This weekend, Prague welcomes one of the world’s largest Drum and Bass festivals to Malá sportovní hala (Small Sports Hall) at the Výstaviště exhibition grounds. Don’t get too excited. Tickets are already sold out for the Let it Roll Winter Festival that brings in some DnB heavy hitters for 2 days of rolling beats and intense musical energy. The opening ceremony alone promises to launch fans into a “time-space portal” thanks to a special 250.000 square meter LED screen. Whoa. Set to take the stage in front of that massive screen is local Czech DJ/Producer Tom Small. We met with Tom to get his take on everything from festival settings to reading a crowd to arm waving in flashy jumpsuits.
CitySpy Prague: We’ve heard DnB compared to metal, punk, even jazz. How would you define this sub-genre of EDM?
T.S.: I don’t like to put it in one particular box, but people feel the need to categorize. I think DnB is, in my opinion, the most universal of genres. Depending on the sub-genre, you can hear influences of jazz, soul, funk, reggae, and that’s the beauty of it, it’s not one thing. The music can easily fall between genres.
CitySpy Prague : How does a festival setting like Let it Roll differ from playing smaller venues?
T.S.: You can have more of a connection with the crowd in a club, which is great. Both clubs and festivals have their own vibes, but I prefer the clubs simply because of this connection I can create with the audience. At summer festivals, in particular, the space is so large people are constantly moving through. They stop, listen for a few moments and go, which you don’t have at indoor venues. I think, too, the music I play is more suitable for a club, because it’s not the “mainstream”.
CitySpy Prague: I’ve heard old school DJs say DnB has become TOO “mainstream,” and have very strong views on anyone that uses pre-recorded sets. Any thoughts?
T.S. This issue of pre-recorded sets can be looked at one of two ways. One, you could say this is show business and you’re there to put on a performance.
CitySpy Prague: Like wearing sparkly jumpsuits and throwing your hands in the air?
T.S.: Yes, like that. But, I wouldn’t call that DJing. I’d call that a show. When I’m mixing at a club, it might even look a little boring from the audience, because I am so focused on what I am doing. 75% of my sets are improvisation and reading the audience. By the second mix I can predict if the show is going to be rubbish or not.
CitySpy Prague: How can you tell?
T.S.: During my first two mixes in a set, I’m shaking out the nerves and getting the first feelings from the audience. That first feeling is always strong, whether good or bad. (DJ/Producer) A.M.C. once told me, “It’s all about reaction.” You need to figure out what the crowd wants. It’s hard to do. Even harder when playing abroad. In the end, I’m trying to say something with my music and I hope they feel it and I hope they enjoy it.
CitySpy Prague: Pretend you’re a young DJ starting out. What advice would you give yourself?
T.S.: I really don’t want to lump everyone together, because there are exceptions. But, I’m glad we have a lot of young DJs in our scene. They have courage and ambition, which is needed to stand out from the larger group of DJs, especially when the competition is as strong as it is these days. I would say, focus first on mastering the technical aspect of the music, and grow from there. I also think one of the important keys to success is to be a bit humble and self critical.
You can find Tom SMall’s latest EP, Testimony, on Beatport, iTunes, and Spotify
Or, catch him mixing live:
16/3 Prague – Centrala
Jateční 498/39, 170 00 Praha 7-Holešovice
29/3 Prague – Cross Club
Plynární 1096/23, 170 00 Praha 7-Holešovice