Red Bull Content Pool/Tyler Branston
The Red Bull brand is synonymous with cultural spectacles and the faces behind it all know how to orchestrate mass level events, case in point, the Red Bull Thre3Style. Throughout the month of July we've seen emerging Canadian DJs, industry folk and supporters all partaking in the live experience of DJing and the power of the turntable.One of the key influencers, talents and ambassadors for the event is Toronto-based DJ, Grandtheft who has not only performed, but this year also acted as one of the judges for the event in the Eastern Finals. Although he may have had to put on his judging hat, Grandtheft explains the balance behind the critique.
"Everyone is always kind of judging music and each other. In this situation though there is a criteria and a method to the judging breakdown so you try to be as objective as you can. It's a weird thing, judging and all, because you just have to do it, you can't really analyze your role in judging."
Competitors of the Red Bull Thre3Style series are expected to perform for 15 minutes, demonstrating their technical knack. Based on crowd reaction as well as their own rhythmic tact, judges closely watch each DJ and take note of their specific song choices, transitions and overall mixing aptitude. Each DJ has the choice to use two turntables or CDJs and a mixer. They also receive two dicers plus a midi controller of their preference.The winner of the eastern leg of the competition, DJ D-Smooth, is a family man that has been able to balance the art of music and the practicality of life, which should be noted. When asked about the stigma around "wedding DJs," he didn't hesitate with answering with realities."With weddings it's actually harder than many think. I guess it depends on who you are working with, but in my experience, I've seen people go all out with their weddings and they expect the best. I don't see it as negative, if you can satisfy a wedding crowd and all their guests, that's a skill. You have to figure out ways to make it enjoyable for everyone and at the end of it all I get to go home at a pretty reasonable time in order to get up early with my family," he explains.
DJ D-Smooth - Canada - Vancouver National Finals by Red Bull Thre3style on MixcloudWhile some idle the electronic dance music component others appreciate the urban twist to it all. Again, a competition like this is so hard to judge considering each listener has a different ear perk.Then there are the scratch artists that make their presence known, artists like DJ C-SIK, who not only won the Western Finals of the Red Bull Thre3Style, but also clinched the top spot at the National finale this past weekend.While this may be a sound victory for the Calgary native who scratched feverishly and begun his set with a recording of his adorable mother's voice, creating an overall poignant retrospective, this win has been something brewing for quite some time.
"I used to battle in the DMC's and a bunch of different turntablism battles back in the day, that's how I actually got into Djing in the first place," he states. "I was strictly a turntablist/battle DJ for the first ten years of my career. Then I got into rocking parties and clubs finally and the whole turntablism thing faded a bit for me. Then Thre3Style came along and started to catch my eye, being that it combined both worlds. I remember seeing Hedspin's set in Vancouver via YouTube and thinking it was so hype. Then it started evolving and turning global, so I just had to jump on and enter it all, finally."The intensity of a live, quick set can be exhilarating and overwhelming all in one hiccup and each artist has their own strategy when dealing with the pressure. Halifax's Tom Fleming packaged a tight set for the Eastern Finals, so much that he made it to the National Finals for the second year in a row.
"For me I look at three things: creativity, song selection and being different. It's truly about creating a lot of moments in the set, I strived for that last year too. I want each song to capture a moment where every transition means something and this journey will hopefully hit with the fans, that's my ultimate goal," he explains.But even with their goals and preparation pushed there's always the nervous jitters that surface.As DJ D-Smooth explains, "I'd be lying if I didn't say it was nerve-racking, I get super nervous before I'm on stage. When I watch other DJs it psyches me though, like when I saw Tom Fleming go at it, I started to get into that zone, it helped me focus and get prepared for my slot. "
"I am nervous up there for sure, I was super nervous last year too. It went over well in Halifax because I had people supporting me, but it's harder when you don't have that same following and everyone is just staring at you," Tom chuckles.Grandtheft may be globetrotting the scene right now, but he knows the pressure cooker of a competition that Thre3Style is."I've never really battled, I've done live competitions before, but not battle. This whole set up is intense and people put so much work into it all. It's nothing like a normal show, everyone pushes themselves to the limits and they pull out the craziest stuff that they can do in 15 minutes. The pressure can definitely get to some people and some artists may go beyond their means and out of their realm, I really don't envy them, it's really tough."
And of course there are always the critics that feel someone was ousted from a win or that someone is more deserving of the big slice of victory."It's hard to say it doesn't phase you when others criticize, but at the end of the day I'm doing it more for me, to be satisfied with the set and the outcome. How I perform is up to the judges. It's hard to filter out the comments if a person should've won or not, but you can only play what feels right to you and be comfortable with that, and confident with it," stresses DJ D-Smooth.Regardless of the outcome, the platform that Red Bull Thre3Style has given DJs is special. It's not about bashing talent, rather, it's about creating an openly engaging experience that brings a wealth of styles and personalities to the table. Without such opportunity many artists wouldn't have a chance to be heard and absorbed."Thre3Style is cool for me because it gives me a stage that shows people that I'm different. When I'm in the club in Halifax I'm not doing more than most of the other DJs, I mean I scratch more, but for the most part we are all playing the same clubs and we are all doing the same music. Thre3Style allows me to challenge myself and play the stuff I want to, it gives me that platform that I don't have back home," explains Tom Fleming.August will be a big month for Canada's C-SIK. He along with 18 other gifted DJs will venture to Baku, Azerbaijan for the Thre3Style World Finals.Related Stories:Putting the Beats in Motion: Up Close with GrandtheftSay Hello to the Red Bull Music Academy Class of 2014Full Circle with Richie Hawtin, From Ibiza to Canada