I just went on an excursion through the world of [Sonji's] records and turntables. I had listened to The Plastic Constellations plainly for a good long while before doing any messing about. “Crusades” the album. R.I.P. to that band; they titled their final CD “We Appreciate You”, and took pictures sent in by fans to include for the album cover. I saw them, with Sonji, and they were pretty damn good live. This was their last show. I never know how to start when I’m screwing around with tables and records, a lot like when I play guitar; without some sort of planning ahead (which I never do), you strap on the instrument or start rolling the tunes and think: “OK… what now?”. I grabbed a handful of records out of the collection, 6-ish or so, and set them on the table in front of myself. Much like I would do with guitar picks, and probably a slide, on my Amp Head.
“Fuck it… Dibbs”. Now, I don’t know how many times I’ve used this record before when mixing. Tons. Reason being: it is extremely versatile, simple, and easily adjustable to fit nearly anything else. This record is Mr. Dibbs‘ “Sucker Punch” BREAK BEATS. It’s funny how this shit works sometimes. Occasionally I’ll hit something right on out of plain-old dumb luck. For no reason other than randomimity, I threw on the second side to my left, first track. Within a 20 seconds or so, I was able to adjust both pitch levels to get these two rhythms to match almost perfectly. After a minute or so of keeping it pretty damn close to right on track (downbeat for downbeat), I started splicing in and out with The Plastic Constellations record for shits. By now, TPC was approaching song #2 (no, not Blur). This time, I did the same exact thing but reversed roles. Dibbs’ record played straight through while I quickly tried matching the new TPC song rhythm. This worked but not nearly as well as the first time; so I slowly faded “Crusades” out while a Dibbs again changed tracks. Once again, I’ve used the Dibbs record so many times I know most of the tracks by now, and I know it’s a good base record (although not very experimental from my perspective).
I muddled through the stack in front of me and found a GREAT record for splicing and sampling (which I’ve also used before): Johnny Lee Hooker. One of the best things about Mississippi blues, Hooker was from Clarksville, was those dudes’ ability for playing tempo-less tunes. Some Texans and Chi-Towners did it too, but to me, this was Mississippi’s crowning achievement to blues. For Texas, I’d go with call-and-response. What I mean by this is playing with a style that slows downs and speeds up at any time, for a number of reasons. The tempo fluctuations were never all that grandiose; in fact, someone without an ounce of rhythm in their body wouldn’t notice it. But it’s there. This presents amazing opportunities for anyone who wants to mix in different genres of music with turntablism. Tempo-less blues especially!
What I like to do is listen for a good long and loud John Lee Hooker shout or moan. I wait until it gets all the way through and stop the record instantly; now I know that’s my ending point right there where my right hand is. Spin backwards until the beginning of the lyrical outburst; this can be difficult and requires practice and/or luck. Now it’s mine to fuck around with. I also like to speed the blues record up quite a bit, faster than the beat. And use my hand gently on the record to slow it down (at my control, not the pitch-shifter’s control) to match rhythms or do a vibrato effect; this works VERY well with blues guitar solos/licks.
I continued this by switching Dibbs with The Black Keys‘ “Thickfreakness”, another great blues record. Good lord this band rocks. “Attack and Release” has been one of my favorite CD’s this past year. With time I phased out John Lee Hooker for another Hip-Hop Instrumental album. Rinse and repeat, right? Not exactly. This time, the ROCK/BLUES record supplied my base. This works the same way, except instead of finding neat little licks and vocal outbursts, I find a rhythm portion of a beat, or a singular drum hit sometimes, to splice in and scratch with. Using a single SNARE hit to blast over my base record regularly is VERY challenging, but very fun to try.
As pathetic as it is, after that, I kind of fell apart. I just couldn’t get anything going for myself. Nothing would match. For a while I just randomly scratched over some other Hip-Hop Instrumentals, but that gets old QUICK. With that I called it a day. But damn that is fun. I could probably do it for hours, and have. And you know what? Coming from someone who plays guitar (for a while now), drums, bass, and a little bit of piano, it takes just as much talent as any of these other instruments. Especially drums. The obvious comparison comes in rhythmic ability, but there is more than that. It also requires, like guitar, a keenness for adding color to songs and beats with no amount of other music. Turntablism, and those who are really good at it, deserves more credit that it gets.