Dirtcaps / by Daniel Maissan

It’s only been five days since we have arrived in New York, when I’m in front of one of Manhattans sky scrapers. This is Warner Music headquarters in the big apple. It’s where I will join the Dutch Deejays Dirtcaps to photograph them at work. In this high-rise, they’ve booked a recording studio and a your singer will join them to see if she can create something on their beats.

On the 9th floor we get out of the elevator and a kind lady tells us to wait in the lobby. The view is spectacular. The DJs immediately explain that in America they won’t offer you a cup of coffee, tea or even water when you have to wait. It’s not their custom. When we finally enter the studio, I realise ignorance is bliss. I’m surprised to see that this room of maybe 100 square feet will function as their recording studio for today. A lot less glamorous then I pictured in my head.

When the singer also arrives an hour late, the live of fame and glamour that I imagined would come with being a DJ suddenly appears to have a different side as well. A side of patience… lots ofit. Finally the boys turn up the volume and their beats fill the room. This way the singer can get a sense of which track she wants to write to. One of the Deejays tells me in Dutch that writing to one of their beats happens in various ways. “One singer will hear the beat and will immediately start writing lyrics, where for an other artist it will take time. They will listen to the music and sing in Jibberish to get the feel of the song, after that they’ll have to find the words to match that feel.” Today it’s the latter one and all of a sudden I realise that living the fast live as I had imagined would come with being a world renowned artist, also has a flip side; one where you’ll have to be patience and wait.

Luckily I do get some action. The next day, Dirtcaps is invited to come to Red Hook, where they will perform for a live-stream audience. Anthony is a DJ, but decided to exchange his life as a performer to a producer that gives young but also arrived artist the opportunity to play their own music on line for a live audience. Something that rarely happens anymore in nightclubs in New York. There it’s the guy with the money that will decide what kind of music the DJ has to play. After a short interview for the cameras, the guys get to their turntables and they are invited to show their skills for an hour and more. The warehouse that we’re in is filled with professional sound and light installations, including a smoke machine. Five cameras are recording the show while the boys do what they do best. And because it’s a live stream, without any live audience, they can even smoke their cigarets indoors, something that would never happen anywhere else in New York.

A few days later, I can join them again in a different studio. This one, luckily, is a lot more photogenic and has a really nice atmosphere. In the back there’s a couch where June, a befriended artist, is editing her latest music video on her laptop. Just settled nicely, the doors open and a group of rappers enters the room. It’s their turn to write with Dirtcaps. Within no time, the smell of weed has filled the room and a bottle of whisky is opened. These boys of Glossgang sure know how to get their creative juices flowing. Danny and Max rather stay sober, so they can concentrate at work. When they start their beats, mobile phones suddenly become notepads and before I realise what is happening, one of the Glossgang boys has entered the singing boot and is recording.

After a full days work, two new tracks have been recorded and who knows, they might become a hit someday. After this week I realise that the life of a DJ isn’t just about performing in an arena filled with people that want to dance to your beats. It comes with a lot of waiting, patience, getting to know new people that you can maybe cooperate with. It’s also preparing for a gig, that might be canceled at the last moment, or dealing with the stress that comes with changing your flight just before leaving. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen two guys who are living their dream: creating music, travel the world, cooperate with new talents and with well known artists, performing for live audiences, no matter how big that audience might be. All I’m trying to say is that I’ve also seen that living a dream is hard work, takes discipline, guts and quite some perseverance.

Text & Photography: Daniel Maissan