Turntablism is alive and well on the West Coast-- the West Coast of Ireland that is-- specifically in Galway town where later today, April 8th, the third annual Community Skratch Games kicks off with a seminar and turntablist performance.
Running through Sunday, April 12th the Community Skratch Games is a DJ centric hip-hop event geared to educate via workshops, entertain via showcases, and generally promote the art of hip-hop with an emphasis on turntablism and sampling based production. And of course the Community Skratch Games, which are put together by Galway-based turntable quartet Vince Mack Mahon (DJs Deviant, Jimmy Penguin, Mikey Fingers and Tweek) along with such other dedicated West of Ireland turntablism heads as Johnny "Doobs" Lillis, will also feature several DJ battles. Run purely out of love for the art, the non-profit event is completely free to attend and draws DJs and fans from both Ireland and other European nations.
The Community Skratch Games (High Rollers Bonanza), which premiered this time two years ago in the Bierhaus in Galway, states that Its purpose is to further the art of turntable manipulation and raise awareness of the hip-hop DJ culture and promises, as well as workshops, showcases, and battles, "a barrage of funk, hip-hop, electro and sweaty dancing folk." In addition to the West of Ireland Community Skratch Games, the organizers also co-produce the Community Skratch BBQ with their British turntable brethren in Brighton/London, UK in August each year.
This year's Games kick off this evening at 9PM with an opening seminar with Johnny Doobs on how the role of sampling has altered listeners' interpretation of music production. Doobs will trace sampling back to its early music developments by artists such as Ernest Toch, Charles Hindemith and John Cage and will explore how sampling has come to define the sound of post-modernism in contemporary society. After tonight's seminar, the Vince Mack Mahon turntable quartet will perform "Content of Tables," a piece written and composed for four turntables by Johnny Doobs for his recently completed thesis.
Having just recently returned from Ireland, where I did a radio broadcast (my third from Ireland focusing on hip-hop), I got to hang out with many of the players involved in the Games and to witness first hand both their turntable skills and their unbridled passion for the art of skratch. Impressive! (Note that since there is so much exciting hip-hop music coming out of Ireland that this will be Part One in a series of Amoeblogs on Irish hip-hop. The next one will focus more on emcees). I also got to interview two of the main producers of the Games, Johnny Doobs and Jimmy Penguin.
Amoeblog: So how did the town of Galway, of all places, become the epicenter of turntablism in Ireland?
Jimmy Penguin: It's easy to be noticed in a small city. There are lots of great scratch DJs in other parts of Ireland too. I'm not sure, its easy to do your own thing in Galway. In bigger cities I think people lean more towards fitting in or suiting other peoples' needs.
Johnny Doobs: I suppose it comes down to the fact that you now have a wide-ranging bunch of dedicated heads, hippies, and hoodlums who are all down to put in the work to build a scene thats something a little different. Watching and hearing all the stuff that people are doing in Cork, Limerick and Galway is really inspiring and it challenges everyone to pull their socks up. It's been brewing for a while, simmering away slowly like a nice stew, soaking up the flavors.
You have people like the heroic Vince Mack Mahon really pushing things forward into the future, Itchy and the Optimist doing their thing also, but then you also have serious diggers like the Cheebah crew, Jeremy Murphy and Broken Funk. There's now a generation of people in the West who have a real deep respect and addiction to turntable culture, so things are just kind of kicking off, I suppose.
Amoeblog: How did the first Skratch Games come about?
Jimmy Penguin: We decided to set a date and invite all the Irish scratch DJ's to Galway, the idea being to bring everyone together and jam.
When I heard people saying, party...party... I said to (fellow Vince Mack Mahon DJ) Deviant, we'd better get a venue for this thing. That's how it all came about really.
Amoeblog: And how was the second one compared to first and how do you think this third one will be?
Jimmy Penguin: They were both really successful! The first one was a day long with the freestyle battle and some showcases, with around 4 or 5 hours of slammin' funk afterwards. The second year was even better; we opened the festival with DJ Manipulate giving a seminar in a local coffee shop. We kinda just set up there and did our thing. The main day was pretty similar with the showcases and the freestyle and even the funk as far as I can remember. The third day we had a live turntable show from Grandeurs Of Delusion followed by a great DJ set from DJ Mek, who hadn't been in Galway for three years. This year's Games is gonna be off the ridiculo-meter.
Amoeblog: What will be the highlights of this year's Games?
Jimmy Penguin: We've got G.O.D., Oslo Flow, Clockwork, Lone Wolf, DJ Tu-Ki, as well as many other great DJ's. Lots of great Irish DJ's showing off their skills on Saturday and some less local acts performing on Sunday. This year we are doing lots of workshops, releasing two [pieces of] vinyl, a free compilation, and as usual, you could even win a big bag of meat!
Johnny Doobs: The launch of the Vince Mack Mahon album. Big things, I tell ya! You know the boys will bringing heat that night. Grandeurs of Dillusion are playing on Sunday, DJ Clockwork is on the bill -- seriously dope cat, Blam and Plato on the cuts, the freestyle battle should bring some freshness and of course Stroller and Jeremy Murphy will melt faces with their deep crates of funk on Saturday. The antics of Chance are always epic of course, big shouts.
Amoeblog: What makes the CSG unlike other hip-hop DJ events?
Johnny Doobs: It's fun. And it's for everyone. For free. Seriously, the CSG is just one big rockin' shindig for anyone who loves scratch music. There's no attitudes, no poe-faces, no disses, no beefs -- it's the gathering of a community of like-minded folk to celebrate the "Ahhh Fresh." It's all about exchanging ideas, hanging out, cuttin' it up, supping some Guinness and generally having the craic (Irish term for hella fun). There's workshops, seminars, video screenings, a freestyle scratch battle, an Irish and international showcase, crate digging spinners, future funk excursions and a shopping trolley full of mayhem and ruckus. Gotta hand to the Vince Mack Mahon boys, they throw a hell of a party.
Amoeblog: Johnny, tell me a bit about the workshop you are teaching at the CSG.
Johnny Doobs: I suppose it's more of a seminar than a workshop, although I think I'll be doing some stuff at the youth workshops the next day as well. The seminar mainly focuses on the development and progression of the turntable in sample-based music. There's a lot to get through, so I'll talk fast. I guess it tries to show some of the historical, sociological and psychological aspects of sampling and turntablism. I'll play some very early examples of turntable music, and maybe do some live looping and cutting. Who knows?
Amoeblog: How many people are expected?
Johnny Doobs: Well, the last two years have been bananas in terms of a turnout, so bring a change of t-shirt and underwear because it'll be a sweaty one. The Bierhaus is the main venue, the home of all that is fresh in Galway and managed by some of the coolest, clued-up cats around, who have always been hugely supportive. There should be about 200 - 250 in the house for most of the events there, but some of the other venues and events are a bit more intimate. I can't wait.
For exact details on the seminars and showcases, hit up the Community Skratch Games MySpace.