ODYSSEY: The Art Of Playing A Long DJ Set
House kingpin Mark Knight’s new film Odyssey is a tribute to the extended set. Here he shares seven tips for spinning all night long.
This April, Mark Knight kicks off All Knight Long – a 15-date tour that will find the Toolroom Records founder playing sets of six hours or more at some of the world’s greatest clubs. To coincide with these shows, Knight has released a brand new film, Odyssey, which features superstar DJs from Roger Sanchez to Danny Tenaglia discussing the ethos of the extended set.
When you have six, seven, eight hours to play with, you can be a lot more creative musically Mark Knight
“When you're doing a headline set you're obliged somewhat to go in and deliver all the big things you can do, because you're being paid a lot of money to make people have a high energy, high impact couple of hours,” says Knight. “But when you have six, seven, eight hours to play with, you can be a lot more creative musically. It’s not something you can do every week – it is exhausting. But if you pick and choose the right venue, it can be a very special thing to do.”
Watch Odyssey below, then scroll down to read Mark Knight’s guide to going long in the club.
1. Take cues from the experts
Some of the best extended sets I’ve seen were by Danny Tenaglia. He’s always been held in such high esteem by DJs, and he’d do sets at WMC [in Miami] that would go on for 24 hours. I remember peeling myself off the dance floor late Sunday one night, knowing I had to get a flight early Monday morning back home.
There’s a lot I took from those sets that are still part of what I do now. The way he worked the crowd. He’d all of a sudden drop in something unexpected – like a Prince record – and you'd be like: "I didn't see that coming but it totally works". I still take reference from those shows now.
2. Prepare. Then prepare some more
What I tend to do is put tracks in sections. I'll create playlists for certain points in the night – an hour between 11pm and 12, three hours between 12 and 3, then 3am to 6 and 6am onwards. At the peak time of the night you still have to play peak time music, but I'll create another three or four different sets for points throughout the night. I won't know exactly what order I'll play those records, but I know those records will work in a certain period of time.
3. Learn your link records
You need to be able to move between different tempos and atmospheres, and do that so the whole thing isn’t disjointed. The records that let you do that are very important – you need to ask yourself: “How do I get from this thing to that thing?” That is very much the art – DJing is taking people on a journey, and it’s important it feels seamless.
4. Respond to the crowd
Ultimately you can't go there with your set mapped out. The art of DJing really is the art of reading the crowd, that understanding of “OK, I thought this would work but it's not working – what's plan B or plan C?” So you’ve got to have a really broad cross section of music that’s flexible and adaptable to what's happening in front of you.
Danny Tenaglia would do sets at WMC that would go on for 24 hours Mark Knight
5. Enjoy yourself – but pace yourself
The cold hard reality is that you need to feel connected to the audience. Obviously the crowd is in a certain state, and you have to be mentally connected to the atmosphere, the vibe in the room. I don't think I could do it without having a drink. But it's about pacing yourself. You need to be able to feel the mood of the room, but don’t get drunk – that isn’t a way to carry yourself as an artist.
6. Choose your venue carefully
It has to be the right place, or it doesn't really translate. There are some shows were you play two hours and it feels like a lifetime. But there are other venues where you play and it's like: "Woah, eight hours have passed?"
For me, Space in Miami is just perfect. There’s a certain selection of DJs who will play a minimum of a 10 hour set there. There’s a magical moment around 10 or 11 o’clock when you get the night to a certain point where you could literally do anything. You could play a tuba solo for an hour and get away from it. Yeah, Space is my favourite club in the world for these kinds of sets.
7. This definitely isn’t the time for vinyl
I'm not sure how [playing physical records for a long period] would even be logistically possible. The only people who’d be making any money out of sets like that is the airline.
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