Knights of the Turntable

Knights of the Turntable
Anthony Pidgeon

  • Eam Golden
  • Remix
  • November 09, 2006

All-Star DJs and turntablists A-Trak, Peanut Butter Wolf, Craze, J.Rocc, Dan the Automator and ie.MERG put their heads together to discuss the state of the DJ.

Hip hop, DJing and the music industry are all at a major crossroads. Remember the glody days of the late 90s when people would go out and see big name DJs every weekend? like sheep to the slaughter, they lined up, gleefully paying 40 bucks a pop to gt a glimpse of the decade's biggest PR scams. Guitar Center was loudy shouting from the rooftops that turntables were outselling guitars, and everyone wanted to be a DJ. Those days are done. Rock has made a massive comeback, and for many citities, the big name DJ is a hard sell. It's definitely a good time to ask a handful of key people just where they think all this is going. Coincidentally, Guitar Center brought such a group together under one roof. The GC Spin Off Grand Finals provided the backdrop for a reunion of the West Coast's staple underground hip hop label, Stones Throw. The label's top artists, including J.Rocc, Madlib, and PB Wolf played together as a tribute to the late J Dilla. In addition, A-Trk, Crazy, ie.Merge and Drum Machine round out the impressive lineup of talent; Dan the Automator was on hand to judge the competition; and Remix was lucky enough to sit down with everyone for an hour before the show.

If there is one group of people you would expect to be the die-hard troops making a last stand at the vinyl Fort Knox, this would be it-the hardcore turntablists and major hip-hop heads. Throwing around records and digging through crates is the stuff hip-hop dreams are made of. Surely sending the Digital DJ" columnist down to interview them would be feeding a pig to the wolves, right? Wrong again; everyone was not only fully embracing digital DJing, but a few are even on the bleeding edge. Their enthusiasm and all-around glow ing attitude about new technology and the digital revo lution gave Remix a little hope for the future of hip-hop and music in general. So what happens when you stick six of the top people in the hip-hop and DJing world together in one room? Do they smoke a lot of blunts and wax poetic about the myriad shapes in Vibe magazine? Hardly. These guys are well-spoken, intelligent and on top of their game. Here are some insightful and some times controversial things they had to say about the music industry and the state of DJing today.

Who here is working with digital gear, and what is your preferred system?

Craze: [Stanton] FinalScratch 2. It has way more things you can play with. FinalScratch 1 is crap.
J.Rocc: I've never tried FinalScratch, so I don't know, but I use Serato [Scratch Live].
Dan: I have been using FinalScratch for a while, but I am leaning toward Serato. I just want to get down to the system that I don't have to bring anywhere because it's already there.
Craze: That's why I use both! I just show up with both and say, "What do you have? Okay, I'll use that system tonight." I don't want to do soundcheck. Serato is the standard; that's what everybody uses, but to me, they feel exactly the same.
Dan: All I know is they both kinda work.
ie.MERG: Locally, I play with vinyl. Overseas, with Serato. [PBW and A-Trak hadn't settled into the conversation yet, but PBW uses Serato Scratch Live, and A-Trak uses Serato Scratch Live and Ableton Live.]

Do you think digital technology is destroying the rich heritage of DJing?

Dan: I have one thing to say: I was out touring with Bambaataa one year, and he had nine crates of records. He had to have four guys carry his records. Even with that, you only have 400 to 600 records. With the com puter, you have 10,000 records.
Craze: You can do whatever you want; you can show up to the gig and say, "Oh, okay, this is the type of crowd."
Dan: I have ruined so many records, and you can never get [some of] them back again.
ie.MERG: [Digital technology] is not necessarily destroying it but making it less accessible. The vintage romance is still there, but less people are finding out because they are being force-fed the new technology through adver tisement. A combination of modern and vintage is ideal.

Read the rest if the interview in Remix Magazine, Nov. 2006

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