Legendary hip-hop DJ Skratch Bastid, né Paul Murphy, earned his stripes as a battle DJ in the International Turntablist Federation (ITF), Disco Mix Club (DMC) and Scribble Jam competitions, which he won three times between 2003 and 2007. During his 15-year career, the turntablist solidified his world-class status by smashing the borders between countless genres and touring non-stop around the globe.
Now, Skratch Bastid wants to teach us a few skills and techniques he learned along the way. The Bedford, Nova Scotia native just released an eleven-part DJ videos series called Skratch School. The videos cover basics like mixing records, to more advanced scratch techniques and lets viewers apply their learning to any style of music.
"I get tons of people always asking me advice about how to DJ. So I wanted to create a series that could start to help define that," he says. Bastid honed his craft in his bedroom, turning out a steady stream of mixtapes before delving into production. Growing up well before the internet, he says it was hard for him to learn the basics in isolated Nova Scotia. "When I started scratching, I got a VHS of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, which was a cool little DJ and scratching tutorial," he says. "I'd watch a short bit and go practice what I'd learned, and then go back and learn some more."
Skratch School videos are short, to the point, and devoid of complex DJ rhetoric; he even does a demo in each episode. The series is geared towards beginner to intermediate DJs, but Bastid says even experienced DJs could benefit from tuning in. "They might pick up on a way to describe something and think, 'ah that's a cool way to think of it.' Sometimes you still learn simple things way into your career,'' he says.
The series has only been out for a week, but he says people have already been asking for more. "People have been asking questions and tagging the hashtag #SkratchSchool, so we've been able to get some good feedback. We want to see what people want to learn, that's why I started basic with these first episodes,'' he says. In future episodes, he'll have other DJs do guest spots and share their knowledge as well.
"Older, crusty DJs complain that 'everybody is a DJ these days,' but instead of complaining we should be proactive and share our knowledge with kids," he says. "EDM started as DJ culture and is moving towards producer culture. And while I have deep respect for that, I think people are starting to understand that there's a difference between the two and that DJing is starting to make a comeback. After a few years of jumping up and down, people want to know more about what the DJ is actually doing," he says.
Lately, when he isn't filming tutorials, Skratch Bastid has been touring the globe and working on some pretty wicked projects. He recently blended scratch and string with the Afiara Quartet, putting out a unique record called Spin Cycle. "It's basically a musical conversation between four composers, a string quartet, and myself. Four composers wrote four pieces for the string quartet and then I remixed them. I then met with the quartet and recorded the parts of these pieces that I liked, for sampling and scratching purposes," he says. "I sent back those four remixes to the composers, the composers remixed the remix, and we performed it live. It was a fun and challenging project, I'm really proud of this one."
Skratch Bastid was spinning at Evolve Festival in his native Nova Scotia last weekend. He's currently on a nation-wide BBQ party tour, Bastid's BBQ, and will be in Halifax on July 18th, and Winnipeg on the 25th.
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