For the second in a series of interviews where artists talk about what it’s really like to be a DJ, we speak to Italian nu-disco Duo, Tiger & Woods. Once upon time shrouded in mystery, the self-proclaimed sample freaks have lifted their veil of anonymity to speak to Ibiza Voice ahead of their next live performance at Printworks Opening - The Hydra on March 03.
After meeting at the Red Bull Music Academy in Barcelona, back in 2008, a bond formed over the pair’s obsession for production machinery and rare groove digging. Over the last few years their signature styles have seem them rack up a discography on labels such as Running Back Records as well as their own imprints Editainment and Tiger & Woods Records. Just the same as with their production, their live show is packed with carefully selected funk and disco tracks with a modern house and techno twist.
IV - Where do you get your music from?
Tiger & Woods - A bit everywhere. We buy digital and physical records, and we often rip older records we have as we always play digital formats these days. Amongst the digital sources 'Whatpeopleplay' is one of our favourite.
IV - How do you organise your music in preparation for the gig?
I have a very well organised Rekordbox, with a lot of playlists where I create areas for genres and sub-genres, and also special folder for the nights I’m about to play. I’m still struggling to find even a better way of doing that, but at the moment I’m quite happy with it. I also use tags sometimes, where I type in the kind of drum machine used in the track so that I can quickly access a similar rhythmical texture whenever I want.
Tiger - Organising digital files can be a bit of a headache, but lately I found it convenient to use playlists in chronological order, following the date of the purchases basically, and then I use tags on the tracks within the playlists. Every couple of months I merge the playlists in one big one with the tracks I played the most.
IV - Do you ever mix at home? Or are you practicing in the club all of the time?
Woods - Definitely not at home, as I had enough noise complaints and trouble with the police over the years! I moved everything in the studio a long time ago, but I hardly mix there too as the production is always taking much more of my time. Let’s say I’m happy when I have to do a podcast cause it’s my 'excuse' to do it in the studio. But, in general, I’m not a big fan of mixing in front of a wall.
Tiger - Not really. The only case is when we have to record a mix or a radio show. Sometimes I have fun mixing a couple of records in the studio, but same as Marco, I’m not a big fan of mixing home or preparing djsets. Without people to share music with, it loses a bit of the magic.
IV - Is there a cut-off point for when you take on more tunes or are you still waiting for your package of vinyl the day before leaving for the gig?
Woods - I always need something new to come with me at every gig, even I’m not playing it. Makes me feel safe. I am a bit 'techno' / old school, and I always want the newer tune to be played the same week it comes out.
Tiger - There is no way I show up to a gig without new music. Even just one. If I find something I wanna play, any minute is good to add it, even the last one! In this case digital can be much more handy than any other format. I can listen to the track even on the plane before the gig, set it up in my library and it’s ready to go with no surprises.
IV - What important lessons have you learned over time that have made you better DJs?
Woods - The importance of dancing with the crowd. You have to physically feel what you are playing, dancing to it and sweating to it. It’s a sharing process that the crowd will definitely feel. I will never understand the DJs who stand still behind the decks.
Tiger - Respecting who is playing before and after you. Whoever he is, a guest or a resident, the biggest name or the smallest one. The other thing is to establish a connection with the people on the dance floor. I strongly believe that no matter who you are, but the crowd is always right which doesn’t mean that you have to be a crowd pleaser, but you have to find the right 'key' to speak to them playing what you want and make them like it. That’s to me the biggest difference between a good DJ and a bad DJ.
IV - Do you prepare your music differently for different times of night or crowds?
Woods - I always pay attention to the club / city / scene I’m going to play. Let’s say that if I know that certain tunes might have a special link to that particular spot, it is worth considering it. But it’s also true I’m not changing much of what’s my idea of a set. Let’s say I might find a way to sneak it in, so that I can take the crowd where I want musically.
Tiger - Of course you have to take in consideration where you are about to play, but realistically I won’t prepare it differently, I might modulate my set according to the party/set times. In some cases this happens naturally during the night.
IV - Obsessing over what is and isn’t your sound is quite a common issue for DJs and can lead to all sorts of anxiety. How do you deal with this problem?
Woods - No matter how hard you try to stay far from these thoughts, this is definitively something that gives me a headache every now and then. Especially for me, having done so many things in my longer career, I always question myself if the crowd is expecting Tiger’s sound or my own more traditional signature sounds, which doesn’t mean anything actually … so that’s why the headache at some point goes away. Ahaha.
Tiger - It’s not an obsession for me, I found much harder to deal with the tags that people/industry will put on you and are really hard to get rid of. I know for sure that I, and together with Marco as T&W, play a large spectrum of music, but sometimes people expect a certain sound cause you have been linked with some genre. I do understand that people, promoters and record shops need to put you in some crates, but sometimes it become more a cage than a crate, and that’s really frustrating. The only workaround to this, as I said in the previous answers, is to become a better dj every gig and make people like what you wanna play, even if it’s unexpected for them. This lands on larger topic where people in club nowadays tents to want 'what they know' and sometimes they are not too keen to be surprised. I used to got excited when a DJ was playing a track I didn’t know before, now it’s a bit the other way round.
IV - Would you describe yourself as confident DJs who play in the moment, or are you in the 'over thinkers' department, often scrutinising / perfecting every detail of a set and rarely happy?
Woods - I would say I’m both. I’m obsessed for perfection in the sets, as I grew up in an environment when DJing was almost like being at the military service. You had to be perfect as much as your mentors, otherwise you were out. But I’ve learned to let myself go more throughout the years. I’ve noticed though, that if the technical conditions i’m playing in are not ideal, I tend to feel like the set wasn’t good enough, like probably is for anyone else not happy with the tech part of the dj booth.
Tiger - Honestly it can be hard to be 100% satisfied with the final result everytime. There are too many variables in the game, and sometimes they can be out of your control (bad PA, equipment in dodgy shape or simply a party that it’s not happening no matter what you do). I think the best option is to do a bit of both. Starting from a solid base and leave room to the moment. But again usually it’s something that goes together with the party.
IV - If you find yourself booked to play to the wrong kind of crowd, are you happy to go down in flames playing music you believe in or are you open to the idea of compromise to keep a crowd happy?
Woods - It depends what 'compromise' means. Surely, when I ended up in the wrong place I tried to walk in in the most respectful way in order not to give the crowd a sound / groove trauma. But it has to be said, that I always play the music I believe in, and always do my best to convince the crowd that it is good despite being different from what they heard minutes before. I actually find these sets funnily challenging, as I feel very happy if I win the skepticism, which is a bit the story of my life.
Tiger - I think somehow I replied to this before. It’s a matter of balance. Play what you like and make them like it as well! One thing for sure is that it’s really hard for us to clear a dance floor, cause again crowd it’s something we always take in consideration, bad or good. Then of course there cases that no matter what you do, simply it’s not working, but we always play music we believe in, that’s guaranteed.
IV - How do you handle things when something goes wrong in the middle of a set?
Woods - Well, it depends what happens. I had few issues in the past, but mostly when I was trying something really complex, like syncing a drum machine to the djset using a third cdj with a pulse signal loaded in. Let’s say in these kind of scenarios, you have to have plan b all the time, and a huge reassuring smile. Again, not a big deal anyway. Just making sure the next few tracks you play, you play them right with a good energy level, so people will keep living the moment and forget the accident.
Tiger - If it’s a DJ set, mistakes are usually something you can correct really quick (unless are some technical problem out of your control) and somehow can make a set even more alive. In a Live environment it can be literally a schock! You have to be focus to troubleshooting fast without compromise the flow of the live show as much as you can. Fortunately we are two, so we can do it while the other one is playing. That’s the reason why there is a lot of preparation for our live show, which also has a big part of troubleshooting to face any kind of scenario on stage. Sometimes nature can be really mean and all your systems collapse simultaneously and there is nothing more to do than put a big fake smile, apologise and restart (it happened to us and it was a nightmare coming true).
IV - Good gigs are easy, but not every gig is a good one. How do you handle the bad ones? Do they get to you?
Woods - A bad gig can live with you till the next one helps you to gain confidence again. It always happened and still happens when the show is not the best one. But as I said before, sometimes you could get away with a very positive vibe even from a bad gig, if you manage to turn the situation upside down. The thing that freaks me out is when you have a bad gig cause there were technical difficulties beyond your will, and you have to chase rather than lead … and yes this stays with me till the next one.
Tiger - As any other artistic job, you put pretty much all you have on a table, putting your face in front. So of course a bad gig can affects you, especially if it was a potential good one that goes wrong for some reason. It’s not simply a job, it implies everything, from personal life to time in studio, families to friends...it’s our life and it’s technically impossible no to be affected when the final result of all of this is not matching the expectations. It’s a rollercoaster you have to learn to ride without getting too depressed or too excited.
IV - Have you had any incidents where people have felt the need to share a negative opinion of your set with you and did this faze you?
Woods - Not really during the DJ set or maybe yes actually! In 25 years I had a couple of people I remember cause they were mad as they were expecting me to play the same stuff I was playing 5 years before. Let’s say that these particular kind of complaints don’t get to me at all. On another note, when I played live and had a couple of incidents, I always got extremely supportive words after the madness.
Tiger - Of course I won’t mention where, but as Tiger & Woods I think it happened just once with two drunk guys in one of those bad gigs. They thought it was a good idea to insult us in Italian, whilst we were unplugging the live show, and they didn’t know we were Italians. It didn’t really faze us as you always have to put into a context any negative or good opinion. Actually it turned out to be a pretty funny moment.
IV - The fans assume every DJ is always away eternally playing three nights a week to big crowds and earning tons of money. What's the reality of touring life like and how do you handle the ups and downs?
Woods - We are lucky privileged people cause we do what we like. And this is like a blessing from the sky. Anyway as you say it’s not all gold and shining. Tour life is extremely exhausting and literally isolate you from your life, family, friends. It’s a bit alienating. But gladly then your family is the people you meet all around the world so it’s not that bad!
Another thing that happens, and people won’t see that, it’s the time we work in our studio and office: it’s not only about playing in the weekend, but there’s a lot of work in the week to make this happen. We constantly switch from being creative people, to accountants or self managers. It’s a mindshift that literally gives you pain. And c’mon, earning tons of money it’s true for some people, not for everyone; actually not for most of the people doing this job. As said the privilege is to be able to do what you like, we’re already happy with that. You just have to learn how ride the wave, going up and down is the only mandatory requirement which is the same for every form of art applied to a job.
IV - How do you deal with the psychological challenges of DJing?
Woods - Honestly I’ve never felt a psychological challenge in DJing. I might get what you say, but to me it’s just my life. So it’s just one of those challenge, and actually the most pleasant despite everything.
Tiger - We are the lucky ones who do what they love. This is priceless. This job is my life and there is no way it can turns into a psychological issue. It’s a competitive field? Yes. It can be stressful? Yes. It caused me mental breakdown? Hell no! I travelled, I met so many people, I played my music and music I love to all kind of people all around the world...They only thing that concern me is to keep this thing going.I think I would much more exposed to psychological issues by a “normal” 9 to 5 desk job.
Next Event :: Printworks Opening - The Hydra, March 03
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