Author – DJ Vekked
DJ Chile Interview + New Scratch EP
DJ Chile is one of the sickest scratchers of the current generation. In 2011 he won the WTK World Championships online scratch battle, and he is the current IDA UK scratch category champion. But his contributions to the scene go way beyond winning battles and being a beast on the cut. He has contributed some of the most interesting and in depth scratch theory of recent years with his studies of cross rhythms and phasing, some of which you can find on his website and youtube channels. Check him out here:
Homepage – http://www.dj-chile.com
Youtube – http://www.youtube.com/chilean1
Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/chile
Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/dj.chile1
Even more recently he dropped his first scratch EP, “Circular Causality”. Check it out here (and buy it if you wanna support scratch music):
I hit up Chile to talk to him a bit about his new EP and other scratchy endeavours.
First, how did you get your DJ name?
Chile has been my nickname since I was about 7 years old. I guess it started when I would talk to my classmates in primary school about my family coming from the country Chile and the name just stuck ever since.
How long have you been scratching and how did you start?
I started around April/May of 2002, so that’s about 11+ years now with a 2 year gap because of hand injury. I guess right when I started out, my biggest influences were DJ Hype and DJ Craze. I used to be heavily into Drum and Bass, so those guys introduced me to what scratching was.. There was a Craze and Marky live on BBC Drum and Bass mix that I must have listened to a few hundred times that really gave me the itch for getting into it myself.
How much do you practice? How do you normally structure your practice?
I used to have ridiculous practice hours, like anywhere from 8 to 14 hours daily. That was back when I was starting off and was obsessed. 3 years of that gave me tendinitis in the index and middle fingers of my fader hand, so I had to learn to reduce my hours after that. Over the years I’ve learned to practice less, but maximize that practice time. When my hands are feeling good I cut 2-4 days a week for a couple of hours at a time.
In terms of practice structure I usually just go with my instincts.. If I feel like I’m repeating myself too much I switch to things I’m not solid with. These days I incorporate a lot of heuristics (rules of thumb) into my practicing, which I find really helps to keep a steady progression going. I also have notation sheets with phase shift patterns up on my wall near the decks for when I feel motivated enough to practice voicing those variations into my free styling. Generally I try to keep all of my practice musical.. Seems like an obvious thing to say, but I think we can get easily lost in combos and forget that the purpose for learning these things is to say something musically.
What’s the story with the gloves in your scratch videos?
They’re IMAK arthritis gloves.. They work by increasing the blood flow through compression, while insulating the hands. I don’t have arthritis, but it’s one of many things I use to try to keep my hands in good shape. I wear them on most days even when I’m not scratching.
Any favourite scratches/go to combo’s?
I try to avoid go to combos and instead aim to develop all of my basics to try to keep a balance in what I’m doing. I used to be too much into particular combos and I find it can show up in your freestyling too much.. Sort of like musical Tourrettes syndrome. Having said that though, there are certain Chirp, Transform and Crescent Flare combos I rely on more than lots of my other scratches.
Who are your biggest inspirations in scratching?
Too many.. Off the top of my head – D-styles, Toadstyle, the Ruck, Mista Ed, Shortkut, Flare, Dee Swift, Qbert, Tobeyer, H.O.P., M-tech, Tigerstyle, Muzzell, IQ, Deska, Manipulate, Blam, Plato.
What’s your philosophy for solo scratching? What makes good or bad solo scratching?
If I were to pin anything down to a philosophy, I guess I’d stress the importance of a balanced approach. As far as I can tell, the best solo cutters can counterbalance what they choose to do in the moment with the larger structure that’s being formed over time. It’s an awareness of the detail (individual combos, sound), without losing focus of the bigger picture (structure, sections, continuity). Less developed scratchers tend to sway too much one way or the other.. If you’re too focused on one or two combos you can end up overly repeating yourself, and if you’re too focused on the bigger picture, your cuts can sound well ordered but bland.
Were there any “a-ha!” moments that changed the way you scratched and think about scratching?
Cross rhythm techniques and phase shifting have been the most major discoveries for me in the past few years.. They allow you to create multitudes of concise variations built onto what you already know. It’s much more difficult to stagnate when you understand these approaches well, because they open all combos up to such a large degree.. For example, the traditional approach to learning a scratch would be to learn it forwards then reverse, but with phase shifting we learn combos in degrees of phase, and depending on how many sounds there are in the scratch we can create many more variations than just the two forward and reverse patterns. Cross rhythm techniques are just as open ended and allow for new phrasing possibilities that transcend 4/4 rhythm.
How do you get in the zone to do your best scratching?
I think its a cumulative process that we don’t have full control over. I guess the control we do have comes from the slight alterations of our internal psychology over time. I’d say it’s a bit more to do with confidence issues and trusting yourself than how much technique you have, because there are lots of people who have heaps of technique but have trouble getting into that state.
I think most of the time when someones in the zone, they’re not too caught up in their heads thinking a lot of junk about what they need to do or whether what they just did was ok or not.. Instead there’s something like an extreme one pointed focus on what they’re doing coupled with a positive feeling that comes from an absence of self doubt. Sometimes its easy to tap into that, and other times near impossible.. I’m not sure we can force that to occur, but I would say that it gets easier with experience. Part of that experience I think involves developing emotional self regulation.. I would say for sure that certain habits of mind like excessive doubt and self resentment about your ability can block you completely out of that zone. That sort of thinking just clogs up your internal resources in a similar way to if you had 10 programs instead of just 1 running on on your computer.
How do you get out of a rut?
I think having an awareness of what you can currently do, and feeling out the gaps in whats left to work on really helps with staying out of ruts. For me, a rut is a symptom of staying in your comfort zone for too long and not taking the effort to explore new things. If you take something like my Royal line combo (on my youtube channel).. That scratch has 16 sounds per repeat.. Now if I really got into a rut, I could work on phase variations for that scratch and that would keep me occupied for a few months because any scratch with 16 sounds per repeat has 15 further phase variations. This is where notation comes in handy, because with an excessive amount of stuff to work on its easy to overlook things and revert back to your comfort zone.
When you’re doing a scratch battle video online, do you approach it differently than when you’re normally cutting?
Yeah it’s totally different to normal freestyling for me. For a competition I try to compact my best into the time limit in as fluid and and clean a way as possible.. I usually spend a few weeks trying to learn new scratches to the point where I don’t have to think about them anymore, and then I’ll use the last 3-5 days to try record a take that best represents what I’m capable of at that time. It can be a grueling process and not something I would like to do often whereas freestyling is much more fun and free of expectations.
Whats your musical background?
I started beatboxing when I was young, I guess that’s where I got my sense of rhythm from originally. My beatboxing isn’t anything special as I use a limited mouth technique that I’m kinda stuck on.. It’s not a loud sound and has been described as like insects communicating by some friends.
I also started piano lessons when I was 11, but gave up on it after my first grade, as it seemed too much work at the time. I started piano again about 7 years ago and really enjoy it now. This year I also joined an African drum group and have been learning to play ken ken and djembe.
Has playing other instruments helped to develop your scratching?
Piano has helped to inform a lot of what I do with scratching. For example, I would say phase shifting and cross rhythms are much easier to demonstrate and understand through the piano than through scratching alone. Lots of skills learned on one instrument seem to be transferable. If you take someone like Dee Swift as a prime example .. He started learning bass, guitar and drums in his early teens and then picked up scratching much later on in life when he was around 27 or so. Within about 4-5 years of scratching he had achieved a level of playing advanced enough for people on message boards to think he was Qbert under an alias. It’s a similar story with Rafik, who has a background in drumming and was able to win world titles with only a few years or so of experience in turntablism.
Can you tell us briefly about your cross rhythms, polyrhythms, phasing? Where can people find out more about that?
Well aside from what I’ve already mentioned, I have youtube tutorial videos that go into phase patterns, and TTM animated tutorial videos. At the moment I’m working on finishing up my ebook that accompanies the tutorial videos I have up already, which goes much more into the mechanics of how to create your own cross rhythm and phase combos.
What’s the story behind your EP?
There’s no major story behind it other than it just seemed like the next step up from what I had been putting up onto soundcloud. I realized that just uploading small freestyles and the odd half finished track or loop wasn’t going to help me creatively or financially long term, so I took a bit of time over summer to really work on something I could eventually release. The EP as a whole tries to merge things I’m interested in outside of scratching with scratching itself.. So there’s references to Eastern philosophy and the title is borrowed from psychology.
Where does the name “Circular Causality” come from?
With traditional cause and effect, a cause creates an effect.. So one cause might be that I put my keys somewhere I wouldn’t usually and the effect was that I couldn’t find them later.. With circular causality things become less clear and the effect can also become a cause and perpetuate a situation.. An easy example I guess would be ‘I can’t get a job (effect) because I don’t have experience (cause) because I can’t get a job (effect) because I don’t have experience (cause) etc.. Sort of like a circular trap.
I think it also happens a lot in social situations, where we want to pinpoint a singular cause to blame, when often the cause and effects are shared between people involved.. Like in an argument between two people, it doesn’t matter so much that someone said shit to you first, because after you react back with an insult you’re creating another cause to enter into the argument. It’s like an unspoken negotiation between people involved to create the conditions for an argument.. This stuff fascinates me, so it found a way into the music.
Were there any challenges making it?
The whole process of track creation and laying the cuts down took about a month and a half. I actually made 5 tracks, but I didn’t think they fit into things thematically, so they weren’t included in the final version. Everything progressed pretty quickly up until it came to the mastering process, but I was lucky enough to meet a mastering engineer recently who took care of that side of things for me.
What scratch-related stuff can we expect to see from you in the future?
First I want to finish up the cross rhythm ebook I’ve held back for a while and then I’d like to work on an album next year where I can push myself further in both production and scratching. There might be some collaborations projects in the works too. I think I’m done with battling for now though.. I don’t really enjoy it so much these days and I have some issues with the main organizations caring more about themselves than the DJs that enter.
What do you see in the future for scratching? What would you like to see ideally?
I’m certain that scratching will evolve much further than it has currently. I have a lot of respect for the newer scratchers coming up too (not that I’m insanely old in this hah) and the skills they have acquired in such a small space of time.. It seems like there’s an underground revival going on currently where a lot of newer scratchers are genuinely as serious about pushing what they do as many of the originators were and still are. I think it helps that there’s still a lot of love for the art form and I feel privileged to be a part of such a community.
Any advice for up and coming scratchers who want to be the next Chile?
I guess just keep going.. Lots of people give up along the way for one reason or another and it’s a shame when that happens because scratching isn’t some huge thing. For that reason I think it’s important to retain your interest in what you do.. In Zen Buddhism, ‘shoshin’ or beginner’s mind is an attitude of openess, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying something, even at an advanced level, just as a beginner would. If you keep that passion going and put in the practice you’ll go from strength to strength.
Any last words/shout outs?
Shout outs to the scratch forum communities Digital Vertigo, Turntablist World & Skratch Lounge for building and maintaining a place on the web for scratchers to interact and learn from each other. Also shout outs to Community scratch crew for holding arguably the best turntablist events in Europe.