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Green Light in the City

DJ Yoda Lands at Confetti Industry Week 2017

9 March 17 interview: Nathaniel Benjamin and Bridie Squires

The DJ fills us in on all the things that make his tables turn...

You started DJing in the nineties. Who were you listening to at that time, and what inspired you to get into DJing?
Both my parents worked in the music industry. My dad kept his record collection in my bedroom so I was literally surrounded by music as a kid. There was a lot of music in the house, so I was up to date on pop music, but the stuff that really jumped out at me was in the late eighties. There was a lot of pop music that had a hip hop influence around that time. You’d get stuff with scratching and samples in it, and I wanted to emulate that scratching sound I’d heard on things like Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff, and Salt ‘n’ Pepper. That led me down a hip hop route, and then it early hip hop mix tapes that really inspired me to DJ. I like the idea of using all different types of music, but the way that you put it together is what makes it hip hop.

How do you gather samples and what are you looking out for?
I’ve trained myself to be in this constant state of searching for stuff I can use. Whether I’m at the cinema, watching TV or listening to the radio, stuff just pops out at me. It’s a really simple rule of stuff that I think is cool. It doesn’t matter what genre or when it was recorded. Different samples are useful for different projects. Sometimes there will be a bit in a movie that I think, that would work well in one of my AV shows because I can scratch a bit of the video. Sometimes I hear a few seconds of a song and that will make a good bass for a track, or I hear a vocal snippet and think that will work well on a mix tape. Everything has its uses.

Do you have the sample first and the tune comes from that?
For me the sample always comes first. That’s the way that I work. The sample always inspires me to create something. Sometimes when it comes to music production stuff, I’ll start with the sample, build all the other stuff around it, and by the time I’m happy with it, I can then strip the original sample away and everything you’re left with is new.

You’re down for Industry Week at Confetti on Friday. What can people expect?
In the afternoon I’m doing a talk, and we’re gonna chat about my history as a producer and a DJ, how I put stuff together and the way I think about doing things. At night I’m doing an AV show, and that’s gonna be like a big screen, and I’m DJing and mixing a video at the same time as the audio. It’s all controlled off turntables. I’m mixing bits of movies in and clips from YouTube that I like.

You’ve worked with a lot of different artists, how do you decide who you wanna collaborate with?
It tends to work quite organically. I produce a lot of beats, take a step back, look at each track and think, “This would work for this person”. The last album I did was Breakfast for Champions where I thought, let me try and put a band together and do everything with the same vocalist.

You’ve toured a lot over the years, do you have any particularly memorable moments of being on tour?
Yeah tons. That’s what I live for. I love that part of my job – going somewhere random every week. It doesn’t always need to be glamorous, but the stuff that really sticks out are the more extreme places I’ve been: Brazil, South Africa and China.

What do you think about the current state of hip hop?
It’s huge, in that it’s a huge, great, big mess. When I first got in to hip hop it was a really niche thing and you knew everything that was coming out. Now, it’s got so big no one could possibly ever know. It’s like finding a diamond in the dirt these days. I find things that I like, but the percentage of stuff I like is tiny.

If a turntable and a CDJ had a fight, which would win?
CDJs for me are like plastic silly things, and turntables are like meaty, serious, historic, old big things, so it wouldn’t even be a fight. The turntable would just trample all over the CDJ. I work with a lot of new technology in terms of software, but I still use turntables to control it all. Real DJing to me has to have two turntables there. That’s the aesthetic that was drummed into me from the start. That’s what DJing looks like, so when I see people DJing off computers and things with lots of lights and buttons, I think there’s a skill to it, but to me that’s something else.

Anything else you’d like to say to the good people of Nottingham?
I’m really looking forward to it. It’s been a while since I last came, and I really enjoy coming to Nottingham it’s somewhere that I really love and it’s a really rich cultural place for music and film. I’m looking forward to it.

Confetti website

DJ Yoda website

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