Tuesday, March 13, 2007

DJ C Interview: Mashit's Mashup Maestro

Nothing has turned me onto as much ass quaking good music this past year as the track listings of DJ C mixes. Dealing in nuthin' at all but the best dance floor shakers, DJ C and his endless output is a man to pay attention to. Rampaging across genres for the ultimate ass jiving party sounds to spice up his own Boston bounce, DJ C doesn't hold back with the output. At the centre of the recent brilliant bastard rebirth of jungle fronted by showstoppers like Aaron Spectre, Mashit deserves your categoric full attention. Especially as it generously throws all of their artists output up on the net for free download.

Take a track like DJ C's Quality Diamond colloboration "Let It Billie," remashing a classic regaee version of Jackson's Billie Jean with some infectous jungle rattle that will make even the heads of the most cynical "breakbore" detractors turn. Those excited by his more recent dancehall flavoured colloborations with Chicago vocalist Zulu will be delighted to note the forth coming releases "Body Work" and a 12 inch called "Darling" with a remix by Montreal's Ghislain Poirier, both on Community Library and distributed in the UK by Baked Goods.

The early release of three tracks from his "Sonic Weapons" debut album on Bristol's Death $ucker Records will awake the attention of any genre blenders rapt to the sucker punch surprises of his copious "B" series mixes. In this interview DJ C tocuches on the frustration of experimentalism prior to Rupture's mash mainlining, Bush's re-election and how Mashit intends to kit itself out for musical distribution in the digital DJ-ing era.

What's the "C" stand for?

During one of my psychedelic phases I was having visions. I could see things that weren't there, at least not in the every-day plain of reality. This was before I was a DJ. I was making 4-track tapes and releasing albums under the name See. That name quickly morphed into Cee, and eventually became DJ C.

Whats this boston bounce all about and will my elderly rural parents like the waltz aspect of it?

There's really not too much of a waltz aspect to my bounce tracks. It's more of a swing, or a shuffle feel, with an up-tempo broken kick, and a snare or rim-shot drop on the 3. It's a sound we developed in the Beat Research labs. DJ Flack's been developing some more waltz-y tracks lately, or at least they're in 3. Not sure your parents would like them, but they're probably baby-boomers right, so who knows?

How did you get drawn into music and DJing and when did you come to really start to obssess about it as a DJ?

I've been into music since I was a young child. My father — a painter/ poet — would make percussion instruments and play them with me as an infant. All kinds of experimental, pop, and classical music was always wafting through the house. I received a guitar for my 5th birthday and felt as though I was Elvis. Before I got a real drum kit I used to make drums out of pots, pans, cardboard boxes, and pillows and play them with kitchen utensils. I would record that on my little cassette machine, and eventually I figured out that I could multi-track by playing the last recording I had made through my step-father's speakers, on his tape deck, while playing along and recording another cassette on my machine. One thing lead to another and eventually I wound up making electronic music and DJing.

You are part of the Riddim Method collective which takes an almost academic approach to mixing and the relationship between different forms of music, can you tell me how this collective nerding came into being and whats its purpose is?

Most of us are from Boston, with the exception of Kid Kameleon, but we all came together through music. 10 years ago DJ /rupture and I co-founded an event-production collective with some other folks. DJ Flack and Ripley became members of the collective over time, as did Aaron Spectre, Hrvatski, and many more. We met Kid Kameleon, Wayne&Wax, and Pace later, but it turned out they'd all been to, or been fans of those Toneburst parties.

We're all part of the Beat Research crew too. Flack and I have been running Beat Research as a weekly event for the past 3 years, and have had over 100 guest performers/DJs come through. The members of the Riddim Method crew are kind of like auxiliary Beat Research residents. The Riddim Method blog began when we realized that another group of DJs had started a blog at beatresearch.blogspot.com and we were like "Hey! that's our thing." In was actually really positive as it inspired us to start our own group blog. It's really just a forum
to talk about stuff we're into.

You and others in the Riddim Collective frantically blog about music, how do you think music blogging has affected underground music scenes?

Music blogs are really important these days. As a DJ, especially, it's a great way to find out about new music, and communicate with other folks about it. I also appreciate being able to get stuff off my chest too.

On the Mashit label you give away tonnes of free MP3s, do you not think you are taking a needless hit through this given the whole debate around music piracy? Also how come some tracks never seem to end up as pay-for-download after vinyl releases? I'm thinking of Gone-a-Jail here which an awful lot of people must want.

The business model behind Mashit when it began was to give out all the music for free in digital form, and then sell it on vinyl. The free digi-files would help spread the word, and then DJs, who were mostly still only playing vinyl, would buy the tracks if they liked them. Digital distribution is so powerful. You can put a file on a server with virtually no cost and make it available for thousands of people around the world to get it easily. If we only sold our music on vinyl, and even CD, and used traditional distribution methods, we would not have NEARLY as much of our music out there as we do, and that bodes well for touring, networking, etc. It's all worked very well.

In the past couple years there's been a big shift in the DJ industry, though; a landslide of folks shifting over to digital DJing. This has been fueled by the coming-of-age of CD players that feel like vinyl, and real vinyl controllers for digital libraries. I use Serato Scratch Live which uses time-coded vinyl records to control my iTunes library on my laptop, and it's completely opened up the way I DJ. Like it or not, this is putting a serious dent into the vinyl industry. Many major vinyl distributors and stores have been going under. Don't get me wrong, there are still a lot of folks who do use vinyl, including me sometimes, but the tides are turning.

Needless to say, Mashit's original business is doesn't apply as well today, but that's OK. Because it's incredibly cheap to distribute music digitally, and now that so many folks are DJing digitally, that's what we'll focus on going forward. Mashit will be re-tooled for the future over the next year or so.

Are your mixes fully hands on and what sort of set up do you need for a show?

In the past I tended to categorize between DJing and performing a set of my own music. I've toured in Europe 3 times with just a laptop and and 8 channel MIDI mixer which I use to control my tracks in Ableton Live. It's a really simple setup, but it allows me to present my own
material as a continuous mix while tweaking, dubbing, looping, and effecting things on the fly. I looked at DJing as a way to present other peoples music, for the most part. I'm not looking at ways of combining these together, and blurring the lines more. No need to compartmentalize, ya know?

I spent most of last summer insisting people listen to the Bouncement mix, what's your own favorite in the series and why is there such a series in the first place?

"Bouncement" was my fave for a while too. I also really like "Boots," and "Baltimore" when the mood is right. Lately I've been into the "Blentcast" mixes. Unlike the rest of the "B" series up to that point, they're fiercely eclectic, which is more like my DJ style in general.

The series began just because I had ideas for so many mixes the names of which start with the letter "b". I've still got a lot more up my sleeve. Perhaps it will shift to a different letter at some point, though.

The new Traced Milk EP really shows a more chilled out side to you, how come this is hidden away in your non-stop party mixes?

Well, again, that's part of the reason why I like the "Blentcast" mixes. I take it out there with some more mellow stuff, even some chilled out rock by folks like Wilco, TV on the Radio, and Donavan. There's also the "Berlin" mix, which is super chilled out. I actually went through a major ambient phase back in my early days as a DJ.

There's a set on my site, on the "Music" page, called "Mid '90s Style Chillout Set." It was recorded in '02, but consists of stuff I used to play back in '95/'96. Back then I recorded under the name Electro Organic Sound System. I had an album out in '96 of ambient/chillout-ish stuff, and another album out in 2000, which began to bridge the gap between my more chill and the jungle/breakcore side.

In one interview you described how impossible experimentalists in Toneburst found it to get club gigs back in the day, what sort of venues did you end up using?

Half of us were students at the Massachusetts College of Art, and the other half were students at Harvard. In the beginning we started out at a small art-space outside the city. The first party we did in Boston was at a store-front complex that a Harvard architecture student was using as a studio/living space. We eventually went on to stage events at the Boston Children's Museum (an event called Child-Style), the Boston Museum of Science, and of course Massachusetts College of Art and Harvard, as well as many other colleges.

You sometimes get characterised as 'one of those new fangled breakcore djs' when your sets are anything but confined to one genre, how do such off hand descriptions make you feel?

That's OK. It's difficult to categorize what I do and I like it that way. I'm excited to see that there's finally a movement — at least here in Boston, but I think all over too — of folks who are into eclectic genre blending. I think DJ /rupture has been a driving force behind that and folks like Diplo have helped to popularize it. In the Toneburst days, and still when we began Beat Research, we were reacting against the club and party DJs at the time. You know, the ones who when asked what style they play say "progressive-trance-breaks," or something super-specific like that. We would go out to the drum 'n' bass night and it would be the exact same beat all night long. Not only that, but they cared more that a track was new than weather it was actually any good or not. Now it's finally hip to experiment with mixing wacky things together and I'm really happy about that.

A blurb on Mashit describes how the anti-Bush mix you released prior to the election was part of a protest music "alive and well" because of the net, do you think the net facilitates other forms of dissent stateside or is it all right wing/neo-con bloggers?

Oh yeah. The net facilitates it all. There's a bunch of everything out there. As destructive as our administration has been, I have to say that free speech is alive and well. Probably in large part due to the internet, and blogs. Much of the mainstream media here really sucks 'cause they're controlled by corporations who have a lot riding on keeping things the fucked up way that they are, and during some of the more scary moments over the past few years here, the Bush admin
has struck fear into the hearts of journalists. On the other hand, the media has to keep afloat when they're losing the attention of consumers to the internet. It can be difficult to weed through all the conflicting info, but you can't say the system's not open. I'm also an avid listener to National Public Radio which generally does a great job of presenting news and information.

In a Spannered interview Ripley described being active as a street medic, were you ever active in the post-Seattle protest upsurge or do you think music is the best medium you have to make political gestures? You were involved in a group called BEATS NOT BOMBS?

I've participated in street protests from time to time, but not nearly as actively as the kind of involvement that Ripley was getting into. I tend to get more involved on the political campaigning side. When I see a candidate who I think will help to make things better, I will donate money and do fundraising events. I feel as though I should personally apologize that Bush was "reelected." I did try though. I traveled up to New Hampshire and went door to door asking people to vote for Kerry. And on election day I worked at a polling place making calls and even picking people up who needed a ride to the polls. Kerry did win New Hampshire, which had been a republican state before that, so that was a tiny ray of light on a deep and
darkly shadowy day.

Do you have much contact with Trouble and Bass and otherstate side crews doing vaguely similar things as yourself? Where should people look to follow whats happening on that side of the Atlantic?

I've played a few shows with Mathhead of Trouble and Bass, and have also met Drop the Lime and Stareyes. As a matter of fact, I just finished up a remix for Star Key, who's also part of that crew. Looks like their parties have been off the hook. I don't think there's one singular source about these type of goings on in the states. Just gotta' keep your ear to the blogs I guess.

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