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DJ Twist1 Interview

Twist

Originally from Phoenix, AZ and djing since the age of 14, Twist1 grew up listening to funk and jazz music. His mother being a composer of sorts, he always had a passion for music. Workining with an impressive list of highly qualified artists from The Beat Junkies, DJ Q-bert, Rob Swift, Mr. Dibbs, DJ Radar, Living Legends, Atmosphere, The Visionaries, Jean Grae, Abstract Rude, DJ Drez, Fatlip of the Pharcyde, Wildchild of the Lootpack, Omni, Del the funkee homosapien, The Alkaholiks, and many more, Twist1’s proven ability to rock a party has helped him become one of the most sought after club and tour DJ’s in his genre.

DJ Twist1 moved to Maui shortly after the turn of the millenium and was voted “best of maui” in 2004 and 2005 by the Maui Times readers poll. Always ready to rock the house, Twist1 never disappoints and his unique style of mixing up different types of music as well as his keen ability to read the crowd has made him one of the most respected dj’s in the hawaiian islands. Now living back in the states and touring with artists such as Fatlip (formerly of The Pharcyde), Omni (BLX Worldwide), A-Plus (Hieroglyphics/Souls of Mischief), and a list of others.

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AFM: Hi Twist! We are super pumped to interview you about Electronic Dance Music because as a respected DJ in all genres, but most notably in Hip-Hop, you can offer an outside perspective on the EDM scene. That being said, give our readers a little background information about who you are, where you’ve been (musically), and where you’re headed.

Cool. Well, I started DJing back in 1994 when a friend’s cousin first exposed me to turntablism. I still remember mostly just playing a bunch of old Sugar Hill records like Rapper’s Delight and The Message over and over again while my friends would b-boy on our 10×10 square of beat up linoleum. I started working when I was 14 and managed to save up enough money to buy my first DJ setup. It was two GLI Pro belt-drive turntables and a Lineartech mixer…pretty sure they don’t make either one of those anymore.

In ’95 a group of my friends started a label called Fission Records and we started producing music and throwing huge house parties. Performed at a bunch of raves in the mid to late 90’s (when they still played hip hop at EDM parties) and played shows with a few big hip hop names before moving to Hawaii at the beginning of 2001.

While I was living on Maui, I started a weekly 4-hour live radio mix show on Saturday nights called the Vinyl Lounge on WILD105.5 FM which aired for about 3 years. At one point I was workin’ in a record store during the day, on the radio in the evening, and then DJing til 2 AM at the club about 6 days a week. A lot of work, but it was pretty awesome to be surrounded by music all day, every day. I was also voted “Best of Maui” in 2004 and 2005 before relocating to Kauai to open my own independent record store. Hawaii was very good to me and I had the opportunity to play with a ton of amazing artists and DJ’s that I admired and looked up to as a kid.

About a year after opening my shop, I came to the realization that if I really wanted to take my DJ career to the next level and be able to travel I would need to live back in the states. So I made the very difficult decision sell my record shop to a friend and move to Oakland, CA. I was only in the bay for a couple months before I signed on as the tour DJ for Fatlip of The Pharcyde and after touring around North America, I ended up back in Phoenix, AZ when I ran into a bunch of my old crew while we were in town for a show.

AFM: How do you feel about the transition away from vinyl and into CDJ’s? Has the art of DJ-ing lost some of its artistic expression? Or gained more capabilities?

Great question! I guess it’s just a sign of the times. In 2013, it’s pretty clear that we’re living in the Age of Information Overload. Technology has come so far over the last ten years that it’s become almost a necessity to make the transition from real vinyl to some type of digital format. I’m personally still a big advocate of turntables and made the transition from actual vinyl to Serato records a couple years after it started to take off.

I remember playing a gig at “Adult Swim” in downtown Phoenix a couple years back and had to use CDJ’s to play my set because the turntables never showed up for the event. I was still able to use Serato with the CD control discs and it was fun for me since it was different than what I’m used to. But the most common reason for making the switch that I’ve heard from other dj’s is the benefit of not having to worry about needle feedback from the bass that can be a problem when performing on large sound systems or at big festivals.

However, in terms of how the digital revolution has changed the art of DJing…sadly there are very few dj’s still playing vinyl which used to be a HUGE part of what made a good DJ a good DJ. It used to be very difficult to find tracks on vinyl and the best DJ’s were the ones who spent hours and hours digging through dusty records or trying to find the rarest imports for their sets. You couldn’t just be a good mixer, you had to be a vinyl junkie and take the time and money to build your crates. And that one hard to find track would cost you $20 (or much more) because you couldn’t just go download it online for a $.99. I’ve personally been an avid record collector and enthusiast for almost twenty years. To be honest, it got to the point where I had so many records that I had to rent a storage unit just to have a place to keep them. I ended up selling about 10,000 of them when I opened my record shop in Hawaii. But I still have a collection of about 3,000-4,000 records in my studio.

So yes, the technology has definitely changed the game. And although I do believe some of the art has been lost in the digital revolution, it’s not all bad. I’ve seen a small handful of even hip hop DJ’s and turntablists who can really kill it on some CDJ’s or with Serato/Traktor. In the right hands, the potential is limitless and the amount of additional production you can add to your set is pretty amazing.

Twist

AFM: For all the techies out there, what’s your set up look like? What do you prefer to spin on when you perform?

Well I still prefer turntables over anything digital. It’s like the difference between driving a stick shift or an automatic. I just feel more in control when I can put my hand on the record I guess. Current set up is Two Technics SL-1200M3D’s, a Vestax PMC-07 Pro mixer, Ortofon Pro-S needles, Pioneer EFX-500, Technics RP-DJ1200 headphones, MidiDeck iPad Serato controller, and a MacBook.

AFM: Besides the people in attendance, what are the big differences between Djing a hip-hop show and an EDM event?

Well the biggest difference in most cases is the amount of lighting, sound, and stage production that goes into some of these big EDM shows. I remember talkin’ to my friend Omni on tour one time about how hip hop acts really need that WOW factor in their shows. You really gotta go over the top in terms of the stage presence and amount of production you incorporate into your set. The EDM seen has always been big on that and it’s probably been a contributing factor to how large it’s grown over the years. With enormous sound systems and some of the most entertaining visuals you’ll see at a music event, the electronic scene is appealing to pretty much anyone who just looking for an insane party experience.

AFM: Are you surprised by EDM’s explosion over the last few years, or was this something you saw coming with your background in Breaks?

Not surprised at all. It makes sense if you consider how much society is relying on technology in their day to day. Now that it’s so easy for anyone to make music and find ways to create their own sound, it’s only natural that the next big thing in music would electronica in some form. In 2005, I was at Ministry of Sound in the UK and it was pretty much all electro house in every room. But once I started to see some of my favorite turntablists like DJ Craze and A-Trak giving up hip hop for house sets, I knew it was only a matter of time before the electro scene really took off in the US.

AFM: Who are some of your biggest inspirations? Who should we watch out for in 2013?

I’ve been inspired by a ton of artists over the years, and from a pretty broad range of genres. But some of my favorite EDM artists right now would be Figure, R3hab, Steve Aoki, Bassnectar, Zeds Dead, and Knife Party. As far as who to watch out for in 2013? That’s a tough question. There’s so much going on in the EDM genre right now. House music is still getting even bigger on a global scale, and Trap and Dubstep have a very dedicated following of their own. Although I’m a huge fan of all types of EDM, coming from a hip hop background I’m personally into Trap right now. Like anything though, there’s a lot of crap that you gotta sift through to find the real gems. Hard to say who’s gonna take 2013 by storm as fast as the industry is expanding. But I’d look out for Brillz or UZ in the Trap genre. They’re both killin it right now.

AFM: What’s the craziest story/weirdest thing that ever happened to you while on tour?

(Laughing hysterically) Wow! Uh, unfortunately it’s probably not something I should talk about in this interview. But I’ve seen a lot of crazy sh*t on tour, so here’s one of the funnier stories I remember. I once spent a summer as the dj, hype man, tour manager, and driver for a 40 city tour across the US and Canada. It was only myself and a couple of emcees who’s names I’ll leave out (laughing). We (or I) drove 17,000 miles in 7 weeks. Being stuck in a van for months at a time, you tend to get on each others nerves after a while. So one time on the way from Little Rock, AR to Houston, TX I got into an argument with the “headliner” about him needing to stop at a sit down restaurant when we were already runnin’ way behind for our soundcheck in Houston and didn’t have time. He was being kind of a prima donna and made us stop in a town called Texarkana of all places. But before he got out of the car he started some sh*t with the other artist who then jumped out of the front seat, ripped the sliding door completely off of the van trying to open the door, and then pulled this guy out of the van by his dreads and just starts punching him in the face. They’re rolling around fighting in the parking lot, meanwhile all kinds of people start coming out of the restaurant to watch. I tried my best to break them up and told ‘em they needed to chill before the cops showed up. They stopped after a couple minutes and sure enough, Texarkana’s finest pull up only to find a couple of beat-up and bloody rap artists, me the token white boy, and a busted door to the van that was just lying on the ground in the parking lot. Needless to say we missed the Houston show, but luckily the police let us off the hook and just said to get out of their town ASAP. The rental car company sent out a tow truck with a new whip and picked up the broken ride, so that was surprisingly a lot easier than I expected. It took a while for the tow truck to arrive and there was a hotel right behind the restaurant, so the other guys went and got rooms while I waited. But the best part of the whole thing was when I got up the next day and met them in the lobby to head to the next city. They were both so beat up and sore they immediately apologized and everyone was cool after that for the rest of the tour.

 Twist

AFM: How would you compare Phoenix’s Hip-hop community to the rest of the United States? What could it do to get better

Phoenix actually has a pretty strong hip hop scene in terms of the amount of people that go out to shows and support. There are some decent promoters here that do a good job of bringing a lot of talented and well known artists. But most of the people throwing events out here seem to just put their friends on the line-up or you see the same DJ’s playing at every show. Makes it hard for up and coming artists to get into the local scene and have a chance to get some exposure. I think it would be good to see more unity between the different crews who make up the AZ hip hop scene and more variety in the types of local talent we’re seeing on stage. It would still be nice to see somebody from Phoenix make it big in the rap industry.

AFM: What do you have lined up for 2013?

Well I’ve been recording a lot of mixtapes lately, and I have a limited edition line of Phlipseyed Clothing Co. merchandise coming out later this year. But mostly I’d like to continue doing studio work for the dozen or so projects I’m currently involved with and hopefully release a couple of original tracks this year. Here’s a short mix I made while I was bored the other day:

AFM: Any final words for your fans?

Thanks for all of your love and support over the years! I wouldn’t have been able to have such an amazing DJ career without you. Be sure to check out my site DjTwist1.com for new merchandise and mixes and follow me on Twitter @djtwist1 if you’re not already. I heart you all! One love.

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