DJ Angelo On Digital Turntablism
Last month, we checked in to Delhi’s OTB to see what UK DJ Angelo could do on the wheels of steel. Though the Diwali weekend crowd was sparse, it was dominated by b-boys who were there for the straight up party cutting and juggling promised by DJ Angelo.
We’d heard that he was something of an expert when it came to digital turntablism, so had him break down the new rules for turntablism in the computer era:
“I played for ten years with straight vinyl, and I’m glad I was born in the era of vinyl because I learned how to use vinyl, I learned the hard way. I learned how to DJ the hard way. … All of these skills, I think a lot of new DJs just bypass that and look at the screen. Having Serato makes good DJs better. It won’t make a bad DJ better but it will give a good DJ more space to be creative and do the kind of things that weren’t possible with vinyl.
“Back in those days we used to have to take a piece of vinyl out and put one on. You lost time. You couldn’t have the same precision in the way you perform. With Serato you can. You can jump ahead to a region of a track with the push of a button and not have to lift a needle and cue it manually. You can keep the momentum of your set going and be more creative.”
So we asked Angelo about how his set might sound different if we had heard him in the pre-digital days:
“For a start, my intro is something I produced. I combined and edited from samples onto two sources on the left and right turntables. That would not have been possible to have an acapella segment of M.O.P.’s Ante Up followed by The Next Episode. I would have had to change the vinyl, I would have lost time, that would have been impossible without Serato. Getting my name in there as well. … I would have had to press my own vinyl, and that’s not cheap. So, yeah, my intro shows what Serato is capable of and what advantages it gives you.”
As we pressed Angelo to expand, he discussed the ways that going digital allows him to craft more cohesive, party starting sets by working with a mix of live and pre-made mashups:
“I use a combination of premade and live… Live mashups are more fun, but more risky. But for the sake of efficiency and freeing up a turntable to get the next banger going, I use some of my premade mashups. I don’t think it’s cheating. I made it, but hey, look at the EDM guys, all they do is press play.”
We didn’t think it was cheating either, but we were taking notes; some of his tricks could come in handy. We especially liked the way that he left acapella sections at the end of his mashups so he could transition to the next beat seamlessly while the acapella from the previous track continued playing, then scratching that vocal into his next track, effectively creating a third mashup in the process of the transition.
But if Serato allows for more creativity than vinyl, why not make the transition to a fully digital setup? According to DJ Angelo, there’s something the about the challenge that makes it worthwhile:
“I’m nostalgic, really. I held out on vinyl. I came close to getting CDJs, but I held out and this technology [Serato] came out at just the right time. It’s clumsy and unreliable, but I like it. I like it because it’s difficult. If it was easy, I wouldn’t want to do it.”
written by Kerry Harwin