Thursday 1 December 2016

Interview with UK & Ireland IDA show category champion DJ Dubbadutch

Recent UK & Ireland IDA showcase champ DubbaDutch kindly took some time out of his intense practise schedule to answer some questions on his recent victory, DJ software, the upcoming world IDA finals and everything else scratch-related

Read on to find out more about his journey to the title and some interesting insights on the future of digital DJing.....

 Check out some of his winning set here -

- So wow, UK & Ireland champ! I guess you never get tired of hearing that - When did you think about entering and how long has this been a project you've been working on?

It's a funny one really…. I’ve never really had the intention of entering any dj battles, for a number of years now I've been working towards the one-man-band style of using dj gear to perform music live and it was only in early 2015 when I finally stumbled across a workflow that enabled me to perform the way I wanted. Most of what I’m currently doing is largely thanks to the platform that uk scratch music events like Community Skratch Games, Super Scratch Sunday and more recently Up2Scratch gave. To have an outlet gave me something to work towards. 

 At these events I performed 10-15minute solo sets and it was after a set at this years Bristol SSS that the lads from the crew put forward the idea of going for the IDA UK & Ireland show category title. It was actually only after a showcase I did at this years Community Scratch BBQ9 I finally committed to enter IDA. The whole making the choice thing was organic in regards to it just making sense as I felt I had a handful of solid routines that seemed suitable for the IDA show category. 

I was invited to do a showcase at the Up2Scratch Brighton based scratch meet which was a week before the IDA Uk & Ireland comp so I didn’t actually start to prep my IDA set until 6 days beforehand, as all my practise time was taken up prepping for the the Up2Scratch showcase. To be fair I had an idea which routines I'd use for IDA but I underestimated the challenge of fitting them into a free flowing 6 minute battle set!
It's difficult to put a timeline on how long it took to prep for IDA as for the most part the routines were constructed long beforehand and it was the final week running up to the comp that I chopped and changed things to fit in to a 6min set.

 - So it's the world finals in Poland this weekend, do you know who you are up against and have you seen much of their routines?

Currently I only know a handful of the other show category competitors material; Skillz, Arkaei and the Beatbombers. Judging by this years' DMC online entries I'd have to say Beatbombers are gonna be in with a very good shout for the show title. I really like Skillz's set compositions, always a nice flow with good musicality. Dj Arkaei has a next-level approach to technology so I'm very interested to see what he’s cooked up. There's also Dj Chell who was last year's vice show champ, I'm not 100% sure if he’s entering this year but considering he came second in 2015 I'm sure he’ll be back with a strong set for this year.

 - Having done more and more battles lately, is it something you'd recommend doing for any young up and coming DJs?

Whether its battles, showcases or creating dope mixes I think it's really important to have something to aim for. For me the showcases I've done have really focussed my whole approach. Cutting and jamming is endlessly fun of course, but creating material and having something to show for the time you’ve spent is key to development as you learn new stuff in every project you complete and in theory "level up".

 - How many years have you been DJing, and specifically scratching?
Dayum 19 years! Got my first decks in 1997 when I was 15 and was solely into mixing until around 2000 when I first picked up some basic line switch style transform cuts!

- What  (or who) got you interested in scratching, and who influenced you back then?

When talking to other uk scratch heads there seems to be two influences that got them in to cutting, Hip Hop or Rave music. For me it was rave, I was bang in to Jungle and Hardcore as a teenager and it was dj’s like Hype, Slipmatt and Dougal who used to cut over their sets that got me hooked on the idea of learning how to scratch. 

As mentioned I was a mixing dj for a while before getting into cutting. Through listening to old rave tapes and experimenting I taught myself some very basic techniques, babies, scribbles transforms etc… but living in a tiny village with little other influences around it was difficult to progress. 

Fortunately around 2001 I met my now good friend Dj Rock Well who I can hand on heart say that if it wasn’t for all he taught me back then I would not be doing what I'm doing now. Pre-knowing Rockwell I hadn’t even heard of Qbert for example! Once I met someone with seemingly-endless knowledge of the scratch scene I was at his flat nearly everyday bugging him to show me more. We now have our own purpose built scratch studio and have been running jam sessions practically every sunday and thursday for the last 14-odd years.

- And who influences you now?

It's difficult to pin a direct current influence, like anyone I love live music. I try to carry a live as possible approach into my sets where I use dj techniques to make music. For me there’s been many battle sets that use technique over musicality so at times I struggled to follow the battling scene as much as I probably should. Ned Hoddings and early Birdy Nam Nam definitely set the foundation for what I'm now doing.

I have to say someone like Teeko is one of the main dj’s I look up to in regards to the approach I'd like to one day come close to mastering. Of course there’s many dj’s currently active who have a great musical approach to live turntablism but I’d argue that Teeko is in a field of his own. His performance workflow is unique to him. I know Traktor and the Z2 inside out and watching Teeko work really is a master class on how to squeeze everything out of a digital setup and he has no problem performing a very live musical performance well over the traditional 6-15 minute showcase style set.

-I think we first got together in a studio to cut in '06 or '07, and filmed one of those first sessions which was really the original Super Scratch Sunday on Youtube!
So I have definitely seen your scratching evolve firsthand for a pretty long time I guess. You were always ridiculously quick with your cuts but now I think you've maybe substituted some of that quickness for musicality, was that a conscious change of style or more of a natural development to compliment your routines?

Haha fair shout! My cuts from early 2000’s until 2011-ish were mostly old school power moves that lacked a funk IMO, it was something I was definitely conscious of and wanted to change. I remember coming across a DJ Manipulate scratch vid on youtube for the first time around 2010 (I think), the musicality of Manipulates' cuts had a huge impact on me and definitely gave me a kick up the arse in regards to wanting to switch up my flow.

Ultimately joining the super scratch sunday team around 2013 (i think) is what really opened me to a whole new world of techniques. Having all these new cut flows and influences gave me the chance re-develop my style. Once I started getting into routines the musical flow required to make a solid routine definitely had an impact on my development.

- As far as I can remember (since it's beginnings) you've really been championing Traktor (DVS software) for it's potential and midi-programming capabilities, how would you say it changed the way you DJ or make routines?

Honestly I owe a lot to Traktor’s features to how my routines have developed. Firstly it was just a case that I have limited DAW skills, so features like Traktor’s remix decks allowed me to do all my edits within the actual software rather than bouncing stuff to and from Ableton.

I was fortunate to get to grips with Traktor’s mapping engine relatively easy which was largely thanks to the the tutorials from dj techtools. Having the ability to create personalised fx presets and custom workflows via your own mappings can play a huge role in creating your own sound, as your not just stuck with the same workflow or fx presets that everyone else has access to.

- Are there any artists/DJs that are really pushing the boundaries of the software that you follow or recommend checking out?

Vekked and Brace deployed a lot of really impressive tech stuff in their Fresherthans team sets that arguably passed a lot of people by and Dj Shiftee always blows me away with his use of digi-tech. Some of the problem in regards to the tech side of things is it's not always that easy to see and figure out what extra is going on. It's important to remember why an audience like’s scratching, for me I’d argue that like a real instrument being played people need to see something physical happen in order to make some kind of connection with whats going on.

- Do you have a vision of how you see it shaping your routines in the future or which direction the software/hardware may be going and how much will it change the way we DJ?

Like all of us I just want equipment and software to have as few barriers as possible. That said it's equally vital to remember that limitations are the breeding ground for creativity so it's a tough one. It was great to see that Pioneer for instance are now supporting both Serato and Traktor with their latest kit updates, the point being it would be far more awesome to be able to use any software hardware combo. 

What I don’t like to see is how most of the market is pursuing a more consumer-based model which is definitely reducing the sound quality in many tech-heavy products that are currently available, just the current way of the world though....

As a Traktor user I'm very keen to find out what NI have in store for the next version of Traktor. They’ve added a handful of really powerful features in the last 18 months alone; Sequencer decks, Stems format….. features that rival software vendors arguably would have saved for a whole new version. So it seems they must have something pretty big in store for Traktor Pro 3....

- I think anyone who studies your routines will see that you really do a bit of everything; There's finger drumming in there, scratch-drumming, really technical scratching, all sorts of midi-modding, programming and mixing of course. With all the tireless debates around what "#realDJ'ing" is nowadays, do you see that as a kind of standard which up and coming DJ's should aspire to, or is it just how you felt you could best present your skillset?

Being a well-rounded dj is as important now as it was 20 years ago. Spreading yourself thin over different skill sets can have a negative effect as there's only a certain amount of time to develop skills - why be average at many things when being great at one thing etc… but for me personally it always comes back to the live performance thing and the fact I find it helps to keep me interested, for instance if I spend an hour or so practising just cuts certain muscles can get fatigued, so mixing things up with a bit of finger-drumming or mixing keeps me locked in the studio for greater periods of time.

- Where do you stand on the controller and 'real DJing' debate, and what's 'cheating' with regards to DJing for you?

I don’t have a great deal of time for the real dj debate, you can’t get away from the fact that once-mandatory skills have now been replaced by modern tools but that's just life and evolution. What we’re into is to us an art form so its not surprising that people get passionate and defensive with their chosen discipline, its a human nature tribalism thing I guess. But some of the #realdj arguments you see online don’t account for what the target audience of that approach to dj’ing is aimed at. In some cases it's like horror movie critics having a pop at the way romcoms are delivered. People just need to focus on their own tastes.

Although I do appreciate there's all lot of bullshit out the dj wise, much of it is just the way of the world though, celebrity and some producer dj’s who just turn up to do the bare-minimum, meh…

- You're one of the key people pushing Super Scratch Sunday which is a great place for scratch heads in the UK to meet and learn together and grow as DJs, how would you like to see that project develop in the future?

What I love most about SSS is how it's not just developed organically but it's also developed the individuals within the group. What I’m currently doing, Cut & Paste Records, Rock Well's funk loopers and in recent years our crew merging in parts with the Community Skratch Group, can all be traced back to the first SSS sessions and just letting things evolve naturally. I haven’t a clue what's in store next for the bi-monthly jam but I know it’ll be dope!

- I know you started out on vinyl and have a healthy collection still - Any really treasured records in your collection and why? 
My collection as a whole really, for the most part it was built-up before I really got into cutting properly. Just going through my collection instantly sparks so many great fond memories. Come to think of it I still haven’t passed the half way point of being a digital dj longer than vinyl only.

- Who's music do you make a point to look out for nowadays (scratch music or beyond)

With my focus being so deeply into creating routines I don’t currently follow music as much as I'd like, so I follow many Mixcloud profiles to help keep up to date - Jon1st, Bobafatt, Mr Leenknect, Addison Groove, Moresounds and a handful of other Funk & Soul, Afro Beat and Bristol-based Dub radio shows.

- Any tips for someone learning to scratch/DJ, or the best advice you ever received?

Find other people to cut to jam with!

 - I remember you once passed me a really ecletic multi-genre mix of yours, anything in the pipeline we can look forward to, like a new mix or some recorded scratch music?

Yes! definitely gonna aim to get some mixes out in 2017, the last two years I’ve been focusing on creating routines and I’m now very keen to apply what I've learnt to mixes and hopefully start playing out in gigs again.

 - Finally, there's been a number of great DJ's passing through your studio at the SSS events, who would you be around the table at your dream scratch session??

Back in August this year I had the pleasure of Dj Moschops dropping round for a jam, we instantly hit it off jam wise, proper freestyle musical session! It's dj’s that share that mindset I’m most interested to jam with. Any of the Ned Hoddins, Community Skratch dj’s would be great fun to vibe with. Lil' Mike of Birdy Nam Nam would be dope, Woody and most definitely Jon1st.

- Where people can follow you on social media/youtube etc?

Well I'm most active on Facebook (PaulHolland DubbaDutch), but also have Twitter (@DubbaDutch) and Instagram (@djdubbadutch) accounts where I share material. Currently my youtube channel Dj Dubba Dutch is the best place to find everything I put out.

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