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SlowPitchSound Scratches Past the Surface with His Own Brand of Turntablism

Toronto's experimental turntablist on his beginnings and scratching's future.

Think of a typical scratch DJ. What do see? A baggy-shirted 20-something finger banging the air as he juggles a vinyl to and from? A relic of culture? A once innovative individual who has been worn out like so many needles, from flicking the words "aw fresh" over an old-school hip-hop beat? Though scratching, like break dancing and graffiti, was born out of hip-hop culture, it was also born out of musical excess. Scratching developed because of the sheer amount of music available, but after a while fell victim to its own excess and became stagnant.


Torontonian SlowPitchSound, a.k.a. Cheldon Paterson, takes this mislaid skill set and carves a new pathway that most scratch DJs don't even consider. A curiosity to find new sounds pushes him in turntable experimentation and live improvisation. The results are an otherworldly tumble down the rabbit hole of downtempo instrumental hip-hop.

It's a style that eludes most conventional labelling; Paterson's love of Philip K. Dick and Ridley Scott has led him to dub it "sci-fi-turntablism." Yet, it's also a necessity of explanation, "The toughest thing about doing the music that I do is explaining to somebody what it is, and that's a common question," says Paterson. "So, sci-fi-turntablism was a great way to explain it because my sound is very theatrical; it's got a lot of soundscapes too, but also it's a sound that's hard to describe, so I call it sci-fi."

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Paterson's beginnings were humble, and much more traditionally hip-hop oriented. He traces them back to MuchMusic's RapCity. "It was like a religion at the time, I just had to see every episode," he tells THUMP. "There was one particular moment where they were covering DJs and they covered Terminator X from Public Enemy. They were doing an up-close look at the turntables and his techniques and stuff like that, which got me really curious. When I would go to parties, I would just pay more attention to what was happening behind the decks and stare at the DJ instead of dancing, just trying to unmask the magic behind it."


Photo by MelodicArts

From there it's a DJ story as old as time: messing with some friends' turntables for while, eventually getting his own set, becoming a hermit, landing a gig playing standard hip-hop at a pool bar, before becoming tired of the monotony and song requests from clueless patrons. At this point Paterson linked up with Erik Laar, a.k.a DJ Steptone, his now longtime friend and collaborator, for their iNSiDEaMiND project. The two began crafting what would later become their unique sound, while still paying homage to their heroes.

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"Kid Koala from Montreal was a big influence back then," says Paterson. "He came on the radar and it was like 'OK, we can get really weird with this'. There was a couple of crews out in France who were doing the same thing too, like C2C and Birdy Nam Nam. What they were doing was like four guys on the turntables, set up as if they were a band, which was definitely inspiring because they were really taking it to another level."

Nowadays, through his work at Off Centre DJ School, Paterson himself is the inspiration who, alongside Laar, teaches the turntable trade to a new generation of scratchers. As you might expect, Off Centre doesn't just teach Serato 101, they try to instill an open-minded view of DJing as a whole. "It's OK to come in with an idea, but we're also gonna let you know that DJs don't just belong in a club," Paterson explains. "If you really understand the tools, if you really have fun with the tools and explore sounds, then it will definitely open up your mind a bit more and make you stand out. If you play techno, you don't have to just play techno in a club, you can play techno at a book launch if you want [laughs]."


Beneath this liberal approach lies a core of practical skills that every Off Centre student learns. Fundamentals like beat matching and simple needle operations are necessary skills to acquire if you want to stick out in an age of Zac Efron's and auto-sync button aficionados.

Photo by ModelicArts

"It's too bad, because lots of people miss out on the real fun, and a lot of the real fun is trying to get that beat matched and really connecting with the tools—physically, almost dancing with this thing. The problem is when you just come in and go straight to a digital format, you end up sitting back on the fact that there's a button for almost everything," says Paterson.

With any luck, the graduates of Off Centre, along with SlowPitchSound's off-kilter scratch excursions, will be able to reestablish the turntables as a bona fide instrument, something the world seems to have forgotten.

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"As soon as you decided to alter a spinning record, it becomes an instrument. If I was to just put a record on it and just press play, then to me it's a turntable, it's just a record player. The minute you put your hand on it and manipulate the sound, decide which way you wanna spin the platter, start tapping on it, or taking the needle and touching underneath it to get a sound out of it, it turns into something else, something creative."

SlowPitchSound is on SoundCloud // Website // Facebook

Daryl Keating is on Twitter.