Digital DJ Tips reader Domas came to our attention through his comments on our posts, and his mixes on internet radio site Digitally Imported. With DJ sets under his belt in Ibiza, London and at Miami’s Winter Music Conference, and his eyes set on producing music with LA legend Thee-o, he’s a man going places. Yet he’s only been DJing for 3 years, and his story should offer great inspiration to any up-and-coming DJ. He’s also 100% digital, with an interesting set-up of equipment. We thought other Digital DJ Tips readers would learn a lot from hearing his story, so we caught up with him to find out more…
How Domas got started in DJing:
What brought you to the US from Sweden?
I had an opportunity to go to school in the US and play US football. I played US football in Sweden on a club team and our US coach suggested I go to school in the US to play football. I decided to go to California because of the location and great weather!
How did you get your first break in DJing?
My first real break with gigs was at WMC (Miami Winter Music conference) in 2009.
The year before at WMC 2008, I had met two good friends, Mike and Damian, and had yet to get really seriously into DJing. All three of us were in the same situation. Mike proposed that we join forces and try to do it together. That’s how H3LIUM-3 was born, and in the beginning we leaned on each other for advice and help.
Not until the following WMC (2009) did things really kick off. Somehow through our network (mainly Damian) we managed to throw our own pool party at the Marseilles Hotel. None of us had thrown an event of this size before. We rented our own sound, booked the location and had some help with promotion, but it was pretty much all done by us. The big thing we learned from this party was that power is everything. The type of equipment that you need for a pool party – bass bins etc – required a lot of power, more than your standard power. Although we did ask the hotel if they had enough power, they didn’t. The sound engineer that we hired did not really know what he was doing and instead of dealing with the problem, he blew the sub woofers!
The sound engineer that we hired did not really know what he was doing and instead of dealing with the power problem, he tried to make it work and blew the sub woofers. Being WMC, there were no other subs to be found! We still had a good time but the hotel decided to close us down early, while I was DJing. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise…
So what happened next?
That same night, we were scheduled to play a back room of a private party. We brought Damian’s equipment, which was a new and standard Pioneer set up. In the main room, Kato K was warming up for Markus Shultz. The main room equipment was horrible. The promoter for the party asked to borrow our equipment and wanted to shut down the back room. I had not gone on yet and was about to be short-changed on playing again! Mike said “no way” and worked out a deal: They could shut down the back room and use our equipment and in turn I would get to close the main room after Markus Shultz. Needless to say, I was so excited for this opportunity and had a great night.
This whole situation made me experience such an amazing feeling, and after closing for Markus I knew so much more was possible. It inspired me in a whole new way.
Tell me about your radio show on Digitally Imported. How did that come about?
A couple of months before WMC 2009, I started my House Music and Beyond Podcast. Creating mixes is the main reason I got into DJing in the first place. I wanted to take the songs I liked and put them into a mix. Creating a podcast has enabled me to reach a worldwide audience and define my style. It has also forced me to practise more and to pay attention to new music all the time. In prepping for WMC 2009, I put together House Music and Beyond – Miami. I printed 100 demo discs that I brought to WMC.
Via sharing this podcast on Twitter, one of my followers liked it and shared it with Mike Louth, Programming Director of Digitally Imported. He liked the mix and put it in rotation on the electro house channel. This later lead to a residency on their then newly launched tech house channel.
Domas’s DJ equipment:
Tell me what gear you started with…
I started with a MacBook Pro, Hercules controller and Traktor. I’ve used Traktor ever since. After the Hercules controller I decided to get serious and purchased two CDJ-800s and a DJM-800. Although I did some non-digital DJing with the CDJs, I decided to stick with Traktor for better music management and the tighter loop control it enabled me to create.
After using timecoded CDs for a while and getting tired with the issues of dealing with them, I started looking for ways to use Traktor with controllers instead of CDs. I wanted to continue to use my DJM for effects, EQ and mixing, but I needed something to control everything else with Traktor. When Native Instruments finally came out with the X1, the problem was solved.
What is your current set up?
I use two X1s, and Audio 8 sound card and my MacBook Pro. I prefer the DJM-800 mixer, but this set-up allows me to connect to any 4-channel mixer. I always use at least 3 channels when mixing. I like the flexibility and portability of my current set-up. The only negative thing is that it still requires sometimes complicated set-ups, but I’m getting better at it and DJ booths are starting to be better set up for digital DJs.
Don’t you miss jogwheels having two X1s as your deck controllers?
No, I don’t miss jogwheels. The scan/search knob on the X1 does the job, and I usually prep tracks with pre set loops/cue points and so on. the largest advantage is the obvious tight integration with Traktor and the size. One X1 will always fit, and usually I have no problem fitting two in the DJ booth.
Are you looking to add to your gear?
I am intrigued by the iPad and will probably get one. At that point I will see how I can fit it into my set-up.
Domas’s local scene:
You’re in LA. Tell us about the scene there…
The music that I play, which is mostly tech house, limits the number of clubs available. In Hollywood, there are a couple of established clubs. My favorite is Incognito at King King in Hollywood. On the Westside, there are just a few and they come and go. Most bars do not have DJs and if they do, they are probably playing Top 40. On occasion you can find a bar playing house music.
How easy is it to break into the LA scene?
Not easy at all. LA is full of DJs and dominated by some major clubs where you have no access. Smaller clubs are struggling and are very picky. Getting gigs all comes down to who you know.
Tips for up-and-coming DJs:
So, what advice would you have for others? What’s worked for you to get this far?
Team up with friends. H3LIUM-3 has expanded our reach and our ability to get noticed, get gigs, connections, etc. Chances increase tremendously if you combine your resources. More proof that you add to your chances for success when you add more people to your crew was our becoming friends with Lizzie Curious. Damian’s wife, Christy, by chance met Lizzie at WMC 2010 and asked her to play our H3LIUM-3 pool party the next day. Since then, Lizzie has gotten us gigs in London and Ibiza and she will be joining us for New Year’s Eve in Houston. Another thing that has worked for me was creating a podcast. This has enabled me to reach a worldwide audience and define my style. It has also forced me to practise more and to pay attention to new music all the time.
Getting gigs all comes down to who you know. The only way to do that is to go out, socialise and meet people. A good demo mix helps as well: In Los Angeles it all started for me with Jacob from Jacobs List, who gave me my first break after playing my House Music and Beyond – Miami demo CD.
Sites like DDJT provide me with valuable information. I always pay attention to hardware and software reviews. I like to read about other DJs’ experiences. I like to be able to take part in discussions and provide feedback on articles/blog posts. You never know what might come out of it. You might end up with an interview with DDJT! Sound is important – it all starts with sound quality. No matter how good you are technically or how good your playlist is, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t sound good. As a digital DJ it starts with quality audio files. Either WAV or 1st generation 320kbps MP3s. Make sure your DJ software master output level is not in the red at anytime! If possible, as in Traktor, use the auto gain feature. Buy the best sound card you can afford. Do not DJ without an external sound card. I’ve seen DJ’s fail on some and sometimes all of the above… Makes the rest of us sound better! But seriously, we want clubbers to have a good time regardless, so get on it.
My best advice to anyone who wants to be a DJ would be to build your reputation online with a website, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace etc. Make at least a few demo mixes; a podcast even better. Business cards are a must. Try to document gigs with pictures and video. This way when someone inquires about a possible opportunity, you will have something to back it up; something to show for it.
So what’s next for you?
I like to go with the flow and see where this journey of life takes me! That being said, I’m going to continue to push my podcast, try to get my favourite producers for guest mixes, work on my production skills and hopefully release some of my own material. This past year has been crazy with WMC, London, Ibiza and Houston for New Years Eve. Who knows what’s next!
Domas was speaking to Phil Morse. Hear his latest House Music and Beyond Mix.