Scratch Lab DJ Crew, Beat Bangaz talk music, DJ & Training
The Scratch Lab DJ Training facility is run by three established and season professional DJs from Cape Town collectively known as Beat Bangaz.
DJ Ready D is a 4 times South African DMC Championship winner, founder of the legendary 90’s Prophets of The City rap group and Radio Good Hope Presenter/DJ.
DJ Azuhl is EJ Von Lyrik’s official DJ, a member of pioneering rap outfit Brasse Vannie Kaap and head instructor at the Scratch Lab DJ Training Facility.
DJ E-20 is a founding member of Brasse Vannie Kaap and also toured with Prophets of The City in the 90’s.
As the DJ collective known as Beat Bangaz they also founded the Scratch Lab DJ Training Facility which resides at SAE Institute Cape Town at the Woodstock Exchange.
They do two very important things at SAE Cape Town; firstly they host regular FREE workshops on Saturdays to show off new gear and DJing techniques and secondly they host a 8 week short course called the Pro Performance DJ Course. This 8 week course covers every aspect of DJing in the modern era from learning the basics to using all the modern day equipment, both analog and digital as well as through instruction on the business aspects of DJing.
In short you’ll be prepared and skilled to pursue a career as a DJ once successfully completing the course at SAE.
If that doesn’t keep them busy enough the Beat Bangaz also launched a MOBI DJ training site last year. On this site you can watch mobile-optimised videos teaching various scratching techniques for DJs.
Needless to say we had lots to talk about with these living legends who keep on pushing, working, hustling and giving back to the DJ community…
Tell us a bit about Beat Bangaz as a DJ collective. I know you’re all established DJs/producers in your own right. What was the initial plan in forming a collective?
Scratch Lab DJ: The philosophy behind forming the crew was to make a statement against gang violence on The Cape Flats seeing that we are from those communities – instead of gang banging – we bang beats hence the name – Cape Flatz Beat Bangaz – From a music perspective- we have our individual tastes and skills. Combining these qualities are the ingredients for a longstanding collective. We also wanted to give the live audience a different visual and audio experience.
You’re all older now and wiser (I think we all get a little wiser with age) – what’s the biggest challenge facing the older generation DJs still trying to make a living in what is a relatively suppressed music industry in South Africa?
Scratch Lab DJ: I think that the older generation DJ’s need to capitalize on their experience and use that to exhibit the value that they bring. It is important to remain in the network pool and be open-minded about the change. Being around for many years doesn’t mean that we can afford to go into cruise mode. We need to be pro active about – business – presentation – client base and how we plug into the scene these days. The awesome thing is that there’s a huge music fan base that still crave the retro sound. This is where the older generation can service this end of the market.
The Scratch Lab DJ Training Facility has had a fantastic impact on developing young DJs in Cape Town. Your home is at SAE Institute at Woodstock Exchange. This seems to have forged into a really good working relationship for both organisations…
Scratch Lab DJ: It’s a blessing to share a space with like minded people that have a common vision when it come to developing minds. The vibe – location and the energy inside SAE provides an awesome working environment. Everything that SAE offers – cross pollinate with what The Scratch Lab does. We have cases of students going from a Scratch Lab course straight into one of SAE’s offerings to further enhance and consolidate their chances in the industry.
Speaking of SAE, you also do the Pro Performance DJ Course at SAE. In fact the next one is starting in March 2016. What can students learn on a professional course like this that they are unlikely to learn from their mates (other DJs)?
Scratch Lab DJ: We focus on multiple aspects of the DJ industry. Students get to interact with highly experienced and skilled tutors. Some of the core elements are dealing with the business of being a DJ. We also invite various industry professionals to provide insight. The Scratch Lab DJ course also cover mixing, scratching and new ways for DJ’s to improve their sets. It’s a multi genre experience that look at ways to develop mixing skills from EDM – Trap – Dubstep and Hip Hop. We also take learners on a journey from the turntables and vinyl – CD decks to controllers.
Turntablism seems to be the go-to art form when tech giants likes Native Instruments, Serato etc want to show of their new gear/software in product videos, but it seems to be a bit of a dying skill – especially here in South Africa. Do you agree with my observation and if so why do you think this is?
Scratch Lab DJ: Various Turntalism techniques are absolutely on the rise. The hardcore Turntablist are not getting the main stream exposure. The cool thing is that DJ’s are now exploiting their social media platforms to exhibit their skills. Cape Town have a strong pool of DJ’s that incorporates Turntablist elements in their sets.
The turntable is at the heart of a turntablist’s armoury – although of course as you guys have demonstrated in videos and on your courses and free workshops one can use CDJs or DJ controllers to scratch too, so it’s clear that you have all embraced technology and the digital age. Do young DJs have it too easy these days with sync buttons and Mp3 downloads compared to the good old analogue days?
Scratch Lab DJ: The convenience factor definitely come into play with the now generation having easy access to the gear and music files. This is something that we can’t be mad about because it works to our advantage too. We strongly believe that it’s not the gear or the amount of music you can download that makes the DJ. It’s the overall understanding of the what it means to be a DJ and how we conduct ourselves in the industry. Whether you choose to use Turntables – CDJs or controllers – It comes down to personal preference. All of this boils down to how you develop as a DJ – (not the fly by night button pusher). We also teach the usefulness of the sync button outside of the scope of it being a convenient beat matching tool. I believe that experiencing the essence and scientific aspects of being a DJ is via Vinyl and Turntables.
When, how and why did you guys decide to launch a MOBI tutorial site?
Scratch Lab DJ: It’s been an idea that we’ve been toying about for a long time. We wanted to share basic techniques and our own interpretations thereof to those who don’t have access to internet but also for interested parties to have the lessons on their phones for life.
So far the four tutorials have focused specifically on scratching techniques. Will the site always be dedicated to scratching or are there plans to showcase other DJ tips?
Scratch Lab DJ: Yes that’s the long term goal. We are starting with the fundamentals of turntablism but we are also featuring guest DJs to showcase their techniques, tips & tricks, etc. DJ technology changes at a rapid pace but fundamentals always stay the same no matter what genre you’re into and that’s what we want to get across. We want this project to evolve organically and hopefully by next year have a DJ community via this platform and online where we can all learn from each other no matter the skill level
Why MOBI? Why not a tutorial site that is also MOBI compliant?
Scratch Lab DJ: Ha-ha…this is actually the prelude to our online school. We don’t want to give a lot away but this will be a game changer when it happens…For now it’s making it accessible to everyone till our internet challenges in South Africa gets sorted out.
The Cape Flats has been synonymous with Hip Hop, turntablism and scratch DJs for over 3 decades now. Are there still battles going on in the ‘hood’ – do the youngsters still want to spend the hours practising these skills or have we lost them to house and trance music with the ease of Dj controllers and sync buttons these days?
Scratch Lab DJ: As far as I know there are still kids and semi professional DJs honing their skills. With the emergence of ‘controllerism’ and the ‘comeback’ of turntablism thanks to a certain competition (something to do with 3 and style [laughs]) coupled with technology there’s infinite possibilities not just in the DJ battle arena and it’s exciting to see kids latching on to this. Nowadays there’s been a bit of a decline in skills based battles on a regular but I’m positive that it will make a huge comeback. Respects to those who still provide this platform.
Technology – I know you guys embrace technology as do I. But it can be a double edged sword. Lowering of skill sets is one negative. I.e. anybody with an iPad can DJ now…
What the best thing about the digital DJ age?
Scratch Lab DJ: Infinite creative possibilities and being able to produce, jam, DJ at the same time.
What’s the biggest negative aspect of the digital DJ age?
Scratch Lab DJ: Not taking full advantage of technology and not trying to break boundaries. Triggering air horns with the latest digital equipment can’t be the be all and end all…
Beat Bangaz on Facebook | Beat Bangaz MOBI Site | Scratch Lab DJ Training Facility