Live DJs Spinning Around the World Posts

I go to a lot of shows and I listen to a lot of different kinds of music. My favorite music to see live is rock music, but I also have an affinity for EDM. I’m not one of those people that goes to see a certain DJ, but I spent my youth going to raves and going to an EDM concert nowadays reminds me of that to a certain degree.

An electronic music concert
Obviously, it is not quite the same. The atmosphere at raves in the 1990s was so much different, and frankly so much better, then at an EDM concert today. People went around and met each other while listening to music. They did not stare at the DJ for the whole duration of the show. That is something I will never understand.

That said, at a recent EDM show I found myself staring at the musician. Notice, however, that I said musician and not DJ. There is a big reason for that. In fact, I actually should have said musicians. Plural. There were several on stage.

These musicians were making electronic music, but they were doing it as a band, with instruments. They even had a singer and a trumpeter. It was basically like seeing a rock concert, but they were making electronic music. I thought this was so cool. I’ve seen this before in videos on YouTube, but I never seen it live. Now I will make it a point to see it more often.

What I found especially cool at this show was that the drummer was using an electronic drum kit. I’ve seen these in the stores, but I always thought they were a bit gimmicky. I never thought they could do what a regular drum kit could do.

Entry level electric drum set
An electronic drum kit

And maybe that is still true. I’m sure playing them is very different and yields different results. But after this recent concert, I can say for sure that both can yield great results, even if the results are different.

The percussionist in this band didn’t even have a large kit. It looked like an entry-level electronic drum kit with just the basic components. But the sound he got from that thing was incredible.

It helps, of course, that he was an excellent drummer and really knew how to get the best out of this instrument. He was clearly not someone who regularly played a real drum kit and had just switched to an electronic one. It was obvious he had learned to play the drums on electronic kit. He had total command of that thing and he made it sound incredible.

Not only did I come away from this concert with a new appreciation for today’s electronic music, albeit only a very small portion of what is on the market, I also came away with the desire to buy my own set of electric drums. I’ve always wanted to learn to play the drums, but knew that I couldn’t because my neighbors would hate me.

The big drawback of playing the drums is that it is one of the loudest instruments and it is very hard to play it quietly. With electronic drums, that becomes a nonissue. You can play as hard as you want and simply dial down the sound. It might take some getting used to at first, but eventually you can have full practices without the neighbors even knowing about it. This means more potential practice time, which means you will improve your drumming so much faster than you would on a regular kit.

That is only one of the many advantages of an electronic drum set. There are many others that you’re probably already aware of and I won’t go into here. The point of this article was just to mention that I saw something cool at a recent concert I went to and that it really got me into thinking about buying electric drum set. In fact, I think I’m going to head over to Google and start doing some research.

The next article you read on the site may very well be me talking about my new drum kit. Hopefully, it will also be me talking about the amazing progress I have been making as a drummer.


DJ relaxing in hammockYou’re a new DJ who only just started traveling to play your music around the world.

Allow me to make a few guesses about you.

You are poor.

Yes, since you are starting out as a DJ, I can assume you are poor. True, you may have family money or something like that, but most beginning DJs are poor.

And just because they begin playing internationally, it does not mean they are making more money. Generally, DJs who play internationally travel on their own dime and find gigs locally at whatever place they happen to be. They try to find the cheapest accommodation and cheapest food and to spend as little as possible, because they are not getting paid much.

It is a fair assumption in your case?

My number one traveling tip for DJs

This tip is actually something that most budget backpackers already know.

I’m sure you’ve heard of staying in hostels to save money. Or perhaps you’ve heard of staying on campsites or something like that. Both are, in fact, great ways to save money. But you can save even more and you can make yourself more comfortable.

Do you know how?

Buy A Hammock

Hammocks are amazing. If you know how to sleep in them than they are super comfortable. More comfortable in any bed. The key is to buy the right hammock and to sleep diagonally in the hammock. This allows you to straighten your body and makes them so comfortable. It is like your floating on air, so there are no pressure points on your body. You wake up more refreshed and you will not feel sore in the morning like you often do from a bed.

But how do hammock save you money?

They save money, because many hostels will let you hang your hammock on their property. They will still charge you, but they will charge you much less than if you use the bed. This means that you can use their shower, their kitchen and various other amenities, but you are not using a bed. They can still sell that bed to someone else. For this reason they give you half off on a night’s day or more. It is a great way to save money and actually be more comfortable.

hanging a hammock in a hostel

And when you’re camping it’s the same thing. As long as you are in a warm weather place, you can simply hang your hammock between two trees just about anywhere. Sleeping outdoors is a bit more dangerous in some locations and you want to take her care of your stuff. As a traveling DJ you probably have some expensive equipment, so I would definitely recommend hostels for you. That way you have access to their lockers. That is important.

Nevertheless, if you sleep outdoors, the hammock is wonderful. Just make sure your equipment is well taken care of somewhere. If it gets colder, I would not recommend a hammock, because it can get quite cold. There are some things you can do, though. You can use a sleeping bag in the hammock and you can travel with an under quilt. An under quilt wraps around the outside of your hammock and keeps you nice and warm even in cold weather.

In addition to that, if you ever stay somewhere longer and get an apartment, a hammock does not simply go unused. I still use mine all the time. I love gardening and even though I never have an outdoor garden, since I always live in cities, I do try to keep plants indoors. I’ve even bought grow lights to help with my houseplants. And the hammock allows me to relax in my little garden, no matter how small, and enjoy some peace and tranquility.

Traveling with a hammock is a great money-saving idea. It is also wonderful for your sleep. You will see, you’ve never slept as good as you will in a hammock, once you get yourself a comfortable one and you sleep in it the correct way. Now go get yourself a travel hammock and see what I mean!

Traveling DJ

a female singing on stageI remember the first time I heard electronic music with live singing. It was probably about 10 years ago. It was a YouTube video of Trentmoller performing their song Moan. They were using live instruments onstage to create the electronic sound and they had a woman singing the lyrics. It was mesmerizing and beautiful and I watched it over and over.

You have probably seen the video. It became quite famous. It was the first time I’d seen anything like it and it spurred me to look for more things like it as well. Here it is, in case you have not yet seen it:

Naturally, this was far from the first time someone had done this. People had been singing to electronic music for a long time and they had created that music live on stage before too, just like they had been using unusual instruments like the trumpet for EDM. It was just the first time I saw it.

I had heard singing with electronic music before. I was a big Crystal Method fan and the album Vegas has two tracks on it where a woman sings. She has a beautiful voice and they are the best tracks on the album. My friends and I used to listen to them all the time.

I started looking for all kinds of tracks that were similar, because I love that combination of a beautiful female voice with electronic music. I discovered Timo Maas, a German DJ and electronic music producer who has one song called Love in Traffic that he did with Kelli Ali, the lead singer of The Sneaker Pimps. It is amazing and I still listen to it all the time to this day.

Another song I discovered is State of Grace by Swayzak. Kirsty Hawkshaw sings on the song and her vocals are gorgeous. Unfortunately, toward the end of the song, she starts speaking in German. This is less gorgeous. Her German is not good and the lyrics are ridiculous, so there’s really no reason to do this at all. It kind of ruins the beautiful song, but as long as you ignore that part, it’s a great tune.

There’s so many good singers that DJs have no problem finding someone to sing live during their performances. Many DJs also learn how to sing better on their own, so they can accompany themselves. This is probably a good business decision, but it only makes sense if they actually are able to improve their singing voice. They have to know how to sing well, otherwise this endeavor will fail.

Learning to sing is not as hard as you might think. You just need to focus on the fundamentals of singing and get those down. Once you have the fundamentals down, in other words you know how to breathe correctly, you have a good posture, you know where to position your tongue and how to position and move your mouth, etc., then your voice will improve dramatically.

Once you have got the basics down, you are a decent singer. To become a really great singer, you just need to keep practicing a lot. Put in some work and you will have a great new sound. That said, I always find that female voices sound better, so if you are not a woman, then perhaps you should just hire out the singing job.


A lot of DJs these days use traditional classical instruments in their music. Violins are very popular for this, as is the cello. But one of my favorites is the humble trumpet. The somewhat harsh sound of the trumpet can really make a strong impact on any electronic music piece.

Naturally, most DJs will just sample some trumpet playing, but if you really want to stand out, you’ll get yourself a live trumpeter. Even better, you’ll learn to play the instrument yourself. You don;t need to be an expert; you just need to learn a few simple techniques to add a lot to your music.

If you want to play the trumpet, you’ll notice one thing real fast. Your lips and face get tired almost immediately. It is an exhausting instrument to play, so you’re going to need lip endurance. This is often overlooked, but it is vital for any good player. If you need to play for a considerable amount of time, you’ll only be able to do so if your lips are used to it.

trumpeters with endurance

If they are not, do not force it. You never want to play to the point where your lips get bruised. When your face and lips start to feel tired, take a break. Never play beyond the point where your start to loose control.

Do not lose heart if you cannot play for very long. This is normal and all beginning trumpeters go through a period where they become fatigued quickly. Just keep working on your endurance and after a few days, you will be able to play a little longer. After a few weeks, you will be able to play for much longer. It just takes some time to get used to using your face and lips in this way.

One technique to speed up the process is to practice lip slurs. You also want to record the time your are able to play non-stop with out a break. Do this for a few days and you should be able to play longer as your skills and endurance progress. Most trumpet players start out not being able to play for long. They soon end up out of breath, their lips hurt and their face is hit by extreme fatigue.

In any case, if you feel these symptoms you should NOT continue to play the trumpet any more. As the continuous strain on your face muscles gets stronger, you are at risk for face muscle damage, which can’t be repaired without surgery. Always stop once you feel fatigue.

As you continue your lip endurance training you will notice that you can play longer without becoming fatigued as quickly. You want to keep working on your endurance, so try to practice at least once a day for 30 minutes to an hour with breaks in between. Never play continuously for very long without taking short breaks.

Even if you’ve built your endurance to the point where you don’t need breaks, take them anyway. It doesn’t matter if you do not feel fatigued. Your face muscles are being used in unnatural ways when you play the trumpet and they need their rest.

If you do not want sore and bruised face muscles, I highly suggest working on your endurance carefully. The greatest thing about building your endurance is that you can always build it higher and higher until you are able to play a whole concert without more than a 15 minute break.

When you first start playing the trumpet, you’ll only be able to blow a handful of notes before you get tired, so reaching the point where you can play an entire concert is pretty impressive. It doesn’t even take too long, but for our purposes it isn’t necessary to get to that point anyway.

While real trumpet players have incredible physical endurance, you do not need to match them. You just need enough to get through your DJ set and since you’ll just be supplementing your music with a few trumpet sounds here and there, you should be able to reach a good enough level of endurance in a week or two of daily practice.

One thing to note: endurance disappears. Even trumpeters who have been playing for many years and many concerts and have built their lip endurance to incredible levels can lose it. If they stop playing for a while, their endurance will go down quite a bit. That is why it is important to keep up your practice, if you want to keep up your trumpet playing endurance.

If you want to use the trumpet live during your DJ sets, it will take a bit of work to build up a decent level of endurance so you can achieve this goal. That said, if you just need to play a few notes for recording in the studio, you can skip most of the effort. Work on your endurance a little, but don’t spend too much time on it. Of course, it’s kind of cool to be able to play the trumpet, so there’s really no harm in practicing a bit every day or two, is there?


As many of you probably already know, I got my start DJing on turntables. Obviously, this is how most DJs above a certain age started, so this is not uncommon. I still use turntables occasionally, because I don’t want to lose the touch and I just enjoy it, to be honest. I still prefer it over the modern technologies, but I do realize that those modern technologies are simply better. That’s why I’ve switched, like so many other DJs as well.

All that said, I recently bought a new record player. That’s right, even though I barely use my turntable to spin records anymore I bought a player. So why did I do that? Well, I did it just for listening. Vocalists sound so much better on vinyl, especially EDM singers. This has nothing to do with DJing.

a quality record playerYou’d have to be dead to not know that vinyl is making a big comeback. Most of this is due to the hipsters, among whom old-fashioned technologies have become cool. I’ll be honest, this annoys me a little bit and kind of makes me not want to listen to vinyl. But I grew up on the stuff, so I feel I have a right to do it, despite the hipsters trying to steal my generation’s thunder.

I actually have a large record collection that I never used for spinning. It was just for listening to. Much of it I inherited from my dad, but I added to it over the years. I also had a cheap record player to play it on. The record player we had growing up broke a long time ago and I replaced it with a cheap one because I didn’t have much money at the time. I was in college then and you know how that goes.

Over the years I considered buying a new one several times, but in the end I never did, since I rarely found myself listening to vinyl anymore. Recently I decided to change that. I decided to go out and buy a record player so that I could listen to vinyl whenever I wanted to. Most importantly, I could listen whenever relaxing in my super comfortable parachute hammock. I used to love traveling with that thing and now I still take it on day trips to the beach or park, but mostly I hang in the hammock at home while listening to music.

I’ve been keeping up with the technology, but I wasn’t prepared for just how many options are out there. Most of the record players out there have a ton of features that I just don’t want. They have built-in speakers, they have cassette decks, they have CD players, they play radio, etc. I don’t want any of that.

I already have separate components that do all of those things. I also have an amplifier and speakers, so I don’t need those in my record player either. But it seems like most of the record players that don’t have these things are turntables specifically geared towards DJs. I didn’t want one of those.

Luckily I found a great article that detailed some of the highest quality record players on the market. These are players that do nothing but play vinyl, but they do it at the absolute highest level. They look incredible, they sound incredible, they are extremely high quality. In short, they are amazing. They are also very expensive, but they are worth it to me.

In the end I decided on the Pro-Ject Audio – Perspex. It cost me almost $2000, but I’ve never heard sound quality like this before. The build quality is incredible too. I would never DJ with this thing, but for listening to records, you can’t do much better.

It’s definitely overkill for the casual fan, and probably for me too, but I just don’t care. It is nice knowing I have something that no hipster will ever buy. Mainly, because they can afford it, but also because they’re interest in vinyl is simply to keep up with their hipster friends. Once the fad passes, they will be over it.

But I’ll never be over it and with this record player I’ll be able to listen to my collection for the rest of my life and my children will be able to do so after me and then their children and their children and their children. This thing is solid and will last forever.


store selling vinyl records for turntable djs
A store in England selling vinyl records

DJing around the world used to mean carrying my turntables and my vinyl record collection everywhere I went. It took up a lot of space in my suitcase and weighed a lot too. These days I no longer have to worry about this. All I need to DJ is my laptop. Any club I play at provides the controller. I haven’t seen many that don’t have one. All of my music is on my laptop or on a USB disk. No need to carry heavy equipment anymore.

But I’m not sure that’s such a good thing. I love listening to music on vinyl and I really miss it. I have a turntable record player in my apartment at home, but it’s not portable and I don’t take it with me when I travel.

I still travel with speakers, but now I hook them up to my smart phone whenever I want to listen to music. I used to hook them up to my record player and that way I could listen to vinyl on the road. I do miss that.

I have converted all of my vinyl records to the digital format, so I do have those same vinyl sounds on my smart phone and on my computer, but it’s still not quite the same. It was also cool to have a few people over to my room and listen to vinyl records. Even if the sound is very similar, it just felt more sophisticated to have a record player playing the music, instead of the phone.

I also miss collecting records. I used to love browsing record stores and finding those gems and then playing them in my sets and surprising the crowd. I would play a lot of old records that they hadn’t heard in years, but they brought back nostalgic feelings. I also played a lot of new records that they had never heard before. That was always one of the coolest feelings. I loved it when I could surprise my audience by playing something they didn’t even know existed.

Oftentimes some of them would even come up to me after the show and asked me what it was they had heard. That was always one of my favorite things and that doesn’t really happen too much anymore. I guess you could still find new music by browsing on Spotify or whatever, but it isn’t really the same. In fact, I kind of hate browsing on there for music. It’s just not as much fun as going to a record store.

I do still visit record stores when I travel and occasionally buy vinyl records too, but they are just for my personal collection at home. So I guess it’s still fun but it definitely isn’t the same. And you don’t find as much music in the record stores these days.

They are struggling to stay open, so they need to stock what people want. And since nowadays it’s mostly hipsters who want to listen to vinyl, or more accurately want to have a player sitting around but never actually touch it, record stores stock the kind of music they like. It’s definitely not the kind of music I like.

So, yes, like many older people I miss vinyl. And yes, I know it’s making a comeback, but it is making a comeback among people most of us don’t really like. But more than anything, I miss spinning on vinyl. Manipulating the controller simulates it perfectly, but it still isn’t the same, is it? There’s just something about having an actual record on the record player and spinning and scratching it, that you don’t get from digital music. I miss it.


Watching DJs live has changed a lot in the past 20 years. The experience of watching a DJ play is very different today than it was when I first started going to live events back in high school. But I don’t know if that’s a function of my location versus a change that is a worldwide one. I’m pretty sure it’s the second, but I’m not positive.

First let’s look at what has changed. My first experience watching a DJ play live came back when I was in high school. I was living in the Seattle area and one of my friends invited me to a rave on the west side of the city in an abandoned warehouse. Funnily enough, it was his younger sister who was into the rave culture and not us. She must’ve been only around 15 at the time. Anyway, she knew about this rave and told her brother. He was interested in going so he let me know. I figured why not?

DJ and lasers at a rave
A “rave” in today’s times. Notice averyone facing the DJ (and the huge stage)

The first thing that struck me were some of the outrageous outfits. The Asian party-goers especially, seem to have gone all out. The next thing I noticed were how hot the girls were. I’d gone to a lot of rock concerts and seen some beautiful women there, but nothing compared to what I saw at this rave. I even enjoyed standing in line for almost an hour. There was just so much eye candy. If one of them had been a singer for one of the DJs, that would have been even better.

I also noticed how friendly everyone was. That brings me to the point of this whole article. There were a lot of good DJs and some of them were apparently quite well known. One, Donald Glaude, was hugely popular. But the crowd almost treated them as if the music was just coming from a stereo system. They didn’t pay too much attention to the DJs. Sure, when Donald took the stage, people noticed and cheered him, but then they danced amongst each other and didn’t really pay much attention to him. They just let the vibes he was creating take over their bodies and enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

The whole rave was like this. People were friendly, were talking and were getting to know each other. Everyone was mingling and hanging out in hammocks and having a great time together. The DJs provided the music that provided the atmosphere that gave us all such a great feeling.

These days when I go to raves or even just clubs that have DJs, it feels completely different. The DJ seems to be like a headlining act at a festival or concert. Everybody stands there and faces one direction, their eyes fixed on the DJ. Sure, they dance, but they dance with the DJ in a way. Nobody is talking to each other, nobody is mingling, nobody even seems to be having that great of a time.

I have gone to one show that had a live band with an amazing drummer on an electric drum set. That was quite cool and worth watching and not something I had ever seen before. But it is not standard and at most EDM shows, I just don’t get what everyone is staring at so intently when they look only at the DJ and nothing else.

Sure, they’re having fun, but is it really fun. They don’t seem to know how much more fun they could be having. Maybe that’s the key. Maybe they’ve never had the experience I had back in the day, so they don’t know how much more fun a DJ show could be. Because let’s face it, I have a lot more fun when I’m meeting new people and mingling. Naturally, when I say meeting new people, I mean meeting hot girls.

But that can be different for people. The point is people are more aware of other people, they’re not just aware of the DJ. The DJ wasn’t some celebrity back in the day. Yes, he was famous and people were aware of him and even went to raves and clubs to see a particular DJ. But then they just enjoyed the vibes created by the DJ and treated the whole thing like house party. I suppose that’s the difference. Where raves used to be like house parties, today they’re more like a concert.

The question is, is this happening in the US too? The first few years of watching DJs were in the US, but since then, I’ve been living abroad. I’ve not been to any raves or clubs in the US in over 10 years. As a result, I don’t know if this change has become apparent to me because I’m in a different country. I do feel like things have changed abroad, that they used to be similar to the US here, but now they’re like they are today. I get the feeling this is how it is in the US too. This is the era of the superstar DJ. Unfortunately, along with the era of the superstar DJ, comes the era of not being sociable anymore.

For more on the changing rave culture and how DJs, are perceived:


I have had the good fortune to watch live DJs spin music at raves in over five different countries. The rave scenes in these different countries varied greatly, but part of that is also due to the time difference. The raves I am going to mention here took place over a period of 15 years. During that time, rave culture changed in each one of these countries. I only partied at a certain time in each country, so I don’t know what they were like during the other times. This makes it difficult to compare one country to the other directly. But I will try.

The first raves I ever saw were in Seattle, Washington in the United States. They were simply amazing. I’m sure some of this has to do with the fact that they were my first raves, but back then it was the height of the rave culture in the US. The DJs were amazing and so were the venues. They took place in warehouses, but also large public venues. People took ecstasy and danced all night while wearing crazy clothes. The atmosphere was simply wonderful and it has never been beat by any rave or EDM festival I have attended since, apart from one with a live electronic drummer and band.

Outdoor rave in Europe
Crowds at an outdoor rave in Europe

Next I’ll quickly mention a rave I went to in Las Vegas in the desert. It was similar to the Seattle ones, but I did not know anyone there, so I didn’t have quite as great of a time. I also did not have any party favors and let’s face it, that does make a difference. The music at that desert rave was great, too, but I have to admit it was very cold at night in the desert and I was not dressed for the occasion. I had a few beers before I went, but there was no alcohol being sold at the venue, because there were people under 21 there and it was in the US. I got tired quickly because of this.

The next rave I went to was in Tokyo, Japan. This was in a gigantic venue right on the waterfront. The music was incredible, perhaps the best out of any of the raves, but the atmosphere just wasn’t there. The whole thing was much too commercial and that definitely took away from the feeling. We did have some party favors this night and I was there with a girl I really liked. This all made for a great night, but I did miss the underground feel of the raves back in the US.

From that point on I didn’t go to any raves for a while. In Europe I just went to clubs, because they did not seem to have real raves. They didn’t need them. You could do anything you wanted in the club. The next actual outdoor music festival with electronic music was in Seoul, South Korea. It was an electronic dance music festival with some large DJs. Some of the biggest name DJs in the world actually. Unfortunately, this being Korea, there were absolutely no party favors whatsoever. There was a lot of alcohol and everyone got very drunk, but it didn’t feel like a rave at all. It felt like a big party. It was a ton of fun, but I would not call it a rave. It was missing everything that makes a rave a rave.

EDM festival type rave in US
Ravers partying at an EDM festival in the US

Finally, I went to a few raves in Shenzhen, China. Being China, there was some weed, but nothing else. They also sold alcohol. I didn’t know anyone there and the parties were very small, so I got bored quickly. The music was fine, but nothing special. It was a nice try, especially for China. This is a country where you really do not have any good clubs at all and the nightlife generally sucks. The fact that someone tried to put on a rave is really incredible. They did a good job, too, but that’s not enough in this country. When you are in China, no matter how good you are at promoting parties and events, you just can’t compete with raves in the US or even Japan.

I just realized I forgot to mention the biggest rave of them all: the full moon party in Thailand. Yes I’ve been there and it was incredible. It also did not really feel like a rave, since most people were getting drunk. I was always against the US policy of not selling alcohol at these things, but now that I see what happens when you do, I actually like it. Raves are about drugs, not alcohol. The drugs fuel the enjoyment of the music and the general atmosphere of love and peace. Alcohol does the exact opposite of that. This is why the best raves I have been to were in the United States. That is probably surprising to you. It definitely is to me.

You’ll find info on raves on the Badass Raves FB page.


A few years ago I spent two months traveling through China. I spent all of my time in the south and the west. I began in Shenzhen, then went to Guiling and Yunnan provinces. I spent the first month there, then headed back to Guangzhou. From there I traveled to Chongqing and then to Sichuan. I spent most of the second month there, with 10 days or so in Lanzhou and Urumqi.

Night club in Shenzhen China
A KTV style Chinese night club in Shenzhen

During my travels, I made it a point to go to a club or two in every major city, to see some local DJs. I came away with one major impression. Chinese clubs absolutely suck. Most of the Chinese DJs are terrible, too, but even if they managed to spin a good set, I doubt I would even notice given how horrible the clubs are. I swear some of them just use regular old record players.

I’ll start in Shenzhen, since it’s the most western city. Located just north of Hong Kong, it gets a lot of international DJs as well as a bunch from Hong Kong and Macau and of course local ones. Many foreign DJs live in Shenzhen, too, since it is the best place in China for them to find work apart from Shanghai and Beijing. It is known as a very progressive city with great nightlife.

While it is progressive, the nightlife is far from great. In fact, the only Chinese city with decent clubs where you can have a good time is Shanghai. And the clubs are only decent, not great. Nothing like Tokyo or even Seoul.

Basically, in China there are two types of clubs: those catering to Chinese people and those catering to foreigners. In all of China, there are maybe 5 of the latter. In Shenzhen, there are none. The city does get some big name DJs, but they end up spinning in the Chinese style clubs, which is absolutely ridiculous. Here’s why:

Pepper Club, located in the Coco Park area of Shenzhen, is the most western club and the one that attracts the most big name DJs. The dance floor is the size of a medium-sized table. It is the biggest you’ll find in a club in the city. Instead, every inch of floor space in the club is filled with tables that customers can sit at for a large fee. This way, the club can make money and Chinese people can sit around in their little groups and not mingle with anyone they didn’t already know.

For some reason they love this. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to a nice bar or pub and talking to my friends, too, but I don’t want to do it in a place with a DJ and pounding music being piped into every inch of the club through hundreds of speakers in every corner. The only time you would want music that loud and that all-present is if you’re in a dance club where everyone is dancing. Not in a place full of tables.

But in China, the clubs are all made for sitting, but the noise level is made for dancing. It makes for the most useless nights out, where you can’t dance, can’t walk around and meet new people and can’t talk to your friends since you can’t hear anything they say. So you end up with a bunch of people getting drunk in small groups but not really talking, everyone just staring into their smartphones. Off to the side, a DJ plays music that no one can dance to and no one can talk over.

I have no idea if the club owners here have simply tried to copy the western club environment and failed miserably, or if they created this horrible clubbing experience on purpose. I imagine they make far more money this way, since people pay for all the tables. Obviously if they were trying to attract foreign customers, they would fail and go bankrupt, but since they get plenty of young Chinese customers, they don’t really need to worry about the rest of us. They can safely ignore us and just do whatever makes them the most money and whatever appeals most to Chinese clubgoers.

This wasn’t just a Shenzhen  phenomenon. All cities are like this. Shanghai, and maybe Beijing, have some decent clubs in the western style where it’s possible to listen to good music and actually dance to it and meet new people, but the other cities don’t. They are far worse than Shenzhen even. In Shenzhen, the clubs are glitzy and at least look like posh clubs. In smaller cities, they look like they want to look like posh clubs, the kind that would attract a famous DJ, but it is obvious it’s just a facade. The clubs all look cheap and tacky.

And the DJs they get to spin music are locals and their skill level is that of someone just becoming a DJ, someone who is in the middle of learning to DJ. They play the same top 40 tunes, but not top 40 from today. The songs were top 40 five years ago. The music is always turned up too loud. If they do play electronic dance music, it’s far too fast and seems completely unnatural. Not that you could enjoy your EDM even if it was good, since again, there are no dance floors and only tables with Chinese people smoking and playing a game of dice.

I’m not the only one who hates the clubs in China. Every foreigner who has tried to go to a few feels the same. The phenomenon of filling every inch of available space with tables and leaving no room for a real dance floor has even made it into a question on Quora, which you can read here. As you can see from that, there have been plenty of huge DJs, some of the world’s most famous DJs, playing gigs in China, but outside of Beijing and Shanghai, you won;t find the venues to really enjoy those DJs. And even in those two cities, the Chinese style of club is taking over. I guess they are just more profitable and are thus squeezing out the clubs that are more traditional and actually enjoyable. Money wins every time. We lose every time. What a shame.


When I was in college I went to my first rave. I went with one of my friends who I’m actually no longer friends with, but he was a nice guy. We were both learning to DJ at the time using this method and we wanted to see some real live DJs. We went to an old warehouse on the West side of Seattle. I’d never been to this part of town before and had never been to a rave before. I didn’t know what to expect from either.

As I was driving the car, we were listening to techno music. I always liked this kind of music but I had never gone to a rave to hear a live DJ. As we were blasting the music in the car on the way there, we were getting more and more excited. My friend’s sister went to a lot of raves even though she was several years younger than us, but strangely we had never been.

As we drove down the street along the waterfront and got close to the rave, we started seeing more and more people dressed in brightly colored clothes. Many of them were wearing strange hats, carrying stuffed animals, sucking on pacifiers and just generally giving off a very ‘peace and love’ kind of vibe. We were dressed the same as always and it was clear would be completely out of place.

We found a place to park and walked up and got in line. The thing that made the biggest impression on me that moment was the girls. They were hot. Not all, but a large percentage. Before getting out of the car we took some pills and it was the first time we were doing that too. Seeing the people around us it was clear we were not the only ones doing it.

Once we had gotten through the line and we had been patted down and frisked, we walked into the warehouse and approached the dull thumping of techno music. The first DJ really wasn’t that great in retrospect, but it sounded amazing to us at the time. The main reason for that was the atmosphere of all the people around us. They were totally into the music and letting it carry them, without a care in the world. And did I mention the girls were hot?

Once the pills kicked in we joined in the dancing and we had a great time. That time only got better early in the morning, when the main DJ took the stage. His name was Donald Glaude.

DJ Donald Glaude
DJ Donald Glaude

He was a large black man with an afro who played an incredible selection of songs and he knew just how to get the crowd going. The only thing he could have done better is have a hot woman singing to some of his songs. Or perhaps a whole band playing techno with real instruments.

The energy he fed into the assembled masses was incredible and it was at that moment that I knew I wanted to be a DJ. I have since tried many methods to make that happen, but in the end, I was not able to become a DJ. I just don’t have the ear for music. I guess it’s for the better; leave it to the professionals. I’ve since seen Donald perform several times and he has been amazing every single one of them.

American DJs