Thursday, 6 December 2012

LSD Magazine interviews UK DMC Champ JFB

Two time winner of the UK DMC championships, improvisational bad boy and all round dancefloor mischief maker JFB is scratching up a bassline storm sixteen ways to sunrise. There’s always been a not so fine line between ruffing up the lightning trix and sublime flicks of a turntablist showcase and rocking a dancefloor and JFB is the master of surfing it into pure, bass drenched party mayhem. Irrepressible energy, killer flows and silky skillz slam hard into scratched up fills and epic thrills as the breaks fly scorching into the next rampaging bassline.

Pioneering swing hop - a gloriously twinkling mix of swing and upbeat bassline hip hop, smashing up the breaks, ripping up the drum n bass and laying down the funk, he is a proper party DJ . Long time collaborator with Beardyman on the legendary Battlejam nights, JFB rode the wave of new DJ technology into a furious matrix of cutting edge improvisation where the crowd were sampled in and scratched up on the fly, where video scratching flew into the mix, where beatboxed beats were turning digital cartwheels within seconds and where a genuinely interactive feedback loop with the crowd locked everyone into a renegade freestyle groove. And all laced with a massive wink and a sunshine sense of fun and electric good times. We caught up with him for a chat..

What kind of scene did you start out in?

 I started going out to raves when I was about 16, so what with it being the early 90’s I was going out to old skool hardcore and early jungle nights on the South coast of England. To be honest, I was into a bit of everything, and once I was going out raving properly, the next step was to score a pair of crappy turntables and get stuck in.

Were you crate digging for old funk and stuff back then or going with all the new white labels etc 

Truth be told, I didn’t really know much about funk at the time. I mean I liked it in a sort of passive way, but it’s only really been in the last 7 years or so that I’ve realised where all the samples in the hardcore and jungle tunes actually came from. So it was mostly contemporary tunes that I was buying and getting to grips with.

Did you literally just lock yourself away for a couple of years?

 I didn’t really scratch at all for the first year and a half – just straight up mixing, but I was so into it, I didn’t get round to doing much else. I suppose the first real sort of breakthrough was when myself and an MC mate of mine got a slot on a pirate radio station, and that became our thing, our project and it basically added in that element of actually playing to people rather than just a bedroom lock in. So that was a great learning curve before landing my first few club gigs. So one day, a mate of mine drops round the house and showed me how to do a bit of basic transforming, and from there I began practicing a few baby scratches and stuck with them for a few years, not really pushing it much further than that. The same mate also lent me a few DMC videos which obviously buzzed me right up, but the decks I had were so shit you could just barely scratch on themand beat juggling was way out of the realms of what they could be relied on to do. Needles jumping all over the pace, general wobbling – it was a nightmare. But then I was skint and just messing about anyway, so they served their purpose. Once I started playing out at loads of drum n bass parties and bar gigs and reached the point of being able to half squeeze my rent money out of gigs, my scratching had improved and my overdraft could just about take a caning from a new set of decks, so I got back on the DMC videos, kissed the shit decks goodbye and started having a serious go at beat juggling.

So you finally enter the DMC – what’s the vibe like – is it hyper competitive between the DJ’s or is there a friendliness and a sense of unity 

Everyone was really friendly, and while I suppose there’s always going to be an element of competitiveness in a…er.. competition, I think it was more a case of people shitting themselves than giving it the large. There was a definite sense of intimidation about people, and that may possibly have had something to do with the fact that the guys competing in the UK DMC maybe weren’t quite as good as some other countries. I mean they were obviously very talented DJ’s, but if you looked at places like France, the level of technical skill on show was just that much higher. Which is not to say that it was better – just technically more advanced, and some of the really skilled turntablists in the UK weren’t even bothering to enter the UK finals. Can’t stress enough that none of that is to say that the people competing were shit or anything – they were seriously good, and anyway, technical skill and a top routine aren’t always one and the same thing.

Well this is the thing – there is a definite difference. How did you find your balance between showcasing skills and rocking a dancefloor. 

Well you see - I was used to playing out at gigs and mixing records to make people dance rather than to pull off some hyper slick routine. So those were my roots – dancefloor orientated mixing. Problem was, that when I started getting deeper into the whole DMC side of things and developed my turntablism skills, I‘d find it massively frustrating that I couldn’t really use them in clubs without risking a bit of a downer on the dancefloor. It was actually Beardyman who suggested putting together a list of tunes that could work as kind of ‘get out of jail free’cards. Guaranteed stormers that you couldn’t go wrong with so if you felt you were maybe losing the crowd a tiny bit, you could slam em back into gear with one of these strategic tracks everybody likes. So the next step was to start creating some simple turntablist routines out of this list so I could start to rebuild the tracks with scratching carved into them.

My first routine was Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name Of that was super simple, yet still quite impressive to watch for people who don’t know much about scratching. The idea is to keep the arrangement of the original while working in turntablist elements that flow with it instead of jarring it into a stop start thing. It’s a way to do it while keeping people’s heads bopping and there’s always a drop to get people moving. The idea is to keep the new version as similar to the original as possible so people can still feel their cues and sing along, and I do pretty much the same thing in virtually every gig I play. You get the relevant elements of the track – chop them up in whatever music editing software and loop certain sections which gives you your basic ingredients. Then whack them into Serato and fuck about a bit until a sort of plan and an order emerges to bounce back and forth between the elements and create a new whole.



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