Music Updates

Parkcast Volume 8 - How and why I make DJ mixes

Hey friends, in this post, I decided to write down a bit about my mix making process. I wanted to do this to order a few of my own thoughts, as well as share my process in the hopes that others would share theirs. I want to know how you differ. To start, click play on the mix and keep reading.

1)  My process is visual

My process around making music and mixes is very much rooted in the visual. I imagine a place or a scene, and I try to reflect that in the music. While I was making this mix, I pictured a long, sunset walk through the snow, with occasional reflections of light. I think I did a decent job of capturing what that could sound like. 

The original photo by Jonathan Bean

The original photo by Jonathan Bean

For the album art, I look for photos that either match my mixes' mental image or can add to it in some way. I pick images with a variety of objects in the depth of field for two reasons: 1) So I can weave the text between photo elements, 2) So the words "Parkcast" exist within the context of the image.

A few of the image layers I apply.

A few of the image layers I apply.

After picking the image (usually from Unsplash), I like to apply a series of textures and overlays to it. I'm aiming for the photo to take on a semi-illustrated effect. This photo was too monochrome for me so I applied few colour layers and a sunset background to give it the sense that it's dusk. I darkened/burned some central mountains so the white text doesn't get lost so much. I don't care too much about perfect legibility. The added benefit of this is if I post the image to Facebook, the text scanner is not likely to flag the image. FYI - images with more than 20% text get less reach than photos without text.

2) Picking Tracks

Typically over the course of the month, I collect between 50-100 new tunes (or tunes that are new to me) that typically fit the "vibe" of a Parkcast and place them in a folder. I'll also go back into my music library and pick a few older tunes that I think should see the light of day again. All in all, I had a folder of about 200 songs to choose from for this mix. When I decide on an image that I'm trying to represent, I make a secondary playlist and pick tunes that fit that specific vibe from the overall Parkcast folder. This way I limit my options to only those that fit with what I'm going for. From there I treat it like I'm DJing and try to pick songs in sequence based on a rough flow. I always like to start and end with songs that are more melodic or unconventional. Stuff that sets the stage and closes things well.

I always make sure to include one or more of my songs. It's a good way to get use out of songs that haven't been released yet or to see how they flow in the course of the set. Plus it's a nice bonus for listeners. I also edit quite a few songs for length and flow. This mix includes a tune I wrote in November that is tentatively called "Feel Alive", though I might change that.

This episode is definitely influenced by artists like David DK, Kiasmos, Stimming, and other artists that walk the line between emotional, shimmering electronic music, and dancefloor friendly stuff. I think the very first track perfectly captures the "shimmering snow" vibe that I was going for.

I'm currently traveling to visit family for Christmas, so I didn't have any access to DJ gear. I made this mix using Ableton and a set of headphones. Some purists get grumpy over mixes not made the old-fashioned way (aka with turntables), but I don't have an issue with it. If I'm traveling, Ableton is a great option to still get mixes out there.

3) The podcast description

"In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer." - Camus

I always start my mix descriptions with a quote. I tend to pick quotes that speak to either where I'm at mentally and emotionally, or where I'd like the listener to be when they are listening to the mix.  I started doing the quote thing because I believe that what a person believes in is a bit like a DJ mix. You mix other people's ideas and concepts to form your own unique viewpoint. The quotes are my way of trying to add an additional concept or idea to your "mental DJ mix" to keep in mind while listening.

Some DJs don't put their track listings for fear of people stealing the track or because they then feel like they can't play that song out any more. I take the opposite view. I wan't you to explore the artists I feature. I want you to become a fan of them. I want this music to grow and reach more people because I think it adds something unique to the electronic music world. Also, there is the added benefit that a featured artist may repost the mix or people looking for music by that artist may stumble on the mix. All good things.

Plus if you listen to the mix and then hear me play a song you recognize while I'm DJing, it's a nice little moment for both of us. It's nice to dance to music you know sometimes.


Kiasmos - Paused (Stimming Remix) (Dunmore Park’s Apparition Edit] [Erased Tapes]
Visionkids - The Trip [AudioHell Department]
Monolink - Sirens (Extended Mix) [Embassy of Music]
PHCK - Death of a Butterfly (Original Mix) [All Day I Dream]
Zola Blood - Meridian (Applescal Remix)
Isolee - Allowance (Dunmore Park Edit] [Pampa Records]
Lusine - Ticking Hands (feat. Sarah McIlwain) [Ghostly International]
Lane 8 - Fingerprint (Anderholm Remix) [This Never Happened]
Taragana Pyjarama - Ocean (Paxton Fettel's Coastal Sunset Remix)
Robot Love - Numbers Station (Original Mix) [Monaberry]
Eelke Kleijn, Sébastien Léger - The Terminal (Sébastien Léger Extended Remix) [DAYS like NIGHTS]
Elfenberg - Jafar (Original Mix) [Lump Records]
Hvitling - Interstate [Boutade Musique]
Dunmore Park - Feel Alive (Dub Mix) [White]
Lefrenk - The Traveller (Applescal Remix) [Grrreat Records]
Herbert - You Saw It All (Dj Koze Remix) [Pampa Records]

Want to listen to more mixes?