DJ Chris Liggio on Spinning for a Living

Chris LiggioThe task of commanding the most integral aspect of any club — the music — has to fall squarely on the competent shoulders of a talented DJ. With an influx of new talent behind the turntables, seasoned veteran Chris Liggio shares the thought process of the disc jockey. A fully rounded musician, he’s produced dance tracks for the likes of Diddy, Mary J. Blige, Ludacris, Ghostface Killah and Kelly Osbourne and mans the booth at Goldbar, RdV, Butter and a host of other NYC clubs.

Nightclub Confidential:
What are the top three things you look at when evaluating a gig?

Chris Liggio: The type of crowd that goes to the venue, the type of music I’ll be able to play — is this stuff that I can do naturally rather than trying to fit whatever their format is? If they say “Come in and do techno all night,” that’s probably a pass. Money also has a lot to do with it. [Laughs]

NCC: Have you noticed that, given the recession, money is up or down? Or is it still were it was a few years ago?

CL: DJs pretty much stay consistent as far as pay goes, but if there are new places opening up they’ll try to low-ball you a little bit. That’s usually when they’re starting up. That’s dependent on the place; if it’s a bigger place like LAVO where you know it’s going to be a success going in, then it’s going to be the normal pay. But if it’s a smaller place going for different vibe, then it’ll be a little lower than normal.

NCC: How do you read a room and translate that into music?

CL: Usually in the beginning of the night, you start off kind of mellow, but that’s when I can play what I want to play, which for me is the best time. Same thing with the end of the night. But around 12:30 or 1 o’clock in the morning, you have to start looking at the room. You’ve got to start playing the hits at that point, and see what the crowd responds to, what they don’t like, what they love — all of that. You’ve got to throw crowd pleasers in here and there but not play back-to-back hits. You don’t want to sound like the radio. You have to be as creative as possible, especially with transitions. A large part of it comes with experience, but you have to start off with a solid knowledge of music and know when to drop each song.

NCC: What’s the difference between a good DJ and a bad one?

CL: Timing. Having flow from one record to the next is crucial. The vibes between one track and the next have to work flawlessly. Obviously there are a lot of guys who aren’t technically good at mixing, but they have a great taste in music and they know how to transition and it just works. It’s something that a layperson can tell the difference between. Something will jump out at you if it doesn’t sound right, even if you’re having a drink at the bar. You’ll notice it.

NCC: What else comes along with the title of DJ these days?

CL: Some production stuff. I love being in the studio, so I’m working on some writing and producing for some new artists. It’s important to have your influence extend beyond the club into the music itself. You don’t need to do it, but if you have more to offer than just DJing, you should do the remix, you should do the beats. I think everyone should try to do it, but it doesn’t mean everyone’s good at it. [Laughs]

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