Soundsource: Checking the mix: Running down NU’s DJ experiences

Nour Taqatqa, Reporter



The Daily talked to campus DJs about how they got started and what advice they have for those hoping to get into DJing. They talk about student organizations that have supported them, getting gigs on campus, mixing techniques and more.

DJ LOU LOU LEMON: A DJ has the ability to like, really strike your sense of nostalgia. I see it all too often when I’m playing for a party, and I play something that was around when people were in sixth grade or in elementary school that people are like, ”Oh my God, I haven’t heard that in years.”

NOUR TAQATQA: That’s what Bienen junior Louis Milne, or, as he’s more commonly known, DJ Lou Lou Lemon said when I asked him how DJing differs from other types of music performance. According to him, engaging with people’s childhood memories is much easier with DJing compared to carefully planned band performances. 

NOUR TAQATQA: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Nour Taqatqa, and this is Soundsource, a podcast tuning into music on and around campus. In this episode, I talked to two DJs — DJ Lou Lou Lemon and DJ Lu — to get a glimpse into what it takes to be a DJ.


NOUR TAQATQA: I decided to produce this episode out of my own interest in becoming a DJ, but I came into it with some preconceived notions. I always thought DJing was a very closed niche that required a highly specialized skill set. But maybe that’s not as true as I thought it was. 

DJ Lu, or Weinberg junior Lucy Poteshman, told me that, although she had some musical background — she’s been playing the violin since she was five — she was able to establish herself as a DJ without knowing much about how a DJ set works.

DJ LU: I joined Streetbeat not really knowing anything and not really knowing about house music even, but I joined and it was a really awesome-ing and welcoming community, and I learned everything through them. I started off, I was in a practice set first, and then I got a time slot on the radio and I was DJing there, and then I started doing parties and other events.  

NOUR TAQATQA: Streetbeat is a WNUR show that houses NU DJs. I wondered how long it took DJ Lu to build up the expertise she has now. She said with enough practice, she mastered the basics pretty quickly.

DJ LU: I joined Streetbeat last Spring Quarter, so it’s been like a year-ish ago. I’d say that I picked it up pretty quickly probably because of my musical background, and so it took me probably a quarter to actually get the basics down and then, by having my show, I was able to practice over the summer, and then after about six months, I did my first party, and it’s probably been about six months since then. I’m always trying to practice and improve, and every time I DJ, I feel like I gain experience. 

NOUR TAQATQA: While Lu’s journey with DJing started as a decision to try something new, DJ Lou Lou Lemon happened to get into it as a way to overcome boredom during quarantine.

DJ LOU LOU LEMON: I originally began doing DJing because it was just something I picked up during quarantine. I was like, very bored during the first three months of being stuck at home with my parents. And my birthday was actually the first month of being in isolation with my parents. And so I think that they saw me sort of missing out on the first year of college and decided, you know, maybe we could get him something that he’s been interested in for his birthday, and they got me a little mixer, which is really cool. And I just spent hours and hours in my garage mixing.

NOUR TAQATQA: Despite how serendipitous their beginning stories might sound, these both said they continued DJing because of the reactions they get from audiences, as well as their personal connections to the music. 

DJ LU: I think events are really, really fun. It’s honestly my favorite part about DJing. It’s just really rewarding to see my actual music being played for a crowd and having the crowd respond to it, and getting feedback from others.   

NOUR TAQATQA: I asked DJ Lu how she prepares for a show.

DJ LU: I’ve done parties, which I’d say is a more casual type of event, either organized by WNUR, Streetbeat or just friends, and I’ve also done more organized events. So I played in Polar Vortex — I got to open for Sango, who is a really awesome DJ, and most recently, I played in Battle of the Artists, (which is) definitely a different type of event than I’m used to. Preparing is usually a matter of finding lots of songs that I would like to play at the event. It’s a matter of really thinking about the event and trying to picture it and thinking about what music I want to really create the atmosphere of.

NOUR TAQATQA: DJ Lou Lou Lemon said live DJing also requires a touch of performance and character.

DJ LOU LOU LEMON: There’s another sense that you need when you DJ, which is like —- I think a lot of people overlook and that’s you need to like, be selfless, like you need to be a selfless person in a lot of ways. When you get up there you have to play stuff that people are gonna like. You have to be willing to play stuff that you don’t necessarily really enjoy very much, but you know it’s gonna get the crowd moving.

NOUR TAQATQA: However, DJ Lu did tell me the enjoyment of performing live can come with some discomfort.  

DJ LU: For me, it was probably, I’d say, two things — the first is getting started with building your music library. I spent just hours on the internet researching the history of house music, what the different subgenres sound like, trying to get a feel for my own personal taste. The other tricky thing was the actual technology itself. In the OACR, which is the radio where I would air my DJ shows out of, you have to put all of your music on a USB and then upload the USB to that whole set-up, and I just had a lot of technical difficulties, and that can definitely be disheartening, right when you’re first starting to literally not be able to get the equipment to play any music.

NOUR TAQATQA: DJ Lu also said these technical difficulties can occur even after you’ve overcome the first periods of trial and error, including during live events. To avoid technical problems, she said she tries to arrive early to troubleshoot because mixers and DJ sets can look very different. DJ Lou Lou Lemon said performance anxiety can also be a part of DJing. 

DJ LOU LOU LEMON: When you DJ, you’re the first one up, you know because it’s intimidating when no one’s there. The best DJs are the ones who, you know, you can tell that as soon as they start DJing and there’s no one there but like, it gets the energy of the room moving. One of the hardest parts is, like any performing sort of art or performance based art, you have to stand in front of a bunch of people and be vulnerable, and that’s kind of difficult, in a different way than like my clarinet performance stuff is.

NOUR TAQATQA: In addition to acquiring the skills of DJing, getting gigs on campus is also an important part of establishing yourself as a DJ. For DJ Lu, it was about taking advantage of the opportunities circulating in the Streetbeat community and taking advantage of well-known organizations like A&O Productions. DJ Lou Lou Lemon said his personal connections have been important. 

DJ LOU LOU LEMON: But I would say a large amount of my connections came from, I was doing a lot of radio station stuff. I started on Streetbeat at the beginning of sophomore year with my mentor Monty, who was a senior at the time and I spent at least an hour or two there every single week in the station DJing on good equipment. And also I’m good friends with Moondog, Tyler Felson. So I was actually his mentor for WNUR last year, and we’ve just been friends ever since and doing a lot of stuff through that. 

NOUR TAQATQA: Before wrapping up our conversation, I had to ask both DJs how they actually mix their songs and operate the mixing set. DJ Lu took me through her process.

DJ LU: There is an app on my computer called rekordbox, which is basically DJ software. The first thing you have to do is upload all the music you want to DJ with into the software and sort of create a music library. It’s really helpful to have categories to help you figure out what you want to play next. I have atmospheric/deep, disco, groovy. 

NOUR TAQATQA: And then, she showed me a little of her live mixing. 

[nat sound of DJ Lu’s live mixing]

NOUR TAQATQA: DJ Lou Lou Lemon explained his process, too. 

DJ LOU LOU LEMON: Everything is kind of based on four and 16-bar phrases, you know, quiering and stuff is very much, you just kind of count to four.

[nat sound of DJ Lou Lou Lemon’s live mixing]

NOUR TAQATQA: While the set they were using costs about $250, both DJs said they were able to pay it off with a couple of events a night, because you get paid to DJ for a party.

I asked both DJs what it means to be successful.

DJ LOU LOU LEMON: What I don’t think a lot of people realize is that you don’t have to be a mainstage DJ to be considered successful in the DJ field. There’s hundreds of DJs in Chicago that are always gigging and playing every night. How well you mix stuff is very dependent on how well you’re going to succeed in your career because it’s a somewhat of a freelance. 


NOUR TAQATQA: Now I know that DJing is about more than music mixing skills — it’s also about attitude and creating connections with an audience. I’m excited by the idea of creating those connections for myself in the future. 

From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Nour Taqatqa. Thanks for listening to another episode of Soundsource. This episode was reported and produced by me. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Lucia Barnum, the digital managing editors are Will Clark and Katrina Pham, and the editor in chief is Jacob Fulton. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear more episodes like this. You can find DJ Lu on Instagram @dj.luuu, and DJ Lou Lou Lemon @louis.miln.

Email: [email protected]


A&O and.WAV introduce Polar Vortex, new winter concert 

Captured: DJs perform at A&O and .WAV’s chilly Polar Vortex event

Mayfest hosts Battle of the Artists, provides platforms to student performers