A Brief History of My Ride through the Rave Culture and DJing, or Why I Get to Talk Like I Know Something

First let me say this.. reallllly clearly: I DON’T KNOW SHIT ABOUT SHIT.  I thought I did but then I learned more, learned to listen and realized, no, I really don’t.  Especially with music, the more I learn the less I feel like I know because every piece of information I gather leads to ten new questions.  But, even considering a long break I took from raving and dance music, I’ve been around the rave culture of New England a FUCKING LONG time and done a LOT of different jobs, held many different roles, and had an EXCELLENT view of the playing field that has given me a unique insight into how our culture works (and fails),  So while I recognize that I don’t know shit, unless your resume is longer than mine, at very least I know as much as you and have a few ideas that may not have occurred to you.  And quite probably I’ve seen some things you haven’t so maybe we don’t know shit together, but I know a little more.

So while I admit that I don’t know very much, I still speak from a place of authority and have zero problem with that. Someone needs to tell our stories, teach our young family our history, our art, occasionally stomp down an upstart who is on a path that may cause harm to the house.  If someone senior to me would kindly speak up, with positive recommendations after every rant, with hope for the future at least as bright as love of the past, I’d shut the fuck up and LISTEN.  But no one is telling the stories I want told, giving the advice I wish I’d been given.  So, really isn’t it my obligation as the oldest member of the family with something to say and willing to spend the time, to go ahead and say it?

I joined the tribe in late 1995.  I went to my first rave because that’s where the e was, but I was hooked literally within five seconds of paying admission.  I’ll tell my “first party” story another time but know this, I was in it for the long haul before I made it past the cash register.

By mid-96 or so I thought I had some important things to say (not so much) and some funny observations (which I still think were hilarious) and published a zine, to be handed out, which led to interview of one of my region’s most successful event planners.  That led to friendship which resulted in my helping with flyers.  And back then, handing out flyers was kind of a big deal and I felt like hot shit the first time I got a whole box to use.

Very soon, I began using the promo company name that I kept for 19 years (which I only officially closed down a few days ago to concentrate on the “become a better DJ” thing).  There were times when I had a huge reliable crew and times when no one gave half a shit’s shit about us.  We co-hosted some events that are still talked about a decade later and others that have been completely forgotten.  But every single event in my crew’s history away without financial loss; we didn’t always make a profit but we never failed to make our investor’s money back without degrading the talent pool for a quick buck.  Who else can say that they never lost a penny?

I left the scene for a number of years, left when house was fast and deco meant lasers and speaker stacks, returning 3 years ago to… this.  Dub step, trap, and fluffies.  It was culture shock.  AND WORST OF ALL  no one was playing my music.

So after a lot of bitching, a friend gave me a controller so I could play MY songs.  I had zero DJ dreams.  I didn’t want to play out, I just wanted to listen.  For like  a week.

But a Fisher Price controller (mixtack pro II users, you know what I mean) and VDJ PRO on sync will make you feel like a superstar.  Sure every SINGLE mix was off a little because of how the program’s sync operates, but I didn’t hear it because I hadn’t trained your ears.  So I asked for, and got, a few shows and man, oh man, did I feel like I’d arrived.

About 2 years in, an old friend, a fantastic DJ, literally cornered and bitched me out about syncing.  You already know the arguments so I don’t have to be detailed but he ended with something to the effect of “I spent five years mixing at home before I played out….you could never pull off vinyl”.  Well challenge fucking accepted.

I started fiddling with records at a friends house but it wasn’t until Easter of 2014 that the Technics I use came home and the record crates stated to slowly take over my room.  I was so excited to have techs until I stated to play and then FUCK did I hate EVERY FUCKING SECOND of the first month or so.  Things did NOT sounds awesome for a while there.

But I worked, not a lot of hours, but I did work for a few months, got the rudimentary table and mixer skills to an acceptable level and durnig that time figured out why people say vinyl sounds better.. it’s not the medium it’s the MUSIC that was being recorded while vinyl was still the major medium.. I became OBSESSED with old school house in a way I had never been before.  Turntables are indeed more fun than controllers (don’t ask me about cdjs.. I don’t know about them, they scare me) but the MUSIC that can only be played properly on vinyl and turntables is why I got stuck there and probably will never go back.

SO I’m all in love iwht my music and mixing isn’t a tearful struggle any more so what happens?  I FUCKING DID IT AGAIN!  I went looking for gigs before I should have.  It’s a goddamn disease!  I couldn’t even HELP it.  Between afterhours, weeklies, a couple parties, I played out on vinyl about 10-15 times or so before I realized I was ABSOLUTELY not good enough that any paying patron should be listening to me.

By this time I was “Pretty Good” or “good for vinyl” and that’s not acceptable.  I was just another less than Excellent dj and my very presence at an event demonstrated to the kids that this level of skill was all they should expect, all the would get. EFF THAT.  Additionally, I have some REALLY AMAZING ART on my records, and it deserves to be handled by someone who can do it better justice.  I thought about the fact that somewhere out there is a bedroom dj with 20 years of experience that BLOWS ME OUT OF THE WATER, but I know more people, I have history, I TOOK HIS BOOKING FROM HIM.

I was also afraid that my bookings were not because I was even Good Enough, but  because I’m a pretty good promoter, that a time slot was sacrificed to me for promo work and that messed with my head.  I could never take or believe a compliment.  I could never just say YES when asked “are you a DJ” but I’d answer “depends on your definition” which sounds humble but was really because I didn’t feel I deserved to be grouped with the people I think of as DJs.  I didn’t enjoy my time on stage at all, because I was always worried I did’t belong there and everyone must know it.

So I quit.

I took the character I spent years building, with a name so closely tied to me that most people believed it was my real name, and killed her off.  Jocelyn Silver is dead RIP/PLUR. My DJ page is down, and to avoid future worries about being booked as a promoter, my crew is over.  I stopped asking for show, I stopped promoting myself, and I made a public statement so I’m sort of honor bound to keep it.

I quite DJing in credited gigs until I am EXCELLENT.  Until I sound as clean as the digital dj’s but as exciting as only a creative vinyl dj can be.  I am not playing out under my new (secret) name until I am competition, a PROBLEM, for the established veterans and I can’t jump the gun because I gave the power to set me free of the bedroom to two of the finest and most honest DJ’s I know, neither of which will blow sunshine up my ass or say I’m better than i really am to make me feel good; when THEY say I’m Excellent, I’ll never doubt that I’m Excellent.  I am not going public under my new name until I am an example of what a DJ should be and I am hoping it will make up for all the “good enough” sets that set such a bad example.

But, SUDDENLY request start coming in. And remember, DJing is a disease with no cure, on remissions.  So I say to the folks asking, if you want my music the way I play it, I’ll bring it, but you may not have my name.  I’m not going to sully the reputation of the DJ I am going to be with the way I sound now.  I’ll pay, I need large system practice any way, but you’ll have to use a bogus name on the flyers, so it won’t draw anyone anyway.. maybe you should  find someone better.  And some take the point and some want me still, and that’s cool I guess, at very least flattering, and who doesn’t like a little flattery?

And here, in this journal I’m going to tell the tale of transformation, the struggle of going from Good Enough to Excellent, as I work to not only catch up to but surpass the big-boys who have been at it for 20 years.  As I give up every extra boost I’m accustomed to in the scene so that my re-launch will be purely skill driven and I’ll never doubt my right to be on the stage again.

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