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I’m a DJ – I beg you, please stop asking for requests

You don’t ask Mark Rylance to change his lines in a play, so why should I switch songs mid-set to play your favourites, asks DJ Oliver Keens

Wednesday 07 June 2023 16:12 BST
DJ Oli Keens in his natural environment
DJ Oli Keens in his natural environment (Supplied)

The theatre world has been up in arms lately amid a rise in bad behaviour from audiences. People have been attending shows uproariously drunk, sometimes fighting and generally howling and screeching like foxes shagging. And while it’s obviously a grim situation, I feel obliged to point out that actors experience a fraction of the bad behaviour that DJs do. Mark Rylance, for example, has never been asked to drop a Shakespeare soliloquy when he’s performing Beckett. Beverley Knight has never been asked where the loos are while she’s onstage. James Norton has never had a demonic guy out of his mind on drugs tell him he’s s*** and that he’s going to “f*** up” in front of everyone.

That happened to me in Brighton in the early 2000s, at maybe one of the first handful of times I ever played a club. I love DJing and I’m sure I always will. But it’s sad to say that – even on a good night – it can be a wildly confrontational and aggressive job, and a strangely lonely one, too. It’s a situation that’s absolutely not helped when people ask for requests.

You really can perfectly split humanity between people who will or won’t ask a DJ for a song. To the vast majority of the public, it feels like a deeply embarrassing and cringeworthy move. An act of high arrogance. “You wouldn’t burst into a busy kitchen and berate a chef into adding cumin to a tiramisu,” a friend of mine once said. People have offered me cash to play certain songs before. Imagine someone doing something similar to a newsreader or conductor at the Proms.

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