NINA KRAVIZ How I keep up when things go horribly wrong

Read all of Nina’s previous Groove columns here.
A German translation of this text has been published in Groove 155 (July/August 2015)

Do you know this feeling when you are really looking forward to something? When all is set for it to go well, both your and other people’s expectations are really high, but there is nothing to worry about. You are professional and you can do it well.

I feel great and ready. I arrive at the venue, which is a big concert hall transformed into a place for a good party. The event is going really well and the room is packed with an excited and loving crowd. People greet me and I greet them back, appreciating such a warm welcome. The air is hot from anticipation and I want to make them happy. I want to pay back for their love and I want them to have the best of times. The sound system looks and feels solid, but something deep inside of me starts to worry.

The warm-up DJ plays his last track and surprisingly the monitor speakers are turned off. My turn to play: I put the first record on, the crowd reacts fantastically. I turn the monitor up to mix in the next record, and: bang! It takes me a few seconds to detect the horrible monitoring with a huge delay. Pitfall. One more try – oh no! I turn it up, try a few things in hope to adjust the monitoring, but all of that doesn’t help. I mix blind and do not hear what I am doing. I almost stick my ear into the monitor. I talk to the technician and he doesn’t understand what I am talking about. I can see he is trying to help and starting to move things around to make the sound in the booth even worse. At some point this absolute sonic horror scenario results in a broken cable and no monitoring at all.

 

“It feels like a big dark cloud is right above me and the whole world is about to fall apart.“

 

Panic! It feels like a big dark cloud is right above me and the whole world is about to fall apart. That’s it, I am not an artist anymore. My creativity has all been wasted trying to fix the sound. I feel sorry for the people on the dancefloor and responsible for the whole disaster. I try not to look into the crowd while a couple of really murky visions sporadically pop up in my mind. Thousands of little wet black eyes, all of them looking at me with that half-dissapointed questioning glance. ”We all came here to see you play and you? What are you doing there?” I have no answer. I’m paranoid and expect people to start judging me.

Then I look down: Strange, the crowd seems to have a good time and dances as if nothing was going on! In fact, no one probably has any idea what exactly is going on in the booth. I try to keep cool and struggle while mixing just with the headphones. This challenge destroys my confidence and kills my creative courage. All I want is to disappear: Somebody please pull the curtains down! Turn off the lights and let this be over! But I am here for an extended four-hour chaotic sonic torture tumble. I’m a little fish, I’m caught and dropped onto the surface without water. Darkness.

It’s almost 6 a.m. A happy promoter sneaks in and says that they have to close. But could I please play three more songs, because the crowd is really happy and wants more? I smile and catch myself thinking, that I don’t want to leave.How did I manage? I think, I simply accepted the situation. Because sometimes, being professional also means accepting things that are going wrong and to continue nevertheless. When you stop your „inner rebel“ and accept things, the storm naturally slows down.

This accident left me thinking of how fragile the quality of a DJ performance really is. It is co-dependant on so many factors. DJs are not actors, who can still continue their monologue even if the electricity switches off. To be able to concentrate on the creative side of the performance and to articulate my musical journey smoothly, I need good – or at least decent – working conditions. But even this is not the most vulnerable part of my job. I have come to the conclusion, that the foremost thing about a good show is a balance of energy. The right state of mind. It is very difficult to explain verbally, but it’s probably just about this right and very quiet feeling of acceptance. And with that state of mind you can really find a way out of any or almost any difficult situation.