Superstar DJs ditch vinyl in the new techno revolution

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The Independent Culture

Britain's leading DJs are abandoning vinyl in favour of laptop computers and CDs - despite concerns that they may lose rapport with their audiences, looking more as if they are checking their emails.

Britain's leading DJs are abandoning vinyl in favour of laptop computers and CDs - despite concerns that they may lose rapport with their audiences, looking more as if they are checking their emails.

For years, clubs have been the last stronghold of vinyl records, but now even they are crumbling. Sasha, the superstar of the club world who has had a string of chart hits, is leading the move to ditch 12-inch vinyl records, even for live performances.

He plans to show off his new way of working to audiences next month and predicts that computer technology will become commonplace in the DJ booth, revolutionising the industry. "I think it is going to reinvent the role of the DJ and sort the men from the boys," he said.

Radio 1 DJ Pete Tong is another leading DJ using CDs in clubs and estimates that they make up about 85 per cent of his live sets. Big-name DJs such as Erick Morillo and Paul Van Dyk work exclusively from CDs, frequently using tracks copied from the original vinyl source.

But the advent of computers in the DJ booth will do away with all that. New software allows DJs to store music and co-ordinate the samples and beats from a computer.

Tong is not entirely comfortable with the prospect. "I have big reservations about laptops in clubs. I think the crowd feel a little cheated - it looks like you are checking your emails. But it's all part of evolution and I welcome change."

Sasha said: "I was scratching my head a bit and wondering what's next, and dance music in general was doing that. I started to feel I needed something different.

"It coincided with new technology that really allows you to interact with music on a much deeper level. The software allows you to do stuff which you could normally only do in the studio.

"You can remix and re-edit everything as you are playing live. It is so spontaneous and intuitive. You can play samples from 500 different tracks and take loops and run them together and create much more of a live performance out of recorded music," he said.

"The idea of going to watch a DJ spinning two pieces of vinyl with a mixer is losing its shine. People are looking for more."

Sasha, 30, whose real name is Alexander Coe, said the prospect of using a mouse was a "turn-off", so for the past six months he has been building a control-panel device which he expects to complete in the next fortnight.

"When computers get integrated into the DJ booth it will change everything. The present system will become outdated, and rightly so - we've had 15 years of this dance culture. It needs something that is really going to put the wow factor around the DJ booth," said Sasha.

David Eserin, the technical editor of DJ magazine, said: "You can now mix eight different tracks together and it is still a skilled operation - the skill is making it sound good.

"It puts everything into time and pitch with everything else - you don't have to go through the laborious process of checking that everything is in time. I've never had any letters saying this is rubbish - everybody thinks this is the way to go."

Tong said the initial reason for moving on from vinyl was a practical one. "It was about not losing your records and being able to travel with carry-on luggage, not having to wait around in airports for your record boxes - or more often than not seeing that they weren't even there. Vinyl really is warmer, but you can't get round the practicality of moving music around the world."

Tong, who presents his Essential Selection for Radio 1 on Fridays, added: "We've already started using laptops and computer technology for the radio show. In terms of going live in a club I'm not too sure. But it looks inevitable in the medium to long term."

The market for 12-inch singles was worth £11m in the UK last year, much of it fuelled by the dance music scene.

Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood, a leading figure in the world of hip hop, will continue to champion vinyl. He said: "There's nothing like walking into a club with four big crates of records, throwing joints on the turntables with crazy energy. That's hip hop and that's a strong look."