Apologies for the lack of regularity in recent postings…the good news is that ongoing refurbishments at 500MH Towers will soon create a studio/den that will make ripping and blogging activities a pure delight. In the meantime, here’s a hasty post featuring a documentary I haven’t seen yet, a book I haven’t read yet and a track I absolutely love (but don’t have time to tell you why).
Despite having acquired an iPhone, I still haven’t quite got the hang of on-the-spot reportage. So suffice to say that tonight’s opening of Dave Swindells’ Spirit of Ibiza ’89 (How Balearic Beats Liberated London) exhibition at theprintspace was suitably bangin’. The beer & wine flowed freely, Phil Mison was manning the decks and a variety of scenesters, faces and normal people looked at some very good photos. Well worth checking out if you’re in the Shoreditch area (though there won’t be any complementary booze or Phil Mison from this point onwards).
Oh…if you’re struggling to see The Balearic Chart, it’s:
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.
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!
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.
“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.).
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.