One of the first times I played in front of a proper crowd was probably when I was a student in Bordeaux in 2005. My school was co-organizing a party in a club called “Le 4 sans” (which does not exist anymore). It consisted of one huge room with a bar on the side and a big stage at the end where the DJ setup was. The club capacity was around 1000 people, and it was packed that night. Several DJs from my school were playing and I was closing the night for a bit less than an hour. I remember these huge speakers on each side of me, the whole stage was vibrating! It felt a bit scary at first but then seeing the crowd reacting to each new track I played was the best feeling!
My name is Olivier Laguionie. I was born in 1984 in Périgueux, France. I now live in Stockholm, Sweden. I work as a software quality engineer at Spotify. I’ve always been a big music fan. I’ve also been using Spotify since they launched in France in 2010 and I always wanted to work for them – such an amazing way to listen to music – so I decided to apply for a QA position in 2012 in Stockholm.
Outside of my job, I love to DJ. I started when I was about 15 or 16. I was organising parties at my parents’ place, using my dad’s stereo and my old desktop computer to play music. A friend introduced me to some of the first DJ software (AtomixMP3 if I remember correctly), and I got hooked. I started to practice a lot and to record mixtapes for my friends. After a while, I bought some proper equipment (CDJs 1000 mk2, speakers, amplifier, light effects, etc.). I then started to DJ for various events, like weddings, birthdays, and student parties.
My parents always listened to lots of music at home. My dad had lots of vinyl records and CDs. They were listening to artists like Joe Cocker, Dire Straits, Genesis, Queen, Earth, Wind & Fire, Barry White, James Brown – I’m still listening to these artists today! There were also parties at home when I was a kid, with my dad playing records and people dancing. I guess that had a huge influence on me.
When it comes to DJs, I was really into 90s French Touch House music when I started and I was highly influenced by DJs like David Guetta, Bob Sinclar, Daft Punk, Joachim Garraud, and Antoine Clamaran. I was trying to find live videos on the internet and was studying how they were playing. This is how I learned.
I don’t really have a preferred setup for when I DJ. But since it is more convenient, I almost always bring my Traktor kontrol S2 mk2 from Native Instruments and my laptop (MacBook Pro). When it comes to headphones, I never found better than HD-25 from Sennheiser.
I started to play with my colleague and friend Jose Ferrandiz when he joined Spotify in 2013; since then, we almost always play together. All our tracks, edits, cue points, loops, and playlists are stored in Traktor on my laptop. It would require additional work to prepare USB sticks or CDs for a gig. Also, we both know this controller very well, and all the equipment fits in a messenger bag. On some occasions, we play with the equipment from the venue, usually a pair of Pioneer CDJs and a mixer. At Spotify, we have the privilege to have a DJ club, with very talented DJs and awesome equipment. We also have lots of social events (kudos to Sally Wathley and Sofie Bellis!) such as DJ battle, DJ afterwork, DJ training, DJ seminars, and booth takeover in bars and other parties, which are great opportunities to practice and share with other DJs!
Once in a while, we organized “The Hacienda”, a party where we would bring a band and other DJs to play with us. We would then prepare a bit our track selection in advance depending on what other DJs would play. We also have a few playlists of 5 or 6 tracks we know work very well and we know the transitions by heart. Whenever we start our set or want to fill the dancefloor, we usually dig in one of these mini playlists. We try to meet on a regular basis to practice and find new ideas. There are a few tracks we often play in our sets (ex: Hercules and love affair – blind) but when we end the night, we always play ‘Don’t look back in Anger’ by Oasis. Such a great track – we get everyone to sing along!
The most memorable night I’ve had as a DJ was in the summer of 2017. Sally and the Social team organized a DJ battle during the Spotify summer party. There were a few DJs selected to compete during 10 minutes each for the title of best Spotify DJ in front of a jury of renowned DJs and all employees who were attending the party. The level was high, and Jose and I prepared our set for several weeks. We managed to perfectly execute what we had prepared, even wearing costumes and playing with the crowd. That was amazing – we won the battle!
Today’s DJ equipment offers limitless possibilities. There are so many features packed in such small units, it’s incredible. In addition to that, you only need a single USB stick to carry all your music (such an improvement for those who used to play vinyl or CDs). DJ software is also much more detailed and accurate (tempo, key, waveform). It’s way easier and faster to Beatmatch tracks, which gives more time to work with effects, samples, and improvising! I can see DJ equipment becoming even more advanced in the near future. We already see streaming services being integrated into DJ software; I’m sure soon media players will be connected to the cloud. DJs will arrive at a venue, log in to the DJ system, and all their tracks, playlists, cue points, and other configurations will instantly be downloaded. Nothing to carry, no risk of losing USBs – I’m looking forward to it!
Jose and I have both been away from the decks for a while since we both had kids almost at the same time, and we are really looking forward to playing more again. So if you’re reading this article and are looking for 2 awesome DJs in Stockholm, let us know!
I’m a perfectionist and I’m never happy when we record a DJ set (Jose would tell me no one would notice our tiny mistakes). It’s a bit similar in my work where I always tend to find some very obscure/hidden bugs no one else thought about. Because of this, I definitely think that DJing has been a benefit to my tech career. Spotify is a music streaming service and it is an amazing tool for any DJ to discover new music! I use it all the time, even when I’m not working, so I know very well how the different apps work. This is a big plus as I work as a software quality engineer, and knowing the product you work with, as well as how consumers are using it, is very important.
There hasn’t been a better time to become a DJ. Equipment is cheap and there is so much music available. No need to buy records or burn CDs. You can just stream or buy online and you’re good to go! My advice to anyone who wants to DJ is to think about the music you’re playing. Don’t be obsessed with gear. Learn to use what you have the best you can. The crowd doesn’t care about what gear you’re using, they care about the music you’re playing and what energy you bring to the party.
I think it’s super important to share the passions of technologists! My passion for DJing helps me to be more creative at work, and my job as a software quality engineer helps me to understand DJ software better and faster. I have colleagues who are very talented both in their work and in their passion, whether it is DJing, music production, sport, photography … it’s always great to get to know their passion and learn from them. I also think both the work and the passion benefit from each other.
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