DJ Shameless Interview
Where did it all begin for DJ Shameless?
Although I only became interest in the artform in 2005, I’ve been an avid collector of music since the early 90’s. I started learning how to scratch on a single turntable, without a mixer on the lounge floor of a friends place. It was only 2 years after I started, did I feel comfortable taking on gigs. There’s no easy way to learn, you just have to put in the hours/What’s your take on the current DJ scene in South Africa?
I’ve had the privilege to meet a host of different genre DJ’s from all over SA, some have the DJ ego and others are so down to earth and humble it’s amazing. I tend to gravitate towards DJ’s who are willing to teach and learn and who are not just in the industry to get famous. The scene does seem dominated by some of the more popular DJ’s who appear regularly on the airwaves, but they are so boxed into a creative corner that they sound like everybody else trying to get recognised. Also, another thing that I’ve noticed, once they’ve reached a certain level of recognition, they stop improving the very skill that got them that recognition.
Having competed in prominent DJ competitions in South Africa is it still a viable alternative to partake in especially with House music being a dominant force?
Yes, I believe in healthy competition. Not to prove who is a better DJ, but to push the creativity levels within the art form. Having a deadline to create a battle, showcase or competition mix set really pushes the DJ past his comfort zone, which is good not only for the DJ, but maybe to a guy/gal in the audience that might want to do what he does, based on what they’ve seen/heard. There unfortunately have to be winners and losers in competitions, and are chosen by judges who have varying opinions on what is good or not.
This year it’s the second time you’ve entered the Red Bull Thre3Style Lucky Bastid Competition. Tell us more…
SA had its inaugural national Thre3Style competition in 2012 and a few more established DJ’s were invited to participate. I was immediately hooked when I discovered the format of the competition required at least 3 different genre’s in a single 15 minute set. Multi format DJ-ing is not as popular on our shores, as compared to the rest of the world.
In 2013 I decided that I would enter the competition if it was open to the general public DJ, and I prepared for a good few months prior to the scheduled date of SA’s heat. I called the guys at our local RedBull offices a few weeks before the competition date to find out more, and they unfortunately given me the bad news that there was not going to be an SA final. Luckily for me, RedBull International opened the Thre3Style, in an online version dubbed ‘Lucky Bastid’, to countries that did not host a local competition. I submitted my 15 minute set and it was chosen as one of the Top 12 by a panel of judges to progress to the second round. That round was a public voting round which I did not fair too well in.
In 2014, the format for the online version was slightly different in that all submissions were to RedBull Thre3Style’s MixCloud page, and the winners were chosen directly from there by their judge.
What’s the thought and creative process that goes into preparing for a Redbull Thre3Style set?
This format really pushes every aspect of DJ-ing to the maximum. It tests your musical knowledge and you have to figure out a way of seamlessly jumping amongst at least 3 different genres without losing crowd interest, and then somehow incorporate aspects of turntablism into your mix set, and then the added curveball of toneplay and wordplay, which at the time were unknown to me.
Once I figured that out, it was a matter of finding tracks which had nice clean instrumental breakdowns, where a single instrument was used, and then rearranging the notes to mimic another track. That is all down to trial and error and that process is intense. I think it would be easier for DJ’s with formal musical backgrounds to grasp and execute, but for me it was just challenging.
I also had to learn to use a DAW (Ableton in my case) to create edits of tracks that I wanted to use. Having only 15 minutes, I felt I needed edited tracks to keep the flow going.
You recently got featured on the DJCity Bedroom Sessions which is a first for a South African DJ. How did that come about and what was it specifically that you wanted to come across to the audience in your showcase?
I stumbled on the series from the first episode on YouTube. I sent in a demo soon after that, and the guys at DJ City were very constructive with their feedback. It was only after a recent episode that I sent in a second demo due to procrastination on my part. They once again offered some valuable advice and this time I immediately responded.
That showcase was a shortened excerpt from my 2014 Thre3Style set. There was 3 genres, mixing, toneplay, wordplay, scratching and beat-juggling all in about 3 and a half minutes and all using commercially accepted tracks, and a few re-edits I made.
How has your showcase been received?
It’s been received pretty well from the international audience with a little over 50 000 views in total. You can’t please everybody all the time and comments ranged from ‘not enough scratching’ to ‘too much toneplay’ but I’m most happy about the fact that SA and Africa is not seen as behind-the-times when coming to the art form. This in itself can stand as a platform for any African DJ wanting to be internationally recognised on a much larger scale. It can be done, and I hope that more local DJ’s push themselves in that direction.
Do you incorporate all the elements you showcased in your DJCity feature in your live DJ sets or radio slots?
I’ve tried on a few occasions to introduce some live toneplay, but due to our digital age, nobody really grasped the concept and they reacted as if it was pre-recorded remix or re-edit. I do some basic scratching during sets but nothing too technical. Not many club goers care for 3-click swing flares when they are twerking to the latest music at 1am.
What’s your setup and why?
2 x Stanton STR8-150 turntables
TTM57SL with Serato Scratch Live
Akai LPD8 MIDI Controller for Cue Points and Effects trigger
Butter Rug slipmats
Ortofon OM and Concorde
And I use a NI Audio 8 soundcard with Ableton for production
Tell us about your involvement in the Pioneer DJ Institute….
This is still in the very early stages, but we intend on introducing a course on Turntablism covering the history all the way through basic and expert level scratching and beat juggling. I’ve also enlisted a few of the more distinguished scratch DJ’s to assist with tutoring, but as I have stated, it’s still in the early stages of discussion
You have regular “mixtape” releases any musical projects or releases in the pipe line?
I try to do a few ‘mixtapes’ when I’m feeling a certain theme or just to keep current. I really admire the Mixshow DJ’s who do weekly mixes for their local radio station because it’s hard work. Keeping up with the latest trends in music is a separate part of DJ-ing which needs as much attention as marketing and practice. Mostly I release for ‘promotional use only’ and to show respect to the Mixshow DJ’s
Who’s your top 5 DJs & why?
Rob Swift of the X-ecutioners – I learned how to scratch from the DVD ‘Built to Scratch’ of theirs
DJ Qbert – Scratch ninja
DJ Kentaro – He is so accurate on the beat juggles it’s scary
DJ TigerStyle – His live scratching is musically accurate
DJ Sibot – After I saw him live at a show in Durban, I decided that I need to learn how to scratch
DJ Shameless’ top 5 tracks that get’s any dance floor moving?
The Game – How We Do (wordplay into)
Montell Jordan – This is How We Do
Snoop Dogg – Drop It Like Its Hot
Lost Boyz – Me and My Crazy World
Jackson 5 – I Want You Back
Famous last words…
Why follow the pack, when you can create your own lane!
Peace and shout out the The ScratchLab for the contribution to all things DJ related. Much respect.