It doesn’t take much to deejay anymore. No longer the lone trade of audiophiles, record geeks, and jamdown masters, deejaying is for savvy laptop holders, iPod owners, and bored celebrities. Accessibility and technology have enabled anyone with a 16 GB hard drive and moustache to make a name for themselves. DJ’s still retain a lofty level of cool but the craft is secondary to the wow factor of 4 on the 4 blends by your local coke dealer.
100dbs is a DJ from New York who is missing the stunna shades and sweaty Baltimore Orioles fitted (not that there’s anything wrong with that — long live Billy “Fuckface” Ripken) but is heavy on dusty fingers, crowd control, and seemless blends. He is the first DJ to be featured for this interview segment and with good reason; whether live shows across the country or mixes covering the genius of Stax, Scratch Perry, Brian Wilson, Aphex Twins, or Sublime, 100dbs has warranted praise from Rolling Stone, Okayplayer, and URB for his needles and know-how. He’s so deft at every aspect of deejaying that he might take a crack at D List celebreality to even out the playing field for the good guys.
It’s time for 100dbs to learn you something.
1. At what point did you realize music was what you wanted to do?
I’d say it was in middle school or early high school. I was real into the NJ punk and ska scene in the mid 90s and I learned a lot from the musicians I met. Being able to go see so many talented groups up close for cheap really sealed the deal for me.. I bunkered down in my basement and started learning different instruments while experimenting with simple four track tape recordings.
2. How has NYC shaped your sound or molded you as a DJ/producer?
Call me old school, but to this day my favorite rap records came out of New York. I love me some other shit too, but all the records I consider lifelong classics are pretty much NYC joints. I also think the sheer diversity of the city kept my ears wide open.. there are types of music I never would have gotten into if it weren’t for the densely cultured scenes that exist in a place like New York. I like everything, man. Or at least.. there’s a tune in any style I will love.
3. Who are the people you look up to and learn the most from?
I know a lot of musicians in the area and I learn a thing or two from everybody. I went down to Maryland for school, and when I came back to New York I got in touch with The Slackers again. They ended up asking me to do a few shows with them as a DJ and things grew from there.
4. With everything you’ve learned thus far, what do you wish you could have told yourself at the beginning? Would you have done anything differently?
Mainly, I think I’d tell myself to stop being such a perfectionist and release more. I made a ton of shit that never surfaced because I was just too slow or too critical. You gotta strike while the iron is hot.
5. What’s hard for you? What do you struggle with?
Like I said, I mostly have trouble letting things go. Sometimes the only thing that gets me to finish things is a strict release date.
6. Here’s a scenario: tomorrow you become the CEO of a major label. What are the first 3 things you would do as the boss?
1. Kill all albums with filler. I would tell artists to forget about singles and just make dope EPs if that’s what they got in em. No reason to dilute what’s there to fake the consumer into buying a product.. it doesn’t even work anyway.
2. Encourage collaborations. People don’t wanna give up their share of the cash, but further down the road it’s usually a better investment to diversify.
3. Stop pressing CDs. Anything digital goes straight to download, and the only physical format is wax. It’s cute to see all these people doing limited releases on cassette, but honestly that’s a boutique thing. And CDs are done. MP3s aren’t my favorite thing in the world, but they get the job done and soon enough WAVs won’t be considered such a pain in the ass to download and store, if America ever gets its broadband game tight.
7. What are some of your favorite albums?
This list could go on forever but here are some:
Lee Perry – Blackboard Jungle Dub
Smiley Lewis – I Hear You Knocking
The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
De La Soul – De La Soul Is Dead
The Slackers – The Question
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works
Lee Hazlewood – Cowboy In Sweden
GZA – Liquid Swords
8. What is inspiring your work right now?
New Orleans soul has been in heavy rotation recently. There’s something about a 1-4-5 or blues progression over old school drum rhythms that is really interesting. No matter how many times you hear that familiar backdrop, everybody does their thing differently and it says a lot about their pedigree and culture. I love that.. it’s the same way I appreciate 100 reggae tunes on the same riddim or rap tracks that all sample the same source. Interpretation is beauty.
The mix I’m releasing on 4/20 is actually a deconstruction of one of the 90s’ most influential groups. Hate em or love em, Sublime took more pieces from different styles than any of their peers. I know they are widely disparaged as a “bro” band, they’re “not real reggae” and it’s not all that cool to like em.. but I’d be lying if I said they didn’t introduce me to tons of music at a young age. And I’m sure many people my age would find it hard to claim differently. I just call em like I see em, and if it’s an inconvenient truth, at least it’s the truth. I can’t deny originality.
9. What advice would you offer to someone getting in the business at this time?
Don’t. If you love it, do it. If you’re in it for the business… let’s just say you better have a good degree or own some real estate already.
10. Any words to live by?
Be yourself and don’t worry about scenes. These things come and go but the art you leave behind is the only thing people (might) remember about you.
100dbs “What You Know About Richard James (Aphex Twin Mashup)”