As DJ Alex Cecil played at Pacha NYC this past week on superstar DJ Danny Tenaglia's birthday bash, he looked around the room he knowing that his path was quite different from most DJ's.
The traditional path to glory is usually gained through endless hours spinning in a basement or garage on equipment that was saved up for and playing small club gigs until their skills are honed enough to secure that one big break.
DJs learn the "old skool" way - they learn from each other by listening, watching and hanging. It is an informal process that will change as the market demands more talent. Recently, even middle of the road DJs have management as the demand for talent worldwide requires strategy and planning. DJs are business travelers; unlike years ago, they bring a laptop or another small “gizmo” as only a very few use records.
DJ schools and DJ classes in established public and private schools are becoming more common and careers as a DJ will inevitably become as sought after and respected as any trade. Hotel brands are seeking out DJs to merge their brand for a cool edge. The opportunities for the good, the bad and the great DJ are expanding. EDM music and DJs’ reputations are spread universally through the web. There is a commonality wherever they travel as music has become a language understood and desired throughout the globe.
Alex Cecil, however, was a banker who abandoned the typical 9 to 5 job for the 10PM to 4AM gig. To many of his colleagues he was dropping out but Alex sees it differently; he crunched the numbers and followed his heart.
“It was the first mix I recorded - Smooth Operator on top of Sexual Healing,” says Cecil. “When I listened to the mix the first time I knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life. From there it wasn't if, it was when.”
“The club scene has transitioned over the years. DJs used to have to impress a very knowledgeable underground core club crowd but now the "yuppie" with a solid credit card pays the bills.” Cecil believes that his corporate background gives him an edge to a certain degree; he tells us being a good DJ is knowing how to read your crowd more than who the crowd actually consists of.
Cecil envisions himself producing music in the future and if everything goes according to plan, he will make new music that when played, the crowd will be immediately intrigued.
A fundamental learner, Cecil, started off with technics turntables and serato, and then moved onto CDJ's which replicate turntables. However, he believes that it’s very important to know how to use turntables. “Once you master that, the rest seems much easier.”
There are many tools one can now use like syncing the tracks by pushing a button but Cecil personally likes to “keep it old skool and do it myself - however there are many that would disagree.”
“I think a lot of schools could build up their music program, however, it's really up to the students. If there is a demand for it, schools will supply students with the necessary courses. DJing is all about fundamentals, music theory. I studied the cello for 12 years and it has certainly helped me. Knowing how to count out bars in a track is key. Knowing what keys the tracks are in makes for a smooth transition.”
These musicality skill sets will help aspiring DJs grasp the true grit of the music they are looking to create. Cecil also advises to “start off with a beginner DJ set and test the waters.”
“You should know that it isn't easy - just like any other industry,” continues Cecil. “You have to love it. If you love it, you can't get it off your mind and want to practice 24/7. Only then, try throwing a party and DJing it. But be advised that “bedroom DJing is still very different from performing at a club live.”
At any rate, the future is bright for DJ Alex Cecil and as he has so elegantly proven, if you put your mind to something, you can achieve it. Expect great things in the future from this former banker turned DJ.