Firebeatz is among the elite set of DJ duos who make the rounds in Las Vegas on the regular. In advance of their November 30 return to Marquee, Tim Smulders—one half of the twosome, along with Jurre van Doeselaar—has a few pointers for would-be DJs wishing to join Firebeatz in the big leagues.
It seems like everyone wants to be a DJ these days. What’s your advice for getting started on the right path?
Try to get some cheap gear, or just ask friends [to use theirs] and start playing. [My start was] similar to that. One of my colleagues had old turntables. And [then] I just bought old raggedy turntables and started playing vinyl on them. Literally the shittiest turntables you can think of.
How does one secure that all-important first gig?
It’s a very good idea to go to the clubs that you really like, get in touch with the people who run parties, promoters, or club owners and show them a demo or mixtape of the music you make.
Is that what you did?
I knew this guy who threw parties in my hometown, and I asked him [if I could] come over and have a drink and show my CD. I was like, “Do you mind me jumping on the decks?” There was nobody [there]. He just turned on the power, and I played for 30 minutes and he was like, “Damn, I like it. You’re coming to play at my next party.” And that’s how I did it. You have to be—not aggressive, but show them that you’re hungry and willing to play.
How would they know what music to play and when during a set?
When you don’t have a lot of experience as a DJ, you don’t really know what’s going to hit with the crowd. And still, for us sometimes, it’s a big gamble. Some songs, you just know they’re going to love, but some you just like a lot and then the crowd is like, “Actually, no.” My advice would be, [play] anything that gives you that feeling inside, like that “yeah!” feeling. “I love this song.” People will see that, people will hear it, you will give it a special place in your set, you’ll build anticipation to that song, because you like it and you want to drop it at the right time.
It [also depends on] where you play. If you play a big club with more mature crowds, you should definitely play more vocals and stuff people can sing along and vibe to. If you’re in a smaller club that is really dark or grimy, I would go for the more clubby tracks, more bass. That’s how we select tracks.
Which is more important: how songs are mixed together in a set, or the song selections themselves?
They’re equally important, because a song can totally hit or miss by the way you mix it in. If you have a really good track list, it shows that you have the knowledge [even if] you don’t have the technique to mix. And you can learn the technique to mix, but you can’t learn how to pick good songs. That’s something you have or don’t have.
Fresh new remix or mainstream fan-favorite tracks?
If it’s a commercial track, we will always make edit, remix, or bootleg out of it. The crowd we generally play for isn’t expecting to hear us play mainstream music, so both are important. If you’re really into house music and into Firebeatz sets, you love your classics. And we’ve done a lot of remixes [of classics]. It’s really cool to switch it up. So you play a cool classic, you take them back, then you play something fresh. And then you play something they don’t know. That’s how you please the crowd.