Aroha - Interview with one of NZ's leading DJs
Aroha has been making her mark in the New Zealand music industry for many years. Well known for her work in radio and music TV, in audio technology, and as an accomplished DJ, music is her passion. You can catch Aroha weekday mornings 10am-12pm, hosting on NZ’s #1 dance music station, George FM.
You’re very comfortable behind the decks as both a Radio DJ and a Club DJ - what are the key differences and what are the key things that make a good Radio or Club DJ?
As a radio DJ, you can’t really read the crowd – so anticipating the mood of the audience can be difficult, but after many years of working in radio, I think I’ve become pretty good at figuring out what people are in the mood to hear. It’s so easy to switch station, so you have to keep things interesting and change the pace regularly, but smoothly. If you get it wrong there’s nothing stopping a listener from switching stations.
I got into club DJing much later in the piece, and I can honestly say I’m still surprised by what does and doesn’t work. Reading the crowd is of course very important, but I also think it’s too easy to get wrapped up in trying to cater for what punters are comfortable with. I like to mix things up and keep people guessing without going too obscure so they stay on the dance floor. With all DJing it’s about showing people a good time and giving them a taste of tracks and styles they may not be familiar with.
How does it feel to have received the reader-voted 2013 Rip It Up Magazine “Best Of Kiwi – Best Club DJ” award?
I was so surprised to have won the award, but so very stoked. It’s especially heart warming because the public voted for it. I’m just glad that people dig the tunes that I play and keep coming to my gigs.
What DJ Gear are you currently using?
I use Serato Scratch Live with a Rane SL3 interface, Technics 1210MK-II turntables and a Pioneer DJM900. I also use Novation Dicers so I don’t have to touch my laptop frequently - who wants to watch a DJ who looks like they’re checking their email? These are handy for triggering cue points, loops and loop rolls, and I’ve MIDI mapped a couple of extra triggers for FX and switching play modes.
My preference has always been to play with vinyl and/or vinyl emulation software, however these days it’s becoming harder to find clubs who have turntables set up, let alone in good working order. So I’ve made myself more comfortable with using CDJs. They still feel strange to me, but in the comfort of my own home I get to bust out all of my old records.
What part does technology play in DJing for you and how do you see technology impacting on the future of DJing?
I used to work for Serato, so it goes without saying that I’m a fan and advocate of new technology. I remember when I first started using the software many years ago, there were so many haters who would say it was inauthentic, that I was “cheating” by using digital vinyl technology.
These days it is not just a matter of necessity because it’s harder to get music by any means other than digitally. I also see these types of technologies as being creative tools, allowing you to do things that aren’t possible using traditional technology.
There are more entry-level controllers out there, which I’ll admit make it easier for less talented people to get into DJing, however who’s to say that one day they might not be the most talented kid on the block and leading the charge? Everyone has to start somewhere, and you can’t fake good taste in music, no matter how flash your equipment.
What would your ideal DJ booth
My ideal booth would be exactly the right height for me (this is often an issue), would have some kind of shield to protect from projectile drinks, and would consist of a Pioneer DJM900SRT mixer, which has the Serato DJ soundcard built in (although I wish it had 2 USB ports), two mint condition Technics SL-1200Mk5s, a Pioneer DDJ-SP1 MIDI controller and Shure M44-7 needles.
What was the first record you ever bought?
Well technically, I didn’t “buy” it, more I lifted it from my mum’s record collection and called it my own (until she figured out I knicked it years later and asked for it back) – Led Zeppelin’s ‘Presence’.
Name 3 records that never leave your record bag…
Outkast ‘Aquemini’, Talking Heads ‘Remain in Light’, Kelis ‘Tasty’.
Any advice for DJs just starting out?
Be professional. Punctuality and politeness goes a long way. Getting trashed at all your gigs might be fun for a while, but ultimately you’ll end up being a liability.
Where can we catch Aroha this summer?
Weekdays on George FM 10am-12pm, at Rhythm and Vines, Splore, Homegrown and at the weekly Saturday evening club night which I host with Dean Campbell at Tyler St Garage, ‘Dance Yrself Clean’.