By Gustavo Arellano
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By Charles Lam
Jose Ramirez (a.k.a. DJ Legit, who spins at Mute at Proof Bar and White Collar at Memphis Costa Mesa) makes the strongest case for Serato. "For club DJs like myself, Serato gives us many more options and advantages over vinyl. Serato allows us to keep up with the latest music selections and remixes without the hassle of trying to find them on vinyl. Most important, we do not have to carry around heavy crates of vinyl, and our music selection is endless compared to that of a vinyl DJ, who can only bring as many records as he is willing to haul in the trunk of his car. Serato is definitely the better choice for club DJs: less to haul, more to spin. And there is always the option of bringing a few of your favorite records to throw in the mix."
Scotty Coats (mainstay at Avalon Bar's Double Fisted) couldn't disagree more. He views most Serato jocks as non-dues-paying lazy-asses—and criminals, to boot. "I have nothing against any of the software programs, except that I feel it takes away from the foundation that deejaying was built on. It's one thing if you were a DJ, did your homework, and then switched over to Serato or Final Scratch because you don't want to lose or scratch any of your records that you spent your entire life looking for, as opposed to the kid who just picked up Serato and is playing all the clubs because he has the latest fashion and steals music from the latest blogs and doesn't really give a shit about the history of the culture."
Coats cites this heinous example of that type of DJ: "A dude gave me his mixtape, and I listened to it and asked him, 'What was track 3?' His answer was, 'I don't know; it was a .wav file.' A real person made that .wav file and you don't even care enough to find out who it was?!"
Coats also castigates DJs who "play MP3s that they either steal or trade with friends. I work really hard on capturing frequencies in my recordings, and I'd be pissed if someone squashed it into an MP3 to play it out without taking the time to buy the record and have it heard the way it was meant to be heard. It's about the music and respecting the artist who made it."
Coats' Double Fisted partner, Chip Bernal (DJ Poppa), also flies analog airlines at all times. "Digging for rare dance and disco cuts is still half the fun and what sets you apart from other DJs who play in your same genre. All these new-jacks who say they're DJs and just started last week/month/year can have thousands of MP3s on their laptops of all the latest shit. That's too easy. My 13-year-old daughter can do that from her bedroom tonight and probably mix just as good as half of them by tomorrow," Bernal says. "But then again, I'm old-school."
Chris Alfaro (DJ Urthworm/Free the Robots) mostly uses vinyl, but he acknowledges that Serato can enhance his deejay sets by allowing him to "perform new mix techniques, and it makes it possible to play my own new tracks and re-edits without having to press LPs all the time."
Vinyl enthusiast Andrew Meza (BTS Radio) admits he'd use Serato—if he could afford it. "People still weren't using Gutenberg's printing press as soon as homeboy added a steam engine to it," he explains. "That shit printed out, like, 80,000 more pages in a minute than Gutenberg's original device could print in 10 years." It's not a precise analogy, but point taken: This story's not written on a manual typewriter.
DJ Cocoe (Abstract Workshop) reiterates a common refrain among DJs. "Nothing sounds better than a record in a club. It's a warm, home-like feeling." In DJ circles, to claim otherwise is akin to believing the Earth is flat.
Bep (Training Bra) concurs, hailing vinyl's "sensual feel and purity of sound" and cringing at "software that automatically beat matches for you."
Many young DJs love the convenience of Serato, but Matt Papp (DJ Shh) bucks the tide of his peers and spins vinyl. "Serato is on a trend now," he says, "and people jump into it because you don't have to have a record collection to start deejaying."
Ron D Core (owner of Fountain Valley's Dr. Freeclouds Records and a popular DJ) proclaims from his shop's MySpace page, "Laptop deejaying is killing music." Freeclouds has lasted 13 years mainly by catering to hardcore vinyl DJs and electronic-music collectors. He sums up the audiophile perspective of the argument: "Vinyl is more expensive. But I would much rather own a Mercedes than a Yugo. I see the laptop DJ as purchasing Yugo-quality music."
Just as there's more than one way to skin a cat, there's more than one way for a DJ to wow a crowd. They've never had more options with which to practice their craft, but not all media are created equal, if you believe these opinionated sound connoisseurs. Digital is on the rise, but analog purists will not fade away without getting their wax in. One thing isn't debatable: You can't download good taste.