On any given Thursday night between 10pm and 2am you will find young designers Timo Weiland and Alan Eckstein rocking out on the sixth floor of The Jane Hotel–the site of their DJ residency. The floor–said to have once been drag superstar RuPaul’s home–is lined with antique furniture made of plush, supple leather, surrounding a small-ish dark-stained wooden floor. It’s old-time-y decadence meets rock n’ roll.
In the past two years, both Weiland and Eckstein have not only become rising stars in the design world, but have also become respectable DJs, invited to play at events for Vans, at the Black and White party, Gramercy Park Hotel, the Whitney, the Brooklyn Museum, and Milk Studios, to name a few.
But on this particular Thursday night a few weeks back, I have been called upon by the duo to help DJ a couple of songs for the mid-20s-early-30s set that comes out to jam out to the duo’s intoxicating melodies. And bless Weiland and Eckstein, for taking out their time to provide me with a private lesson the day before at their CFDA Incubator Program office in the Fashion District. During an hour-long session they showed patience and grace while I showcased my own embarassing ineptitude for music and mixing.
“It’s all about the music, really,” Eckstein instructed me in our tutoring session. “You really have to know your music, when it ends, the BPM and how it’ll go with the crowd you’re DJing for.”
Sure, got it.
As I grabbed the mixer that Thursday night, Eckstein lent me his Pioneer headphones, giving me words of encouragement. Somehow I was able to transition The Lovcats’ “The Cure” with Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” somewhat successfully, Weiland cheering me on.
Below, is the lesson I received from Weiland and Eckstein—a couple of steps you, too, can take to fulfill your DJ dreams. And if you still can’t cut it, do what I did the next day: perfect the art of the iPod DJ.
“The most important thing for DJing is knowing your songs really well,” Eckstein says. “You need to know which songs go together, the playlist, and very importantly, when and how the song is ending for your transition.”
“With our mixer you have two deks and all mixers have two different channels. There’s effects, controls for the audibles, looping, bleeps, and speed,” Weiland instucts. “But the most important part for a DJ is to really get the transitions down. That’s what separates a good DJ from a great DJ.”
ALL ABOUT THE BPM
“You want songs when transitioning to be the same BPM (beats per minute),” Eckstein says. “So pick two songs that have the same if not similar BPMs. For instance, ‘Losing My Patience’ by Shit Robot together with ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk.”
“It’s super important to have good headphones and that’s why DJs actually have a set of DJ headphones so we can listen to the two songs and their beats and know when to transition,” Eckstein says. “I have Pioneer ones but honestly I really like Sony as well—they’re a lot cheaper!”
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
“We’ve had some awkward moments when no one is dancing in the crowd,” Weiland says. “So it’s important to know your audience. When you DJ it’s really all about the vibe. You make plenty of playlists but when it gets down to it if the crowd isn’t feeling it then you have to do something different. At The Jane it’s more rock and roll, and at some events it’ll be more Grimes, Ke$ha, Robyn, Calvin Harris.”
“I’m the king of the sip. I’ve learned to sip drinks throughout the night instead of getting really drunk,” says Weiland. “DJs get free drinks all night but it’s best if you’re focused on being successful throughout the night. Beers are also better than cocktails.”
NO MEANS NO
“There are plenty of people who request songs every night but we can’t play all of them,”Weiland says. “I’ve learned how to politely deny.”