The other day I did an interview for the magazine and website hiphop.cn, the english translation is below with the Chinese link here:
Q: How long have you been in China and why did you come? Did you come with DJ’ing in mind?
A: I came to China in 2005 and I’ve been here for four years now. I didn’t come to China to pursue DJ’ing, I came as a traveler interested in learning culture and language. Basically just to see another part of the world.
Q: Where are you from? How does the nightlife atmosphere there compare with China?
A: I’m from Washington DC, which along with Baltimore, created one of the first club culture scenes on the east coast. There’s an assortment of venues catering to a host of sounds – hip hop, drum & bass, house/techno, downtempo, reggae, etc. Unless you’re looking for something really obscure you can probably find it there, which immediately sets it apart from China where the range is limited to more traditional electronic music.
Q: Let’s talk about your DJ career . You are a hip-hop DJ, When did you start to DJ in the U.S? How long have you been DJing? How was your DJ life in U.S?
A: I started to DJ in 1998 when I was 17 years old, so about ten years now. The first 3 years of DJ’ing I was practicing in my bedroom, and after that I started doing gigs in Washington DC and Baltimore. The whole time I had a day job, doing IT and design in an office, and would DJ on weekends. I didn’t have many gigs and most of the ones I did have weren’t paid gigs. I actually didn’t want to have money get involved because I feared that it would corrupt something I enjoyed. In retrospect, it was definitely the right thing to do for me. When you’re learning to DJ and having someone else tell you what to play, it sucks the creative spirit right out of you because you’re under pressure to conform to someone elses idea of what you should be playing.
Q: As a hip-hop DJ, you must scratch a lot I guess. Have you ever competed in any events in passed years?
A: I started getting interested in scratching around 2002 and practiced for a few years in my bedroom and with friends. I competed in a few DJ battles and won one.
Q: I noticed your music style is very different than other foreign DJs here, because you draw on a lot of unconventional music sources, especially 80’s music and rock.
A: I like all music so I don’t limit myself to one type of style. Every era has good music which I value, including the 80’s. The 80’s in particular is a good period to explore as a DJ since most people have exposure to popular songs of that time although they don’t hear them often. So, for example, you play an old song that no one has heard in years and people get excited and enjoy that because they’re being reintroduced to it in a new context.
Q: So which hip-hop artists have influenced you the most?
A: That’s a long list – the first group that really opened my eyes to the possibilities of the format was The Fugees, when “The Score” came out in 1996 (although I was first introduced to hip hop when Cypress Hill’s “Black Sunday” came out in 1993). Some other well known artists that have had a strong influence on me are KRS-One, Masta Ace, Pete Rock, Slick Rick. I remember listening to Coolio through a boombox on the school bus when I was 13. Once I started getting into turntablism I had a rush of new influences – the biggest of which might have been The Trooperz (www.trooperz.com), the premiere hip hop DJ crew in Washington DC. Now they’re pretty well known, but listening to mix cd’s by DJ Geometrix and seeing them (DJ I-Dee, DJ Enferno, DJ Quixotic) play live and perform in battles had a big influence on me. To this day I continue to make mix cd’s in what I consider to be similar to the Trooperz style.
Q: I notice that you’ve released a lot of mix cds, are they all hip hop? Where do you get your inspiration when you’re working on music?
A: No, I don’t deal exclusively in hip hop. My last two mix cd’s were deep house and downtempo. In my everyday life I listen all kinds of music – hip hop, jazz, lounge, rock. Generally what I do for mix cd’s is pick a theme and go from there. Inspiration comes from everywhere. I might hear a song or even just a riff that will inspire me to write a remix, mash up, or a mix cd.
Q: Is it difficult to connect with Chinese hip hop fans? Do you mind if people don’t like your music because they don’t understand it?
A: Not everyone will like anything, but I think most people can find something they like among all the different genres and styles I’ve embraced over the years. If not, that’s okay. The music is available to download for free for anyone who chooses to.
Q: Since hip hop as a foreign culture has come to China, more and more young Chinese people like it and continue follow it. What do you think of the state of Chinese hip hop?
A: It’s developing, although very slowly. What happens a lot is misinterpretation of what the artform is. You have a lot of kids wearing fake jewelry and sideways hats but few really embrace the spirit of what hip hop is about. Although the symptoms of this can be found everywhere, including America. The hip hop movement, which used to stand for something, has been heavily diluted by commercial interests. China is still trying to find it’s own style, I think.
Q: What do you think about local DJs in China? Do you communicate and cooperate with them often?
A: I meet new DJ’s every week in China although I don’t usually get to know them too well. Most of the DJ’s I meet are the kind who are paid to play music given to them every night. So while that of course qualifies as a DJ, it’s not a DJ in the sense that I’ve come to know it. Around all of China there really aren’t many DJ’s who are totally doing their own thing because there isn’t much of a community to support them. What motivates a lot of people to become DJs in China is getting a job in a club and making money, whereas very few people in the US will begin with this goal and have it lead to success.
Q: Do you have any other hobbies?
A: My other hobbies are computers and technology, design and illustration, photography, learning Chinese, video games, and chess, to name a few.
Q: Is there anything you want to say to Chinese hip hop DJs?
A: Play what you love and love what you play, and don’t compromise, especially at the beginning. Start a scene and contribute to the community. Don’t start working in clubs immediately, take time to practice and find your own style. Don’t rush or you’ll get burned out.