Kerri Chandler has what you might call a taste for props. 99 percent of the time he may be DJing on a completely standard setup, but every now and then he’ll throw a curveball in the mix. Sometimes it’s something relatively straight-forward, like a keyboard. Sometimes it’s much more exotic. He’s been known to rock a laser harp. On at least one occasion he appeared onstage alongside hologram vocalists.
That in mind, it’s no surprise Chandler is skilled at what might be the most esoteric music player to DJ with: the reel-to-reel tape deck. Unwieldy as they may be, reel-to-reel’s sound good enough to earn themselves a spot in the known canon of DJ equipment. Back in the day, “every major club had at least one tape machine it the booth,” Chandler says. “Unlike turntables, you don’t have to worry about skipping, vibrations or a dirty stylus. In fact at times if I saw the needle was a bit dirty while I was playing out at a club, I would make a quick copy to tape for about a minute, run it back, play the tape, clean the stylus and bring the record back in.”
Reel-to-reels run in Chandler’s family—he’s dedicated this set to the memory of his father, whose birthday was February 27th. They also loom large in his musical education. Seeing Frankie Knuckles and David Morales mix on them was one of his formative experiences. Most DJs would only use one alongside their other gear, but Chandler likes using a few—”one for loops and effects and the other sets for songs and content.” Mixing on them isn’t easy, but if you feel so inclined you can do a set completely on reel-to-reels. In this 70-minute recording at our London office, Chandler does precisely that.