Milwaukee DJ turns to PC for inspiration
Most computer users don't think of their PC as a musical instrument. Sure, you can do word processing, surf the Web, and even file your taxes. But growing numbers of people in Milwaukee are turning their computers into home recording studios.
Dmitar Vuckovic, a local DJ by night and a bartender by day, is one such person. With a computer and his "American DJ Studio" software program, he's able to create music to play while he DJs.
"I work for Neon Nights Entertainment. I've been there for six months," he says. "I play at bars in Milwaukee and Waukesha. The crowd reaction is generally pretty positive. I try to mingle with the crowd before I do a set, to get a feel for what kind of music they will want to hear."
Getting a feel for the crowd is important, since Vuckovic has a collection of more than 1,000 songs. He wants to be sure to play music that will keep the crowd happy.
"I don't work with records -- yet," he adds. "They are very expensive, especially the beat records. Plus, they wear out faster."
A DJ has to have two records. One is a beat record that keeps time and two a record that matches time. Record two can be anything. A creative DJ, such as DJ Qbert, can find a way to mix a beat with a Peter, Paul and Mary song. And if they screw up, some audiences will let them know.
"There are clubs, and there are raves," explains Dmitar. "A club can have any ridiculous DJ spinning and morons will dance to it."
"A rave crowd will stop moving if the DJ is playing poorly or playing bad music."
There may be a reason for that, Dmitar explains. "There's a different mindset between a clubber and a raver. Clubbers are 'Sally Housecoat' and 'Eddie Punchclock.' They don't necessarily follow the music; they go out to have a good time. It's a fickle thing.
Ravers, on the other hand, are more in tune with the current music progression. If a DJ is missing time, or making any other obvious mistake, it creates utter displeasure.
But when creating his own CD, Dmitar keeps neither group in mind. "I never fit in with any group. You respect every group, then combine all the ideas you find to create your own. Inevitably, you'll find other like-minded people.
But considering that Dmitar is working on his own album, by himself, does he consider himself to be following the punk ethos of "Do It Yourself"? Not at all.
"I'm not a punk," he says. "I don't follow the punk beliefs. I really don't care where music comes from. Music is made for people to listen to, and every individual will have a different reaction."
With CDs, Dmitar says he has "the ability to make my own beat samples and burn them right to a disc." Programs, such as American DJ Studio, allow home-brew musicians to spend as much time as they want to come up with the perfect beat. Sounds can be processed, mixed, re-mixed, tweaked and then finally finished. The type of sound is often difficult to categorize. There may be a guitar sample here and there, only to be mixed and manipulated to where it sounds like a blender gone mad. This creative process is what Dmitar really enjoys.
"I would much rather have my own music as the focus" he says. "I like to DJ, but they are a dime a dozen. I want to do original music. Right now, I don't even play my own CDs at shows, just mix CDs." His original CD is in the tradition of electronic music virtuoso Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and Global Goon.
Aphex Twin (real name Richard D. James) is the man who influenced Dmitar more than anybody else. James has a large underground following, and is considered a musical genius by his peers. Hailing from England, James remains somewhat unknown in the United States.
"I got into Aphex Twin while playing Ridge Racer 4 (a video game). I had the disc, 'Come to Daddy,' for years - since high school," says Dmitar.
"It took me a while to get into it. I just wasn't ready for it, so I couldn't appreciate it. Aphex Twin's uniqueness led me to a new style of music, one I can't categorize. I respect the fact that he plays his own genre."
Dmitar, like many other people who enjoy electronic music, realizes that this music hasn't caught in the US like it has in England. Some people believe the biggest reason is because Americans need to have lyrics so they can hum along. Others feel that electronic music is just too "cold" or "out there" to connect with a mainstream audience. And there are some bands that resent the fact that people are using computers instead of "real" instruments. But Joel Trudell, a member of the band The Mollycoddles, believes that Dmitar and Aphex Twin, are real musicians.
"They're musicians, and their instrument is a computer," he says. "It's a tool used to express how you feel musically, no different than a guitar."
Another opinion on the matter comes from Tim Schwantes, who plays in local band D2K.
Says Scwantes, "Personally, I do not consider a computer to be a musical instrument, to me it's more of a musical aid. If an entire album is created without the use of a physical instrument (i.e. harp, trombone, triangle) it's really just an example of technology at work."
Currently, Dmitar sees U.S. pop music consisting mainly of boy bands, but there is always some new trend to pick up on.
"I don't know what that will be," says Dmitar. "Boy bands will be replaced by some counter-culture."
"Pop music is popular because many people can relate to it. But it's all flavor of the week and manufactured trends."
But since electronic music cannot seem to break into the U.S. mainstream, Dmitar would rather have a loyal fan base than people who buy his music just because it's the hot new item of the week.
"I'm not looking for a global following. I'd like a loyal group of people, and to be on a label with other acts I respect."
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