The Life Of A Traveling DJ: What Happens On Tour Stays On Tour

DJs can be weird, especially when they ask for LOTS of towels
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DJs can be weird, especially when they ask for LOTS of towels

Wild parties, wild people and wild times and LOTS of towels (you'll get this, keep reading). That’s probably how most of us imagine what touring would be like. Perhaps you grew up listening to old rockers who started the trend for bad behavior and good times? But what is the touring life really like? Do artists have any crazy pre-performance, backstage rituals? We’ve been delving into the weird and wonderful life of the professional music artists and seeing if what happens on tour really does stay on tour!

The Party Animals

These are the artists who take the tour late into the night, long after the crowds have gone home.

Diplo, AKA Thomas Wesley Pentz, is one of the best known producers in the world and one of electronic music's most controversial. He’s worked with Bieber, Beyonce, Madonna and other pop legends. He’s also generated some of our best loved dance tracks through his solo launches and his collaborative projects: Major Lazer and Jack U. As well as being big in the game when it comes to music, Diplo is also famous (or infamous) for his parties and backstage antics. His record label, Mad Decent, follows suit, having organized epic block parties, cruise parties and now beach parties full of special guests like Tiesto, Outkast, The Creator as well as performances by the label’s own stars like Zeds Dead, Dillon Francis and Diplo’s own Major Lazer. Diplo’s party hard lifestyle has also landed him in some trouble, however. Like the time he got into a bar fight and had to blow off a recording session with Beyonce! After some anger management counselling he seems to be calming down a bit, apart from the odd Twitter battle with fellow celebrities.

Electric Forest 2016 Diplo

Electric Forest 2016 Diplo Photo by Anders Seefeldt

Skrillex, AKA Sonny John Moore, is an absolute demon on stage. Jeering up his crowd into a frenzy with wild dancing, crazy stage productions and his fidgety, electro dubstep sound. He’s one of America’s finest EDM exports, having won 8 Grammys. We know that he’s great at producing records and showcasing them on tour, but what’s he like backstage? Well, like his good friend and producing partner, Diplo, he likes to party. Skrillex will often host huge after parties, which you’d be more than lucky to get an invite for. His latest House Party at Coachella saw a colorful array of people dancing until dawn, with some famous DJ pals along for the ride. And let’s not forget that he took his methods of travel to whole new levels when he took his tour across Canada on a party train!

DJ Fresh is one of our favorite UK producers. However, he recently announced his retirement from touring. His career has spanned three decades and he’s sold over 2.8 million records, so it’s a real shame to think that he will be stepping down from the live music scene, but it seems like the party lifestyle has got too much for him, stating "it's time to begin the next chapter of my life... And it's way overdue.” Fresh is certainly not the only DJ to share this feeling. Late nights, constant parties and lots of fake friends who want some of the action must take their toll at some point.

The Hobbyists

Although the party lifestyle is great, world touring artists need to unwind and relax. These guys take a different approach: they have their hobbies to keep the boredom and burn-out at bay.

Arty travels the world to DJ. At one stage he was ranked in the list of the 25 best DJs in the world, but he knows how to unwind when on tour. For Arty, it’s all about video games. He loves to play games such as FIFA, The Witcher 3 and League of Legends. Gaming not only helps Arty cool off after a set, he’s also stated that is has directly influenced the music he produces.

Another big gamer is Deadmau5, he’s stated that his love for video games started early on, when they didn’t even have a soundtrack, just blips and beeps. As the games developed, so did their music, and this started to introduce Deadmau5 to the possibilities of electronica - thank you video games! Although Deadmau5 is competitive with other DJs, often calling them out on Twitter, he says that his gaming is all for fun!

We’re going a bit old school with this one, but it was bands like The Eagles who created the tour culture and at one point they were the most popular group on Earth. Their Greatest Hits album sold 29 million copies in 1975 and 11 million in 1982 when it was released again - making it the biggest selling album of all time. There’s even brilliant EDM versions of their songs, so they’re still quite relevant. It wasn’t all strictly rock and roll backstage, as they did also love a game of poker. Long journeys on the tour bus and waiting time backstage meant that they actually had time to invent their own variant of the game, called Eagle Poker. A version of Acey Deucey, the rules were that you had to bet on the third cards value and whether or not it fell between the two other dealt cards. They perfected it during a time of abstinence in the studio, so they played it a lot. You know you’re passionate about cards when you create your own game.

And of course, many of our favorite DJs have jumped on the Pokemon Go train, which they are playing at every opportunity they can, even when on stage. Perhaps the most proud of them is Borgore, as we have learned from his tweets:

The Riders

The rider is the industry name for that magical list of demands that artists get to throw to the venues booking them. Surely many people have imagined what would be on theirs. For most EDM artists they are pretty standard, but for some they can get a bit odd.

Now, Steve Aoki has a reputation for being a little bit crazy on and off stage, and his rider is a reflection of this. Apparently, he requires an “Inflatable Boat or Dinghy, suitable for 2-3 people”, plus, let’s not forget the two cakes that he likes throw into the crowd (on special occasions only now). On top of this, he needs the promoter to get him fresh underwear and socks.

Steve Aoki

Steve Aoki

We already know that Diplo loves an afterparty, but his rider is also incredible, and a sign of his humor, including a dartboard (with Nicolas Cage’s face on it!), a framed picture of himself, a silverback gorilla and many more weird and wonderful items!

Afrojack is one of the most popular DJs in the game, as he brought Dutch house to our ears and his unique style for mixing and blending songs has seen him in the top 10 list of the best DJs in the world for several years running. He is also a rather tall man, at around 6’4”. His tour rider doesn’t just call for your standard requests, he also chucks in a Bugatti Veyron or a Spyder. One day we’ll be able to request this!

Now, there seems to be a thing with DJs and towels. We get it, it can get a bit sweaty behind the decks, but there are some very specific towel-based needs! Pendulum require 50 full-body towels, which must be stocked in the bathroom next to their dressing room. Calvin Harris needs four small black hand towels and Dirty South needs four white Egyptian cotton towels, clean of course. That must be some serious sweating!

With so many artists asking for elaborate requests, there is at least one man with his feet firmly on the ground! Paul van Dyk simply asks for a bottle opener and a lockable dressing room! Keeping it real.

So, it seems like the touring life of a world famous DJ requires wild afterparties, excessive riders and lots and lots of towels. We just hope enough of them remember to unwind and relax with their hobbies, we don’t want many more of them ending up like Fresh!