Friday, September 7th. 9pm @ The Casbah – $15 (check out our contest)
Olympics Schmolympics. If you want to see some serious competition, head to the Casbah this Friday night for the Canadian finals of the DMCs (the World DJ Championship, originally hosted by “Disco Mix Club”). Canada’s finest turntablists will face off, in head-to-head heats, for the title of Canadian Champion.. right here in Hamilton. Friday’s winner will go on to represent Canada at the World’s finals, at the end of September, in London England.
Started in 1986, the DMC’s are the world’s premier DJ Competition with national finals held across the globe. If you’ve never seen a DMC competition, you’re missing out. Part performance, and part hip-hop kata, the DMC’s showcase DJ creativity, skill and showmanship – in ways that make your favourite nightclub DJ look like a fumbling child.
Friday’s competition will feature a guest showcase by DJ Swamp, and a set by Hamilton’s Lee Reed (with DJ Realistic). We caught up with the 2011 Canadian Champion VEKKED, as he prepares to defend his title.
Please tell us a little something about yourself.
My name is Vekked (real name Jake Meyer). I’m 25, I grew up in a tiny village called Paisley, but right now I’m going to school and living in Waterloo. I’m the reigning Canadian DMC champ.
Can you explain, to those that don’t know the difference between a DJ and a turntablist?
A DJ is someone whose art form involves playing other people’s music, good track selection, mixing, and rocking a party. A turntablist is a turntable musician, someone who’s creating new music using the sound they’re manipulating on the turntable.
How long have you been a turntablist?
Scratching 8 years, and beat juggling 6.5 years.
How long have you been doing this competitively? Did you always have your sights set on competing?
I’ve been doing it seriously basically since last year. I entered a couple regionals 5 years ago with no success, so I took some time off to practice. During that time the DMC left Canada for a couple years when I was started to get decent. At the very very beginning I didn’t focus on competing, but right after I got turntables I got the DMC 2003 Supremacy DVD and saw Dopey’s winning routine and that got me really interested in battling. I was also always into rap battles, and had seen most of the Scribble Jam videos before I got turntables, and had a bunch of breakdance VHS before that. I was always a fan of the battling aspect of hip-hop, so it was a pretty natural progression for me.
Has the game changed much since you started? The birth of the ‘laptop’ DJ.. Serato, etc. has changed the club game quite a bit. But, has that changed turntable comps much?
Yes, it’s changed a lot, and not really for the better. Until about 2003 everyone used original vinyl to make routines. In 2004 I-Emerge won the world finals using custom vinyl and music, and a ton of people followed suit, until eventually by 2010 nearly every competitor was using custom vinyl. 2011 was the first year they allowed Serato/DVS. Even though I think the idea of custom records and using your own music was really good, it lead to people focusing too hard on pre-production of routines, rather than technique and composition using turntablist skills. It seems lately a lot of people can’t tell the difference between composition on a computer and composition on turntables. Musically, the sets are very complex sounding, but there’s not much to their execution.
However, 2011 was the best year of battling since 2004 so hopefully that’s a good sign for the future. I think Serato was a necessary/good addition. Now hopefully some DJs will stop being so lazy.
Who did you look up to when you were coming up?
So many people. For scratching I looked up to Qbert, D-Styles, Toadstyle, Ricci Rucker, Shortkut – basically anyone from Invisibl Skratch Piklz or Ned Hoddings. For battle scratching I looked up to Klever, Tigerstyle, Woody, Illtraxxx (a lot of faster/more aggressive scratchers). For juggling my main influence is the X-Ecutioners. The Beat Junkies, especially Shortkut, were big influences too, as well as DJ Slyce. All of the Allies are an influence, but not quite as big yet, I’m still learning from the originators for now.
Was there a particular event, or show, that inspired you to get into turntablism?
Seeing a Qbert/Mix Master Mike performance online was the big thing that made me want to scratch. The first DMC I ever went to, in Kitchener/Waterloo, was really inspiring too. That still might be the best DMC battle I ever attended, the place was packed full of people who came to watch a DJ battle – not for the showcase.
Who do you think is your stiffest Canadian competition this year?
Jooce, again! (ha!) He’s the only person I haven’t seen material from this year. I know he has the potential to make some really good routines, especially beat juggles, and he’s nice at scratching too (even though he doesn’t do it nearly as often). His experience is the big thing that makes him a threat, and he’s a real natural at beat juggling.
I think the main edge I have over anyone is that I practice way more than anyone in Canada. It is pretty hard to beat anyone who has practiced the most overall. Jooce has some really cool ideas for routines and patterns and so I know that if he puts in effort he could put together a really strong set. It’s hard to predict if he’s gonna come with some crazy idea that’s on some next level. I don’t think any of the other competitors, aside from Jooce, have that ability (yet) to do something I’ve never seen before. Jooce is also pretty well rounded as far as scratching/juggling/showmanship and bodytricks are concerned, which isn’t something I like to be facing. I’d rather my opponents have glaring weaknesses. (ha!)
Trapment is nice too, and I’m not counting him out, but I know for a fact that he didn’t start his routine until really late this year, so it’s going to be tough for him to make up for the time I’ve spent on my routine this year.
Turntable competitions are strange, they’re like a cross between music and sports. They’re exciting to watch and always really entertaining. Do you enjoy competing? Or, do you prefer just doing a show?
Yea, I do like competing. I’ve always been pretty competitive, and I feel like DJ battles are something where I can really bring something new to the table and that makes me want to compete. I’m also really critical of other DJs and competing gives me a chance to show I’m not being a hypocrite.
At the risk of revealing secrets.. where do you do your research? Everywhere! I get music from all over. I get samples from sample sites, I download MP3s and instrumentals from blogs, and MP3 pools (shouts to crateconnect.net ), and I still buy more vinyl than 99% of DJs. About 25-30% of my routine this year is ripped from vinyl, although I try to find lossless audio first before I use vinyl rips. I’d rather use vinyl rips to MP3s. My inspiration comes from all over, I’m constantly thinking of stuff I can source. You just always have to be thinking “how could I use this in a battle?”
What sort of music do you look to when you’re putting routines together?
Music I like/enjoy listening to mostly. I’m going to be spending months listening to that song over and over, so I better love it. There’s times when I’ll use something that’s kind of corny or that I wouldn’t actually listen to if I think there’s a cool idea for a routine that is specific to that track, but I’ve never used anything in my sets like that yet. I don’t try to limit myself, I don’t think music selection should really be a factor in a good set. A bad or average routine will be enhanced by good music selection, but a great routine might even be greater if someone is using stuff that seems like it’d have no place in a routine. If you can take the wackest song and make it fresher, it’s better than taking the illest song and making it lamer (even though the crowd might not see it that way… some people judge you on what you use, regardless of how you flip it).
Any trash talk you want to send your competitors?
Just know that I probably put more time into my routine in a week than some of them put into their routine this year. There’s no amount of natural skill that can overcome that.
** We are giving away 2 tickets to this exciting event. The first person to email firstname.lastname@example.org with the correct answer to the following question will win: What year did the first DMC competition take place?