Skratch Bastid Shares DJing Tips Before Red Bull’s Thre3Style Championships @ Union Transfer.
The North American Finals of Red Bull’s Thre3Style competition to find the world’s best DJ is this Thursday, August 11, at Union Transfer. Our Donte Kirby had a chance to chat with one of the world’s premier battle DJs, three-time Scribble Jam champion Skratch Bastid (Paul Murphy) who is one of this year’s Red Bull Thre3Style judges, along with DJ Jazzy Jeff and last year’s champion, DJ Byte. We talked about what it takes to be a battle DJ champion, his best and worst show and the importance of versatility as a DJ.
What does events like the Red Bull Thre3 Style and competitions like it do for the craft of DJing?
Skratch Bastid: I’m a DJ that grew up watching battle videos. So I come from a battle background. What I’ve always loved about battles is that it creates an event for DJs to work towards. It pushes people to be their best. While I do think competition and music can sometimes be a dangerous thing, I think that with Thre3Style we’ve created a healthy environment to showcase their skills of party rocking, being creative and showing what they got as DJs. I think we’re all better from that. It pushes DJs to be better and give the crowd the best show they can have. It’s healthy for DJs to have something to work towards instead of just all working towards their own individual goals.
As a world class DJ who’s won competitions like Scribble Jam repeatedly, what does it take to consistently perform at such a high level?
SB: A lot of practice. Good support around you. Practice is number one, you gotta be working on your craft. If you’re not putting the time in, then you won’t improve. So you gotta put the time in, that’s number one. That time isn’t necessarily always skill. You gotta be studying. Being aware of what’s going on around you in the DJ world, what has gone on in the DJ past and what’s going to happen in the DJ future. Then you gotta figure out where you fit in and how you can contribute. The number one way to do that is focus on it and practice.
One of the key elements of the Thre3Style is that DJs have to play three different genres. As a DJ how important is versatility and how do you incorporate that in your music?
SB: It becomes more and more important as the world becomes more and more connected. With streaming sites like Spotify and Apple Music, music has never been more accessible than it is now. Because it’s so easy to access we’re not limited by distribution as much. People can dabble in whatever taste of music they want. I find we have more casual fans than ever. I should say that listeners have a wider musical pallet than ever. As a DJ it’s up to you to satisfy that. I don’t think that every gig is going to be a multi-genre gig, but I think the average person is more open to hearing different genres of music. I think it’s important to be versatile as a DJ not only to play all different types of stuff in one night but to be able to play many different types of situations. As a DJ I never want to see a room that I can’t play.
How do you take people on a journey through sound when you perform?
SB: As far as building up my career, my name, a lot of it has to do with videos of my routine. People see the videos and want to see me live. What I’ve learned is that you can prepare people for your set by showcasing your skill and getting your talents out there through videos and mixtapes. Then you deliver when they arrive. Even before people get to the party you can start to direct the traffic. More to the point, when I see a crowd I try to read the area. I look at who’s at the party. Then I think to myself, what other parties have I played that are similar to this? What do I see out there? What are the indicators? Do I see a young crowd, an older crowd, do I see a mix, from the country, city, international? And I take all the research that I’ve done through my traveling and studying of DJ culture and I apply it. If I play a party that feels like a situation I’ve felt before I’m like, oh let me try this because it worked at the last one. If it works well, then I go deeper into that. If it doesn’t work so well then I say, maybe I should try something different. That’s why experience and practicing is so important to a DJ. You have to stay in touch with what’s going on in the party environment and in the musical world.
Can you talk about what has been your best show, your worst show and what you learned from both experiences?
SB: Damn. I don’t think there has really been one specific show that’s been the absolute best. I run an event called Bastid’s BBQ. I’m really proud of that event. I’ve been doing it in Toronto for six years now and I’ve had some of my DJ heroes come to play it. Ali Shaheed Muhammed, Jazzy Jeff of course, DJ Just Blaze. What I’ve created with [Bastid’s BBQ] is an environment where I can literally play whatever I want. That to me is better than any show because it’s something that I’ve created. I made it out of my passion for DJing and now it’s become a thing that people want to go and see.
And can you talk about a show that you’ve bombed in and what you learned from that?
SB: I’ve never been thrown of stage, I’m thankful for that. Some gigs go better than you think and some gigs go not as good as you think. If you’re able to learn from the gigs that you don’t do as well as you thought you were, it’s still a win overall. DJing is learning. You can always learn from experience, go home, practice, get new music, come back and rock it harder. In all honesty, I’ve never bombed so hard that I didn’t know what to do.
Do you have any advice for up and coming artist and DJs?
SB: Yeah. Follow what your passionate about musically. Play records you like. Find mentors. Follow DJs that you like and practice.
If you want tickets, find details for the show here.