By the mid-80’s, mixing had made its way from the clubs of New York to the more enlightened night spots in the UK. Thanks to the efforts of mixing pioneers such as Greg James, the concept of a continuous musical flow – based on beatmatching skills and vari-speed turntables – was slowly replacing the traditional record-chat-record format of british clubland.
For more info on the evolution of mixing in the UK, see this excellent article by Greg Wilson and associated discussion on DJ History.
But such skills (or indeed, decent music) had yet to reach the carpet-and-chrome clubs that I occasionally frequented in West Yorks – so in 1986 when I got hold of a tape of the winning entries from that year’s Technics/DMC World Mixing Championship it felt like a big deal. Little did I know at the time that the world of competitive mixing was a scene in dramatic transition.
The world championships were only established a year earlier, when Roger Johnson was crowned the winner (more about Roger in a future post). In that inaugural competition – of which little documentary evidence exists – there was little turntable trickery, just “straight” mixing/cutting/blending of the popular tunes of the day.
Then in 1986, DJ Cheese stole the show with a performance largely based on scr…scr…scr…scratching. And lots of it. Outraged runner-up Orlando Voorn exclaimed “What is this, a Mixing Competition or a Scratching Competition?”. The answer seemed to be resolutely “a scratching competion”, the art of the scratch – and associated gimmickry – being the reason d’etre of the championships ever since.
For anyone wanting a round-up of the last 25 years of winners, a surprisingly concise and readable summary can be found over on the DMC site.
But back to 1986, and it’s now time to make up your own mind on the ins-and-outs of that year’s competion, with 500MH’s handy guide:
6. Kris Kastaar (Belgium)
From the opening cut-up of Colonel Abrams, an assured outing from KK – often rocking double copies to good effect. Some ambitious mixes/overlays that don’t quite come off. Very solid – but in this company – 6th place seems about right.
Download Kris Kastaar – 1986 DMC (right click)
5. Mick Hansen (Denmark)
This one always stood out when playing the tape back in 86 – very strong opening, dropping Rappers Delight over Loveride then straight into some Trad Jazz. Even manages to throw in a bit of Roy Ayers at the end. Of all the finalists – the best music selections (just) and the DJ I’d most like to have seen playing in a club. Well done Mick!
Download Mick Hansen – 1986 DMC (right click)
4. Roger Tuuri (Sweden)
Another 500MH favourite – Roger takes some of the the biggest dance tunes of the day, gives them a sprinkling of magic hip hop dust and weaves a very compelling mix. In ’85 he might have won with this – we’ll never know.
Download Roger Tuuri – 1986 DMC (right click)
3. Orlando Voorn (Holland)
The Dutch Master delivers a technically flawless set with, yes, some tasteful scratching. But perhaps that was the problem for the runners-up: compared to the winner it was all a bit too “tasteful”.
Download Orlando Voorn – 1986 DMC (right click)
2. Chad Jackson (UK)
“For the Great Britons of this world”, Chad serves up a creative set that embraces the new school methods and which laid the groundwork for his winning performance the following year. Early signs of the gimmickry and visual showmanship that would come to characterise the scene (see Youtube for his 1987 set: WWII flying helmet, scratching behind back etc.).
Download Chad Jackson – 1986 DMC (right click)
1. Cheese (USA)
Dense, percussive and simply more “street” than his rivals, Cheese ushered in the concept of turntable trickery as an end in itself, rather than a means to stitch records together. Later this would lead to the empty theatrics of Germany’s DJ David doing handstands on a spinning Technics. But would also give us the astonishing minimalist expressionism of DJ Kentaro.
Download Cheese – 1986 DMC (mp3)
Some highly compelling performances from the runners-up but they were all fighting against the tide of history – the era of the turntablist had arrived and Cheese was a founding father.