DJ Koncept, first off! Congratulations on becoming the new DMC UK Supremacy Champion 2018! I was lucky enough to be there at the event and witness it, you smashed it! Can you talk us through what you did and also how you dealt with preparing yourself for the finals?
Hey thanks for getting me involved with this interview etc firstly. I appreciate it! And I’m glad you enjoyed the DMC battles, thanks for the kind words! Yeah so a lot of preparation goes into battles. I practice pretty much everyday normally all year round. I started learning at a DJ school in New Zealand (where I currently live) with K Swizz (4 time world champion) and his dad DJ Reminise. This really helped push me back into battles. I’ve battled on and off for the whole duration I’ve been DJing, and I wanted to make sure I was doing something fresh and new to me if I was to return. I also wanted to make sure I had a realistic chance at getting a national title at least, that was my goal. So from doing the DJ school I learned some new styles, I then entered the DMC online battle as a warm up to get used to the whole process again. I also combined music production with building a battle set for the first time too. This meant I could arrange everything the way I wanted it exactly and helped a lot with getting the structure right with the routines. To build my routines, firstly I just did a lot of experimenting with different ideas. Then I picked the best ones and practiced them over and over. I’d add little details and finalize everything. Once I was happy with it I just practiced over and over the same routines I was gonna use. I got everything mastered (shout out to Jeremy) and stuff too to make sure it would sound right live.
You mentioned creativity, and obviously it is a big part of what you do, can you give us some idea how you go about keeping your routines fresh, interesting and different from others?
Yeah I think the first thing I try to stand out with is my music selection. I pick stuff that I really love and what would represent what I would play in a DJ set. I try and dig a bit deeper and find stuff that’s unlikely to be used by anyone else. Just trying to use my musical knowledge to my advantage. That comes first really. Not much point having mad skills if your selection isn’t good. I would also like to think I have my own style in regards to scratching, juggling, mixing etc. I take influence from other people, but I always try and flip it in my own way. Also I was self taught, and I think that helped me get my own style. So hopefully my scratching etc sounds like me to begin with. I also think I sounded different this year because I’m using older technology currently lol. So I wasn’t doing any drumming on pads or using delay fx on the new school mixers etc. I think all that stuff is cool but it did make me sound different lol. And maybe the way I edited my set was a different approach too. I suppose it’s just a combination of things. I really hope I do sound different because originality is extremly important to me.
So currently you live in New Zealand, how is the music scene out there and do you get many DJ sets?
The music scene in New Zealand is amazing! As far as hip hop and turntablism, it has to be one of the top places in the world at the moment. There is a ridiculous amount of great turntablists here. It’s def made me step up my game. From practicing with other people you learn so much, and there’s plenty of great people to practice with. It’s so inspirational. NZ is dominating the battle scene globally too. DJ Spell won the DMC online a couple years back, K Swizz this year. It’s def at a very strong point. For DnB too, it’s huge here! Lots of very talented producers and DJs who are world renouned, and there’s several dnb nights on each week, usually with at least one international guest each week! As far as DJ sets here, I do play out but it’s not every week or anything. I’m not too fused to be honest I’d rather save it for something I’m really into than just try and get gigs for the sake of it. I just wait to be asked to play. I’m still pretty new to NZ, so it takes a while to get your name out. I play lots when I come back to Ireland. I’m planning on a much longer trip next year so I’m sure I’ll be quite busy then. Happy working on beats and practicing on the turntables mainly until then!
So after winning this title, where do you go from here in regards to battling as a DJ?
From here in regards to battles, I think I will defend my title next year and also possibly enter other competitions such as the IDA. I’m putting alot of energy into music production too. But the two do go hand in hand and I’m loving the buzz at the moment from battles. So I might as well.
I myself (although I’ve never practiced turntablism) have always appreciated the art from a young age and have been lucky enough to see a lot of the greats from past and present do their thing. Can you give me some ideas of some turntablists that were (or still are) an influence to you?
There’s a lot of turntablists that have infuenced me. I always forget people too. But off the top of my head, a major one is DJ Klever. I love his sharp style, super fast and clean. Jeppa also has a similar super fast style that I love. Rob Swift was the first person that really got me into the whole culture. I heard Rob Swift dope on plastic (large pro remix) and it just blew my mind. I was already trying to scratch at this point but that really joined to dots for me, that scratching is a part of hip hop kind of thing. I also bought the 1996 dmc world final vhs very early on and took lots of influence from that. DJ Noize, Roc Radia stood out in particular. Also Mixmaster Mike, who’s probably my favourate DJ, Q-Bert of course. K Swizz is a big influence of more recent times. And DJ Converter, who I learned to scratch with when I was first starting out, and also got me into jungle/drumnbass. There is way more but I can’t think of them right now lol.
Oh DJ Hype for the first person I heard scratch over dnb. Danny Breaks and Ming and FS, early influences also, for combining turntablism with their music production.
And now going back to the beginning, where did this all start for you and when did turntablism become something you practiced?
It all started for me in Ireland, as a kid, prob around 13 or so. I was given an old record player with tape decks by my grandmother. My dad has lots of vinyl so I used to play tapes or the radio and just try and scratch over the music and record it. I made my own tapes out of it. I would record things like a Spanish for beginners tape and put snippits of that into the music for example. This went on for years until I got a job and eventually got a set of numark TT100s. Then a year or two later got Technics and yeah haven’t looked back since.
What advice would you give anybody who might be interested in learning about how to scratch and become a turntablist?
The main advice is practice! You have to put in the time. It’s like any musical instrument, it takes alot of work. Be yourself, as I was saying take influence, that’s really important for your development, but don’t copy. Also practice around people better than you, put yourself out there. And use any resources you can, DJ schools, online lessions, youtube videos, ask other DJs. I truly think pretty much anyone can learn, you need to really love it to begin for you to be able to invest so much into it.
It’s interesting how turntablism has evolved over the years with the advancements in technology and what you can do now within a routine. Do you think it will come to a point where use of technology will be capped within routines? Or just continue to expand like it has been…
Yeah it’s been really cool to see the technology evolve! To be honest, I think battles got a bit boring for a bit for me when Serato etc took over. It felt that the skill level hadn’t went up overall and it didn’t have the same edge to it with vinyl. I think it took a while to transition. I think the battle scene now works well with the new technology. I think yeah there may become certain comps that do cap what you can use, but then there will be others that don’t. The technology is what makes the whole thing happen in the first place and is important for it’s evolution. I think it’s very good to have an understanding of the old school ways too though and not let the technology completly take over. It’s a balance. There’s still an infinate amount of things that can be done with two turntables and a mixer, so sometimes keeping it simple can have better results. I like to try to keep up to date with everything and take what Iike from it.
Also… With all the technology its hard to tell sometimes, with sets I have watched, if some DJs are just really good with the equipment and it’s hard to judge their actual basic techniques that turntablism is built on (mixer, turntables, basics).
In modern times do you think for some people its more about how you use the accessories and less about you skills with the decks?
Yeah I think there can be a bit of that! I’m not even fully clued up myself on what’s going on with the new tech. One thing for example is the editing that goes on before these routines are executed. I mentioned I did it myself, but I would like to think I didn’t overdo it. I wanted to use the technology to my advantage but combine it with the traditional ways. There’s certain things some people do that makes them look busy and it sounds good and on time, but the pre arranged set has been made a certain way and the skill level is actually fairly basic. With vinyl I suppose you always knew what you were getting, and it was simple for anyone to understand what’s going on to an extent. The skills are most def still there though. Scratching in particular as went insanely technical! So many people are scratching now too thanks to the whole portablist scene, making it alot more affordable and accessable. As I mentioned before it’s just that balance, studying where it all came from too. As they say you don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.
Let’s talk about you as a music listener! Obviously you are a keen hip hop head but also love your Drum and Bass too right?
Yeah def, hip hop is my first love and I’ll always continue to contribute to it. I love it as much or more as I did from when I first got into it! Yeah DnB is another love! I love it just the same in different ways. Hip Hop and Rave culture are different but in the UK and Ireland I think they are usually followed by the same kind of people. Wheras, America for example, or even here in New Zealand it has generally quite seperate followings. Maybe this is something that happened over time, but when I was just a hip hop head, it was pretty normal to have for example a hip hop room and a dnb room or a hip hop DJ followed by a DnB one. So I think that kind of got me into it. Also Converter who I mentioned earlier who played both hip hop and dnb. I’ve been taking DnB alot more seriously recently, I’ve been mixing and collecting it for ages, easily over 10 years and I often combine it into my sets. My brother and I have just created an alter ego for our drum n bass- Black Brothers. It feels good to now have a specific outlet for it now.
So away from being a DJ, you make tunes too? Can you give us a little more information on that?
And yeah this leads onto what I was just saying in the last question. Black Brothers is us DJing together but it’s also our production duo. We just finished our first track last week and there is another nearly done that we are gonna work on again very shortly! Adam (my brother) has been producing for a long time, as have I so we figured it was best to combine our knowledge. I’m feeling very excited and motivated about the whole thing. One if our goals is to get a set at Sun and Bass over the next five years actually lol. As far as my own music production, I make hip hop mainly. A forthcoming track of mine is the second track on my mix, it’s called Ghosts ft Stash. I also had my first vinyl release this year called Belfast to Auckland ft Stash and Steve Loc. It also has a Seaz420 remix and scratch tools on it! You can buy it through ill records.-
The stuff I make more often is more on a trip hop/instrumetal vibe. I have an EP nearly finished actually of that kind of style. That’ll be out early next year along with a few music videos. I’m really excited about it, it’s taken a long time to put together!
So how about influences in hip hop! Throw me some favourite artists you feel are essential to you and maybe an era of hip hop you love the most!
Ok hip hop influences. Again there’s so many, I’m bound to forget loads. My fav sort of producers would be the likes of DJ Shadow, DJ Krush. RJD2s early stuff was amazing, deadringer in particular. There’s so many hip hop artists and producers I love, but some off the top of my head, Non Phixion, Necros production is amazing. Big L, J Rawls, NWA were an early infuence and helped get me into hip hop, Beastie Boys, Lewis Parker, Marco Polo (the new Marco Pola and Masta Ace album is dope, I play a track off that in the mix) EL P and the Definitive Jux stuff is really cool, Large Professor, DJ Spinna, Coldcut, the list can go on but that’s the general sort of vibe I go for.
An era of hip hop I love the most, maybe late 90’s/early 2000’s? That’s the time I was really getting into hip hop. There’s great stuff from all the Eras but yeah that Era in particular for me.
What is your opinion on modern day hip hop and how strong do you think the scene is?
Modern day hip hop, well I know there’s the very commercialized form of it, that’s always existed really. To me it doesn’t sound like hip hop to me even though it gets called that. Trap beats and auto tune for example. I’m not into that sound at all. There is lots of great hip hop I love being made though, you just have to dig deeper for it! And there’s hip hop happening in so many places around the world now, and prob more people making it than ever! So I think it’s in a very strong place. In a way the commerical stuff prob gets some people into it, then when they really go deeper they find the stuff that’s just made for the love and not the money. And in turn they could become an artist themselves and help keep the scene alive.
So we touched on your hip hop taste, how about your DnB faves?
Ok again, it’s hard for me to mention all the artists that I like but some off the top of the head, Total Science- they have such a good range of styles! And been really consistant. Break- more his slightly older stuff, but amazing producer. Calibre- again ridiculously consistant and love his style. He’s from Belfast too so it feels very inspiring as he is regarded as one of the best. Om Unit- he was a turntablist himself as 2tall before he moved into DnB so I feel a connection there. He’s got a very unique approach! Spectrasoul, Phil Tangent, Mark System, D-Bridge, Spirit, Marcus Intalex (rip) Doc Scott, D Kay, Bukem, again the list goes on.
So you mentioned earlier about doing half hip hop and half dnb in one mix. How do you feel the 2 genres flow together when blending them in a mix?
I think it can be hard to make those two styles flow in a mix but it can work in my opinion. The production styles are so different. I would tend to build up to dnb. As the mix progresses maybe drop hip hop with a more electronicly produced, heavier sound. Danny Breaks is a good example of that style. Then into half time dnb to begin with and take it from there. I also play big beat/breaks, and have kept the hip hop tempo moving up into the 120 bpm range and switched to that style, and moved into DnB from there. There’s tracks that do switch from that tempo into DnB that can be used for example. It all depends what sort of set I’m doing! I like to just do full on hip hop or DnB mixes etc too. Like the one I did for you is just pure Hip Hop.
So the guest mix you did for us! Can you talk us through how you put it together and what equipment you used??
Yeah so this was put together as almost a freestyle. I had been putting hip hop tracks I was feeling at the time into a crate over a month or two. I did a couple if attempts prior but didn’t quite get it right. Then tried again and got something I was happy enough with. It’s not perfect, but I don’t think any live mix is. I used a Rane TTM57 with Serato Scratch Live and two Vestax PDX2000 turntables.
So moving forward, what can we expect from you in 2019??
Moving forward, I want to keep learning! New scratches, new beat juggles, more production knowledge, new mixing styles. Just everything, keep improving. Making more music, that’s the main priority really. More of my own stuff, and Black Brothers. Also more battles next year and live gigs!
It’s been great talking to you man, anything you wanna add before I wrap this up?
It’s been great talking to you too man, thanks again for reaching out and getting me involved! Just keep a lookout for my EP, and Black Brothers music which is gonna start dropping soon! And thanks to everyone who supports me. It means the world. I hope you all enjoy the mix!