Melbourne Music Present Dj Dexter
For Melbourne Music’s Cinemix event at ACMI, local identity DJ Dexter will bring to life the soundtrack to cult French film, La Haine ( The Hate ) by re-scoring it live on his trusty decks. The film is an enduring cross-cultural, morality and perhaps even mortality tale about gang vengeance set in Paris in the mid-‘90s. Its soundtrack – a mix of cult hip hop, mutated disco and dubstep, features heavily throughout the film as a powerful backdrop important to the characters and action. Although DJ Dexter isn’t the first to attempt a live scoring – previously Britain’s Asian Dub Foundation toured a similar project – he’s determined to put his own unique spin on what was an important piece of cinema for the growing Melbourne artist.
“It was a bit daunting to be honest; I’ve never done anything like this at all,” Dexter begins on being approached to take on the project. “I read up a bit about what Asian Dub Foundation had done with it – they actually toured it for five years – and at first I wanted to check out what they’d done… but I decided it might taint my own ideas.”
Cinemix came along as Dexter hit a landmark of 20 years DJing professionally. He admits to being ‘uncertain’ as to why he was offered the task, but after a rifle through his record collection, it soon becomes clear how his own style fits the picture. “In essence, I see my influences as early hip hop and breaks.” He continues, noting “I can trace my interest way back to watching early LL Cool J videos and getting right into the history of hip hop, but I also love dubstep and Latin grooves.”
Dexter will attempt an entirely original set for his rendering of the score, but admits to a deep regard for the original. He even found that in preparation he gained a much greater insight into the role music plays in the film. “I was looking at the song credits in the film the other day and it was like ‘what? When was that played?’” he laughs, “and sure enough seeing it in full again after being asked to do this live score, I picked up on all the music playing in the background during what I’d previously thought were almost completely silent scenes except for dialogue.”
“In some ways,” Dexter remarks, “reading the subtitles makes you less aware of the ambient noise beyond the words. It’s brilliant how subtle this film is in parts, and this project has definitely made me appreciate film scoring a lot more.”
Dexter’s long-held admiration of La Haine comes from his youth, and a crucial time in developing his own skills as a DJ and his own tastes. “I was 17 when the film came out (in 1995), I remember it was right in the middle of this exciting hip hop explosion, with acts like Snoop Dogg and Wu-Tang, so revisiting this film takes me back to a great time in my life. As a teenager, I remember it circulating among my friends on VHS, and we’d watch it loads,” he laughs. “But now I probably watch it about once a year.”
The stark urban monochrome scenery and tense drama of the film is mainly coupled with what we’d now call dubstep. Although the film features mostly post-production soundtracking, one crucial moment for Dexter is a club scene involving a live on-screen mix. The DJ continues, discussing the chance to do some ‘miming’. “I’m pretty much changing the entire musical score, but for that one scene where the DJ is going off cutting and scratching (DJ Cutkiller)… I can’t mix over that,” he chuckles. “It’s pointless really, because his hand movements and the fader sound are just too prominent.
“Besides in DJing terms, that just isn’t done. It goes against the code, man!”
The unspoken rule is no crashing in over another dudes mix. “Yeah, funny isn’t it? The one bit where you can see actual DJing on screen is the bit where I won’t be doing anything,” Dexter laughs.
Preparation for his debut, live score mix was understandably painstaking. Dexter explains. “In my studio I just stuck the TV right next to the mixer and plugged the TV’s audio in… only I couldn’t mute the original audio, so it was very distracting, but I’ve decided that’s something I will have to work out in the live soundcheck.”
He sighs. “It’s funny because in the start I was trying to get all the tracks timed to synch perfectly (with the images), but in the end I dumped that idea completely and found it was better to just be instinctual about it.” He concludes, confidently, “I am at the stage now where I don’t even look at what my hands are doing at all, which is such a huge relief!”
MELBOURNE MUSIC presents the opportunity to see La Haine as you've never seen it before: on the big screen at ACMI, with a completely new score mixed on the spot by Melbourne's DJ DEXTER this Thursday September 30. Tickets available from ACMI box office. Info and tickets through melbmusic.com.au.