Skratchpad Sacramento: (Don’t) hang the deejay
Skratchpad Sacramento clears up misconceptions about the art of deejaying
Writing about music for the past 10 years, one thing has become very clear: People hate deejays for an abundance of reasons: they hate that deejays simply play records; they hate that deejays often attract bigger crowds than traditional musicians, and sometimes they hate that deejays consider themselves musicians at all.
Of course, these ideas are mostly misconceptions, ones that on Thursday, June 28, can be cleared up easily at Skratchpad Sacramento, an event during which different types of deejays will break a sweat creating futuristic sounds that might make even the most stern rock ’n’ roll purists tap their feet with joy.
But first, for fun, back to the misconceptions.
I remember this one letter to the editor a few years back, sent from a local musician:
“Do you really think a person who stands there and plays records is deserving of any kind of recognition? For what? Playing other people’s music?” he wrote. “Deejays are the musical equivalent of a retarded monkey.”
You could almost feel the hot beams of bitter anger shooting through his fingertips as he wrote this damning letter; yet despite the veiled racism, hatred and unintentional hilarity, there’s a bit of truth to the author’s words. Many deejays, after all, are simply hobbyists who replace skill and rhythm with a MacBook that virtually sequences all the songs for them.
Christopher Jaime, a.k.a. DJ Nocturnal, agrees—at least in part. Jaime is the curator of Skratchpad Sacramento, as well as a member of the Sleeprockers crew (a team of Sacramento deejays who treat their turntables and MPC drum machine as instruments). And, he says, many deejays don’t have skills.
“Anybody can do that controller shit,” Jaime says. “But it’s really about educating yourself and … getting familiar with what the deejay is doing.”
And Skratchpad, a showcase of turntable talent, will be a good opportunity to get familiar with the true art of deejaying or turntablism—the creation of music by manipulating records.
Deejays Cellski and Deeandroid launched Skratchpad almost 10 years ago in response to the demise of San Francisco’s infamous Beat Lounge. What began as a simple platform for deejays to come together ended up a complete success with Skratchpad events popping up in different locations across the map.
But even as turntablism gains acceptance, new technology makes deejaying more accessible to casual hobbyists—hence the negative stereotypes.
“It’s almost like a double-edged sword,” Jaime says. “It takes skill, but there are so many outlets to be a deejay. You can even deejay off an iPad.”
But, believe me, there won’t be any iPad deejays on Thursday. Hopefully not, at least. In fact, one of the featured turntablists, Vallejo’s Dan Magsin, a.k.a. Snayk Eyez, is a traditionalist with lightning-quick hands and an impeccable sense of timing and rhythm. He was briefly featured in the documentary Scratch.
“It’s basically one big jam session as any musician would do, but the instruments are different,” he says. “A bunch of guitar players can get together and hang out; why can’t a bunch of deejays?”
Well, they can. And they will. So set aside your image of a typical deejay (the extreme dude with a soul patch who wears silk vests and pushes play on his laptop long enough so he can do a gram of blow in the bathroom), because there won’t be much of that at Skratchpad Sacramento—just a bunch of turntable nerds rubbing records back-and-forth and getting anything but retarded.