|Desyn Masiello - The Perfect Balance
If, like many of us, you've found yourself staring -- and admittedly, sometimes, for hours and hours on end -- at some middle-aged, balding, past-it DJ, you've probably also wondered on more than one occasion, "Why does everyone always face the DJ booth?".
While there is no longer that much of a mystery surrounding exactly what DJs do, there is however, still a certain mystique regarding why some DJs command more attention than others; why some will spend 3 or 4 out of 7 nights a week playing to thousands of clubbers across the globe; why some will have John Digweed, Deep Dish, Danny Howells and a sizable proportion of the female clubbing population all beating down a path to their door.
Like with anything in life, the key to it all lies in the balance. The balance between what the crowd wants and what the DJ is prepared to give, the balance between the big tunes and the obscure; the balance between entertaining and educating.
EQ's Balance compilation series is one that has been addressing this idea for some time now and for Balance 008, they have called upon Desyn Masiello: DJ, producer, record label owner and part record store owner.
Packing a musical CV littered with household dance music names like Yoshitoshi, Bedrock and Essential Mix and a bookshelf of paperbacks on yoga, meditation and shamanism, RA discovered that when it comes to finding the perfect balance, Desyn Masiello knows more about it than most.
So to begin with, can you tell me something that you're really into besides dance music?
At the moment, I'm really into studying books on shamanism and psychedelic things because I've done a lot of that in my past. I'm a good boy now but I'm really interested in reading about the facts. There is one book I'm reading now which is all about how the first humans that developed their brains went out eating all the magic mushrooms. It's really fascinating to see how that all started and how we became human and stuff, and how those things are outlawed now in today's society, yet they were the staple thing in all societies up until now.
That's one thing that's an area of interest. To be honest, I'm interested in a lot of spiritual things, yoga, meditation...and I've been reading a lot about those things for the past couple of years.
So which of your three big mixes, your Balance CD, your Bedrock OS and your Essential Mix has been the most spiritual experience?
Well, I'd have to say the Balance because the Balance was really interesting in the way I did it. I didn't really think about what I wanted to do. I thought about it for a few months and didn't know what to do so I just decided to give the Balance guys some of my favourite tracks, some of the personal things I listen to at home, some things I wouldn't play in a club but are still 4/4, stuff I wouldn't play in a club because it doesn't have much energy, more spacey stuff, something to listen to alone or at home.
Obviously I thought I didn't want to go too up my own arse so I needed to put some really good clubby stuff on the CD because that's what I do in a club as well. I literally had to blank my mind and not think and each of those CDs I did in 80 mins or whatever the length of each CD is.
The only way I could actually do the CD was to switch off all my thinking and it was as if someone else mixed the CD cos I wasn't thinking when I was doing it. I was just literally looking at the tracks and going with complete instinct.
Cos when I sat down with a sheet of paper and wrote the tracks down and tried to start thinking, "well that one will go with that one, and that one will go with that one", honestly, it was like banging my head against a brick wall. It was just getting me nowhere. I was thinking, this CD is going to be rubbish so one evening I literally just sat down, meditated and blanked my mind and did the CDs one after the other without any thought. I was shocked at the end with the result. Afterwards, I was like, "Wow, I just did that!"
I didn't think about it so I was surprised how good it turned out cos I didn't plan them in any way. All I did was really choose the tracks. So if you're talking in terms of a spiritual thing, that was definitely like a spiritual evening for me, like someone else kind of did them for me in a way. It's a bit mad.
"...the Balance CD...It's me at my most balanced...literally going with a natural flow and not letting the mind, like the egotistical mind or logical mind, have any involvement..."
And if you had to equate each of those three big mixes to a different type of spiritual experience, what would they each be?
OK. That's a wicked question. I'm not sure if it makes any sense but I love it. (laughs) Well, let's go in order.
The Bedrock [Original Series] I felt was a struggle, a big struggle. I can kind of relate that to the conflict in the mind and the soul because I really didn't know how to represent myself. It was the first time people were really going to hear me properly and it was my selection. I was caught between so many things in my head. Oh, it's on the Bedrock label, oh, it's on Digweed's label.
I was thinking do I try and please the fans of a progressive label - that was one part of my head - or, do I just really do what I love in my heart, upset a load of people and get slagged off. So my fears were really coming out at that time. Also, I had loads of tracks turned down for licensing so that CD really represents the struggle of life for me, the pain, the everyday pain that we can all experience.
The Essential Mix is for me, probably my favourite mix ever, particularly the first hour. For me, it was something new and exciting that I hadn't heard before and I just felt like I was lucky to be putting these records together in that way because I hadn't heard that kind of style before. It had this electro influence which people had been messing around with but I kind of felt that the way I'd done it was in a more progressive way. The progressive people suddenly liked this as well but it was also quite housey electro and I felt the vibe of the first hour was something new and looking to the future. So in that kind of way, for me it was a spiritual feeling of going to a new place, like a new realm.
I think the Balance CD...well the word Balance really sums it up. It's me at my most balanced and not trying to do anything out of the ordinary, feeling at my most relaxed at home with my favourite records and literally going with a natural flow and not letting the mind, like the egotistical mind or logical mind, have any involvement in my selection or what I did; just feeling very relaxed at home and doing the CD.
I was really happy when I was doing them as well, felt no tension or no struggle. Almost every DJ has good and bad gigs and it's still a mystery, to be honest, to all the DJs I know, why sometimes you can turn up and play bad and somtimes you turn up and play good and yet play exactly the same music.
I think that I was really happy with the Balance CD because it felt like one of those gigs where you go and everything flows. There are a few things I'm not happy with on the Balance CD but I'm a perfectionist. I'm never perfectly happy with anything I do so I felt that that the Balance was more the natural spirit inside of me expressing itself.
So I don't know if that answers that mad question! (laughs).
So then, what do you think is the perfect balance in your DJ set?
I think the perfect balance is when you look at the next track in your CD wallet or your records and I guess you're not really thinking and you instinctively know what to put on. Sometimes when you think too much when you're DJing you can start panicking and worry.
Like, to be honest, I played in Eastern Europe for the last two weekends. The first of the two weekends I played for 8 hours and had one of the best gigs of my life. Every single track I played went with the next one perfectly. So, in that eight hours I didn't even have to think and that's the kind of gig you want all the time obviously.
Then last weekend, I had exactly the same records, maybe a few new ones but suddenly I was taking 2 or 3 minutes to decide what record to put on next. I think that's really weird. I'm always analysing things and trying to work it out.
I think the mood you're in before you go into the gig has a lot to do with it, not even the gig itself but the mood you're in before you even get there. I think that is one of the most important things and obviously the mood you're in depends on a lot of different things as well.
How do you get yourself in that mood then?
I can't get myself in a mood. If I'm in a mood already I can't change the way I feel. One of my best friends, Omid 16B, says he meditates, and says that really helps him. So I'm probably going to try and start that. If I'm in a really positive mood, sometimes I walk into a gig or I'm going to a gig and I can't wait to go in and play, get on the decks and choose a record. Those are the gigs I automatically know are going to be my best ones.
I know before almost every gig, how it's going to turn out. And the ones that don't go so well I feel a little unsure of myself, a little bit unconfident and that's because of how I was thinking before I even got to the club. So I'm probably going to try the meditation thing.
"...those moments of partying are a form of development in your mind, cos you communicate with other souls on a really deep level. It's not all about just being spunout and out of your face..."
In terms of getting in the mood, you have quite a reputation for being a bit of a 'partier'. How do you keep things so balanced, like your label, your mixes, your DJ sets, and so on in those circumstances?
Well, you know, the partying side if things, I don't party all the time, especially when I'm abroad. When I'm DJing that's my job and a lot of the time I'm not partying at the same time. I'm just going there and doing my gig and I behave.
I have really let loose, like at home in London with my friends, when you sometimes have those three or four day sessions...(laughs)...for me, those are some of the best moments in life; to stay with your friends for that amount of time and really just laugh and have fun with the closest people to you.
I think those moments of partying are a form of development in your mind, cos you communicate with other souls on a really deep level. It's not all about just being spunout and out of your face in a club somewhere.
I think I'm known for being a big partier and I think it's mainly because of that, of my love for getting really deep and communicating with souls that I love and that's why I've kind of got a bit of a reputation.
Obviously though there's only so much the body can take. I'm 32 in December this year...
Well, that's still pretty young...
Is it? Really? Well, my brain doesn't feel young; it feels mashed. Well, not really...(laughs)
So then, which DJ or producer is most responsible for corrupting you?
Corrupting? I'm afraid to say...I think it would be myself.
It's not Danny Howells, no?
Danny is a pretty, pretty......(hesitates)....SENSIBLE...man sometimes. Not as mental as me but he's definitely a bit of a mentalist. (laughs). I think, if I had to choose one person who's the corrupter, it would be Omid 16B. He's definitely a bad influence, always has been, apart from myself. (laughs)
This is a bit of a strange question but are you aware that you're a kind of pin-up DJ for the dance music industry?
Well, when I did the photos for the Balance CD I hated them. I thought they were bloody horrible but then my manager, who is a very very good-looking sexy lady who I respect very much, said she thought I looked very nice in them, and that the girls would love them.
And as I don't have a girlfriend, I thought well let's go with them, if the girls are going to like them. I definitely got some serious heat though from a lot of guys saying I look like a proper wanker.
To be honest I'm not really that conscious about my appearance. A lot of the time I'm one of the messiest, scruffiest looking people on the planet and those photos really don't reflect what I'm really like in real life.
Oh, so what you're saying is that you're really lousy in bed, then?
Am I lousy in bed? What, you mean, am I good at sex? (silence)
Well, you just said you're the opposite of what you look like in your pictures...
(bursts out laughing) I'm too proud to tell you. You'll have to ask or even find out in person...well, you never know. (laughs again)
Well, the reason I ask is because whenever your picture is on the front page of Resident Advisor the forums and the women in the forums get very busy, all of a sudden.
Well, send them down to my gigs cos I need a girlfriend.
This is a funny subject actually. I was talking to Danny Howells about 4 months ago and he was like, "I haven't had sex in ages." I was saying, "I haven't had sex in ages either. It's a nightmare. I haven't had a bird. I need a bird". And Danny said, "I need a girl as well. I miss girlfriends. It's been years." He was like, " If I don't get a girlfriend I'm definitely going gay. And I said, "I'm definitely going gay too".
Perhaps you can both go gay together.
(big silence shortly followed by laughter)
Well, Danny was like, "I can't handle it anymore". But now he's just got a girlfriend and now I feel really left out.
The real problem is that we spend so much time preparing for the gig that we don't do normal sociable things. If I do something normal and sociable it's with my family because I don't get to see them much, with my uncle, my grandad or my mum. I don't really go out with my friends cos I'm too busy and it's my work time when I'm home since I'm DJing 3 or 4 times a week.
When you're abroad you're obviously really tired cos you're travelling so much, you're actually working in the clubs. You're not actually there socialising in the clubs unless it's the half hour before your gig. And you're normally the last person to leave the gig so by the time you finish your set, to be honest, most of the nice girls have already gone home. The ones that are left at the end are the really hardcore nutters and occasionally you end up with something...though they are few and far between. It's actually pretty hard for a DJ to get a girl.
"...for guaranteed action: Eastern Europe - Poland, Romania, Bulgaria. For all the other DJs reading this interview, who are looking for some girls, they are the countries. Get there!"
So then, is there a particular country where the women are more, I guess flirtatious than usual, in your experience as a DJ?
I love your questions! Well, there are really.
I would say (starts laughing) for guaranteed action: Eastern Europe - Poland, Romania, Bulgaria. For all the other DJs reading this interview, who are looking for some girls, they are the countries. Get there!
Oh, and the Ukraine has got to be possibly, the one with the most, to put it nicely, open-minded girls, or flirtatious, as you put it. (laughs)
OK then. Is there anything else that you'd like to plug?
Yes, I would love to plug www.magneticgrooves.com. People know all about my label, and my CDs and mixes and stuff but this is a new mp3 store. It's designed by five DJs and it's run by five DJs - and I'm one of them. It's all supported and promoted by lots of other DJs as well.
So it hasn't come from a nerdy background it's come from a DJ background so we're going to try to stock only the best music and not flood people with loads of stuff. We're doing the work of finding the best music out there and it putting on our site to sell so check it out. It's going to have releases from all the best labels.
Speaking of labels, what's coming out next on Alternative Route?
Three really really great tracks. Next is the new King Unique record "Dandylion Crush", which pays homage to one of my favourite records ever, 808 State's "Pacific".
Then after that, we've got Chris Lake's "Changes", which is the last track on my Balance CD1 and is turning out to be a massive anthem for me. Everywhere I play it's one of the biggest records. People who have heard the CD will recognise it. The piano chord in it is timeless, incredible, really soulful and deep, and a little bit sad but at the same time uplifting as well. It's a really beautiful track so that's going to come out after the King Unique.
The next one, which is going to be early next year, probably early February, is called "Harmony of Soul" from a producer in a really obscure place in Eastern Europe called Electricano. I used this track on my Miami Essential Mix in March and it's just a really powerful, soulful house song that has these huge drops which make the dancefloor go totally insane.
So three of my favourite records are coming out over the next few months. So yeah, some really exciting stuff on Alternative Route.
I'm also launching a new label called Symphonic, which is launching next month. The first three releases are all stuff I've been playing as well. The first release is going to be Upfade "Friday Loops" which is a massive record for Danny Howells. The second record is a track Wise' "Again". The original of that I used on my Miami Essential Mix and the remix on the flipside is on my Balance CD2 so both of those tracks are completely different.
Well, that all sounds great. So finally, in terms of the Balance CD, CD1 or CD2?
They've both got bits that I'm not completely happy with but if I had to choose: CD1, because it's got some tracks on it that just get so inside me. Like the Chelonis Jones, mixed over the track before that, the Williams "Love Crisis". The strings and the vocal, for me are just so beautiful and deep. It's so hard to find records like that, there are very very few out there.
There are very few deep, soulful songs out there that are still clubby so I really like that and the next track after that, the Babak Shayan "Flowers", which has such a beautiful vocal and the piano too.
I also like CD1 cos it really trips me out. There's a track by The Visitor and that track just completely trips me out, plus the Francois K one before - it's got these massive synths in it which just blow my brains out.
So basically what you're saying is that every track on CD1 is a winner?
Well, there are a few tracks, looking back on it now, that I kind of wish I'd made a bit shorter buuuuut...if you're really off your face it sounds great anyway...
And yeah, who's gonna notice?
Ex-a-a-a-actly! (evil laugh)
Desyn Masiello's "Balance 008" is out now on EQ Grey in the UK and Australia and released in the US on November 14th, 2005.
Published / Thursday, 10 November 2005