24-year-old Ádám Balatoni – also known by many as DJ PlatenZ – is a young and enthusiastic DJ from Ináncs, Borsod, who, since 2013, has become one of the best known electronic musicians in the Hungarian capital city’s university party circle. We have known each other for nearly two years since we are majoring in English at the same university. As a good friend and as a professional, respected music performer, he allowed me to conduct an interview with him in Könyvtár Klub, where he had been reborn as DJ PlatenZ.
First of all, where did the name come from?
Well, this whole career didn’t start as something extremely serious; I was just bored at the university parties back in my first school year. They were all monotonous, so I’ve decided to change that. But to answer your question, my DJ name came from one of my best friends, who studied German. He gave me the nickname Platensee, which is the equivalent for Balaton in the German language.
/Photo by Ádám Balatoni/
I’m curious, if you could change your DJ name, what would you choose this time? Would it be Lake Balaton?
Haha (laughs), I would probably get rid of the DJ title and look for something that is more English.
Where do you have parties?
I started off with the Saint Patrick Day Party in Könyvtár Klub. During that time I didn’t have my own gear. Anyway, it was a really good party, a nice debut. Suddenly, people took interest, and I received a number of invitations. I’ve had a show at the Bölcsész Napok and I have also been invited to various dormitory parties. Since last year, I regularly perform at parties organized by Corvinus University.
How did you manage to get into the party circle of Corvinus?
Well, there was a meeting of universities and they asked to perform a gig at their freshman camp. Since that performance, wherever there is a Corvinus-organized event, they recommend me as a DJ. This is how I managed to get into places such as the Doboz or Remix Dance Club.
And where was your professionally biggest gig?
I think my most professional gig was on the 10th Annual Kerekes Napok. Just imagine it: I played next to famous performers such as Halott Pénz! But since then, I have also worked with bands like Brains or DJs like Metzker Viki or Juhász Laci.
How would you describe your own style?
I mainly use electro house music or its various other subgenres as a basis. Gigs usually require that. I love the feeling when I throw in a well-known song, but the crowd just later realizes that they have got something new, since I mostly use my own mash-ups and remixes of tracks. But my musical taste is diverse. When I’m at home, I listen to everything depending on my mood.
Do you have your own mix tapes?
Actually I do. I have about 5 or 6 that are sort of finished, but I am constantly trying to improve them. I never needed to promote myself with my own mixtapes, because the parties were advertisement enough, but of course in order to do this in a more professional manner, you have to have your own music. By the way, I am planning to start a podcast in the foreseeable future.
How exactly do you plan ahead for a performance?
For every performance I create a new folder in my DJ programme. There are approximately 120 songs for each party. It is extremely important to pay attention to the audience, to figure out their preferences. I believe it ultimately comes down to the audience, what they would like to hear and whether you as a DJ can adapt to that. The technique (how you reach your goal) is trivial.
So you are in total control of the sound during a gig. How about the light or smoke effects?
I do control smaller smoke machines, but when it comes to bigger gigs, it is automatic or controlled by the technicians. You can always use the automatic function for the strobe lights, but to be honest, I don’t really spend any time with it, because, as I said, you can always program it, and it is not really the DJ’s task.
/Photo by Ádám Balatoni/
Are you anxious while you are performing?
When I started my career, I was anxious at the beginning, but nowadays I am more relaxed. You just have to be careful with the alcohol consumption because it is a 6-hour job.
Was there an occasion where you felt that the party did not go that well?
I always try to give my best, which means 100%, although, I have to admit there was one party last autumn that didn’t live up to my standards. I remember I had a lot of work during that time and I was already exhausted when I arrived for the performance; therefore it didn’t feel like one of my best gigs. To be honest, I was bored, and when a DJ is bored, the crowd adapts to it.
How are you able to balance your DJ profession with your everyday activities, such as school or your job at HÖK?
Are you familiar with that Internet meme, where you are only allowed to choose 2 options out of 3? I usually miss sleeping – we had a wonderful relationship! When I don’t, it goes on the expense of my performance at the university or my private life. During the summer time, it is much easier to balance things. But there has got to be a challenge in it, and besides, I do it all voluntarily.
Okay, so now that your trademark gig, the annual Saint Patrick Day party, has become a trilogy this semester, do you have anything special planned for this year’s show?
I’ll definitely bring some new music, and I’ll prepare for it probably even more than I would usually do. There’ll definitely be a new mix. Hopefully, everybody will enjoy the party; that is what matters the most to me. I might squeeze in some DJ trolling.
What other upcoming performances will you have?
Hmmm, let me think about it. There will be a big performance at home in Borsod, which will be a four night event. I’m also excited about the next Kerekes Napok. And April is gonna be awesome, with nine gigs all together.
Do you have any favourite international DJs, and if so, who are they? And how have they influenced your life
Major Lazer hasn’t disappointed me so far. If I have to mention any mainstream DJs, I would say I like what R3hab is doing: he is not stuck on one musical taste; he is diverse. I think it’s important to note that I didn’t start DJing because I was inspired by somebody or desperately wanted to copy a musician’s style. I just started it for my own entertainment, for fun. But to answer your second question, DJs haven’t, but Michael Jackson has had the greatest influence on my life.
Can you also imitate Michael Jackson’s famous move, the moon walking?
Of course I can! (Laughs) I felt like I needed to learn those moves. I think I was 14 when I took the first moonwalking steps. By the way, my all-time favourite Jackson song is Beat It.
Okay. What about Hungarian DJs? Do you have contact with any other colleagues?
I do have some friends, but I rarely have back to backs at gigs.
If you go to a party, and somebody else is behind the DJ booth, do you look at the party and the music as a professional?
Yes, this is unfortunately one of the drawbacks – or benefits – of working as a DJ that you cannot really look at another performers’ gig without making some professional remarks of your own. The truth is I only enjoy those parties where I can hear something new. I love it when somebody surprises me and I nod with my head like “oh, yes, that’s cool bro, hit me with that!” If I don’t like what I hear, then I don’t consider it a good party.
Would you like to pursue this DJ work at a more professional level in the future, or would you rather like it to keep it as a hobby?
Next to my duties at the university and voluntary activities like HÖK it is a bit hard to pursue a really professional career. It is essential to me that it remains fun. I always try to come up with something new for each of my performances. It started as a hobby, but it became something more, something that bears great importance to me. Right now I’m a bit occupied with finishing my BA studies. We’ll see later how it all turns out. But once I’m done with the university completely, I would like to become more professional, since I may have the opportunity to concentrate on it more.
Before we wrap up, allow me one final question. Could you give some professional advice for the beginners?
Beginners should be determined, and they should never shy away from asking and contacting other colleagues. Although the market is saturated, they should not be afraid to promote themselves. Finding one’s own style is also essential. Start with smaller performances, play your music to your friends. Use free DJ programmes, every professional in this market started with smaller software. And, most importantly, pay attention to your audience, because ultimately their judgement will assess your work.
That was all. Thank you for the interview, Adam!
The pleasure is mine!
Published by Ádám Márton Kling