DJ Yoda has become famous over the last decade for thrilling club and festival crowds alike with his scratch AV sets. His frightening skills, infused with a quirky sense of humour familiar to fans of his excellent mixtape series How to Cut & Paste, have now led to a popular slot on national radio courtesy of BBC 6 Music.
He is currently touring his new album DJ Yoda Presents: Breakfast of Champions with an 11-piece band which came about as the result of a collaboration with Manchester music venue Band on the Wall in which aspiring musicians were asked to apply to be in his band. Following sell-out crowds, what was initially meant to be a one week project became a full tour and album!
While interviewing Yoda (aka Duncan Beiny) recently for Ransom Note I got the chance to ask him a few questions about his original forays into scratching. Read on to find out what technique he still struggles with and why watching DJ Woody depresses him.
'DJ Yoda presents Breakfast of Champions' is out 9th March.
How did you first get into scratch DJing?
Originally it was listening to music as a kid in the 80s that had scratching in it. It was hip hop and a bit of pop music. There was a point in the late 80s where there was a lot of hip hop remixes of pop songs that had all samples and scratching in it, so I would try to emulate that using my parents’ hi-fi. I totally broke their record player! So I thought ok I’m going to start saving up and buy turntables and the first couple of years of me learning to DJ I didn’t have any friends that were into that kind of thing at all. And there was no internet and no videos to buy to teach yourself to scratch, so I just was messing around at home and getting it really badly wrong - scraping needles across records and stuff!
But I think it’s a valuable way of learning actually because you just figure out what not to do. So then when I got a bit older I met friends that were into that and learnt off them more and started to figure out what sounds good. Then it was a long period of a lot of practice, making mixes at home and getting better and better.
Any particular technique you found difficult to pick up?
Yeah I’m always onto the next thing trying to learn it. I could get really technical but..I’m struggling with double-click flares, still. I mean I’m not technically the best scratch DJ. I can scratch well enough to do cool stuff. But I see people who I think - “Oh my god you are so much better than me!” There’s a long way to go if you get really good.
Did you ever go in for competitions or anything like that?
No I’ve never entered the battles or anything like that because I just don’t have that competitive edge to my personality. I’ve got no desire to prove that I’m better than anyone. I’m quite happy just doing my own thing and if people like it then great. I know people way better than me so it would just be a stupid thing to do! What I did do is judge them. I judged the world DMC finals like four or five years running.
How did you find that experience?
Yeah loved it. It’s a much better place for me because I know enough about it to know who’s good and who isn’t. And it was cool just to get to see all the best people in the world. So yeah I loved doing it.
I always think it’s kind a sadistic thing to put yourself through - six months of practice boils down to six minutes and if you mess up that’s it!
I know! I guess it comes down to that thing - when you’re under pressure it brings out the best stuff I think.
People like DJ Woody are way better than me. For my money Woody is the best scratch DJ in the UK definitely. He’s ridiculously creative. He’s one of those people I get depressed watching him. I think “aw I could never do that.” People who are the very best in their field, I always find it depressing to watch them. Like QBert - if I ever watch QBert it just makes me sad! I just think “oh why am I bothering doing what I’m doing!”
Check out DJ Yoda on BBC Radio 6 Music here.