I’m in the final stretch of a practice led PhD developing approaches to turntablist composition and performance. I’ve been reflecting on how my approach has developed over the years from experiments with junk shop records to becoming a vinyl mastering engineer and cutting my own records for use in composition and performance. I recently unearthed a live set which was broadcast on Demon FM in 2006 and I can hear quite clearly how my turntablist aesthetic has developed over time.
When this performance was recorded, I was experimenting with turntablist improvisation using two turntables with a Vestax PCM 05 Pro DJ mixer that had an inbuilt delay unit. I had been working on hip hop turntablism for six years with the Pedestrian crew, inspired by artists such as Ricci Rucker and Qbert. I was interested in seeing how these influences could be incorporated into the experimental turntable music tradition of artists such as Christian Marclay and Phillip Jeck. Perhaps a closer connection with this work would be with artists like DJ Olive, DJ Spooky and Kid Koala who combine elements of hip hop tuntablism with experimental music. I was also interested in the use of improvisation as an approach to music making and inspired by jazz improvisers Derek Bailey and Evan Parker who both developed approaches to free improvisation.
In this live set there are three records used and the sounds are remixed using scratch techniques with a liberal amount of delay. On one turntable there is a record with an ambient drone borrowed from Soft Machine’s album Third Third Third and on the other a live recording by King Crimson which includes a drum section followed later by a section of electric guitar. Most of the set is a dialogue between these two records. The mix has contrasting sections going from gentle ambience to extreme noise in places as layer of sound are built up using the delay. The granular processing of the drums created using the DJ mixers delay reminds me of DJ Sniff who I later met and collaborated with at Steim in Holland and De Montfort University in Leicester. While Sniff’s use of granular delay allows for more complexity, there is a similar aesthetic. I can hear the blueprint for my current work in this set, I’m still exploring ambient textures which are contrasted with more extreme noise. However my focus has moved away from crate digging and plundering other peoples records, becoming more about creating the sounds which I then cut to vinyl. This allows me to have more control of the harmonic relationship between the records that I’m mixing. The video below is a performance example from January 2016.
More experimental turntablism on this blog: