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The Comedy of Errors

Interview: Johnny Crump

2 November 11 words: Shariff Ibrahim

Johnny Crump is a turntablist-stroke-producer-stroke-artist who be flexing his considerable skills live at our Gunpowder, Treason and Pot night at Nottingham Contemporary this November…

You’ve just completed your new project, The Order to Come…
It’s a collaborative project between myself and DJ Rubbish. The whole point was to make a piece of video art which combined music, but was far removed from just a music video. Years ago, Rubbish asked me to send him some music and words to work with for inspiration. Really raw, dark, twisted stuff. He came back with a wicked piece of video art, but it was completely inaccessible. So we started on the next project and the result is something quite tongue-in-cheek and comedic at times. You could put a big screen on the wall of a gallery and have it on loop.

What got you into music?
I’ll never forget my first album I was given by my parents when I was about five years old - a best of Abba on tape. My favourite band ever is The Pixies, and I’ve always loved music of all different genres - Bowie through to Devo, then commercial US hip-hop like Gravediggaz and Mobb Deep, and UK people like Chester P and Scorzayzee. There are no bad genres, just bad songs.

When did you start scratching?
I was at uni about 11 years ago studying Fine Art, then things went a bit tits-up and I dropped out. When I got my last loan instalment, I thought I could easily just waste it or get something I’d always really wanted and always been interested in. So I bought some old-school direct drive Gemini turntables with a second-hand mixer and just loved it straight away. Years ago, art and skateboarding were my main interests and music was a hobby. When I injured myself and wasn’t going to be able to skate for years, music came to the forefront. I paint nowadays mainly because I don’t have to - it’s nice to just get on with creating an image.

Do turntablists have to work that much harder than the average DJ?
It’s a massive workout. Just this morning I’ve put in about three hours’ practice. I’ll sometimes muck about with 120bpm/130bpm electro house, and it is fairly straightforward, but I’d do it for the money. Turntablism sets are very different to picking a song to get people dancing, but one thing I’ve not done for a long time which people respond to really well is a scratch set with Aled Jones and Metallica.

What's been your best ever gig?
I’ve supported some wicked people like GZA from Wu-Tang, but I like intimate gigs where I can put on some kind of performance. I remember one I did at The Loft on Mansfield Road a few years ago where the setup was great so I felt comfortable doing what I was doing.

And the weirdest?
An international business management weekend away for GlaxoSmithKline in Windsor. The first morning, a few Notts artists and I had to do a five minute cover version of a Black Eyed Peas song to get them all energised. The next morning was ten minutes covering Eminem songs, then a night of hip-hop medleys. It was proper corporate bonkers stuff.

What if something terrible happened to your hands?
Knowing me, I’d try do what I’m doing now with what I’ve got, so I’d start trying to paint with my feet and probably scratch with them as well. I use my hands because I have them, but it’s my head that wants to do it.

What’s your relationship with Dealmaker?
I’ve been with them right from the beginning, so about seven or eight years. The great thing about Dealmaker is that it’s not prejudiced against different types of artists, musicians, styles or genres. You could be a pianist but as long as you’re wicked and different, you’d fit in. It would be nice if there were other labels out there like that - actually it wouldn’t, because they’d flood the market.

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