Rock Club DJ: "How I Avoid Sonic Suicide"

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Club survival strategies


We’ve reconvened with Alex Kayne, the atypical DJ whose longest residency of note was not at a dance club but a metal/rock venue—Club L’Amour in Brooklyn, where he started spinning in 1979. We spoke to him last month about tactics he uses to keep the floor moving.

Rock clubs by their very nature exude a different atmosphere than dance clubs. Yeah, songs have to stay within the context of rock. Sometimes there is a live band on the bill with me. I can’t sweeten rock tracks to push them toward a dance feel. Adding a dance beat to everything would be sonic suicide. I can juggle or beat mix, but on the order of a rock tempo. I use different transitions and sound effects to blend songs. Remixing tracks and extending or shortening patterns of a song with emphasis on the great parts, introducing effects wherever they work. Stripping out a vocal or lead guitar solo for another or switching up one drummer’s drum fill or cymbal accents with another. It’s fun to stray away from the track’s default arrangement to play around, and then come back. The rock purists in the crowd sometimes frown upon radically remixing original rock tracks, especially with classic songs like Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker.” I do it while preserving the track’s integrity. That way when I get to the other side of the tune, they are pleased. Some come up and ask “Hey, where can I get a copy of that version?”

Can you give us an example or two of a track that you remixed and tell us what you did to it? An AC/DC track like “You Shook Me All Night Long” is an example of a rich track from which to extrapolate a battery of clips. Guitars, drums, verses/chorus, and breaks are sliced up or looped. After editing, I’ll remix it with an extended guitar hook and drum pattern, and overlay an effect tweaked lead guitar solo for the track’s intro. Drop in some of the late Bon Scott signature growls, or something funny or poignant he said in an interview and that leads us into the main track. With Black Sabbath’s classic “Paranoid” I deconstruct/reconstruct the verses so that not only is Ozzy’s vocal is humorous and grammatically incorrect (a play on his ditzyness), the crowd never knows which verse is next. The Led Zeppelin track “Heartbreaker” has a break where Jimmy Page rips out a blazing lead all by himself. Part of the way in I will remix this break with technically more impressive, faster solos from a virtually unknown guitarist, or a rapid fire burst of many different famous guitarists shredding up to Page’s ending. Pretty simple stuff, but a lot of fun.