DJ T.Lo – full-time Turntablist/Dj. I won the Canadian DMC Supremacy in 2007 and Scribble Jam last year.
How do you build a routine?
You kind of have these records that you play with for so long and after a while it all comes together. I don’t think was able to put together decent routines for 8 years into it.
Why did you pick up a turntable instead of a guitar?
Most Asian kids are forced to learn the piano when they’re young and I did the piano for 6 or 7 years. I was just intrigued by scratching and hip hop music and I wanted to be involved. The DJ role stuck with me and I fell in love with the look of two turntables – I saw it instantly as an instrument, I saw the potential in it to manipulate records.
Did you get into beat-making before you got into Djing?
I kinda got into wanting to make my own music, progressing as a Dj…building routines and performing them is cool, but I really wanted to make something of my own. I haven’t been producing for that long. But I definitely wanted to merge the two.
Are you a “technical DJ”?
No, I’m not that technical. For me, what caught my attention about music was really simple…I was in awe for technicality, but for me it was more about the composition that made me. I wouldn’t say I’m the most technical scratcher at all, but I love scratching and I think I have my own take on it.
What’s the process of going into the DMCs?
As a Turntablist there’s only a few avenues where we can shine and do our thing. The number one thing was battling, ‘cause the people who understood why we’re there. In hip hop there’s this thing about battling – emcees, Djs, – I always like to put myself to the test and it pushes the art.
What’s the environment in the DMCs?
For the most part, they’re looking for really aggressive routines; so I felt personally – for me as an artist, it wasn’t the best avenue for me to keep pursuing, but I love battling. I kind of put my compositions to the test.
The idea of the Turntablist is kind of dying, do you notice that?
Oh definitely. There’s different types of Djing…personally I’d rather see more people take risks with regard to the music that they’re making. But there are trends and the trend right now is pretty much electro/hipster scenes – that’s where the money’s at, believe it or not people are capitalizing on it. But you can only do what your heart’s into, I like making scratch-based, Turntablist music and there’s not a lot of it out there, so I wanna contribute my part.
Do you have any albums out now?
Just finished a short album called Rough Waters – which includes some live instruments. Just working on a live show with that.
How did you link up with Shad and become his DJ?
We went to school at Laurier together. A buddy of mine told me about this guy who raps – he looked like a hobo. I invited him over to my place, I had my turntables set up and everything and he just kicked freestyles for hours while I was lacing instrumentals – it impressed me like crazy. I did some cuts on his album and I was with for the live show and I’ve been with him for the past 4 years — we’ve seen positive results. We’ve done some Canadian tours and he is currently working on a new album to be release in the Spring of 2010.
What’s the Warped Tour like with all those rock kids?
It was definitely not our scene, but there were some kids there that took to what we were doing. We were on the tour bus with Alexisonfire and we got along with them. It was good exposure for us. There was a wide variety of acts this year. A lot of the bands respected what we did and a lot of the kids got to be exposed to something different. It was a good experience touring on a bus, not showering for days.
Do you use vinyl or Serato?
With Shad I use Serato. It’s easier to DJ parties with Serato, but if I can, I will roll with a crate – it’s a better experience for me, if it’s a better experience for me, it’s likely a better experience for everybody else.
Did you bring a crate to Warped Tour?
I brought a small bag of records for my routine and I bought a lot on the road.
If you were going on a tour and you could only bring 100 records, what would you bring?
A lot of randoms. If I were to put a show together right now with 100 records, I’d definitely put some classics: Tribe, break beats, jungle records, weird samples – I’ve been messing with the RC-50 loop pedal, so I’d try to put something creative with that together. If I had more money, I’d bring a drummer, try to bring some live players.
Why is it important to have a live drummer in a rap show?
I could do things myself with a [loop-pedal] and 3 turntables, but it would enable me to show people who don’t really see it as an instrument…with a drummer, I can collaborate and create variances in a composition that’s a little more understandable for people from different backgrounds – like a rock band for example. It’s about a shared experience with people [and] the turntable is being used just as much or more above these instruments to create these sounds.
What projects are you working on?
Shad’s recording another album, so I’ll be involved with some of that process. I’m working on another project which is mainly instrumental composition. I’m coming out with two mixes right now, which are beat mixtapes – I’m kind of tired of all these mixtapes that these emcees are putting out right now, I don’t know what they are. There are no concepts anymore. Probably another scratch album around the summer time hopefully. Just trying to keep busy, it’s hard if you’re not making those commercial hits.
Shout outs/last words?
Everyone I’ve collaborated with: Shad, Lazarush, Elijah Walsh, all my friends and family
and Jon b.
For more on TLO myspace.com/djteelo