People March 17, 2015

DJ Shortkut: “I’m Still a Bedroom DJ at Heart”

DJ Shortkut returns to Singapore this Saturday, March 21st, to Solid Gold at Zouk. We caught up with the legend for a quick chat.

dj-shortkut

From his soundsystem roots to his legendary tenure as a turntablist, DJ Shortkut has remained at the top of the DJ game for nearly three decades now. He’s the founding member of three of the most influential and innovative crews in turntablism history (Triple Threat, Invisibl Skratch Picklz, and the Beat Junkies), and his storied solo career has turned the West Coast pioneer into a worldwide hip-hop icon.

2015 marks your 28th anniversary as a DJ! Did you ever imagine that you’d be at it, and still going strong for so long?
Never thought I’d be DJing this long. I’m still a bedroom DJ at heart, but know how blessed and thankful I am to have made this into a career. As a DJ, you’re forever a student as long as new music comes out.

You obviously have great passion and love for your craft and that’s what kept you going for nearly three decades. But on the flipside, what are some aspects of the DJ lifestyle that wear you down?
The travel definitely takes its toll on you. I’m not as energetic as before so taking a long flight somewhere after a night of DJing isn’t the greatest feeling. Also, your priorities changes as a family man. So scheduling my gigs carefully are a must nowadays.

Take us back to the beginning. How did you get started as a DJ?
I actually didn’t start out as a turntablist. I was part of a soundsystem first and I credit my versatility to that. As a soundsystem DJ, you learn to read and play for crowds in addition to learning about all kinds of genres of music. I didn’t get into turntablist DJing until a few years being in a soundsystem. I was taught that scratching is just the spice of it all, but selection comes first.

Do you still follow the competitive DJ circuit?
I’ve judged the last few years for Red Bull’s Thre3Style DJ Championship and see a lot of the new DJs out there advancing the craft. I still keep in touch with the DMC’s as well. I happen to lean more towards the Thre3Style format because I feel that a DJ’s selection is just as , if not more important than the scratching skill of a DJ.

What’s the biggest difference between the DJs back then and now?
DJs have it made nowadays. Back then, we worked with what we had like insufficient equipment, learning techniques by theory and not YouTube or DVDs, and the accessibility of music.

Is battling still the best way for a turntablist to get his or her name out?
Not necessarily. Back then, it was a vital part to get your name out. But with the help of the Internet, you can easily get your name out as a producer of scratch music by putting something out viral.

A lot of the old-school DJs are analog purists and don’t look on digital DJing favourable. What’s your take on the analog vs digital debate?
I really don’t care what you use. As long as you’re presenting it right to the people, that’s what matters. I know DJs who can kill it equally as nice as someone on turntables. It’s just the push snyc DJing that I’m not too much a fan of.

Catch DJ Shortkut playing alongside KoFlow at Solid Gold, happening on Saturday, March 21st at Zouk’s Velvet Underground

Hidzir Junaini is a regular contributor to Straatosphere. Hidzir is a journalist and ex-music editor for music platforms both print and online. These days he’s a music and film critic and an all-purpose nightlife writing ronin for various publications. In his spare time, he’s also the resident party planner for local creative collective DUNCE.