When did you start with turntablism?
DJ Damented: Well, there’s a bit of an age difference within The Mixfitz, so if we go one by one: Cross is the youngest, and he picked up turntablism around 2000. Jack started deejaying a few years earlier, but really took to turntablism in 2001 after going to the National ITF battle as a spectator. I’m by far the oldest, I’d been deejaying for about 4 years when I entered my first battle way back in 1998.
Are you still active? Do you make a living off of it?
DJ Jack: More than ever: we’re halfway into a very nice festival summer, and during the rest of the year, we hardly have any weekends off. But that’s more a question of rocking parties than actually doing turntablism shows. But we all still have day jobs though. Always good to have something to fall back on.
What kept you excited all those years?
DJ Damented: To be honest, the moment that brought life back into the battle scene to me, was when digital vinyl systems were allowed. A lot of people claim that this killed turntablism, but I beg to differ; we all come from the vinyl era, having entered in numerous battles when there was nothing but vinyl. From a musical standpoint, there’s only so much you can do with a piece of regular vinyl. Being able to compose or rearrange music and then instantly cut it up, opens up so many new horizons.
DJ Cross: For a few years, we cut our own dubplates to enter competitions, but for team routines, that would take just too much time, effort and money.
What’s your most favorite routine?
DJ Damented: That’s too hard to pick. Always loved what The Allies did together, but then when Craze & A-Trak went in as a duo, they took it to an even higher level. Or The Beat Junkies’ ITF routines, wow. I’ve always loved »Klamz Uv Deth« by The Invisibl Skratch Piklz too, although that’s not a ‘routine’, strictly speaking.
DJ Cross: I would say Craze and A-Trak. They’re my two favorite battle DJs of all time, and those two together were just awesome. Also the Lordz of Fitness blew my mind with their next level electronic sound and super skills.
DJ Jack: It’s hard to say who had the best team routine because there were so many great teams but these are my favourites: Lordz of Fitness, The Allies, Beat Junkies, C2C.
When developing a new routine, where do you start?
DJ Damented: The funny thing is, the set we put together for DMC 2012 – which got us the world title – was our first ever true team routine. It was the first time we actually entered a battle as The Mixfitz. So we had instant success, and only a few months after the 2012 world championships, we began selecting the tracks we definitely wanted to use for the 2013 set. Because that’s definitely our thing: using existing pieces of music, not custom made audio. We have a kind of old school approach to turntablism in that.
DJ Jack: When you have a good idea of which tracks you want to use, the routine kind of develops itself: some tracks just tell you where to go.
DJ Cross: For the 2013 set, I guess we just had a few wild ideas about music genres or techniques we wanted to incorporate, but other than that, building the routine is just working hard and having fun while doing it. That’s what’s great about battling in team: it’s not just you stuck in your bedroom with your laptop and your headphones on. We always enjoy getting together to practice.
Is there a different approach when doing team routines?
DJ Jack: Damented is the most musical of us, he puts the structure in our sets. Cross is definitely the most technical, and I take care of the snacks and drinks during our practice sessions.
DJ Damented: To me, Cross is by far the most technical and well-rounded of the three, this kid’s got the fresh stuff. Jack is more old school in his cuts and juggles, just like me. We can get down on the cut, but as soon as it takes any hyper technical scratching, we let Cross do the honors. I’ve always been more of a beat juggler, and I enjoy composing routines more than anything. Jack is the glue that holds it together. With more than snacks and drinks, haha.
DJ Cross: Damented got the juicy brains that I like to harvest as much as I can. Jack is the machine who keeps on chirp flaring and juggling under every condition. And let’s not forget his ‘people skills’ that took us where we are today. And me, well… I get money and girls. Haha!
What’s your basic philosophy on turntablism?
DJ Damented: I think the basic idea behind everything we do is that infamous quote by Babu (if I’m correct), that a turntablist is someone who uses the turntable as an instrument, simple and plain. I know it’s become old fashioned over the years, but still, that’s what we aim for: to manipulate any type of sound and / or music with our hands.
DJ Cross: The beauty of a turntable is that you can jump from instrument to instrument in an instant: one second you’re playing a piano solo, the next you’re providing a drum groove, and then you’re cutting up an acapella, all without effort. It just takes good planning and preparation.
How do you prepare for battles? And how do you feel when doing a battle?
DJ Jack: For the 2012 DMC, we started practicing in april. For the 2013 battle, we went in even sooner. We definitely wanted to show the world we’re not a fluke, and that we can hold on to this title as well as Kireek or C2C did before us. [The Mixfitz went 2nd in the 2013 finals]
Do you remember your first DJ battle?
DJ Damented: For me, that was the Belgian DMC battle in 1998, in Charleroi. It was the first time I put my skills to the test, and I came in 4th. Back in those days, it was DJs like Grazzhoppa, Daddy K and Joss who were running the show. But when me and my Killa Tactics team mates came onto the scene, we definitely gave them a run for their money. And the following years, we kind of took over, haha.
DJ Jack: My first battle was »Hit The Decks« in 2001, organized by Killa Tactics. I made it to the quarter finals.
DJ Cross: It was a competition called »Area 51« in 2004. I was nervous as hell but I did win that day. It made me extra hungry to win more competitions. So I did, haha.
What’s the main challenge in a team battle compared to a solo battle?
DJ Damented: I’d say the challenge is to compose a routine that never sounds too full, but just full enough.
DJ Cross: It’s a matter of layering (in our case) the output of three DJs at once, and making sure it sounds natural, powerful, funky, and not too hyped.
DJ Jack: It takes hours and hours of editing audio files before a routine is properly arranged, and then more hours and hours of mixing the files to get the levels right.
DJ Damented: And of course, then comes the time to practice the set a thousand times over, until everyone has got it down. So the biggest challenge would probably be ‘time’. A solo battle is much easier to prepare for in that aspect.
What made your team DMC World Team Champion?
DJ Cross: Scoring 26 out of a 30 points from the judges, obviously.
DJ Jack: Probably the fact that we spent over 6 months working on the set, and then executing it almost flawlessly.
DJ Damented: In a lot of people’s opinions, we also brought back a little of that old school team battle flavor, with more regular beat juggling and by not using too much custom made audio. We basically flipped tracks from The Meters, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Black Sheep, edIT and The Prodigy. Shouts to Syndaesia on that last one!
How has turntablism evolved over the years?
DJ Damented: Turntablism in itself has sadly not evolved much, but the technology around it has. With digital vinyl systems having become the standard, everyone’s gravitating toward incorporating lots of MIDI controllers into their sets, and even leaving out the good old Technics. We tend to keep the button pushing to a minimum, although we definitely make it part of our sets.
DJ Cross: I think scratching has evolved. It’s become a very scientific and mathematical thing, where DJs break down every possible fader or hand move and look for new combos. The level of some guys’ scratches is insane, but they’re probably not even capable of rocking dancefloors, or mixing records, for that matter.
DJ Jack: Due to digital DJing systems and the rise of CDJs, it seems like everyone and their mom are DJs now, and sadly enough, I think it has taken away interest from turntables and specifically turntablism; the kids of today are hardly interested in watching a DJ perform a juggle or scratch in a set. The love has definitely gone a little.
Digital or vinyl? What’s your weapon of choice and why?
DJ Damented: Both, all the way. Digital, because carrying around crates for 10 years has done enough damage to our backs. But mainly because it allows you to play any kind of music at any time. It’s not a matter of packing the right records for a gig anymore. It just allows you to broaden the range of music you play, before it would be impossible to buy records in all genres, so we were forced to stick to one or two genres. Vinyl, because nothing about CD players feels right.
DJ Jack: There’s definitely a difference between real and digital vinyl, but it’s only apparent when you’re trying very subtle / complex scratches I think.
Your top 3 turntablism records?
DJ Damented: Definitely D-Styles’ »Phantazmagorea« in first place. It’s a proper album, not a scratch tool, but to me that’s about as raw as you can get with nothing but turntables. Then when it comes to scratch records, I’d say »Superduckbreaks« by The Turntablist aka DJ Babu, and in third place, our very own »Black Gold«, a tool for both scratch DJs and digital DJs, which we released to celebrate our 5 year anniversary and our world title. Check that out!
DJ Cross: Our own of course! »Black Gold« is in my vision the most handy scratch tool. Skipless scratch sounds on one side and timecode on the other. Very handy to play and scratch at parties. Second place would be QBert’s »Super Seal« together with »Hee Haw Breaks« by DJ Flare. Just because I spent half of my adolescent years rocking them.
DJ Jack: My favourite scratch records are »A Million Dollar Black Jack Breaks« by Melo D, I used it a lot for scratch routines in DJ battles back in the day. Killa Tactics’ »Belt Drive Breaks«, dope for routines and beat juggling! I think I used about 8 copies.. And indeed our »Black Gold«!