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Atish has a good memory of his debut in 2010. In 2015 he told me his story. "At the end of the evening people were pinching my butt."
“My first paid DJ gig was at 10/10/’10 in a small bar called Laszlo in San Francisco, California. I was 27, which is generally a late start to get into DJing, but oh well, I was only three-and-a-half in dog years, so I was also still pretty young.” (laughs)
“This was the first time I was getting paid to play music for people rather than just playing for friends for free. It was also the first time I felt like I had to live up to expectations and I couldn’t let the promoters and paying patrons down since their hard-earned money was on the line. Even today, that feeling still plays in the back of my mind when I see that ticket prices are really high for an event where I’m playing. I hate letting people down. I think that’s why I love playing at Burning Man so much. Money is not part of the equation there, nobody gets paid to play, so it really changes the vibe and approach to just be free – literally and figuratively!”
“At that first gig about twenty to thirty friends were present. Their support helped build my confidence, by dancing their asses off to every single track I played, which was really important. One thing that I learned at that gig that still sticks with me now, is how important it is to be confident with yourself and communicate that vibe on the dance floor. As DJs, we’re leading the night through the records we play, but more abstractly, as performers, we’re leading the night with the energy we bring.”
Relationship with the crowd
“A few years before I started DJing, I read an interview with a DJ saying that he chooses records based on how he reads the room. He plays a record, sees how the dance floor responds, and that feedback helps him decide what he’ll play next. He develops a relationship with the crowd. This was fascinating to me, so that’s how I approached my first gig, and every other gig since in a similar way. Who knows, maybe this interview can bring things full circle and help influence another would-be DJ’s approach to the art-form. That would be very fulfilling for me.”
“There have been two DJs who have gone out of their way to help me out in my career: Lee Burridge and Behrouz. Both of them are veterans of the industry whom I admire. They have helped to shape my own personal approach to the art-form and my career in general. Funnily enough, Lee happened to have a gig in San Francisco the same weekend of my first gig and decided to show up to see me play. At the time he wasn’t a mentor of mine, but he was my favorite DJ and my biggest influence. Having him out there was absolutely awful. I really can’t think of anyone worse to have in the audience for a first gig than Lee Burridge. I guess you could say he’s the girl I was trying to impress. He does look good in a wig and dress after all.” (laughs)
“I don’t remember how well I played that night, but I know there weren’t any train-wrecks. I also remember people were pinching my butt near the end, so I think that’s good?” (laughs) “I ended up getting a lot more local bookings after that, since word got out that people would show up at my gigs and I wouldn’t bomb terribly. The butt pinching has mostly stopped, though, for better or for worse.” (laughs)
“When thinking about these answers, it was actually very interesting to learn that while my musical taste has evolved over the years and my technique has improved, a lot of my core as an artist has remained the same. I still get nervous before big gigs (especially if ticket prices are high), I still read the vibe of the room to shape my sets, and at the end of the day, I just want to bring a good energy to the dance floor to make sure everybody who came to see me play is happy. Anything else that changes outside of that environment is just a minor detail.”
This interview with Atish was originally published on DJMag.nl on July 2nd 2015.