A dedicated enthusiast of the genre since 1984, DJ Blaze is well and truly a hip-hop veteran. Dynamic behind the decks, Blaze is soon to relocate from Sydney to Melbourne, but before that we’ve got one last chance to see the man in action as he supports turntable legend Grandmaster Flash.
ITM’s Jayb got the low down on what been keep Blaze busy of late.
How did you discover Hip Hop ; what made you want to become more than just a listener?
Hip hop overwhelmed me in 84. I just freaked out at discovering that various things like graffiti art, b-boying, electro, rapping were all part ; parcel of a phenomenon from the South Bronx. At first it was totally alien from everything I had grown up with, yet I felt extremely drawn to all these aspects. I was fascinated ; wanted to know more about what it was ; who created it. I became obsessed with finding out more. I knew it wasn’t a passing moment. It changed my life. Pretty much the same reason that people were affected by Star Wars. It may sound trivial to most, but there are some things in life that have a greater power than what was intended. It’s all happenstance through age ; timing. I was lucky to have been the right age when it appeared. I wasn’t into music at all prior to that.
What are your views on the current Hip Hop scene in Australia (do you think Hip Hop in general has sold out for commercial success ; that’s why homegrown scenes such as Australia ; England are growing)
I’ve never seen it so active. There have many years of quiet despair where most of us older cats felt a sense of doom ; nowhereness. Thankfully in the last 3 years there has been a huge spurt of creativity ; a proliferation of artists ; labels. Seems like we are getting ourselves together ; finally making the Australian public aware that something is going on in the suburbs ; inner city. The crap that they try to pass off as hip hop via the major labels is an annoyance. Kinda like when Hammer was around, you felt bad saying you were into hip hop/rap because people associated the worst aspects of the music with circus rubbish like him. Who the hell wants to be aligned with the balloon-pant wearing ‘holy ghost boy’ (his 1st MC name by the way). Just as who wants to make themselves sound like a dumb shithead by buying all that stupid ‘thug’ crap. Some people seem to get a kick out of it for various reasons. So the only way that I see the scene growing is by being able to relate to your audience so that it works both ways. They see a bit of themselves reflected in the music by local artists then offer support by attending shows ; buying records, cd’s etc… The question is…What are they doing it for? To become a pop star or to use it merely as a vehicle for self-expression.
Your working hard on your album, when can we expect to hear some of the beats ; will it all be Hip Hop flava?
It will obviously be mostly hip hop related. I’m pretty much a beauty kinda guy. I’ll be working with Sleeping Monk for sure. Our history dates back 10 years now ; I love his rhyme style ; punchlines. Getting him motivated is another thing. He’s getting better. I’ll have a few b-boy oriented things as well. Gotta keep that uptempo funk thing happening. Most of the stuff is over the 100bpm threshold, something that is ignored in today’s hip hop. I’m also going to attempt some Miami bass manoeuvres. My aim is to at least do one electro track. I feel I have to give something back to what inspired me in the first place. That is further down the track though.
You’ve been mixing since 1988 when you bought your 2nd turntable (two always helps I guess), do you have a preference in creating or mixing beats?
I prefer making beats, because it gives you sense of satisfaction that does not come from playing someone else’s music. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate what I am playing, on the contrary, it’s just a feeling of pride ; achievement when making music ; getting to play it on wax. I’m not the tightest deejay ; I know why. I suffer from impatience ; hurriedness. When I relax ; get into the groove I get my skills in check. I wouldn’t have a clue about mixing in key or any of that crap. I’m not interested. Too rigid ; boring. Hip hop has always had a different style of mixing that allows for more freedom ; abstractness. As for inspiration. It’s usually the music (ie records) or other deejays that don’t patronise to their audience. I am personally only interested in people who want to share a wealth of music that others ignore. Let them play the hits ; sureshots. I’m not interested in that audience. I want those that say, ‘okay I’m here. I paid to get in…give me something that I don’t know’. If it’s a good tune ; it works, people will respond. Why do people have to be familiar with something to enjoy it. Of course people have their favourites, but at one stage they didn’t.
Which Aussie up ; coming stars would you recommend we keep an ear out for?
I like The Optimen from Qld. Fresh, funny ; no attitude. Keeping it entertaining in that early 90s way. Solomon Klepto from Melb. All round nice guy, very deep ; passionate. And needs to express himself. Present Tense from Canberra, if they ever get around to finishing their stuff. Hopefully Max Veritech from Perth will keep up his turntable compositions ; start to get some more original sounds ; phrases to cut. He’s on the right track though. To be honest, there are several established artist who make great stuff ; there are those that have potential with their passion, but I have yet to hear something that literally blows me out of the water. It must exist, but most of the stuff I hear demo wise is all pretty lacklustre. I’m a bit more picky than most, but why bother sending something to someone ; then explain with a million excuses about.. the quality is shit, we hurried it, my cat died that day, I lost my original rhymes, not our best stuff, etc… It’s amazing. You rarely get something that doesn’t have an excuse book attached. Where’s the confidence ; the ‘good stuff’.
Grand Master Flash is one of if not the pioneer of Hip Hop, how would you measure his influence today?
Would we even be talking about this without his involvement. I’m not so sure. He was a main cog in the machinations of the culture. Take him away ; the machinery would never have got off the ground.
Sydney will be sad to lose your services, what are the reasons behind the move to Melbourne?
Umm, er…a relationship! Very strong one with someone who understands where I’m coming from. And also, I see it as a nice change that might make me look at things in new perspective. To get away from familiarity ; a sort of sense of stagnancy that I feel I may have succumbed into. Besides I have friends down there that I like being with ; don’t communicate enough with while interstate. Now it’s their turn to listen to my bullshit.