Coinciding with the ongoing 2011 DMC World DJ Championships happening currently in London, England at the 02 Arena's Indig02 this is the second in a two-part Amoeblog series on the current state of turntablism/skratch music (here's yesterday's Amoeblog). Note that the results for the DMC World DJ Championship battles (which end by midnight Friday, Oct 7th, UK time = 4pm West Coast time) will be published tomorrow in the Hip-Hop Weekly Rap Up Amoeblog. As you know turntablism is a musical form born out of hip-hop by the DJ but not given an actual name until the mid nineties when DJ Babu coined the term turntablism to describe the DJ as a turntable manipulation artist - one as worthy of respect as any other musical instrumentalist. By that stage I personally had already been a convert for a good decade and a half to this infectious component of hip-hop music. In fact when I first heard hip-hop in its formative days I was drawn more to the DJ than the MC. And ever since I've been hooked on the sound of scratching and spellbound by beat juggling and all the other skilled moves that the DJ as mixer & turntable master so effortlessly throws down. To me this musical style, unique to hip-hop and whose pioneers included Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Grand Wizzard Theodore (creator of the scratch), has always been deserving of its own genre or at least sub-genre. And as a diehard fan and supporter of DJ scratching from hip-hop's earliest days when I first heard in the late 70's through all the years later up to and beyond including that point when QBert altered the spelling of the word from scratch to skratch, I have thoroughly enjoyed closely following its evolvement; warmly witnessing turntablim/skratch music's creative growth as it blossomed with a seemingly never ending array of new sounds generated by an ever-progressing arsenal of new styles and techniques been added to this vibrant art form.
Today and tomorrow (Oct 6th & 7th) one of the most important events in hip-hop and DJ culture takes place in London: the 2011 DMC World DJ Championships at the 02 Arena's Indig02 in which the top hip-hop battle DJs from 21 countries (reppin' the USA is DJ Vajra - full DJ battle details above) battle it out in this Turntablist World Cup in three major battle categories: DMC World Final, DMC Battle for World Supremacy, and DMC World Team. Additionally this two day scratch DJ event will present a bunch of great showcases including ones by last year's DMC World Champ DJ Ligone from France, the 2003 Supremacy Champ DJ Tigerstyle, three time DMC World Supremacy Champ DJ Switch (who'll perform the piece: Concerto for Turntables), plus an anticipated triple threat set from the revered X-ecutioners' Total Eclipse, DJ Precision, & Rob Swift.
This year's DMC battle comes at a time when turntablism or skratch music seems to be on a comeback in popularity on a global level. It's always been popular but after its honeymoon with the mainstream in the late nineties it seemed somewhat dormant (in actuality it had just gone underground). But lately there's been a noticeable increased interest in DJ battles like the DMC and turntablist events like Ireland's annual Community Skratch Games of the past few years or the recent Thud Rumble presentedFader Fest in San Francisco with the reunited Invisibl Skratch Piklz as trio (QBert, D-Styles, Shortkut) and showcases from the likes of US DMC representative DJ Vajra. There seems to be a flurry of new turntablist releases lately too including ones from DJ ALF, Teeko, DJ Needlz, ThatKidNamedCee, Jimmy the Hideous Penguin, and DJ Quest who is about to release this month his latest turntablist album Cosmic Parasite (a collaborative effort with the two former bandmates from his original DJ crew Bullet Proof Scratch Hamster (BPSH) - DJ Cue and Eddie Def).
I've been attending the amazing WFMU Record Fair for the past four years, ever since I joined the unique freeform New Jersey radio station, and the one thing that is a given at this popular annual event is that you will always spot a ton of Amoeba bags floating around the weekend long event. This should not be too surprising, considering that both the WFMU Record Fair and Amoeba Music attract the same sort of person -- one who is extremely passionate about his/her music, and music collecting. With hundreds of thousands of records and CDs (plus tons more stuff) being sold by over a hundred vendors at the expansive Metropolitan Pavilion venue in the Chelsea district of New York CIty, the three day WFMU Record Fair attracts people from all over the States and overseas who will travel to New York City just to attend this event. Many of these same folks will travel all the way to LA or the Bay to shop at Amoeba.
This time last year I reported here on the Amoeblog about the 2008 WFMU Record Fair, where Amoeba logo wearing music collecting fanatics included Nakajima, who had flown all the way to New York City from Japan specifically for the WFMU event. And at this year's event (Oct 23, 24, 25), which was "a success" according to WFMU Station Manager Ken Freedman, the instantly recognizable black record 100% cotton tote bags with the bright yellow & red Amoeba Music logos and store of origin's name were sighted all over the place.
Photosynthesis Festival 2.0. @ Trout Lake, WA (August 2009)
To be honest, I knew little about this festival, which began last year but my crewmates had told me that the lineup included the headliners Amon Tobin, Daedelus, and Kid Koala and that the festival was pretty unique in a summer filled with music themed festivals all around the US. The organizers behind the event are coming from a strictly DIY philosophy and say that the festival's goal is to "take your dreams, ideas and skills and weave them into nature, music, art, and education. The goal is a sustainable community where everyone is simultaneously the student and teacher." The hope for this second year of the North West fest was to "focus on sustainability through permaculture, renewable energy, water conservation, holistic healing, waste reduction, and wild crafting," and it seemed like they accomplished this, pretty much, although the turnout of about 2000 for such a really wonderful event was less than I thought it deserved.
While every turntablist has their own individual story of exactly how he/she became a hip-hop scratch DJ musician, most seem to share a somewhat similar history. Typically this starts out with them first becoming bedroom DJs, practicing their mixing, cutting, scratching, and beat-juggling, etc., skills for hours on end to prepare them for the typical next step, becoming battle DJs, entering contests and going head to head with other aspiring scratch DJs.
Baltimore, MD area turntablist DJ ALF took a slightly different path, having never entered a DJ battle in his life. A self-taught DJ and producer who is currently putting the finishing touches on his debut album This Way Or That Way, ALF developed his scratching musical path while simultaneously serving as a member of the US armed forces.
In fact, practicing hip-hop scratch music while a member of the US Air Force (which he is no longer a member of) helped maintain ALF's sanity, especially while stationed overseas. He would "scratch away" his "pressures," as he reveals in the interview that follows.
Amoeblog: Pre DJing, did you ever learn to play any musical instruments? If so, how has that influenced your approach to DJing?
DJ ALF: I used to play the clarinet from 4th grade to the 12th grade. I remember some basic music theory, which has helped me some in my DJ career. Since I used to play in a marching band, concert band, and orchestra, I must say that alone has helped me easily figure what fits in terms of doing freestyle turntable orchestration with others.
Amoeblog: When/where was the first time you ever scratched?