I always harbour an odd thought that if I wasn’t a stand up I’d be a hip hop DJ of some sorts. Or an astronaut. Or an adventurer. Or a rock star. Or just that guy in the pub that no one knows who he is, where he’s from, what he does for a living, but rumour has spread that he isn’t on the national register, and everyone just knows him as ‘Bill’. But the DJ notion has been something I’ve been a fan of since I was about 12, only for my younger brother to surpass me in the process and become a DJ himself. He is, as it turns out, very good at it whereas I have a feeling that considering how unable I am to play the board game Operation (young people, bored games are what people used to play before the future arrived. The word play on board/bored is still noted by all) without some terrible hand spasm means that any attempt to ‘scratch’ a record would result in me actually scratching a record making it unplayable and them somehow flinging the needle into the crowd and piercing the pupil of a dedicated fan. Probably. Not that I’ve tried. Well that’s not true. I tried once on my friend Louis’ decks, for about 30 seconds, realised I couldn’t do it immediately and therefore gave up. I have this attitude to most things in life. I assume I’m automatically brilliant at it, and when this ridiculous dream is popped, I sulk and decide I’ll never submit myself to that level of disappointment again. If anything, stand-up is the result of this realisation. I know I can talk. I know I can talk while standing up. Et voila.
But I still very much respect the scratch DJ and I’ve always held a high level of awe watching people drop flares, beat match and other terms that make little sense to anyone outside the industry. I’ve often wondered how many non-clued up people hear about the DMC Championships and that it involves mixing and beats and presume the acronym stands for De Master Chef. I bet its none. Anyway, that’s where me and L went last night. The DMC Championships. Once again my brother with his ever excellent choice of career entirely based on how best to benefit his brother’s existence I’m sure, sorted us out with VIP tickets which allowed us to ever embrace the culture of hip hop by sneaking backstage at the most prestigious of DJ competitions to make a cup of tea and eat as many mini Babybels as possible before inducing sickness. It was an incredible event though. As well as the brilliant DJ Supremacy battles where the champion Nelson wowed us by mixing and scratchin’ old Streetfighter sound effects into beats, there was also the amazing Boxettes – a five part female beatboxing group, who were just amazing. And finally the X-cutioners who are legendary in the hip hop world, continually swapping decks, beat matching and creating entirely new drum beats from well known breaks. No, I’ve looked back at what I’ve just written and only part of it makes sense to me too.
Basically though, as I spouted in a blog a while back, scratch DJing is incredible. Even if you aren’t into the type of music it normally revolves around, you cannot deny that the skill involved, the ability to be so in tune with music to be able to manipulate it using incredibly fast hands, is nothing less than mesmerising.
See? Exactly. And yet whilst the world is only just beginning to realise that this is, in itself, a music form – yes, its been a music form since the 70’s, but its been mostly underground – it’s about to be curbed by the fact that turntables are going out of production. Yes, I know! I know. You’re as shocked as I am right? No? Well you should be. Its bloody awful*. Why? Well I’m glad you asked that despite your supposed lack of caring. Well its because of DJs now mostly using computers and analogue mixers to DJ. Panasonic who own Technics, the makers of the greatest turntables ever (someone told me that once) stopped the line in Feb 2010. Yes I’ve only just heard now. Yes I should pay more attention if I enjoy something that much. Instead I nearly choked on my Babybel as it was mentioned backstage. Now there is a scramble for DJs to buy the last remaining turntables to keep an art alive before the entire ethos of scratch DJing and the DMC’s is destroyed, and instead replaced by anyone being able to press a few buttons on their Macbook and do the same.
Technology is great but sometimes it really kills a profession. Sure its better than DJs lugging records around everywhere, but that’s what Serato scratch is for (I’m not explaining that. Look it up lazy), so to then even remove the need for turntables will just render Scratch DJing a thing of the past. Which now means I’ll definitely never be one. There goes something else I care about.
For anyone interested, here are some of my favourite scratch DJing albums at the moment:
DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist – Brainfreeze (135 7″ funk vinyls mixed in an hour)
Kid Koala – Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
X-ecutioners – X-Pressions
DJ Food & DK – Now Listen!
Q-Bert – Wave Twisters
Plus One – Champion Sounds
Buy all of those at once. Then buy some decks and sell them to a DJ you know to keep the trend alive. Go on. Hurry up. Before we all end up packing clubs to watch some idiot fiddle with a laptop, which I could totally show you in my room for free.
* yes I know I speak constant hip hop slang. Deal with it.