Tools of the Trade

Dan Ghenacia shares some wise words for DJs—including why he won’t use a computer to mix

By Ken Taylor


Dan Ghenacia is no stranger to the decks, having been a force in France’s dance music tradition for years now, DJing, producing, and starting labels such as Freak n’ Chic and, more recently, Apollonia along the way. Clearly Ghenacia is never one to take a break either, putting his name to two EPs in 2012 (one of which was a collaborative effort with Shonky) before dropping the Trax On Da Road EP in December. With so much experience under his belt, we figured Ghenacia, who plays Mexico’s BPM Festival this weekend, would have some words of wisdom to share with all of us when it came to the art of mixing—and it looks like we were right.

To begin with, tell us a little about your DJ setup.

I use vinyl and CDs—no controller and no computer—but I’ll use a USB stick once in a while if I don’t have any CDs to burn. I tried the computer thing, but it’s not for me. I feel more comfortable with things that can be manipulated.

How do you organize your music?

I like to burn my CDs just before the show to make sure I can easily remember what is on them. In general, I burn two CDs with all of the new stuff I want play, then I’ll make some CDs by artist and label. I do not really organize my vinyl; it is so easy to just look at the sleeve and sticker. I usually remember what is on the record from the record shop and then playing it the same night.

How many hours do you spend preparing music for an average gig?

I don’t really prepare; I just listen to my new records at home. When you play regularly, it’s fine. I spend more time finding records and I do that with passion.

Do you make edits of commercially released tracks to play out, or do you pretty much play tunes “as is”?

I do both. I’ll sometimes edit old tracks just to keep the beat and the bass, but I mostly play tracks in their entirety. Still, it’s essential to do edits. Sometimes, I’ll share my edits with a few friends like Dyed Soundorom, Shonky, and Djebali. We are the only ones to have those edits, and it helps personalize our sets and give us an identity.

Do you typically bring only one or two major styles of music to a gig, or do you pack options for many different possible vibes, depending on the mood of the dancefloor?

I like to do long sets and jump from one style to the other. Keeping the groove is the key to making this work, but even for a short set of 90 minutes I always play different styles of dance music. I am not very often just a one-way DJ.

How much does your set vary in tempo over the course of the night?

In general, I don’t change the tempo too much unless I am playing all night long. I can start a night at 120 or 122 BPM, then for the peak time go up to 125, or at a maximum 128 BPM, before going back down to 124 for the end of the night. But once again this depends a lot on who is dancing in front of you. It’s not the same in Italy as it is in London.

Do you use loops, effects, and such?

Not that often. I can loop on a CDJ when it’s necessary, but it’s not something that I regularly do in my sets. I like the delay of the Pioneer mixers and the filters on the Allen & Heath mixers. As long as it’s not systematic, it’s always great to make the crowd react once in a while. I’ve stopped using the reverb a long time ago though; it works on the crowd but really annoys me, so I prefer not to use it anymore.

Do you generally record your sets?

No, I don’t. First, I feel a little bit stressed if I know I’m being recorded; I don’t feel as free and I need that freedom to be connected with crowd. But for recording a compilation or a podcast, I use an RME soundcard and Ableton Live.

Do you have any absolute DON’Ts when you play? Anything you absolutely won’t do?

I don’t play two records together from the same artist. It’s an old habit. Something that I’ve learned from other DJs when I was starting. I still have this habit.

When you’re headlining, what would you like to hear from the opening DJ?

I don’t have a preference, as long as there is a nice vibe in the club, then I’ll do my thing. Of course, I prefer when the DJ is not banging, but in general I don’t make any kind of intro; I follow the vibe and in two or three records I turn it into my own thing.

What technological innovation would you most like to have, as a DJ?

To have a memory stick integrated into my body, to ensure I do not lose it in a club!

What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you onstage?

When I was playing with a computer, one night for no reason I couldn’t turn it on. I stopped playing with a computer after that night. That was four years ago.

Share some good music with us:

* Peaktime favorite:

* Opening track:

* Track for when you really need to use the bathroom:

What upcoming dates can Beatport News readers see you in action?

January 5 – Apollonia Showcase, BPM Festival 2013, Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

January 12 – Apollonia Showcase, La Huaka, Lima, Peru

January 18 – Apollonia Showcase, Warung Beach Club, Itajai, Brazil

January 19 – Apollonia Showcast at D Edge, Sao Paolo, Brazil

January 25 – Apollonia Showcase at SRB, Brooklyn, NYC

February 1 – Apollonia Showcase at Gipsy, Moscow

February 2 – Apollonia Showcase at Face, Birmingham, UK

February 10 – Apollonia Showcase at Panorama Bar, Berlin, Ger

February 23 – Apollonia Showcase at fabric, London, UK