Miami producer and highly decorated turntablist Aristh Delgado, aka DJ Craze, is bringing his Slow Roast sound back to Melbourne this weekend, along with upcoming New Yorker Codes and Brisbane AVDJ Sampology. He spoke with 100% about turntablism, moombahton and working as Kanye West’s DJ.
Nicaragua-born Delgado first made his name by claiming three consecutive DMC World DJ Championship trophies between 1998 and 2000, when turntablism was reaching the peak of its popularity. In recent years it has become a more insular art form, although Delgado thinks it has potential to be as big as it once was.
“For a while a lot of people were saying – and including myself – we were all saying that turntablism was kinda dead, ‘cause nothing was really coming out it, but I kind of take that back now because the skill level is so crazy right now,” he says. “There’s kids that are 15-years-old that are scratching way better than me, and there’s kids doing beat juggles that are crazy right now.
“I think what was missing was the way that the [Invizibl Skratch] Pixlz and X-Men and my crew, The Allies, the way that we used to make it more accessible to everybody. When we were our routines we would use big tunes and we would use music that people knew, instead of how they’re doing it now where kids are making records for their routines, so it kind of loses people ‘cause that don’t know what they’re listening to; they just know that somebody’s up there doing some crazy shit to this weird song,” Delgado adds.
However, the response to two turntable routine videos he made, using Traktor Scratch Pro, changed his mind. “When I did those two Traktor routine videos, like, people really started feeling it, and I was like, ‘Wow, I thought turntablism was dead, and both of those videos are hitting three million [views] already’,” he says. “So I’m like, people have interest in it, I think you’ve just got to… make it more accessible to people.”
While earning accolades for his turntablism, Delgado was simultaneously making his name as a producer. He now has his own label, Slow Roast Records, with Kill The Noise, and has dabbled in drum and bass, house and hip hop. Most recently, though, he has been caught up in moombahton.
When his friend Dave Nada first started sending him moombahton tunes, Delgado says that he didn’t initially get into it, as he thought it sounded too much like reggateon. However, as more and more artists began dabbling in the sound, he became inspired.
“I was like, ‘Woah, this is some real dope, fresh vibes in it’,” Delgado says. “I got into it, and for me it has a real Latin vibe to it so I felt right at home with it; I was like, ‘Yeah, this is some shit that I could play; I could go back to Nicaragua and play this and people would go off to this’.”
One of the biggest influences on his approach to music has been Kanye West, whom he toured with in 2008 as DJ on the Glow In The Dark tour. “It was amazing to watch that guy work because he’s one of my fucking heroes. Being on tour with him made me realise what it takes to be that big, and it takes a lot of hard work, a lot of commitment and a lot of dedication to what you’re doing. This guy was just amazing to watch work; he would not party, he would not do anything, he was always focused,” Delgado says.
However, although he enjoyed the experience, Delgado felt his own career was suffering. “It was taking away from my time and I just felt like, it wasn’t like I was shining how A-Trak was shining when he was touring with Kanye; I was just part of the band, I wasn’t doing my thing, so I just felt like I had to get away from that and do my own thing.”
Delgado is currently touring with Codes, who he recently collaborated on the new Slow Roast single, Beeper. “We made it at my house when he came down for a show to Miami, and the first thing that we both said to each other was ‘let’s do something different than what everyone else is doing’. We both come from a drum and bass background, and we both love liquid drum and bass, so we were like, ‘Why don’t we make a liquid-y kind of house tune’, that’s kind of where we were going with that song,” Delgado says.
He has high praise for Codes as a performer. “Codes kills it, like, that’s the reason why I asked to tour with him,” Delgado says. “He’s a good DJ; he’s not just a producer. Nowadays it just gets kind of boring – guys go up there and mess around with the knobs for a minute, but they’re not really doing nothing. Codes is actually a really good DJ, so he’s gonna push me and I’m gonna push him for sure.
“I just love showing up to a club an hour before and trying to read the vibe, and I go from there,” he adds. “I’m going to play some of my tunes, some of Codes’ tunes, that’s for sure, but the rest is up to the people; I want to see where they’re at.”
BY JOSHUA HAYES
DJ Craze [USA] plays alongside Codes [USA] and Sampology [AUS] at the Prince Bandroom on Friday June 1.