Don’t see the beauty of what DJing will give you, but do it for music: DJ Willy

A neighborhood full of musicians got DJ Willy into DJing over 25 years ago. People in the club scene arena especially the Mumbaikars, know him as the lethal maestro. The popular DJ who has played for many club events and private parties had no plans to pursue DJing as a career. Having started with assisting Ryan Beck, he later went on to work with popular Indian DJ Aqeel and since then, he has never looked back. In an exclusive interview with Music Beat, he shares his technical knowledge, dos and don't's of DJing and his experience as a DJ, his guru DJ Ryan Beck, DJ Aqeel, and more!

What made you choose DJing as a career? Any inspiration?

Initially, it didn’t look like a career. It was the live music influences and the fact that my neighbourhood was full of musicians that drew me closer to DJing but making it a career took time. I lasted around mainly because I love music. Let’s see how far it goes and that’s the reason I chose to stay.

Inspiration, not really as I haven’t had any major role of DJs who inspired me initially. But, later there were some House DJs which I felt good, I looked up to like Tiesto, Carl Cox, etc.

Did you learn the technicalities of DJing from the internet or took professional training to become a DJ?

Technicalities were about pro observation with all the sound professionals, I had associated with back then. I learnt wiring and stuff like that. It didn’t really need any professional training. Contrary to what people do today, we did it first hand, we were obviously guided while making our collections in those days and we were told, ‘This is your input and this – output.’ It was more of observing and watching other DJs playing and how they go about mixing etc.

Do you create your own beats or prefer remixing?

Of course, remixing is something you make yours, we call it bootlegs. Any kind of Bollywood song that releases is not thumpy enough for a club event sound-wise. I do have my arranger, we sit together and recreate the entire song, its beats and try and give it our own touch rather than taking music from the internet.

You are known for your versatility. Can you tell us more about how you blend the beats?

There is a standard principle for mixing beats of four in a bar and as you play the song, you will notice the progression. We need to have a count of when the vocal comes in for a vocal-based track. So, this is how we calculate when we release a mix. We have to understand that this song is going to begin her and before that, we need to get out of the mix. If you are switching from A to B and B to A, you need to understand when to fade in and when to fade out. This is the most basic yet complex thing to understand about mixing.

A DJ is responsible for setting the mood of any occasion. Are you pre-prepared or choose the beats depending on the audience present?

Well, I don’t really go with a mindset that the tracks played will be English or Bollywood, they are not in any order. From a club event to an arena show to a sangeet or a corporate, etc., Depending on the venue and the kind of event, the songs differ. For example for a sangeet, you cannot follow your route as you have random requests pumping in from the guests. So, we DJs do prepare our playlists, which is on the shuffle mode and not much of a BPN is followed. Contrary to that in an arena event, you know you have a set to follow for an hour or so. So, you go with that order of music and plan a basic mood for the evening with the headlining act. Hence, you must know exactly what you are going to do and how you will be setting that particular mood so that you don’t go hey why. With club events, it’s again your call totally as you will keep the club running and have people glued to the floor. So, you got to keep it bang on! So there is a variation in all three types of events.

Has the party scene changed today? Which crowd do you enjoy playing for?

Yes, the party scene has drastically changed over the years. When it comes to the crowds, I will have to play for audiences of every era so that doesn’t make any difference to me as it’s my job. Earlier, people came to party no matter what the tone was and would swing around the place without any complaints. But, in the current times, if they see no Bollywood or mainstream music, they will just disappear from the club. Today it is 99.9 percent Bollywood music, contrary to what was played earlier in the clubs, and doesn’t function without it. Yet, there are a few clubs following the old norms but it’s not really satisfying. I would love to play for everyone!

It was DJ Ryan Beck who introduced you to DJ Aqeel. Any fond memories?

I do a lot of Ryan Beck and I have a lot of respect as he is my Guru. I met him through one old mutual friend. I spent a good five to seven years with Ryan, he used to shuffle me to Kolkata and other places. I got a lot of work through him I used to also assist him where we used to give him the CDs he wanted. It was fun understanding, how it is all done and learning all the methods of DJing. His kind of mixing was bang on and we used to love his way. He was the epitome of class. He introduced me to DJ Aqeel when the latter was looking for a DJ. The DJs back then were closely associated. Akeel was one of the top-notch DJs and was very popular back then. He was looking out for a DJ to assist him for all his private parties back then. So, that’s how my journey with DJ Aqeel began and ever since then, my graph has taken off from there.

How has been your journey so far? Any striking memories?

Yes, the first superclub, Poison where I played, was under DJ Aqeel and was his personal nightclub. This was my first big breakthrough as a club DJ. I found my place to rock some nights there and to get the best out of me. So, I used to balance myself as being a private party and a club DJ, I, therefore, had an alter ego there. Poison club nights were one of the best memories so far. Later other clubs came in but Poison did a miracle in my life, so that is a fond memory.

Do DJs get paid lavishly? Was it good earlier or in the current times?

Well, yes, DJs do get paid lavishly now when compared to back then, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. You cannot just expect a lakh of rupees for a show or a wedding party or a night club gig. You need to be on the top of your game and be recognized and get releases on your name. You need to know how to sell yourself as a DJ and your talent to the market. It’s only then your will USP change and you will get to demand a certain price. Otherwise, if you are not associated with any movie or a big nightclub, you cannot expect anybody to pay you a lump sum amount. You have to create a name for yourself but most importantly, you must know to navigate yourself since the time you began DJing. In the current times, you need to have followers who understand your sound. Not all house DJs make money, but private DJs who play more Bollywood music, make more money when compared to any club gig. In today’s time, a club DJ could get paid around 10-15 thousand for a gig because all clubs have budgets.

You have played at some famous clubs. What’s the next big thing in the store? Any Bollywood project?

Keeping the current situation in mind, I can only say that now it’s time to get working on some Bollywood projects, which I have begun in association with Neeraj Sridhar and Bombay Vikings. We are working on some dance and love Bollywood tracks. Hoping that we will be able to strike a chord with Salman Khan with whom I have a close association. So, we will see what works for him and for other production houses.

Do you think people are accepting DJing as a career in India today?

People are accepting DJing as a career and we have a handful of them, both rich dudes to the grassroots, there are DJs who have come out from nowhere, have no support, but aspire to be a DJ. Some of them make it some of them don’t. Families are accepting DJing as a career, but of course, not all that glitters is gold. There is a lot of hard work and passion involved. I was a bad guy in school who ran away from classes and bunked them. My family had no option but to let me do DJing though they were not supportive initially. They tried sending me out of the country, get me a job, but eventually, I landed up in the career, I wanted to pursue!

What message do you want to give to aspiring DJs?

If you want to be an aspiring DJ, keep in mind that you have to be completely passionate and cannot just let it go. Don’t see the beauty of what DJing will give you, but do it for music and you will land places.

Who is your favourite DJ?

There are many favourite DJs, but I could have just one guy standing out and he is well known in the world. His name is Carl Cox, who is one of the legendary house DJs in the world. He has got a career spanning over 30-35 years or more!