Interview by: Martin Bauman
When it comes to hip-hop, the Maritimes really have a wealth of talent. Halifax, in particular, has served as a hip-hop cultural hotbed over the past decade or two. Time after time, the city has produced new artists who grow to new heights under the tutelage of the previous generation. One of the latest examples of this is Bedford, Nova Scotia’s Skratch Bastid. The three-time Scribble Jam champion and Red Bull Thre3style ambassador has cemented his place as one of Canada’s most talented deejays, and also one of its most promising producers: in 2008, Bastid was a Producer of the Year Juno nominee for his work on Buck 65’s Situation. Now based in Toronto, Bastid has been working on Shad’s latest album, Flying Colours, and in the meantime is getting ready to release a collaborative EP with Shad called The Spring Up. The Come Up Show caught up with Skratch Bastid to discuss the upcoming EP, his friendship with DJ Jazzy Jeff, his vinyl collection, and much, much more. Read the full interview below.
TCUS: What first piqued your interest in hip-hop?
Skratch Bastid: It’s kind of hard to say. I used to watch a lot of MuchMusic back in the day; I’d watch everything that was on it, and I ended up liking RapCity a lot. My best friend, who I got into music with, he got into hip-hop through the [whole] West Coast, G-funk era – like, Snoop and Dre, Spice 1 – but then he got Tical by Method Man and that was the first record that I heard that I was like “whoa, this is really cool.” That really got me into hip-hop albums. From there, I went back and got Enter the 36 Chambers – I was a crazy Wu fan – and that’s kind of where the whole hip-hop obsession began with me. But I was always interested in it.
I told Jazzy Jeff, he’s the first person I ever saw on turntables, at the American Music Awards. I remember Sir Mix-A-Lot won ‘Best Rap Single’, but [Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff] performed [at the awards]. I didn’t even know what they were doing at the time, because I was pretty young, but I remember seeing that and being intrigued by it. But it wasn’t until after I really got into hip-hop that I started to take deejaying seriously. [Overall though], I’d say that my hip-hop obsession started with the Wu-Tang Clan.
TCUS: Is it fair to say that without Shaquille O’Neal, there may be no Skratch Bastid?
Skratch Bastid: That’s fair! And you may have read this, my first ever cassette was a cassette single [of] Shaquille O’Neal’s “(I Know I Got) Skillz”. My dad had brought that back from a visit to Toronto. My dad was always into music; he’s the type of guy that would always play music loud on a Saturday afternoon while cleaning the house, or play it loud in the car. You know, he’d be bumping Huey Lewis and the News, or George Harrison, or Bananarama, or Michael Jackson – I used to make him play “Bad”.
[Anyway], I got a Walkman, and the first tape I got was “(I Know I Got) Skillz”. One side was the East Coast mix, and one side was the West Coast mix. [Laughs] I would just listen to the cassette single back and forth, almost for the novelty of a cassette. I don’t think it’s fair to say that without Shaquille O’Neal, there would be no Skratch Bastid, but that was an early exposure to hip-hop; although, I quickly found other things that piqued my interest more.
TCUS: I want to go back to your hometown for just a bit. What can you tell me about Condor Road?
Skratch Bastid: Well, it’s a really short street [laughs]. Yeah, I grew up in Bedford, Nova Scotia. It’s a part of the Halifax Regional Municipality, so it’s basically part of Halifax. There’s two bridges in Halifax that connect Halifax to Dartmouth, and Bedford is the piece that, if you weren’t to take the bridges, you’d have to pass through Bedford to get to Dartmouth. It’s [up] further in the Halifax Harbour, in the Bedford Basin. It’s a small suburb of Halifax that’s about 20 minutes away.
It grew a lot when I was there; we moved out there from Halifax when I was three, and I watched my neighbourhood go from a house surrounded by trees to a full-fledged neighbourhood [laughs]. It was a nice little city, and it had a little record store, Select Sounds, where I used to buy all my records before I discovered other places in town.
TCUS: You mentioned your dad a little bit already, but what can you tell me about the rest of your family upbringing?
Skratch Bastid: I’m the oldest of four kids, which means I had to break a lot of ice. My mom’s from Trinidad, and anyone with Caribbean parents will tell you, they have a funny way of upbringing. I wouldn’t call it struggle [laughs], and it’s not even tough love, but you’ve gotta keep on your game, because you might get licks [laughs]. You might catch a little slap [laughs].
I always loved sports; I was ‘Athlete of the Year’ in grade 7, 8, 9, 10, or whatever. Baseball and basketball were my two main sports. I played badminton, volleyball, track and field, football… I played anything [laughs]. But then music kinda took over in high school. My very first gig out of the house was actually at my high school, at a thing called Rootbeer Fest in the cafeteria of our school.
TCUS: Tell me a little bit about Charles P. Allan High School.
Skratch Bastid: [Well], like I said, Bedford grew a lot as a city when I was growing up in the nineties, and that school was really overcrowded. I think we were about 300 over capacity or something like that, I don’t even know. There was a lot of people at that school. Generally speaking, Bedford is a pretty well off town. While I didn’t get the silver spoon, Bedford was still a pretty nice place to grow up, and I grew up around a lot of friends who had cars and stuff like that, so it was never hard to get a ride. CPA kinda drew from a lot of different places around, so you got to know people from the burbs, the country, and the city. You kinda got to know a little bit of all the different types of people that were around you.
TCUS: Getting back to music, what was your first pair of turntables?
Skratch Bastid: My dad had a Technics 1500 turntable; like I said, he was pretty into music, and actually deejayed himself for fun when he was younger; he would deejay dances and stuff. So he had some 45’s, a lot of disco 45’s, and nothing too deep, but he had enough to rock a little party. But he always played records, and so he had a turntable called the Technics 1500. It was a pretty good turntable, [and] when he was at work, I would try to scratch with that when I first got into deejaying, but I didn’t know what I was doing, and I might have ruined his Kid Creole records [laughs].
Once I got interested, my dad actually had a small RadioShack mixer; it didn’t have a crossfader, but he had one because he liked to make little mixtapes of different compilations. When I got into deejaying, I tried to figure out how the mixer worked, and I found this switch that would turn it on and off, and that mimicked the crossfader. So at the start, I had my dad’s Technics 1500 and a Realistic mixer from RadioShack, and if I’m not mistaken, for my 15th birthday I got a Pioneer PL-2 direct drive turntable. [It] was something we found at an audiophile shop for $100, or something like that. Direct drive [turntables] are always the ones to get, because they don’t have a belt – because the belt flips off. And even the [Pioneer], I had to modify it a bit; I had to put a piece of wood underneath it, because it was on too many springs. That was the first mismatched pair [laughs].
TCUS: As you were coming up in Halifax, how influential were guys like Sixtoo and Jorun Bombay in your development as a deejay?
Skratch Bastid: Hugely influential. Buck 65 was a huge influence on me [as well]. He had a radio show when he was known as DJ Critical called The Bassment, and that was on CKDU, [which is Dalhousie’s radio station]. It was on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. That was well before the Internet; I think I started listening to him in grade 8. He would play all these rare B-Sides, and vinyl-only cuts, and CDs we couldn’t get our hands on. You couldn’t buy them in the mall; you had to order them from distributors. We would just freak out at the stuff that he would play.
Through that, he also started playing some deejay battle stuff; he would play [Invisibl] Skratch Piklz tapes and X-Men tapes, and that influenced me a lot. Me and my best friend, the Cut Cracker – who’s the guy that got me into G-funk and Wu-Tang Clan, and was also my deejay partner when we first started – would listen to [Buck 65’s] show religiously and try to figure out what all the songs were, tape it off the radio, talk about all the songs, and get into Kool Keith, and Company Flow, and all that.
Growing up with that show was super influential, but when I got into my first battle, that’s where I actually met all these people. Buck would play a bit of his own stuff, although he’s a bit shy about it a lot of the time, but he would also play music from The Goods, which was DJ Gordski and Kunga 219, and he would play music by Sixtoo, which was his partner in the Sebutones. I got really into that, and that was kind of like when abstract hip-hop – if you can call it that, like Anticon and everything – [was growing]. So I was really into that stuff when that was out.
I met Jorun at a couple battles. At that point, there was a little bit of tension between Buck and Jorun. I don’t know if it was bad blood or what, but they weren’t really getting along at that point. So I first met Buck and them, but then once I started going to bars, Jorun had a studio above the main bar there called The Khyber. So after The Khyber – this was when I still wasn’t old enough to be in there, but I found a way to get in [laughs] – we’d go up to Jorun’s, and he showed me what a 4-Track was, and what a sampler was.
He had the Skull Snaps record on the wall, and he taught me about breakbeats, and this was all stuff that I didn’t know at the time. I can honestly say that I grew up in a very fertile environment for a young hip-hop deejay, and it was really resourceful to learn a lot about deejaying. I’m forever indebted to those guys, and I give them the utmost props. They’re still my homies to this day.
TCUS: Speaking of some other influential deejays, there’s one picture that I have to ask you about. What was it like being in a room with DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Just Blaze, and Z-Trip?
Skratch Bastid: Well, that whole day was insane. That was a hilarious moment, because when I walked into the room, it was just Premo and Pete Rock talking about their favourite 80’s rock songs, and they were singing “My Sharona”. [Laughs] it was really funny. It was just fun to see them go back and forth, talking about 80’s rock songs that they liked. A lot of people have this notion that hip-hop gods only listen to the purest of boom bap or something, but I think the best hip-hop deejays in the world listen to a really wide variety of music, especially the old school heads.
What a lot of young guys don’t understand is that hip-hop came from rock breaks; it came from disco breaks… hip-hop was not a music that came out of nowhere; it was really a mish-mash of a whole bunch of music, and it was more a deejaying style than anything. It wasn’t a decided genre; it came from a bunch of different genres – and that’s what Jorun taught me, too.
But getting back to walking in on that conversation, it was amazing. That was at the Red Bull Thre3style World Finals 2011 in Vancouver. That day, I saw Prince perform at the Rogers Centre there; he played a two and a half hour show. I rushed out of there to go and judge the Threestyle eliminations that night, where the headliner set was a four turntable set with Pete Rock and Premier. Z-Trip was playing the next night in town, so he was there. Just Blaze had played the night before, and he stuck around. So I watched them play back and forth while Z-Trip and Just Blaze were just freaking out over the tracks, and then after the show, we all went up to the green room area and hung out.
Z-Trip says, “I need to take [a picture] for my kids,” and my friend Andre, who works for Red Bull, [tells me], “you need to get in that picture now.” [Laughs] I said, “okay, cool.” And I know Z really well, so I [asked him if I could hop in], and he was like “yeah, yeah!” I know Premo pretty good too, from playing a bunch of shows over the years. I saw Premo that night, and I [introduced myself as] Skratch Bastid, and he’s like “yeah, I know you. I keep track of all you f-ckos.” [Laughs] Weirdest thing to hear from DJ Premier. I don’t think I’ve ever been called a f-cko before, but whatever Premo wanted to call me, go ahead.
TCUS: Talking about another deejay, how did you and Jazzy Jeff first connect?
Skratch Bastid: Jazzy Jeff and I first played a show in Halifax. We played two shows: one in Halifax and one in Moncton. He came through on tour with the promoter; Ground Level Entertainment had booked him for two shows out there. At that time, I had won a bunch of battles out east, and I was starting to make a name for myself in the clubs, so the promoter put me on the show. I was still nervous as hell, and this was in the all-vinyl days and everything.
But yeah, I was super excited, brought a crate and a half of hip-hop, and was ready to rock. We were opening for him, and I was deejaying with one of my club deejay partners. I had only brought good hip-hop and underground hip-hop, and I wasn’t really too into deejaying club music at the time. My club partner was like the jiggy king. His name is Mark Mirage, and he was a great club deejay. At that gig, we were doing a four turntable set, and he painted me into a corner by playing all this jiggy stuff, and I had nothing to respond with.
I was getting furious, because I was opening for one of the hip-hop deejay gods, and I literally had nothing that I could play that would fit. But I knew I had this one kind of ten minute finisher in my back pocket, so I said, “as long as you give me ten minutes at the end of it, I’ll be cool.” So I let him ride it out, and then he let me finish, just before Jeff went on. I did what’s now one of my famous routines, the M.O.P. “Ante Up” routine. That was [pretty much] the first time I did it and really saw it go nuts. I did that, and I had this Royce da 5’9″ “Boom” juggle… all of my routines, but a club version of my routines, and it blew up.
At one point, Mark came over and said, “man, you’ve gotta slow down. You shouldn’t be doing that in front of the [headliner].” You know, as an opener, you shouldn’t be trying to go so hard. I was pretty young, so I didn’t really understand that concept, but that was one of those career-defining sets for me, and I felt really, really good about it. Jeff went on and rocked the place. I actually didn’t get to meet him that night, but the next night, we played a show.
Sometimes when you play with artists, you don’t get to meet them. Everyone thinks you hang out and smoke blunts and stuff [laughs]. You know, people have busy schedules, so I didn’t get to meet him [the first night], but I knew we were playing the next night. So the next night at sound check, I brought up my DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince Rock The House record, and I said, “Hey Jeff, I’m a huge fan, can you sign my record?” Still, at that point, I hadn’t met him yet, and he was like “yeah, sure!” I gave him a marker and the record, and he signed “To my man Skratch Bastid, keep rockin.” I got it back, and I was like “ohh s—, he knows my name!” I was blown away, because he took the time to figure out who I was.
We played that show, and three years later, we played another show in Toronto, and then it wasn’t until about three or four years ago that we played a Halloween show in Halifax and we had a really good time. We kicked it, and I gave him some mixtapes. You never know [how] a mixtape’s gonna [be received], whether people will listen to it [or not]. He hit me up a few months later and said, “yo, this CD’s one of the best mix CDs that I’ve ever heard.” He started tweeting about it and putting [everybody onto] my mixtapes, and from there, we solidified a relationship. We’ve been judging for Red Bull Thre3style for a few years together. Really, we just like the same music, and that’s my homie right there, man. I’m honoured to say that he’s one of my best friends, for sure.
TCUS: I want to go on in a different direction and talk about your vinyl collection. How extensive is your vinyl collection?
Skratch Bastid: I’ve got a lot of records. I’m running out of space, my girlfriend just gave me the eye [laughs]. I collect deejay-oriented music, I guess I would say. As I was saying earlier, hip-hop comes from all different kinds of music, so you can kind of find it on just about any record. In that sense, genre-wise, I collect almost every genre. I’ve even got Kenny Rogers records with breakbeats. I’ve got rock records, hip-hop records, funk records, disco records, soul records, jazz records of course, reggae records of course, dancehall records… I’m a record junkie, for sure. I’ve always been hooked on that feeling of having a record and looking at all the notes on it, and putting the needle on the record. It’s one of the best feelings in the world to me, and I guess I grew up in that culture.
But I didn’t [fully] grow up in it, because in a sense, I was always going back [in time]. I was born in ’82, so when I was ten years old in ’92, you couldn’t buy records at Sam The Record Man. There were only CDs and cassettes. I was always going back, but in that sense, I was always digging. None of it was super accessible to me, so it was always a challenge – especially living in Nova Scotia. Even getting new hip-hop records was a challenge. There’s a bit of a thrill of the hunt factor for me that’s involved, and as a vinyl collector, that has never died for me. I love it; I still dig every week, and I still have a lot of fun with records.
TCUS: When you’re digging for a record, what do you look for in particular? What catches your eye?
Skratch Bastid: Well, that’s the thing. I think everyone has their own musical trip or journey. It’s like this big puzzle that you’re trying to put together. Every record that you like is positive reinforcement for going in that direction, so if you find a Bill Withers record that you like, you’re like “okay, cool, I love this record. I can’t get enough of Still Bill by Bill Withers.” You turn it over and you see the drummer; you see the drummer is James Gadson. You say “okay, James Gadson. Oh, he played with Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, so I’m gonna check those guys out.” James Gadson was a session drummer, so I’d see his name on other stuff, and that would lead me to other records. And then on those records, I might see that on bass is Wilton Felder. [He] played bass for The Crusaders, so [I start to] look at The Crusaders. Joe Sample is the piano player for The Crusaders, and then you see that Joe Sample played piano on this disco record.
[Laughs] It’s crazy how once you start to look at the liner notes, everything’s kinda connected – especially back then, when you really had to be an expert at your instrument. I mean, there are artists that played on every genre imaginable. A guy like Bernard Purdie, or a guy like Steve Gadd, these guys stretched across all these genres. In a sense, there’s a lot of bleed between those genres, and if you keep your eyes out, familiar names are just gonna keep popping up.
So you’re just kinda looking for a few familiar things. It starts out as something as simple as the cover of records – you know, does this record look like it’s funky – but that doesn’t always tell the story. I mean, some of the best records have no cover, or have bad covers. You just start to get a feel for it. And when you’ve been digging for 15 years, I mean, can you imagine how many records I’ve seen with these eyes? [Laughs] You start to get a feel for what’s out there. Again, it’s not my era, so I’m always just trying to put the pieces together in my head, and that can lead you down a lot of crazy, different paths. I’m still there [laughs].
TCUS: What’s the one record that got you into collecting records?
Skratch Bastid: Well, to go back, I remember finding Still Bill by Bill Withers for $6 at Select Sounds in Bedford. I brought it home, and I thought this record’s amazing! It had a drum break on it, which was huge, because Buck 65 had a song about drum breaks that also really inspired me. I forget exactly what it was called, because it was on his album called Vertex [editor’s note: the song is called “Driftwood”], but the chorus was “so don’t ask what my drums are, ’cause I either won’t tell you, or else I gotta list of phony records to sell you.” So from there, with Buck being an influence, I was always looking for drums.
The Bill Withers record had drums, and it had a bunch of funky cuts on it; it had “Use Me”, “Kissing My Love”, and I could listen to the record front to back. Sometimes when you’re young, you don’t understand older music as well, but that record was a really good gateway for me to understanding older music. Bill Withers has this voice that’s just so natural and welcoming; it sounds like your uncle with a great voice, basically. That was one of those records where I was like “wow, this is a gem,” and I kept [digging] from there.
TCUS: Speaking of significant records for you, what can you tell me about Bobby Womack’s 110th Street?
Skratch Bastid: S—. I mean, that was another record that I got at Select Sounds. I was going there about twice a week, and I was just staying in their new releases bin, because I had been through the whole store by that time – it’s a pretty small store. I remember that [record] was right there. It had the cool Blaxploitation cover, and then I brought it home. This was in the pre file-sharing days, and I put the needle on the record, and I heard “Across 110th Street”, and I just thought this is one of the coolest songs I’ve ever heard.
I immediately put it on cassette, and it became my driving to university anthem [laughs]. We had an ’85 Maxima. My dad’s a real estate agent, and [through his job], he comes across stuff that people leave because they’re moving, and someone left an ’85 Maxima in storage. He got it for like $500 or something; all the brakes were lined with rust and everything, but it had a tape deck with a 6-Band EQ, and that was my first year of university pimp mobile. Every morning, it was Bobby Womack, 110th Street.
TCUS: I want to talk about this upcoming EP with Shad, because it’s coming out really soon. What can you tell me about The Spring Up EP?
Skratch Bastid: Well, The Spring Up EP… kinda just sprung up out of nowhere, if I can just be corny for a second. Shad and I ended up working kind of [just] for fun. I met Shad when I was deejaying for Josh Martinez at a show in London years ago. But then sometime in 2009-10, we linked up and I gave him a few beats. One was the beat for “Give You All I Can”, which was a song that he sat on for a minute, but then when he won the Juno, we decided to fire it out as a Juno fan thank you song. That was a lot of fun to work with him [on].
After that, I said, “we gotta work on some more stuff,” so I sent him a couple beats here and there. He invited me to work on the music for his new album, Flying Colours. But due to the way we recorded the record, and when they wanted to tour, they pushed the record back until [the fall]. But we were really eager to get something out there, so kind of on a whim, Shad had a few days off in Toronto, and we went into my studio and had one day where we knocked out three demos.
One of the demos was “Peace”, which we released, and then two other demos of songs. Combined with “Homie” – which was a song we decided wasn’t going to make the album, just because it didn’t fit the Flying Colours [theme] but it was still a really good record – we circled back and did one more session, and we ended up with five songs – actually six, one that I don’t think is going to make the EP. But we just had a super good session.
I really love working with Shad; I guess it’s a little cocky to say, but if you’ve ever heard him, you know that he’s one of the deepest and heaviest lyrical cats out there. If you don’t think so, you’re just not listening [laughs]. Mixing his records are a real pleasure, because I’ll record him in the booth, and you’ll catch a couple things and be like okay, cool, cool. Then you’ll be working with the track, and working on production, and you’re listening to his lyrics, and on the tenth listen, you’re like holy s—, that’s what he’s saying? And then on the 20th listen, you’re like no way! And then the 30th listen, you’re like holy s—. On the 50th listen, you’re like how am I still finding out new stuff from this sixteen? You know, it’s only sixteen bars. How is there still stuff in there that I didn’t catch on the 49th listen? [Laughs] In that respect, he’s a real pleasure to work with, because I’m a huge rap fan, and he’s incredible.
But also, beyond being technically amazing, he writes from the heart. I think he has some of the most positive and deep lyrics. I think he just checks off all the boxes on the checklist, man. I don’t want this to turn into an ‘I love Shad’ interview, but he’s just the complete package to me. Flow-wise, content-wise, and originality-wise, he’s got it all. We really clicked in the studio, and after the second session, we were like, “damn man, we’ve got five or six songs here, we should just put this out.” So we polished them up a bit, got them mixed and all that, and it’s coming out next week. It’s the spring up to Flying Colours, you know? It’s kind of like the jump-off [laughs].
TCUS: I want to get into your deejaying briefly here. As a deejay, what do you look for when you’re trying to gauge a new crowd when you’re performing?
Skratch Bastid: The funny thing about deejaying is that it’s a lot like sociology. You’ve got to understand where you are, who’s in the crowd, what time of the year it is, where it is, current events… you’ve got to understand what’s really going on right [at that moment]. You’ve got to look around and assess the situation. Over years of deejaying – and I’ve been deejaying 15 years now – you find a couple different situations pop up over and over again. That helps you read it a little bit. You just kind of look at [the situation] and say, “what’s this one like? Oh, this is like that time in 2008 when I was in Montreal after the Alkaholiks show.” You get a feel for the room, and you know how you can be nostalgic about moments? In deejaying, you can really kind of feel that.
I guess when I look at a new situation, I try to kind of relate it to something else, then do something in that vein. If it works positively, you go down that road; if it doesn’t really work that way, you judge the reaction and work from there. Of course, as an artist, you also have your own level of expression where you have something you want to tell the crowd, too. I think there’s always a give and take between what you want to play for the crowd, and what they want to listen to, and I don’t think it should go 100 per cent either way. I don’t think you should exclusively play what they want to hear, and I don’t think you should exclusively play what you want to hear either; there’s gotta be a balance in there, so I try to strike that balance as best as possible.
TCUS: I know you have the Bastid’s BBQ coming up really soon, how did you come up with that idea?
Skratch Bastid: Bastid’s BBQ started in Halifax, really. I had a lot of club gigs in Halifax, and I [thought] these are fun and all, but it’s all kind the same thing. We party from 10:00 to 3:00 in a dark black box, and we drink and dance, and everything’s cool, but there’s only so many different types of energy you can put into that one scenario. I love food, and I love to hang out with my friends, and grilling and all that, [so] I thought, why don’t we try to fuse this with the club a little bit?
We did a little Bastid’s BBQ thing where we did a small barbecue outside this club called the Marquee – which I’m actually playing at the week after this year’s Bastid’s BBQ, it’s reopening in Halifax – we just set up a grill outside and I manned the grill while people started to come. I was serving burgers and dogs, and then the music I played was more summery, fun, upbeat music. It was super fun, and I had aprons and stuff [laughs]. It was just a good vibe, so that became my little side project party.
When I moved to Toronto, I wanted to do one here, and we decided to try the Steam Whistle Brewery, and it was the perfect place for it. So here we are [in] the third year of doing it, and it’s shaping up to be the biggest one yet. I’ve got a great lineup of deejays, and I’m really excited. It’s NXNE weekend, so a lot of people are going to be in town; you never know who might show up. I’ve got a special guest emcee lined up; you can probably figure out who it is by following the trail of crackers [laughs]. But also, I’ve got a bunch of homies in town; Classified’s in town; he’s gonna stop through, and you never know who’s gonna be in town this weekend. Everything’s shaping up great, and I’m super excited for this year’s barbecue.
TCUS: In terms of your career and your life goals, what would you like to do that you still haven’t done yet?
Skratch Bastid: That’s a good one. I would like to, as a producer, get more into recording live instruments. I’m a pretty heavy sample-based producer as it is now, and my chops on the keyboards are pretty [basic]. I mean, I can play notes; I’ve got a good ear, but you know… I’m a deejay, so I do come from the recorded music background, but as a producer, I still feel like that’s a notch that I’d like to have in my belt: getting into recording more live instruments. It’s challenging, because as a deejay, you’re always working with recorded stuff, so I’ve gotten really good at tweaking those sounds, but getting them to sound like that in the first place is a real challenge. So that’s something that I’d love to get into some more: songwriting from the microphone up [laughs], or the amp up. Starting from the bottom… no Drake.
I’m really inspired by the Daptone sound, like, Sharon Jones and the Menahan Street Band, and BADBADNOTGOOD – who played at my barbecue last year. Seeing those guys play, I would love to work with a band like that and just figure out the whole recording process a bit better than I know it now. But that’s the beautiful thing about music: you’re always learning stuff, and everyone has something different to share. I don’t feel inferior [to anyone]. I mean, I worked with Dinuk Wijeratne at the Halifax Jazz Fest last year, and this is a guy who used to be the conductor for Symphony Nova Scotia, and we both had stuff to learn from each other. Obviously, he’s miles ahead of me in music theory, but the way that I play my music is also miles ahead of him in that discipline [laughs]. It’s an odd discipline, and it’s a bastardized discipline – pun intended, quote me on that one [laughs] – but it’s definitely valid. It’s street music, and it’s art.
In that regard, we’re always learning, and like I said earlier, everyone’s on their own musical trip. It’s like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’, you never know where the next experience is going to take you, so in that regard, I’m really open to trying new things and experimenting in music. That being said, that’s [one] goal, but I have many more goals as well. Doing music is just the gift that keeps on giving.
TCUS: One final question for you: if you could offer up-and-coming deejays one piece of advice, what would it be?
Skratch Bastid: Always practise, practise, practise. Just feed that obsession, man. Dedicate time and hours to finding stuff. Dig, dig, dig. Don’t just deal with what’s hot right now, because everything goes in cycles. Look who’s come before you, and respect that, but also respect that you have a fresh perspective on things, and offer that to the table. More than anything, hard work and dedication will always come out on top.