On the world stage, the best Australia has done is ex-Avalanches DJ Dexta, is that right? He came second in 2000, that was pretty amazing, seeing him come runner-up. Last year’s Australian winner, Staen 1, finished fifth at the world titles. That’s been our best placing since Dexta. What about from overseas? Over the years, well, the Scratch Perverts have been in there, I don’t think they compete anymore; Tony Vegas and Plus One. The US winner from last year – I Emerge – he’s won the world finals for the last two years so he’s got to be one of the top guys at the moment. Locally we’ve had a New Zealand guy – P Money, he was joint third a few years back. In the past it-s been dominated by the US DJs, but we-ve had a Japanese world champ and Canadian world champ, so it-s a world-wide phenomenon. What are the judges looking for? Obviously technical skills. To a lesser degree originality, whether it’s a new skill, or trick, a new combination or records that haven’t been used before. It’s a very demanding job being a judge. You have to know what’s going down in a DJ’s routine but also keep an eye out for anything the DJ might be doing that another DJ may have done in another country or whatever – biting a part of their routine from someone else. The judges base their scores on scratching, beat juggling and body tricks. How important are the body tricks compared to the other factors? I don’t mind the body tricks. I think the guys that are right into the turntablism side of things think it’s a bit passe, a bit gimmicky. But when you see guys like The Executioners, they still do that sort of thing. I think it adds to the whole routine, more of a performance. I don’t know if you’d see too many of the guys doing it these days. They want to see mad juggles. It comes and goes, I’m sure it will come back into flavour sooner or later. Are you looking for an eclectic mix of samples? In the past, when there wasn’t so much suitable material around you’d get two or three guys using the same record and it would get a bit tedious at times. Some of the guys this year have gone to the length of pressing their own records. They’re going to be using unique samples and beats, so it’s going to be interesting. Isn’t that cheating? There is a bit of a debate raging in the forums at the moment as to whether it’s fair. Obviously if a guy has a unique battle record he’ll be able to do something the other can’t, but at the end of the day if you’ve got a record with loads of scratching you are not going to score any points for that. It’s how you manipulate those samples to create some new sounds that score. How much of it is creating a groove to dance to and how much of it is scratches and soundscaping? I think the event is getting very technical, the entrants tend to focus on the technical side of things to the detriment of trying to get the audience on side, getting a groove going and the crowd moving. So when a DJ comes along that can do both, then he or she is usually the stand-out on the night. There’s the DJ who plays big party bangers which may get the crowd on side but he’s not very technical. So often in the past people will say “I don’t think that guy should have won, the other guy rocked it.” Well, I understand why you thought he was great because he was doing a handstand while dropping some big Jersey club bangin’ anthem, but it wasn’t doing anything technical that would bring the world championship to Australia. Like Staen last year – he played all this West Coast gangsta stuff and a lot of the crowd responded to it. So he had that dancefloor angle covered as well as the skills to impress the judges. And when an entrant combines both, usually he or she is going to be the one to win. Are there many DJs exploring the cut ‘n’ paste process as an artform and not just an instrument? Of the Australian guys, J-Red, who is doing a show at the Australian final, has got into some new technology – Pioneer DVD turntables. His passion on the side is his DVJ show. He did something for the IGF battle last year and went to the world finals in Germany and won the experimental category using these DVD turntables. He got together a whole heap of video footage onto DVD that was scratched and looped with a visual aspect – hence entertaining in that way as well. We have him booked for the Aussie finals so I’ll be quite keen to see what it looks like.
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