I thought it would be fun to do an interview series.
The aim is to give us an insight into how other DJs approach scratching currently and when they first started out, so that it inspires us with our own scratch practice.
First up, I’d like to introduce…
Cutting it up:
Tell us a bit about yourself, and where you are from.
Hello! My name is David Lopez, I’m a 19 year old college freshman and I’m from San Antonio, Texas!
When did you start scratching?
I started scratching once I got my very first pair of turntables, a pair of Stanton belt-driven decks with a matching Stanton mixer my sophomore year of highschool.
How did you get into scratching and why?
I got into scratching after I learned how to beatmatch because when I first got turntables, all I wanted to do was make dance music mashups and pretty much be a “club-rocking” DJ. Once I learned how to beatmatch, it was then I found it kind of easy and I wanted to make that “wicky-wicky” sound I had heard on Hip-Hop songs. I learned to scratch all with YouTube tutorials, notably DJ Angelo’s turntable tutorials which basically taught me all of the basics. I felt that his tutorials really made sense and made scratching really easy for me to understand and grasp.
Which hand do you use on the record / fader and why?
I primarily scratch with my dominant (right) hand on the fader and the other non dominant hand (left) on the record. I felt this most preferable because I felt that I could move my fingers on my right hand very much faster than on my left hand. The left hand on the record was a little awkward at first, but I eventually got the hang of it. As of now, I have been dabbling into scratching with my dominant hand on the record and my non dominant on the record because that way, I feel very much record control but my fader hand is a little slow and cumbersome. Practice makes perfect!
How did you / do you approach learning?
I approached learning at first by trying to learn every single scratch I could. I remember once I could nail the fast two click flare orbit, I thought I was on top of the world and I could out cut anyway (haha). It wasn’t until I lost many online scratch battles on DJ forums I realized I completely neglected flow and musically in my scratching. Now I approach learning from a questioning manner like asking, “why does this sound good?” or “what in particular is this DJ doing in their cuts to sound different?” I found asking that really helps me learn how properly articulate how I’m feeling in my cuts.
Can you remember the first scratch techniques you learnt?
The first scratch I learned (besides the baby) was a simple chirp! I remember when I got the chirp down, I was doing some baby chirp combos just thinking, “Oh my God! This sounds just like scratching in hip-hop songs – I’m actually doing it!”
What were the challenges you faced when first starting out?
Biggest challenges I faced learning was just trying to learn everything I could technically and just being the fastest scratcher I could be. That and I felt pretty egotistical because I remember after one year of scratching, I posted a file to a scratch forum and everyone was like “Wow, only a year!? You’re killing it!” which really got to my head hahaha.
How about current challenges?
Right now, just trying to get equally as clean with my right hand on the record and left hand on the fader. It’s frustrating because I know I can do a scratch perfectly left handed but when I switch hands, it’s very sloppy and awkward. Practice!
How do you practice?
Usually, I’ll just throw on a looper and just cut with different samples at different BPMs trying to get that “funk” out. I found that using lots of silence in scratching makes those little clips of sampled come through a lot more dynamic and pronounced. Some days I’ll cut for hours if I’m done with all my schoolwork and somedays just a quick thirty minutes. Also when I get bored, I’ll switch hands and try cutting like that for some time until I get bored. Also when scratching in general is getting dull, I’ll throw on some doubles and practice my beat juggling as well as general mixing ability. I want to be as well rounded (as a DJ) as I can.
Favourite Scratch Technique?
Favorite scratch would have to be anything with a tear on the record, like a regular two click flare sounds great but if you do a tear backwards while doing the two clicks on the fader, it enhances the dynamics of the scratch that much more. Even just doing chirp flares with a tear in the record movement sounds so good.
Any techniques you don’t like doing or don’t use that much (and why)?
Hmmm tough one, but anything that involves forward tears like the Prizm by DJ Qbert because my forward tears are not as clean as I’d like them to be.
Who are your inspirations?
For inspiration, I look up to DJs like Enfoe, Vekked, Ritchie Ruftone, Dwells and many many other DJs that have helped me become a better DJ and person in general.
Favourite Scratch DJs?
Any DJ who has a really significant record hand style like Enfoe, D-Styles, IQ, Tigerstyle, Nick Nack, Muzzell, Toadstyle, Ricci Rucker along with many other come to mind.
Favourite beats or beat style to scratch over?
I really like all styles of beat to scratch with but what really hits my sweet spot is that 80ish BPM D-Styles slow, hypnotic head-nod type of production where you’re really feeling the beat and it’s slow enough to really flow/funk over.
Favourite scratch records or samples to cut with?
I love to cut Scratch Science records when I have an ultrapitch turntable to use but when I don’t, just a “bust this bust that ahhhh” sentence is good enough Really any good, loud multi-syllable sample like “Cut Like A Guillotine” is my favorite. D-Styles break records are grand because of how many samples are on there that are perfect for spacing apart and breaking down.
What do you do when you are uninspired to scratch?
I just practice my mixing, beat juggling and if that’s all wack, then I just pull out my MPC2000XL and make beats, haha.
What’s your top tip for anyone just starting out?
Practice and know all of your basic scratches and get comfortable with them (chirps, transforms, one-click flares) as well as make sure you’re pitching the record with drags, reverses, and other record techniques to really vary the sound and give it some depth, don’t always end a cut with a release. I recommend practicing with the platter off and making you move the record/pitch it.
What’s your top tip for intermediates that might feel a bit stuck or need a fresh perspective?
Listen to Toadstyle – Switchblade Sermons! Whenever I feel that my cuts aren’t too fresh, I listen to Toadstyle’s scratches and and I’m awe at how clean and funky he is. Listening to him really helped me realize how importance silence really is in scratching and music in general.
You recently competed and placed second in the Texas DMC 2014 Regional, congrats! How was the experience?
It was great!! Christie from DMC USA is a wonderful person who really does this for the love of the artform and Mia from San Antonio DMC is an absolute sweetheart (and really kicked me into competing this year ) Really nice people and it was great meeting the other DJs and actually being recognized! Hahaha but it was a wonderful experience and now I know what little more I need to do to (hopefully) get a first place next year.
What’s next for you?
Honestly, just trying to keep my head above water and do well in University to hopefully get that degree! I’ll never stop scratching/turntablism and I’ll always have a pair of 1200s on/near me to keep my skills sharp. Again, continue in school but also keep practicing my scratching/juggling and beat making because besides this, there isn’t much to me.
Who do you think we should interview next, if they are up for it?
DJ Dwells! The now 14 year old who won the DMC NY Regional. The whole turntablism scene has been on fire with him and I speak to him often, he’s really mature for his age and an all around nice dude – he’s very humble and I hope he does well at the US Finals.
Where should we go to keep up with your scratch adventures?
Follow my twitter / instagram / soundcloud @dopez1200 where I post quite a bit of scratch related media (along with perhaps one too many selfies)
Anything else you would like to say?
Nothing much other than thank you for having me on here!! You’re really doing a wonder for turntablism especially with Studio Scratches and all the media you offer. I’m honestly quite humbled to be given to chance to share a little bit about myself with you because I think you’re a legend! Again, keep doing what you’re doing – it really is awesome. Also I can’t help but think you’re hand-lettering is beautiful! I really wish I had that talent, sure would beat moving a record back and forth.
(Awww shucks! – Short-E)
I hope you enjoyed this interview and that it gave you some insights and inspiration to help you practice your scratching.
Big thanks to David.
P.S. If you would like to suggest a DJ to interview, please leave a comment!