Tonight I'm aiming to defend my crown for the third year running at the UK Final of the DMC DJ Championship in London. The DMCs have been going for 29 years now and as well as being the longest running, are also the biggest, best, and most respected DJ competition out there for all serious scratch and turntabalist DJs like myself. This isn't your usual style of DJing that you see in clubs and bars or hear on the radio - it's highly technical and based on tricks and techniques and including scratching - we treat the decks and mixer as actual instruments in themselves. Have a look at one of my sets here to see what I mean.
I've been in the UK final several times before: the five years from 2000 through to 2005, and three more from 2011 to 2013. Back in 2002 I won the Battle For UK Supremacy (a head-to-head knock out based around short sets), then, 10 years later in 2012, I won the Battle For UK Supremacy again along with the main UK DJ Champion title. I had a five year break in the middle - I was still DJing around the world and always kept scratching and practising, but just needed some time to rethink my plan and evolve my skills even more. Anyway, after 2012, I successfully defended both titles the following year and went on to take the Battle For World Supremacy title at the World Finals too. Now I'm defending yet again and the road to glory starts onstage tonight in front of the DMC judges and the audience who've given up their Friday night and paid hard cash to come down.
The sets I play at the competitions are basically a whole year's worth of my very best DJ routines distilled down to a few minutes of performance. For the past few months, I've been practicing daily for as many hours as I can squeeze in. I work hard messing around with songs, scratching them and working out combinations which go well together. A lot of thought and planning goes in to it - probably a lot more than most people think.
These days the organisers of the DMCs allow DJs to use what are known as DVS - Digital Vinyl Systems. I use one called Serato which feels the same as using regular vinyl. It links the MP3s on my laptop to two special Serato 'records'; those records play the MP3s and I can manipulate them in the same way people used to with traditional vinyl records. Also, with this system, I can re-edit songs, add in samples and change the programming around. I think it's actually made the competition better as DJs can be more creative than in the 'vinyl only' days. It also saves having to haul around a massive box of heavy records!
Today, the day of the UK Final, I'll be feeling the pressure, big time. The build up is intense and stressful - its not that I find it hard to perform my set - but this is the one time you do it that really matters so you don't want to make any mistakes after all those hours you've out in previously. I know a lot of the other DJs who'll be there and we're friends outside of the battles and competitions because we all share the same passion for DJing. It's like one big community, and despite the nerves of competing, I'm looking forward to seeing some familiar faces tonight! Bring it on!