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“Wow, wow, wow! So cool to be asked for the feature My First Gig on DJMag.nl. I regularly read the paper edition of this great magazine, so I’m very honored.” Those were Mischa Duncan’s spontaneous words when I inquired about the story of his debut as a DJ. By now, we have built on our amazing connection. Mischa Duncan is my kind of DJ. Read his unique story.
“Your question is how I experienced my first big official performance. And how it was, since then, to be me. That immediately makes me realize how much I have learned since that first gig and how time flies when you occupy yourself with what you really love to do.”
“At the time of that first gig I never could have imagined what was coming to me in the next six years. I remember my debut like it was yesterday. I took place on invite by Emiel Roche at the event Love Cirque in the Dutch club Lexion in Zaanstad.”
“I’d love to start by telling you a little more about the road to that first gig. In 1996, my passion and love for music really took off. I recently went though difficult times, that I tried to leave behind by partying away at all imaginable dance events. Practically every single day you could find me in clubs and festivals all over The Netherlands, drooling in front of the DJ-booths. I was completely obsessed by the beat and the house music and those brilliant DJs with all those exciting knobs and the fascinating technique they used to make the public go wild. I loved the comfortable atmosphere in the areas, exquisitely created by this well-known DJ. This combination that connected us all in a devine ambiance.”
Fuck the world
“Then I was offered a job in the hospitality industry on the island Bonaire, one of the Dutch Antilles. Needless to say that I grabbed that offer with both hands. I was in dire need of a change of scenery as well as connecting to myself again. To say goodbye to the ‘fuck-the-world-and-me’ attitude that presented itself in the over-the-top partying. If I aimed to feast this fabulous world a little longer with my unique wit and charm, this was my chance! This job was a godsend.”
“I was familiar with Bonaire and knew that you could get extremely bored on a small island. I had anticipated on that. Acknowledging my passion for electronic music, I had packed up my extensive CD-collection and shipped them to Bonaire, together with my recently purchased brand new CD Phonic DJ-gear. It took a lot of my patience to wait over a month until my new toys arrived. After playing around for a while and teaching myself how to beatmatch, I figured working with the premixed CD’s of my DJ-icons just didn’t do the trick. Suddenly I realized that I actually had no material to work with.” (laughs)
“Bonaire turned out to be a rebirth. One that took nine months. By that time, I had significantly improved my mixing skills and returned to The Netherlands. Upon arrival a good friend Ray Levant handed me a vinyl by Grooveyard with the title Mary Go Wild. I was instantly in love with the vinyl sound and groove. When my mate allowed me to mix a few tracks in his set, a whole new world opened up. Mixing with vinyl was addictive. Definitely in comparison with my fiddling around with those CDs. Soon after that, I invested all the cash I had saved from my three Bonaire-jobs in two shiny new Technics MK2 with the matching Banana-needles and slip mats. Immediately, I raced to record store Groovy Tunes in Hilversum. Most Thursdays though, you could find me at my favorite store Outland Records, run by Jeroen Krom (DJ Jerome Outland) on the Zeedijk, in the Red Light District in Amsterdam. As time passed by almost all good record stores closed their doors. The result of the digital revolution. For a few years after that, I bought my records online at Decks.”
“By then, I had bought a house in Utrecht. It was situated in a building that formerly – very appropriately – used to be a storage facility for a store in electronics named Diels. Because of this, I was able to design and create a house that was totally to my taste. Naturally, I created a fantastic studio. That way I could make all the noise I wanted and meanwhile create a nice space for my vinyl collection. Over ten years I practiced in that studio. Occasionally I played at small self-organized parties for a small audience. The location of these parties was the Warmoesstraat in Amsterdam in Jeroen van Ham’s the 5th Element Vodka Bar. I had met Jeroen through one of my buddies at Bonaire, Alex Gerharts.”
“My girlfriend at that time, whom I had met on Bonaire, was active on Hyves (the Dutch facebook of the 2000’s, red.) for UDC. On her Hyves-page you could find one of my recorded sets and it had caught Emiel Roche’s attention. He was impressed and offered me a spot on Love Cirque. I was given a spot before Brian S., Victor Coral, Spider Willem, Ruben Vitalis and the big man himself, DJ Porno aka Emiel Roche.”
“I was flabbergasted and through Hyves I mobilized all my mates. Family and friends, they were all there for me that evening. Immediately, the atmosphere was superb. On top of that, I was incredibly honored that they had arrived in those large numbers.”
“I had no idea how I could accomplish it, but I really wanted the crowd to remember me. So, I decided to create a T-shirt with my name in print. I had pretty much prepared my set. So, to make a double impact, I had recorded the same set and burnt it on 150 CD’s with a nice cover that included my name and the title Strawberry Bitch.”
“My live-set at the spot did not quite meet my expectations. Quickly into my set I went uptempo. Sure, I was pretty nervous and my hands were shaking when I put the needle on the vinyls. Also, I was the only DJ that night who played with vinyl. Consequently, they had had to dust of the turntables for me. The gain on one of those was much higher than on the other one. Luckily, I succeeded in anticipating on this.”
“The hour went by in a flash. Before I realized, my idol Brian S reported to the DJ-booth. His turn. The fact that my hero was there, made me even more nervous. At the same time, I didn’t feel like stopping. Unfortunately, my girlfriend kicked a glass with Bacardi cola over Brian’s CDs. Totally embarrassing. Fortunately, Brain reacted very relaxed: ‘No worries mate, this has happened many times. Just put on another record’.”
“After my gig I was ecstatic because I played a flawless set. Simultaneously I was hooked to the kick of getting all these people to move. I decided to go for it and do this more often. Now, over five years later, I’ve played at many beautiful places. I am so goddamned grateful for that. My passion has developed in a way that I even started producing my own tracks and still am. Not just electronic music but also in the classical genre, like operas and theatre productions that I was involved in.”
Fame or money?
“I’m still the same person I was during that first gig. I have gained lots of experience music-wise and I know about the do’s and don’ts in the DJ booth. I produce and play music with loving passion. I am definitely not doing it for the fame of the money, because up until now my dream has only been extremely expensive. My reward is to see people totally enjoying themselves on my groovy sound. The energy I get from that, is enough to make me walk on clouds for days. This is how I get my satisfaction.”
“Two years ago, after my tour in Mexico, I got robbed. My urge to play and produce were enforced by this. The thought of giving up never occurred to me.
“I would like to add another detail. In retrospective, there was another emotional layer to my first gig in club Lexion in Zaanstad. My sister’s best friend Eva was there and she was one of my biggest fans. In the picture, she’s the one on my left, while I am wearing that great T-shirt. Shortly after the event Eva died of the consequences of a car-accident. So, Eva: this is and will be for you. And peeps, enjoy life to the max. I will enjoy to add to that with my grooves.”
“You can always find a dose of grooves on The Groove Station on pureradio.am, every Tuesday from 8 PM. And from the 6th of March you will be able to catch The Groove Station live during The Groove Location at Club Unlabeled, Amstel 178 in Amsterdam. On January 29th I will be playing at Mike Lachman’s Tikkie Tek Radio on www.amw.fm. On top of that my third track, Groovy Gossip, will be releases short term. Besides this, I will be playing as one of the residents of my good friend Dennis Maijenburg on the Lekkervies’ podium in my own city Utrecht.
This interview was originally published on December 30th 2015 on DJMag.nl.