I had never seen a DnB DJ play. I wasn’t submerged in that scene, and had no expectations going in. His set that day was one of the top 10 sets I’ve ever seen. It was so creative and new, it was like nothing I had ever seen.