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Switch On The Night

The Beats

05 May 2016

Dean Fuel on DJing: What it takes

With 15 years of DJing under his belt, few people know the music industry as well as Dean Fuel. We spoke to him before Thank Me Later Takeover to get his tips for aspiring DJs looking to break into the scene.


Do it yourself.

“When I first got started DJing in Cape Town it was at a place called Café Bardelli. There was one night a week they weren’t open – Sundays, so we convinced them to let us do an event on one of the weekends. They let us, and (to the surprise of the manager), we filled the place and hada rocking party. That got the ball rolling. From there a promoter for The Fez club saw me play and invited me to do a guest set. At the Fez, another promoter from Port Elizabeth saw me play, and invited me to DJ at a big event there. … So within the space of a few short months, I was travelling around the country playing gigs. But none of that would have happened if I hadn’t gone out and made it happen. I then started promoting other events at other clubs – such as Chilli n Lime, working with other DJ’s and promoters, and it taught me a lot about the scene: how to handle and promote myself, and how to build relationships. Becoming a DJ took hard work, and started with me!"

“You’ve got to hustle. No one’s going to do it for you. That was the first lesson I learned. You’ve got to do it for yourself.”

Don’t be a d!ck

“Over my 15 years of DJing the easiest trap I’ve seen people fall into is letting success get to their head. They forget that this industry is a tight one. And if you become known as difficult to work with, unreliable, untrustworthy, or basically if people think of you as a bit of a d*ck – nobody’s going to go near you, no matter how good you are”.

Educate and Entertain

“As a DJ you’re an entertainer and an educator. You want to introduce a crowd to fresh new music, but then keep them entertained with what they know. As a DJ - it’s a balance you need to find yourself. The dancefloor is full of individual people, with individual tastes – it’s your job to get them all moving as one. To connect with them via the music – and when it happens, you can create magic!”

Get people talking

“You’re only as good as your last set. If people aren’t talking (positively) about what you’re doing, no amount of Facebook or social media promotion can save you.”

 “As quickly as you can build a good reputation, you can destroy it.”

Everyone’s valuable

“Treat the industry the way you want to be treated yourself. Early on I figured out that everyone in the industry is important, whether it’s the promoter, the barman, the doorlady or security. Everybody has a role to play, and everybody is as important as everybody else. And I think that some people can miss that. For me, it’s much better to get along with everybody and have relationships with them, because without every single person that’s there – you can’t do your job.”

You better love it.

“This can be a hard industry to be in professionally. A lot of people only see the bright flashy glamorous parts of what a DJ does. Those times where you’re on stage, and everyone’s partying and having a good time. Those times are amazing… But there’s also the less glamorous side: the travel, the late nights, the behind the scenes politics, the time spent in studio. And if you don’t really really love this job, it’s going to hit you up hard.”

“When I first bought my turntables and my records, something in my brain just clicked, and I knew. I remember calling my parents and telling them I was going to be a DJ… They convinced me to finish my studies, but back then I knew I had found my passion, my love! I have always loved music! I love DJing... All of it! And you have to love it to make it.”

Be Patient.

“My best advice would be this. Be patient. Just be cool, take a breath. Don’t expect to play on your dream stage or line-up straight away – that takes time. If you work hard and prove yourself, prove your talent - you’ll get your dream stages. It just takes time and lots of had work and dedication.”




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