MISTA SINISTER, ROB SWIFT, TOTAL ECLIPSE
by Bevan Jee
BEVAN: Who are your major influences as a DJ?
ROC RAIDA: One of my main influences was Grandmaster Flash, also GrandWizard Theodore, Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money, Aladdin, and Miz.
TOTAL ECLIPSE: Scratching wise it was Cash Money, he was the founder of all the ill rhythms and he was the one who attracted me to scratching. And definitely Q-Bert, he was a big influence to me with scratching, I was originally into a lot of beat juggling and after seeing him in 1993 with Mixmaster Mike it made me want to work on my scratching. So I would say Cash Money is the one who first attracted me into DJing and Q-Bert influenced me into scratching.
SINISTER: I have a lot of influence in my crew and 5th Platoon, which is another DJ crew based here in New York. Also Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Cash Money, DXT, Cutmaster DC, Grandmaster Flash, Charlie Chase, and Dr. Butcher, a lot of old school influences preferably.
ROB SWIFT: I have three major influences: Grandmaster DXT, Cash Money, and Steve D.
BEVAN: Do you respect the turntable as an instrument now?
ROB: I always did, ever since I saw DST for the first time play with them. If you listen to Herbie Hancock's "Rock It" today, he's a vital part of the song and if you take his scratches out then something's missing. I always knew the turntable was a musical instrument but to me he was the first one to prove it.
BEVAN: How do you describe to someone who doesn't understand the turntable as an instrument that it is an instrument. I tried to explain it once to people who were totally ignorant to hip-hop but they weren't hearing it.
ROB: Good question, what I would tell those people is that with the turntable you could create your own rhythms and sounds. In other words the turntable can adapt or mimic the violin, the drum, the guitar, the bass, and any other type of instrument. What you are using is records and records contain all these different instruments. The turntable can almost morph into any instrument. Out of the turntable you can coax high pitches out, you can coax low pitches, you could just do so many things to make is sound like an instrument. There are notes involved, if you move the speed a certain way you can create slow noises and fast noises. There are so many things you can do with the turntable, it's definitely an instrument, it's hard to explain in words and it's better to watch it and listen to it.
BEVAN: Do you think it will get to the point in the future where it will become Orchestral Turntable Music?
ROB: It's almost there now I think. You got a lot of kids now like the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, The X-Men, and The Beat Junkies doing showcases. Little by little we are reaching a point in hip-hop where the DJ, the turntablist is coming to the forefront. I really believe that DJing is going to expand into it's own little domain because right now I know of DJs who don't nescessaraly listen to hip-hop but are just as good as anyone else at manipulating the turntable. I think it's almost going to branch out into it's own area of music, Turtablism.
BEVAN: Rob, you took it to another level by battling Rahzell the Human Beatbox on your "Soulful Fruit" mix tape.
ROB: What I was trying to do there was to show people that if you could just expand your horizons musically who knows where you can go. Rahzell is so nasty and the things he does with his mouth without the help a sampler or a big ass mixing board, the shit he does with his mouth all that's creativity. Vise-Vera the shit I do with the turntables I become that sampler with my own hands there is no machine or no disk inside me programmed to do what I do it's just me and my brain. When you think creative and when you be creative the limits are just never fucking ending.
BEVAN: Rob, what about when you looped the records with the masking tape in the ISP vs. X-Men battle. Have you ever seen anyone else do that?
ROB: Actually the only other DJ I've seen do that before was DJ Reckless from the U.K., he didn't necessarily take it to the degree that I did with it, this was like in 1991. I remember he was in a World DMC and the record kept skipping and he held up this sign which said "loop" like he was telling the crowd the record was looping. That was the first time I saw someone utilize that the record was skipping in a routine.
BEVAN: I notice that you are all taking scratching and beat juggling further with morphing and echoes.
ROB: That's what we are trying to do, I think the DJ as far as hip-hop is concerned is the most advanced artist, out of all the categories of hip-hop, DJing has come the farthest. It's advanced the most and it's the most creative and as DJs we always keep pushing ourselves and think of new ways of manipulating the turntable. That's what we are about, that's what I'm about, finding new ways and stuff.
BEVAN: Sinister, How long did it take you to progress your beat juggling to the level it's at right now?
SINISTER: I just stayed in my house and practiced, sometimes it's a sacrifice but we were all really persistent at what we were doing. We told ourselves we wanted to be some of the most respected DJs in the world. We are still trying to take it to a higher degree but to get where we are at we just practiced and vibed on each other.
BEVAN: Total Eclipse, how was it wining the 1st I.T.F. world championship last year (1996)?
TOTAL ECLIPSE: It was definitely a good experience. Actually that was my first big competition, I used to do a lot of underground competitions. There were a lot of mediocre guys who entered that battle and it was the first intricate battle that I been in.
BEVAN: Roc, I head your Father was in the old school scene.
ROC RAIDA: My father was part of Mean Machine on Sugar Hill Records.
BEVAN: So is that how you got into the DJing scene?
ROC RAIDA: Yeah, actually after seeing the red felt that goes on the turntable, that's what got me into it, just seeing the color of it. Then I seen Flash on the wheels and then I said, "I've got to do that shit!"
BEVAN: So how long you been DJing for?
ROC RAIDA: Since I was 10. I got a set of turntables for Christmas when I was 10 years old.
BEVAN: Who makes up the X-Men crew.
TOTAL ECLIPSE: Mainly as of now there are four representatives of the X-Men; it's Total Eclipse, Rob Swift, Roc Raida & Mr. Sinister.
BEVAN: How do you feel about DJ competitions?
ROC RAIDA: I was living for the battles. NMS, DMC, the local battles no matter how big or how little I just wanted to enter a battle.
SINISTER: I think I could have done better in the NMS, I did what I did then but you learn from your mistakes and you keep getting better as a person and better as a turntablist, you keep moving. And as far as my competitors I still speak to them, they are all good [laughter]
BEVAN: Sinister, what battles have you entered?
SINISTER: 1993 NMS, 1993 DMC, 1995 DMC, and 1996 American DMC Finals.
BEVAN: What titles did you win?
SINISTER: 2nd Place 1993 NMS, 2nd Place 1993 DMC, 1st place 1995 DMC, and 2nd place 1996 DMC American finals.
BEVAN: What about the Invisibl Skratch Piklz vs. X-Men battle?
ROC RAIDA: Oh, that was one of the dopest battles of the world to me. Everyone went up with different styles. We're mad tight with the Skratch Piklz.
SINISTER: That was dope, I don't watch the video too much because I don't want to burn it out!
BEVAN: Tell me about the LP that you are working on and what you hope to achieve with it.
ROC RAIDA: We're just doing an album that features Turntablism. All turntable tracks with just scratching on it and tracks with vocals and scratching. The highlight of the album is the turntable and what we can do with the turntable.
SINISTER: I just hope that it does real good out of state and out of the country as well as here. God gave us the chance that we have and we're making an album. We just want it to reach a broader plane, not just in the United States but worldwide.
BEVAN: Is it going to be straight turntable music or are you going to be producing also?
ROC RAIDA: We're producing stuff too. We got songs by the E. Brothers and others. It's going to be an all around album but if you're not interested in turntable music you can listen to it and if you are it's a plus. It's coming out on Asphodel. There will be a single out in July and an LP in August or September. The Invisibl Skratch Piklz are doing an EP on the same label, Q was just telling me about that the other day.
BEVAN: It's good to see unity in the Turtablism sector, there ain't any real beef between the coasts!
TOTAL ECLIPSE: We are all definitely unified.
ROC RAIDA: Yeah, The Skratch Piklz vibe is real San Francisco-ish and fast like Planet Rock where ours is more laid back.
BEVAN: What's going on with the Battle Sound documentary?
ROC RAIDA: Battle Sounds is still being edited. They have 100 hours worth of stuff and are trying to edit 100 hours into four-hours and then into two-hours.
BEVAN: Where do you see the turntable and the turntablist going in the future. Do you see the turntable changing its form and do you see the turntablist evolving?
ROC RAIDA: I don't see it changing I just see it elevating.
BEVAN: What hip-hop groups do you work with?
ROC RAIDA: Artifacts, Lord Finesse, Show & A.G., Jungle Brothers, and E. Brothers.
SINISTER: Common (Sense), Beatnuts, Fat Joe, Al Tariq, Creature, my crew the Insane Psycho Home Clique, Kukoo, and hopefully soon to be many more!
BEVAN: Most so called hip-hop groups who come out from the U.S.A. to Australia bring a fake ass DJ who just cues records in his earphones for the entire show. I get hella pissed off because this dude isn't doing shit where guys like yourselves could be coming out here with them to rock the crowd.
ROB: See that's what separates the DJ from the turntablist, the Turntablist turns the turntable into an instrument. Who knows DJs might play in some big arena where orchestra's play. With a lot of hard work and effort it will happen.
BEVAN: You could get all the good Turntablists from all around the U. S.A. and have a big turntable orchestra. It would be hard to do it but anything's possible.
ROB: I think it will happen. Who thought the X-Men would do their own album, if that's possible then anything is. BEVAN: Sinister, What are your plans for the future?
SINISTER: Basically to be a musical producer. Just working with other artists. Hopefully I can work with Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis. Still keep to hip-hop groups but also be versatile.
BEVAN: The good thing about working with popular artists like that is to expose turntablism to the public.
SINISTER: Only one of our members had a chance to do that. Steve D done cuts for Michael Jackson, it's on the last Michael Jackson album, and it's just regular basic rubs nothing crazy.
BEVAN: Imagine Q-Bert with Michael Jackson!
SINISTER: I would love to hear Q-Bert on Michael Jackson too, hopefully that will happen.
BEVAN: What do you think about Turtablism at the moment.
SINISTER: I see it as a lot of people copying, that's how it is usually in any faction of music, people see one style and get hooked to it and everyone try's to follow what the trend is. There are only a few originators willing to take that style and elevate it to the next level. There's a lot of copiers right there and I see turntablism right now as not going anywhere at the moment. The originators will always bring it further than it is and the copiers are just going to copy.
BEVAN: It's at a point where there is hardly any scratching on and rap records right now
SINISTER: I think once you start looking at music as a job then it becomes a job. You have to go by your feeling that's the basic line. It only becomes a job when you take it to a business level, but even then it's fun, but then it becomes business at a certain point but it's supposed to always supposed to go back to fun. If you stress your brain too much things don't come and your creativity is limited, that's why you have to do things and get your mind off a lot of things.
BEVAN: What do you have to say to people who want to get into turntablism?
ROC RAIDA: All you have to do is just practice and stay away from watching tapes, just look at tapes to get a good a good vibe, but when you look at tapes with too many people doing stuff you start to copy peoples stuff. It's good to practice by yourself everyday and come up with stuff that people have never tried. Try the impossible, you have to be different because there is a million different DJs and there are not too many people standing out.
TOTAL ECLIPSE: I would say if you enter battles be motivated to destroy in that battle. If you loose just take a loss, in a way you are taking a win by taking a loss. My mentality is that if I take a loss it's for a reason, for me to get better, for me to enhance my style. I would recommend the same for all DJs to share that thought.
ROB: Basically, be creative and don't limit yourself and don't think you necessarily got to follow the laws of DJing. Always try to break the rules and experiment and try new things. The best DJs are the ones who create their rules. Also try to maintain a down to earth persona about you because a lot of DJs struggle and struggle and then when they make it they forget where they come from. Those are my words for any upcoming DJs. Just be you, be down to earth, be creative, and be original, there's enough room for all of us. Also be business minded because with DJing there's money to be made, a lot of times DJs are treated like the lowest level of the art-form and they don't need to get paid as much as rappers or producers do but what we do it's just as hard. Don't let people tell you that because you are a DJ you are not worth much.
BEVAN: Is there anything else you all want to say?
ROC RAIDA: Just everybody check for me when I come to Australia, I'm waiting for that.
SINISTER: Actually, I'm hungry [laugher]. To all the Turntablists, producers, MCs, Graffiti Artists, Breakers, Rhymers, stay true to the craft and stay motivated and as creative as possible.
Rob Swift appears on "Return of the DJ -Volume 1" with his song ROB GET's BUSY
Roc Raida appears on "Return of the DJ -Volume 2" with his song X-MEN STYLE BEATZ