When did you start with turntablism?
DJ Shiftee: I started in 2000 when I used my Bar Mitzvah money to buy turntables and bought a DMC Champions VHS tape in the shop.
Are you still active? Do you make a living off of it?
DJ Shiftee: Yes & thankfully yes.
What kept you excited all those years?
DJ Shiftee: During the battle years, the DMC World Championship title kept me motivated & pushing myself. It’s the ultimate prize. These days I’m more focused on just developing as an artist & DJ and continually progressing what I do.
What’s your most favorite routine?
DJ Shiftee: For pure turntablism, I really like all of A-Trak’s beat juggles in the 1999 ITF World Championship tape. All of them were just very technical, funky, & innovative. These days, I also dig routines pushing the boundaries of technology alongside turntablism. Craze & Rafik are doing it big here.
When developing a new routine, where do you start?
DJ Shiftee: Sometimes I’ll have a technique idea, that is, ways I want to interact with the equipment. With the Mercy routine, for instance, a lot of that routine stemmed from ideas unrelating to the music, like, “yo, it would be cool to do x AND y AND z.” Other times, I’ll have no ideas and simply mess around with songs until things start sounding interesting. Making a routine is always a process for me. I’m never like, presto, routine! Lots of patterns get cut, the order changes, things get enhanced, etc.
What’s your basic philosophy on turntablism?
DJ Shiftee: My favorite turntablism has: innovation in technique AND next level sound unobtainable.
How do you prepare for battles? And how do you feel when doing a battle?
DJ Shiftee: I practice like crazy, drilling every element of my routine over and over again. When doing a high stakes battle, I usually feel nervous but also confident if I’m well practiced. I try to focus on only the things I can control, not worrying about the sound or the judges etc.
Do you remember your first DJ battle?
DJ Shiftee: I remember going to the battle, I remember going on stage, I remember getting off the stage, but I don’t remember actually performing. I was like a deer in headlights. I think my set started well, but then when I started doing more difficult techniques my body didn’t cooperate. I lost very badly!
Do you remember your DMC battle for championship / supremacy?
DJ Shiftee: Yup, it felt great, but also a little sad. Like I had been aiming for this goal for 10 years. My whole life was about winning DMC. Once I won, it was obviously incredibly satisfying, but also there was an immediate feeling “uh oh, what do I do now!?”
How has turntablism evolved over the years?
DJ Shiftee: The digital side of things has obviously busted things wiiiide open. It’s now so easy to produce custom source material, where as before you had to flip whatever records you could find. The boundary between producer & turntablist is much thinner, just because it’s now so easy to make an edit or new tune and then drop it right in your program.
Digital or vinyl? What’s your weapon of choice and why?
DJ Shiftee: I prefer using digital technology these days because the new possibilities allowed by it are very exciting. I still buy records & spin vinyl sets from time to time, but using Traktor [a DJ Software] is generally more interesting for me. The feeling is slightly different, but it’s largely negligible. Can’t beat that vinyl feel though!
Your top 3 turntablism records?
DJ Shiftee: Scratch / Break Records Records: DJ Flare – Hee Haw Breaks, Vand Vand – Tayrald Break, Mike Boo – Soul Canvas;
Turntablism Albums: QBert – Wave Twisters, Kid Koala – Some Of My Best Friends Are DJs, D-Styles – Phantazmagorea