Introduce yourself; crews, affiliations etc.
Skratch Bastid – Canadian DJ/Producer – 1200 Hobos – Repping Halifax and Montreal – Producer of Buck 65’s “Situation” LP
What is the deal with the 1200 Hobos? Is it an active crew who is currently reppin and how did you get involved?
1200 Hobos is more like “Friends of Mr. Dibbs” now. We’ve been meaning to put together an album for years, but nothing has manifested because we all keep working on different projects. I got involved when I went down to Scribble Jam and Mr. Dibbs saw my “Centaur” routine, where I beat juggle the beat into the melody of the imperial death march. I guess Dibbs is a really big Star Wars fan and it bugged him out. Plus, Buck and Sixtoo were already down with the crew and so there was a bit of a Halifax connection.
You won your third Scribble Jam Battle last August. Do you feel vindicated from your controversial loss the year before? Which year was your favourite win and why?
For sure. I think I’m done with it now. I didn’t want to leave it losing, so last year was definitely a good win. But I’d have to say that the year that DJ Brace and I battled it out was my favorite win because it was such a close battle, and one that carried over from Canadian DMC finals. I’m pretty a competitive person, so to take a title after he beat me @ the Canadian DMC finals felt like payback. I respect Brace a lot too.
It’s 2008 and you are cold rockin the hybrid record Serato set up? What are your thoughts on the whole Serato thing and what has it meant for you as a DJ?
At first, I was against it because I’ve invested a not-so-small fortune into my record collection and I’m proud of it. As a Hip Hop DJ, before Serato, records were the be-all-end-all and I took collecting pretty seriously. The hunt. I can’t even put a number on the amount of time I’ve invested into ‘digging’. But as record companies slowed the production of vinyl due to the ease, and side effects, of digital distribution and what those two factors meant to me as a professional DJ, I couldn’t really fight it. If someone requests something at a show and it hasn’t been pressed to vinyl, what do you do? And if you’re not in control of pressing the record, which you rarely are, you’re at the mercy of record labels and indy artists who have already shrinking promotional budgets. So, it’s kind of a ‘get with the times’ type scenario. It has many upsides, too. Playing live with MCs and groups, you have unlimited options as to what you can scratch and what beats you can mix in. You carry around much less, and that means you can take your hipster shoe game to another dimension when you travel (right…). I miss the record-only culture because it was honestly a lifestyle. On the road, you can only bring 2 crates of records. What are you going to bring? What are the 200 best records you own? That’s cooler than bringing 200 gigs of music around, in a sense. One thing I always loved in hip-hop was working within limitations. It feels a bit less like that now. I’m rambling. Catch me in person and we’ll chop it up.
What is the deal with you being coined Jazzy Jeff’s favourite DJ?
That was something that he said to a Toronto promoter once and it’s spiraled madly out of control to the point now where its kind of an inside joke. But there was a stretch of 2 years where I played 4 shows with Jazzy Jeff and he was always giving me daps, so I believe it. It’s just more of a promotional spin the promoter was trying to put on bringing me out there and then a Vancouver promoter did it and now we just laugh at it.
How would you feel if I said D-Styles cuts on “Smegma in D Minor” are the greatest cuts of all time on a rap song?
I’d be in complete compliance. Then I would say DJ Aladdin’s cuts on “Aladdin’s On a Rampage” are a close second.
You honed your skills as a battle DJ and are indisputably one of the best party rockers in the world, how did you make the transition from the tables to the production boards?
I grew up looking up to producer/DJs like Gordski, Sixtoo, Moves and Buck 65, so it was something I always dabbled in. Performing as a DJ has always been my main thing, but on the low I was always making beats. I don’t think I’ll ever not be doing both and they both creatively feed off of one another.
How did the Team up with Pip Skid and John Smith on the “Taking Care of Business album” come about?
Pip was living in Halifax and he called my house one day and my mother took a message saying that some weird sounding guy called and left his number and wanted to talk about music. I had no idea who it was. It was a long distance number and when I called, the guy on the other end of the phone sounded scruffy and he wanted me to scratch on his album. Why not? We’ve been “Friends 4 Ever” (terrible joke). Then I heard John Smith rap and I wanted to work with him. So they both gave me verses for my “Blazin'” mixtape and I had such a productive time recording with them that I wanted to do a project. I flew them out to Halifax, along with Sleep (from Portland, Oregon), and we recorded the vocals in two and a half weeks. The cuts and post-production took me about six months to put together and about three more months to get mastered and pressed. It was my first full-length album and a great experience. There’s been talks of a “T.C.O.B.2”…
What was your favourite memory from making that album?
Probably the late nights nearly falling asleep, recording-until-you’re-the-last-man-standing sessions in Halifax. Oh, and New Brunswick. We ended up doing a show in Fredericton, New Brunswick one weekend, near the end of our recording time. We had plenty left to record, so after the show, we decided we’d pull an all-nighter and drive 4 hours back to Hali. We stopped at the gas station for some refueling and food, but I think food was the only thing on my mind. About 15 minutes after leaving the gas station, with the tape deck fully cranked bumping an Electric Circus Old School cassette, I realized that I forgot to fuel the Dope-ass Topaz. Ten minutes later, we saw a sign that said “next station: 70 km”. About 60 km into that stretch, the Topaz puttered to a halt in the middle of nowhere in New Brunswick at 3 AM. I felt like everyone in the car wanted to kill me. Five minutes later a big rig picked me up, drove me to the gas station, waited for me to fuel a canister, hopped back on the highway, did a U-turn on Trans-Canada (a life changing experience) and took me back to the whip in 20 minutes flat. It was a modern day miracle and a testament to maritime hospitality. He also saved me from being roasted alive in the woods over a spit for nourishment from three angry, abandoned rappers
How did that experience compare to working on your album with Buck 65?
Working with Buck was stretched out over three sessions. Demos, first takes and second takes. Recording was done in a studio rather than in my living room. It was a bit more intimidating because I looked up to Buck as a mentor from an early age in the Halifax scene, so cracking the whip as a producer was tougher to overcome mentally than when you’re working with people you met naturally through the “networking” circuit. But the overall timeline was pretty similar: grab a lot of vocals in a short amount of time and sort it out over the next year. As with “T.C.O.B”, I liked doing that because you get into every nook and cranny of a record, and it’s enough time to separate yourself from your initial ideas and feelings and reflect on something rather than not having that time to listen to your project from a distance.
What was it like making the “Situation” record with Buck 65?
It was a long two-year trip that wore on us a bit mentally, but it was definitely the most important project of my career thus far. This started as a small project where buck recorded vocals in my untreated closet, with plans to release a collaborative album independently. As it changed shape and grew to major label level, it had different obstacles, necessary evils of sorts that you have to deal with. Contracts, deadlines, changing release dates, taking out samples, lack of overall control over certain things. But with that comes the benefit of having your album released worldwide and the possibility of your music to reach a lot of new people. I also got the opportunity to visit a real mixing studio (with Roger Swan) to watch the songs get mixed, a process which has already benefited my music production. Then I had the opportunity to have my music mastered by one of the all time greats, Bob Ludwig. Check him out on discogs.com! I’m ecstatic with the way the album came out and I keep hearing good feedback, so it’s an excellent motivator. More beats in ’08.
Do you like rocking the crowd as a DJ or playing with and MC better?
I love them both and couldn’t pick which one supercedes the other. A lot of people downplay DJing for MCs, but if you get creative with it, it’s an energy that you can’t get just from DJing solo. But with DJing solo, you can rock out for 2+ hours and control a party and take it to different eras and levels and that’s a great musical experience.
You have been constantly on the road touring as a DJ and touring with Buck ,what are the challenges associated with being on the road all the time and what are the highlights?
You just have to get used to not having a home. Or at least get used to not having your bedroom every night. You get used to it, but sometimes it can be disorienting. Waking up in one city one night and then the other side of the country/continent the next and so on and so forth. I guess the challenge is to remain motivated and continue to put 100 percent into your shows even if you’re tired or homesick. The highlights, I’d say, are meeting great people from different cities and cultures and seeing your music and musical tastes spread where you travel. It’s always nice to go back to a city and see more people there the next time and to see progress and more interest in your music.
How did you get your name and does you mom call you Skratch Bastid?
Sixtoo gave me my name. I went through a bunch of shitty names and then at one point I just went by “The DJ formerly known as Paul;” or just Paul for short. And the Triple-bypass.com website was poppin’ off and they wanted streaming radio, so I said I’d do a show. when I looked at my time slot, it said “Skratch Bastard” and I was like, ‘who’s that’? Sixtoo responded that I’d always come downtown and learn scratches from them, go home to the burbs for a week, and then come in next week with the scratch down pat. Little Bastard. Then I just flipped it to ‘id’ for rap’s sake. And my mom resented it at first, but she’s down, now. My granny likes it.
What is next on your plate?
Working on a bunch of beats and remixes right now. Mixtape follow-up to “Get Up!” coming in April/May. And then some more MC collaboration. Few ideas, we’ll see where it goes…
Any last words, stories, shout outs, etc?
Shouts out to the ugsmag crew and Toon town for being the dopest underground hip hop city in Canada. Shouts out to rap, in general. Make sure you check out that Buck 65 album, “Situation”, and the “Get Up!” mix CD. And “Cretin Hip-hop VOL.1”, the exclusive Buck tour CD. both mixes available @ www.skratchbastid.com . Here’s the new [download#55#nohits]. Try your own at www.dose.ca/buck65 . Big ups to R. Kelly for all of the inspiration this week, real talk. Shouts out to my Winnipeg crew, too. And can’t forget Montreal: Mike D with the French moustache, Speakerbruiser, the Tiger collective, Maurice and Sarnia. Ping Pong anyone? I’ll see you when I see you. Real talk! “If you say real talk, I probably won’t trust ya” – Andre 3000. And I just got nominated for a Juno for Producer of the Year! Check it out.