Tech \ Technique \ Gear Tips

Masterclass: Christopher Kah

On blending DJing and live performance

2019 Jan 08     

The French techno producer's club sets involve synths, drum machines AND turntables. Here, he explains how he does it - and why

I started out DJing and producing at the same time, so in one way the two things have always gone hand-in-hand for me. That said, back then they were actually two completely different things! Then, step-by-step, I learned that one could perfectly mingle with the other. 

In my DJ mixes, I progressed slowly: first I integrated samples on CD, then mixed them with the vinyls. Then the software and hardware manufacturers began to follow the evolution of the DJs, and started to release adapted material. Like the Traktor S4 or S5, which were revolutionary machines for me. Mixing with more possibilities and personality became possible.

The real reason I first started taking samplers, synths and drum machines into the DJ booth, though, was because I was tired of composing only with a DAW. I felt I needed more spontaneity in my way of working, so I decided to start from scratch. The idea was to use the full potential of one single machine.

I know, now, that a lot of the first-generation house and techno DJs used to use drum machines and other hardware in their DJ sets, too. But I wasn't aware of that previously, and it wasn't about me trying to bring that back – it was really just a personal choice. I felt deep inside that it was time to move on and explore new horizons. That is obviously the basis of the creation of electronic music: pushing the limits! Showing that it is possible to make music in unlimited different ways.

I can't give you a definitive kit list for the gear I use, because I change my live set-up quite often. The most important thing to me is to have a machine that meets my needs immediately, that gives me direct access to what I want to transmit. That's why for the moment, I like using drum machines from Roland, coupled with Traktor S from Native Instruments.

Lugging all that gear around does present its own problems, of course. The worst time I ever had actually was years ago, at one of my very first gigs. I had an over-sensitive soundcard that didn’t like leaving home very much, and in the middle of the set, bam, everything shut down. It was as if someone had pressed the freeze button on the dancefloor. I was petrified in horror! Of course, one of your first shows, and this happens... thankfully it hasn't happened since, but there’s always a moment when you think about it and hope for the best!

When I play like this, I'm not sure everyone on the dancefloor even realises what I'm doing, but it does definitely attract curiosity. I think the public notices when a known track is remixed live. I love adding power to the tracks like that – that's really why I like this concept of LIVE/MIX, to push further the concept of DJing

Why work this way, rather than doing everything completely live? It's an interesting question... I think it's because I can express more, this way, than I could through a regular live set. Spontaneity and creativity are the key words: I customise tracks in the way that feels right at the moment. I want to push the mix into another dimension, closer to the public, and see how people react. I really think that the future of DJs lies here. Not just DJing, but also playing live.

If anyone else wants to try blending DJing and live performance like this, my advice would be: don’t hold anything back, just go for it! You'll make mistakes, sure, but try, try and try again. Make the most of the machines you play with. Find the very essence of the sound that vibrates in you, and trust your guts!

Words: Christopher Kah Pics: Gregory Massat (graigue.com)

Christopher Kah's album Second Nature is out now on digital – click here to buy it, or here to pre-order the vinyl, which is due in March.

Follow Christopher Kah: Soundcloud Facebook Twitter website

 

 

 

 

Tags: Christopher Kah, live sets, DJing, hardware, synths, drum machines, performance