August 30, 2014

Technics SL-1200 "Coffin Report" w/ Christopher Lawrence

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DJ Christopher Lawrence spinning CDs in front of huge outdoor crowd at night
“I thought I had just bought a box of bricks.”

We asked Christopher Lawrence, the globe-trotting trance DJ/producer, to pour us a cup of sentiment regarding the Technics SL1200, which recently ceased production, for our series, The Coffin Report, which have featured Grandmaster Flash and Frankie Knuckles.

Do you have a memory of the first time you were impressed by another DJ playing on the Technics 1200s? The first time I appreciated the amazing talent of a DJ armed with a pair of Technics 1200s was when I was sixteen years old at a nightclub in San Francisco called the Palladium. It was the only place that would let minors in with poorly made fake IDs. It was a fairly commercial club with a heavy influence on Miami Bass with a rare goth or or new wave track thrown in. But what was absolutely mind blowing to me was that the music never stopped and that the DJ seemed to play one continuos song that never ended. I was used to radio DJs that did quick fades or cuts. More than the music I was transfixed by the seamless play of the records by the DJ behind the decks.

Tell us about your first pair of 1200s. I bought my set of 1200s in 1990 at a music store on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, where I was a student. I knew nothing about how to DJ and had no friends that were DJs. I walked in to the shop by myself and asked the sales assistant what I needed to DJ. I remember him telling me that the Technics 1200s were that only turntables that real DJ used and that that anything else would be a waste of my time. He set me up with two 1200s and a Numark Mixer. What really impressed me with the 1200s was how heavy they were. I remember taking them out of the shop and thinking that maybe I had just bought a box of bricks.

Anything you miss about that approach to DJing? I miss everything about DJing on Technics 1200s. Turntables and vinyl are a far more enjoyable experience to use than a CD player or a laptop. There is no substitute for the tactile experience of putting a needle on a record, cuing it up, rocking the record back and forth to the beat and then dropping it right on time and hearing it blend into the mix. Then using little feather touches on the platter to speed up or slow down the track through the mix. There was also a certain rush after the mix when I would take the previous record off the deck as if the physical record itself had somehow achieved a victory like that of a member of a relay team that passes the baton to the next runner. And for the audience, watching a DJ play on a pair of 1200s is far more glamorous than watching a DJ in the Digital age. I am grateful that I still have my four Technics 1210Mk3s. I can’t ever see myself giving them up and I am truly sad to see the production of the Technics 1200s come to an end. It as if a part of the art is dead. I know it may be nostalgic but, after all, the definition of a DJ is a Disc Jockey.

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