MacDirectory Magazine

Winter-Spring 2008 (#36)

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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162 MacDirectory INTERVIEW Creating music has driven Joseph Saddler, a.k.a. DJ Grandmaster Flash, his entire life, specifically by his unique choice of instrument—the turntable. Grandmaster Flash believes making music is part science—part art, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame agrees, inducting him in 2007 along with Patti Smith and Van Halen. His FlashMash Show rocks Saturday nights on Sirius Radio, and a new album, The Bridge, is due out this June, as well as his autobiography, My Life, My Beats. Describing himself as "geeky cool," DJ Grandmaster Flash measures up to his name, living as seamlessly as he enjoys playing vinyl records. MacDirectory > What influenced you to create music as a DJ? Grandmaster Flash > I'd go to block parties and notice how the DJ never had a seamless segue between records. DJs then always used the turntable for its intended use, picking up the tonearm and, oh, so gently, placing it on the vinyl. No one would ever dare touch the actual body of the vinyl—the grooves. Then I noticed the disarray — always this bump between records. You'd see hundreds of people dancing and then disarray as dancers looked for the beat. When my friends wanted to leave those parties and go find girls or hang in the park, I'd say, "Go ahead, I'll catch up." I never made it to the park. I had to watch the DJ. I knew there had to be a way to connect all these sounds — the pop, the rock, the blues, funk, and even some disco. MD > Did you always want to be a DJ since you were a child? GF > My father collected records — a lot of jazz. I'd get my ass kicked because there were two house rules: Don't go in the closet where Dad keeps his records and stay away from the stereo. It was one of those wood consoles and when you turned on the stereo there was this little red light. That red light got me in more trouble. After taking records I wasn't supposed to touch, and then dragging a chair over to the console to reach the knobs, I'd play those records on the stereo that I wasn't supposed to be near. MD > What equipment did you use in the beginning of your career? GF > I couldn't afford the fancy equipment that DJs used. I took wiring from abandoned cars, old speakers and radios and then drag this stuff home to jerry-rig a set-up. I had this thing with electrical items. I'd see those two little slim things that you plug into a wall and I'd ask "Why?" "Why" things worked was huge for me in my early years—opening up backs of objects and seeing these pretty little wires that connected with other pretty wires and things. Later I found out they were capacitors and resistors, dividers and transformers. MD > Can you explain your Quick-Mix method, or "cutting"? GF > I had this idea in my head of how I could play music seamlessly. When a drummer had a solo, say it lasted ten seconds. That would piss me off. That was the best part of the record. I had to find a way to make it flow, so I'd go from Led Zeppelin to Michael Jackson to Sly and the Family Stone, to James Brown and Aretha Franklin, one behind the other choosing the best sections of a song—cutting. I discovered that if I moved the disc back and forth or spin it in a bi-directional motion and then mark the record where the break began and ended, I'd be able to get back to the point I wanted. This, while moving the fader from left to right. I would brake and clutch the vinyl for absolute control and the only physical way I could do that was to put my hands on the record, which just wasn't done. I ran to my DJ friends and said, "I've got something here. You guys gotta watch me." They were shocked and asked, "How'd you do that?" Many said, "No, you can't do that. You'll ruin the records." I broke the rules. Before I even had a paid gig, DJs would come to the park at 137th and Seventh Avenue, those block parties, and I'd play the most exciting part of a record—no intro or outro—just the meat of the sandwich, back to back to back to back, and get the whole park into a frenzy. I cried because most of the DJs questioned what I was doing. Many ridiculed me for making "awful sounds" and called me an "idiot" and now it's the way to play. MD> With all that early negativity from your peers, what inspired you to keep playing music this way? GF > I decided to talk and do what I did at the same time. I'd put a microphone on the other side of the table and anyone who could talk complimentary about this new way of mixing, I'd put them on my team. This guy by the name DJ GRANDMASTER FLASH> QUICK MIXIN' SCIENCE + MUSIC INTERVIEW BY ALISON ASHLEY FORMENTO > IMAGE BY LUCIANO MELLO

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