Turning The Tables

28 May 2012 | 11:08 am | Troy Mutton

"People don't check if you're a good DJ anymore", says Craze.

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If you weren't already aware, Aristh Delgado aka DJ Craze is nothing short of an absolute king of turntablism. Forget the rest, Delgado's awards list within the realms of scratch competition is so ridiculously large we dare not get stuck into it here. Although to give you some idea, his crowning achievement is being the only DJ ever to claim the DMC World DJ Championships three times consecutively, from 1998-2000.

In summary, when it comes to putting the needle on the wax, and scratching the shit out of it, Delgado has few equals. Of course, once you've mastered something, it's time to set your sights on the next challenge, and for DJ Craze that's production. And fittingly, Drum finds Delgado just “chillin' in the studio just workin'.”

“Yeah, production is my number one focus right now,” the affable wheel-spinner begins. “For a long time I've just been DJing and doing the turntables thing and production is like a whole new thing for me - it's fun, it's exciting, it's, like, getting to play all your own tunes at clubs is the best feeling right now. So yeah, I'm really focused on my production right now.” While part of this desire for production is extending himself outside the realm of turntablism, he's also not stupid with regards to the current dance music climate; it's no good just being a DJ these days. “Oh I think that's the number one important thing right now for all touring DJs, people don't really check if you're a good DJ anymore, you know what I mean? It doesn't really appeal to people that are booking shows and booking festivals - now you have to be a producer and a good DJ. Or just a really good producer. Most bills that I see now at festivals and clubs are just like producers - there's not that many DJs on them now.”

Delgado has survivor in his blood. Born in Nicaragua in 1977, he fled the conflict-riddled country with his family at the age of three, growing up first in San Francisco, California before moving to Miami, Florida where he found himself in the middle of the devastating Hurricane Andrew, which caused around $27billion damage back in 1992.

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So it makes sense that when he decided he wanted “to be the best DJ in the world”, he damn well did it. And it's with that same tenacity that he's embracing the challenges associated with production. “It's exciting for me just because it's like a whole different ball game. It's like, 'Alright, I could definitely rock a club, everybody knows that, now let's see if I can rock a club with my own productions, my own vibe, my own style'.”

In today's EDM environment, it feels like the scratch DJ has been left behind; sure there are the old pros like Craze, Mixmaster Mike, Q-bert even the younger dabbler A-Trak, but who are the young crew? Who's up-and-coming? Is the artform itself dieing? Who better to ask than the master himself. “Yeah, I don't think it's as popular as it was. I think people are still checking for it. For a long time I thought turntablism was dead just because people weren't checking for it. But I always knew there was kids out there trying to push it to the next level and making new and fucking crazy beat juggles and scratching crazier than ever,” he explains.

“I just think that nobody has made it accessible to people. When I see kids doing crazy routines now I'm like what song is that, why doesn't he use a song that I know? Back in the day when we were doing it…we were taking songs that were already made and making some new shit. Now kids are actually making music and then beat-juggling these songs that nobody even knows and it kind of loses the interest of the majority of people. If you do it in a way that people can relate to it, that digs it up again. For a long time I thought turntablism was dead, but I don't think it's dead, I think people just need to do it in a different way than they've been doing it.”

And for a guy who's been the master of the scene for so long, does he still have things he personally wants to achieve within the artform? “Turntablism, that shit's in my blood. I love making those routines up, I love doing that shit and when I start making those routines it just comes outta me. I don't know where the fuck that shit comes out of, but the creative process for making turntable routines is in me. And I love doing that shit but it takes time, and most of my time is spent trying to make tunes and trying to run my label and trying to do house things because I'm also a dad,” he laughs, one getting the feeling he likes to double his home time up on spending time with his kid and hanging out in the studio. Confirmed: “I enjoy spending time at home now because the production thing is fun for me now.”

The current dance music climate has also seen a shift away from specific genres – particularly when it comes to drum'n'bass, dubstep, hip hop, electro; DJ Craze's staple stuff. He's been mixing it up for years, and while it's all about the bass music, it's a lot simpler for Delgado. “For me I just try to show [crowds] what I'm about. That's basically my whole thing. Since I've been doing work in my hip hop days when I was tryin' to introduce drum'n'bass to these fuckers, and trying to introduce turntablism to the hip hop heads and trying to mix up all these genres, I really wasn't caring what people were gonna say or what people were gonna think. Me? I was just like 'This is what I like, this is my vibe, it's gonna be rockin'. If people don't feel it maybe it's 'cause you're not into it yet… For me it's just like going in and showing people what you're all about. If they dig it, they dig it, if they don't, they don't.”

One thing Delgado will be hoping people dig is his upcoming production efforts which, in the case of the EP he's currently working on, is focused on the emerging moombahton style, with some interesting song titles. “[It's] just straight up moombahton, 110 or 112 [bpm], the first track is called Selecta, and it's kinda like dancehall-meets-moombahton kinda vibe. And then I got this one that I'm working on right now which is kinda Miami bass-meets-moombahton, it's a real raunchy moombahton track. It's called Still Grabbing Chorcha, and chorcha in Spanish means, uh… pussy,” he chuckles. “It's gonna be one of those dirty-ass moombah tracks, so yeah, it's about mixing genres, mixing shit up. I wanna make it exciting.”

It's safe to say we'll probably be getting a taste of the tracks, and his moombahton vibe in general as Delgado is digging it harder than other genres at the moment. “When I think of moombahton I think of it more a kind of Latin vibe mixed with Dutch sounds mixed with a lot of other stuff, but not so techy, not so hard. I think people are moving in that direction just because of that speed. It's been 140 and 128 [bpm] for such a long time.

“[But] at this tempo, I dunno, girls can get busier… It's just a different tempo, a different vibe and it feels new and it feels groovy, and sexy and all kinds of other dope adjectives.”