Turntablism is barely discussed as an art form anymore. Have your experiments with programs like Serato shown you that people simply aren’t using it to its full potential; that they have thousands of records at their fingertips and only use about 10? I mean, you’re sitting there performing with like three turntables and lots of other gear at most shows right?
With regard to your latter point, what sort of gear I choose to use depends entirely on the show. The last two big tours I’ve done are perfect examples: in 2007-8, it was eight turntables, loop pedals, and all vinyl. This tour, it’s Ableton, CDJ’s, and drum pads. It all depends on the context of the tour itself. Trying to play vinyl at large festivals is self-defeating, vinyl can’t compete with digital sound in terms of volume.
As far as turntablism, I think it was a battlefront that was ultimately won. DJ’s fought for respect within a genre dominated by MC’s, and we achieved that re-balance. I will always continue to value and demonstrate skills-based DJ’ing, but not everyone in the audience cares about the aesthetic. There are a lot of good DJ’s with no technical skill, and when I see them play and the club is heaving with people, who am I to say they’re wrong?
You posted a very thoughtful commentary on the state of the music industry in early 2010. What triggered it? What pushed you to the point where you felt like you had to put your opinion out there?
I was having literally daily conversations with peers, both “small-time” (like myself), and successful, and everyone was feeling the same way, but nobody was taking their opinions public. Everyone was afraid of being beaten with the Metallica stick, or viewed as being unappreciative of their fans. I was having a hard time reconciling the fact that this great so-called democratizing force, the internet, was routinely shouting down any voice of dissent on the subject of downloading and the collapse of the music business. It just seemed really hypocritical to me…like wait, you’re only allowed to have one opinion on the subject? So, I decided to write something honest, as someone who makes a living selling art. I don’t care about phones, I don’t care about social networking, I don’t care about Steve Jobs or Shawn Fanning or internet start-up guys that are just pimping music for their IPO pay-day. I care about music. Music is in a stasis…that sucks. Let’s talk about it. Maybe there’s a way forward. Sometimes change starts with just a small stone being thrown. That’s all I was trying to do.
You’re turning 40 soon. What’s one thing you miss about the early days of your career, and your twenties?
Honestly, I’m very content. I was talking to this promoter in Wales the other day about how when you’re 20, you think of women in their 30s and 40s and say, â€˜Oh, she’s ancient!’ But then you get to be 30 and 40, and it’s like, â€˜Actually no, they’re still beautiful.’ It’s just a different perspective.
The one thing I miss about being 23 is the feeling that there’s no off switch. I did anything people asked me to do back then. That’s why the Mo’ Wax guys really loved having me around. [Laughs] Because everything was always like, go, go, go. There was enough energy to fit everything in. â€˜Oh, you need me in the studio for 18 hours a day? Fine, let’s do it.’
While that’s appropriate for that age, there’s something to be said about having some balance in your life and a long view on things. I’m not in any rush or trying to be on top. I’m just trying to follow my life’s passion and have the best body of work that I can.