Duane Harriott is the kind of DJ who brings a dancefloor to life. He has a knack for mixing eclectic styles like New Wave with Motown, and can tailor any playlist around a couple’s tastes. (To gauge them, he actually asks couples to fill out a survey!) Here he talks about his background, and his advice on choosing a DJ for your wedding.
How did you start DJing? Is it something you always wanted to do? Did you fall into it?
I’ve been deejaying off and on since I was about 15, but when I came to New York in ’96, I came here to be a music journalist. I got hired to deejay a loft party in ’97 and someone there was like “Hey you’re really good, can you play my party next week?” I said yes and then at that party someone approached me to deejay their party…and that’s basically how it started.
How would you describe your style?
I would call it “dancefloor riot.” I’m pretty eclectic and I’m a pretty skillful beatmatcher, so I can pretty much blend in and out of genres at will. I have an indie-rock background which helps. I love to dance to left-field stuff that wouldn’t normally be considered “dance music”, but I understand the ebb and flow of how a DJ should rock a party, so I apply that “club DJ aesthetic” to the Motown, 50s Rock and Roll, 90s Hip Hop, New Wave and current pop that I play at weddings. I really want everyone from grannies to hipsters to cut a rug on the floor.
How do you develop a playlist for each wedding? Can you give us some examples of sets?
It really depends on the couple. I pride myself in working one-on-one with my clients to insure that their tastes in music shine through as opposed to just strictly mine. I have a music survey that I give to each couple that helps to insure that. Once I get a grasp of your tastes, then I’m able to steer my set towards that aesthetic.
What are the advantages of having a DJ over a band?
A great DJ is always gonna trump a mediocre band. You can’t replace the energy of a great live wedding band, but a DJ is probably always gonna be cheaper and if that DJ brings it, you’re guaranteed that your guests are never gonna forget your night.
What advice do you have for couples choosing the music and DJ for their wedding?
Make sure that your DJ respects your music tastes and has a history of doing these types of events professionally. As far as music, don’t be afraid to be picky about what you wanna hear. People are coming to your wedding to celebrate you and your union. If you’re having a blast, everyone else will too. At the very least you should be able to hear music that you enjoy throughout the whole day. Any great DJ will understand that and encourage you to be hands-on. Also, if it’s a multigenerational wedding, respect that the older folks will wanna participate and dance as well, so think about incorporating older sounds into the mix as well.
What do you think about couples who want to use their own iPod to “DJ” their wedding?
IPod deejaying should be used as a last resort. The great thing about having a DJ and or band is that they can react to the energy of the crowd. An iPod can’t do that.
What’s your most requested song? The most unexpected song you play that people love? And what’s the weirdest choice of “First Dance” song you’ve ever heard?
Song requests are always pretty eclectic, but I don’t think I’ve ever played a wedding where the couple didn’t ask to hear some classic Motown tunes. The best first dance tune I saw was when I saw a groom lip sync “Be my Wife” by David Bowie to his bride wearing a Ziggy Stardust wig and platforms. That was pretty amazing!
Duane Harriott was one of the amazing DJs at Wedding Crashers. To get in touch, contact him here.