FAME MUSIC INTERVIEW
Ever since Hendrix plucked the guitar solo to ‘Hey Joe’ with his teeth live at Monterey in 1967, performers have been looking to take their tricks to the next level.
Unlike axe-slingers, DJs have to work really hard to do this. Sure, you can step away from the turntables and fling a cake at someone, but there are many better ways to do this and show your craft in the process.
We called up Terry Hooligan. One half of the world-beating genre-melters Atomic Hooligan, a superb technical DJ, a label owner, a PR guru and sensei at On The Rise DJ Academy, a DJ school he runs with Jay Cunning. Having made his first mixtape pausing cassettes on a double tape deck and working his way through every mixing platform and technology that’s since passed, if anyone can pass on genuine DJ skills, it’s him. You can find out all about his school and what it offers right here.
On top of his well-established production pedigree, another one of Terry’s many attributes is also – by his own admission – being a massive show-off. But you can’t strut your skills unless you know the basics. So we asked him for a variety of technical tips to help you improve your DJ game. From the very basic to scratching a turntable on your shoulder, this is what Terry had to share…
Back To Basics
“The very very very basic beginner tip is to listen to music and really focus on how it’s structured. The music tells you what to do with the bar count. Everything is in fours and it’s your job to connect the track at the start of the right bar. I always tell people to think of it like train carriages that you’re trying to link. Two trains leaving London at the same time; they need to be going the same speed and the carriages have to be lined up right if they are going to arrive in Birmingham at the same time.”
Have a sound focus
“Once you’ve got the basics of what’s slower and faster, and you’ve picked your point to drop the track, you need to focus on the noises in the tracks you’re going to link. Maybe a snare, a hi-hat or a kick drum. Decide which sound you’re going to use as your mark-up; listen to that sound in the track that’s coming through the speakers and match it with the same element in your headphones.”
The perfect blend
“Now think about how you’re bringing tracks together. You have one dominant track (the one coming out of the speakers) and one submissive one (the one you’re mixing in). Now you have to switch those roles. Listen to the elements you need to cut to bring the submissive track through and gradually take them out using EQ, volumes, filters. But be careful: a lot of people overcomplicate it. A slight dip in the up-fader can work magic. People always see the up-fader as either on or off. But there’s loads of room in between, otherwise it would be a switch and not a fader. Ducking the up-fader a little to take the dominance out of the lead track is often all you need.”
Don’t be a genre snob!
“I’m not a fan of genre elitism. If there’s something you want to play, play it. Try to stick around 5 BPM difference in stuff you actually want to blend together though. If you start slowing or speeding stuff up or down too much you get distortion. As long as it’s around a similar BPM range and you can really focus on blending the tracks together and swapping the dominance.”
Got that? Now start scratching…
“My best advice for scratching is to start with your strongest hand on the fader and the weakest hand on the turntable. The fader hand needs to be more dextrous. It’s like the patting the head and rubbing the stomach trick. You’re doing different things simultaneously. My first trick I always teach is a very slow stab scratch. The pushing forward of the record with the fader open and bring it back with the fader closed. The best way to start slowly is open crossfader hand – forward record hand / closed crossfader hand, back record hand. Open forward close back. Practice that over and over and over you’ve got the foundations of a basic pattern than can be developed.”
Now start scratching with the CDJ on your shoulder…
“To be honest this started as a bit of fun during a show in Calgary. I got up on stage and the engineer told me I could move the turntables around as they had long leads. I thought ‘long leads eh?’ I’d been thinking about showing everyone my CDJ scratching for a while – Apart from James Zabiela, no one ever used to see a DJ scratching with a CDJ which is a shame. Now I’m a natural show off. And I was feeling pretty cavalier that night. And I knew the lead would let me. So I had the turntable in my arm between my hand and bicep – showing the crowd what I was doing. The more they reacted, the higher the deck got up my arm! It’s a cheap trick but it works because you’re not just standing there po-faced. I don’t get the best scratches out of it – but it’s about interacting and having fun. Now when I go to gigs I get kids in the crowd doing and air shoulder scratch. People love it when you’re playing good music and having fun and interacting at the same time. Everyone’s got their own style; some people take it very seriously and that’s their thing. I respect that I’m not that type of guy though. I’m a natural show off. When I’m up on stage I want to engage with people. The reason I’m there is because I want to be there and have fun with everyone. If that’s your vibe, too, give it a try… Just remember where you heard about it!”
Keep up to date with Terry in all his guises:
Terry Hooligan / Atomic Hooligan
On The Rise Music