WITH DJ PONE
What year and how old were you when you started DJing? What inspired you and what type of music did you play?
I started about 1991 - I was around 14 or 15 around that time - relatively late in my life compared to a lot of others. One of the first hip-hop songs I ever heard was NOT "Rockit" - it was "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel". It was that golden era of that hip-hop, around 1987-88 in which I started to really get into the music, listening to and buying anything I could get my hands on, reading Right On, Black Beat, Word Up, and all those other type of publications. My favorite parts of the songs were all the scratch parts, and so I was really fascinated by tracks with prominent scratching - like DJ Scratch and DJ K La Boss on all the EPMD records, and DJ Magic Mike. But it wasn't until around 1991 that I was really inspired to DJ myself. DJ Qbert had always been spoken about around the Bay Area, but it wasn't until he won a DMC championship and rose to national prominence that I really started to hear about everything he was doing. I grew up in Fairfield (northeast of San Francisco), and it wasn't anywhere near the DJ scene. I have an old friend, Mike, who moved from Daly City (ground zero for the whole Bay Area mobile DJ scene), who told me all the legends of Qbert, and of the mobile DJ scene in the Bay Area. With that to inspire me, we started my mobile DJ crew, Canned Beats, playing parties, dances, etc. around the area. We played a lot of hip-hop, and a lot of freestyle, bass, and electro music, since that was what the Bay Area was all about back then. I practiced scratching a lot when I started, but it really wasn't until around 1992 that I met DJ Badrok (1999 Vestax National DJ Champion) that I had any sort of scratch mentor. He was from San Francisco, but he was living in Fairfield, and he had a mobile crew, Just 4 Funk. As far as I was concerned, he was the man with the skills in Fairfield; I knew him because he knew my sister, and one day I just came over to hang out and scratch. I think he wanted to kick me out because I stayed over so late, but I just couldn't stop scratching. Everyone else fell asleep. We practiced together a lot after that.
Are there any records from when you first started DJing that you still play today?
I still have a lot of the records I used back in the day - even though they're all scratched and worn. One of the first singles I bought, a K-Solo one, is warped and cue-burned, but I still play it. Same with the old copy of "Scenario". As for scratch records, I still use the Automator "Music to Be Murdered By" record that I used to practice scratching with, as well as the Hamster Breaks record that I bought from DJ Cue himself. I still listen to all the slow jams I collected for school dances back in the day, too. Color Me Badd, Keith Sweat, and Al B. Sure all get regular rotation on my turntable.
What is the largest amount of money that you spent on a single piece of vinyl and what record was it?
About 30 something bucks each for some K-Solo singles. I love K-Solo, and his old stuff on Atlantic is really hard to find. Ask anyone who's looking for an original "Your Mom's In My Business" single.
What cartridges do you use?
I started out with Stanton 500s until they reissued the Shure M44s in 1998. I had to use what Qbert was using.
What DJ mixer do you use?
I used an old Gemini Scratchmaster for years until I won a Technics mixer at the DMC competition. That Technics mixer is in my opinion a piece of crap, but it had a way better fader than the Scratchmaster, and I noticed how it really improved the sound of my scratches. Learning that, I then shelled out for one of the "pro" scratch mixers, which I had been resistant to buying. I went out and bought a Rane TTM52, and now I used the Rane TTM56. I really love my Rane. I even considered proposing to it.
When you go to a party approx. how many records do you bring?
My general rule of thumb is about 20-30 records per hour, with a few extra of those "genre-crossing" records. We all have those moments where someone pulls a surprise on you, either the promoter misinforming you about the music that was expected, or if some big crowd of people comes in wanting to hear something way off what you expected. You never know when someone wants to hear the White Stripes at what was advertised as a hip-hop party, or wants to hear Michael Jackson at a reggae party. If I do a mobile gig like a wedding reception (which I still do from time to time), I bring way more records. Hundreds - even if it's only one hour long. Drunk people want to hear the darndest things.
What is the wildest thing that has happened at a gig?
Violence early on in my djing career. I don't think Fairfield was super ghetto or anything, but at a few mobile gigs we had things like gunshots, flying chairs, panicked crowds, and angry gangbangers who wanted to kick someone's ass. It's somewhat ironic that in spinning gigs in the more urban areas now, that I rarely see any of that stuff.
What direction do you see DJing going in?
More of an acceptance by partygoers that DJs are more selectors, and don't need be given requests. More respect for DJs as sort of conductors or leaders of an event, rather than someone who blindly follows the whim of each individual partygoer. Big Brother will emerge, all will submit.
What direction do you see scratching/turntablism going in?
I think we're coming close to an end of the focus on technicality, the era that was brought in by Qbert and such in the 90s. There'll be another sort of revolution, a shift of focus to what sounds you're playing (musicality) as opposed what dj is doing to a sound (technicality). I see it creeping in slowly.
Which current DJ's do you like right now?
Going back to the previous questions, I think some of the cats that are going to be at the forefront of that musical revolution are from right here in the Bay Area. I really dig Teeko (runner-up in the 2003 DMC US Championship) and the rest of the Four One Funk guys in his crew. The Ned Hoddings guys are probably at the top of the game right now when it comes to technicality, and they will be at the top of the game when people start paying attention to musicality. D-Styles is also going to be at the forefront of all of that. As for DJs as I enjoy as DJs (i.e. mixing), I'm really digging Spinbad, T-Rock, and others who are willing to explore widely for their musical selections. And I'll never forget my early DJ influences, who I never stop listening to: Cash Money, Qbert, DJ Magic Mike, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Jazzy Jim.