SPOTLIGHT ON BLOGGERHOUSE: DJ ROB A (Great interview that covers three decades)
I've always had a rather serious admiration for the whole turntablist movement and traditional mixtape DJs. It's something I have very little understanding of, but the way certain dudes can turn a turntable and a wax disc into an instrument is nothing short of amazing to me. Throw in a DJ that can make a traditional style hip hop mixtape with scratching and mixing and I'm won over. That's exactly what John Doe of the world famous 1200 Hobos is all about.
Together with Mr. Dibbs and DJ Skip, John Doe has been a radio DJ, a battle DJ, and his latest inception as a mixtape DJ. My introduction to the 1200 Hobos was a rather memorable one. There used to be a little DJ/Mixtape place in Salt Lake City called The Hip Hop Shop. I used to go there and pick up Tony Touch tapes and the such. What started my mini fascination with turntablist like DJ Q-Bert, The X-Men (before they were forced to to changed their names to the X-Ecutioners) was a particular visit when I picked up DJ Q-Bert's "Hot Sauce In Your Dickhole" (which I still have somewhere) and the 1200 Hobos "Evolution" (which I lost over time). I played both tapes a ton on my little Sony boombox sitting in my room. At one time I could play the "air turntable" (closely related to the air guitar) almost on cue with the scratches. Therefore, I've always watched what the Hobos would do. Of course Dibbs keeps in the limelight, being a road DJ for Atmosphere for awhile and making his own mixtapes, but the one that I hadn't heard from in awhile was John Doe. That was until the cat it me up about doing some kind of post on his latest release, "The Last Amateur (One Hour Photo)". After listening to the project, I knew putting a turntablist up on a Spotlight was a MUST. So of course, here we are.....
Read Spotlight After Jump
John Doe - The Last of the First (Download Link) FROM: The Last Amateur (One Hour Photo)
johndoe1200hobos at yahoo.com
WYDU: What's good man, how about a quick introduction of who you are and who/what you are representing'?
John Doe: My name is John Doe and I represent the 1200 Hobos DJ crew out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Third member of the crew after Mr. Dibbs and DJ Skip.
W: You are definitely no new comer, as the 1200 Hobos have been around since the mid 90's. I remember a DJ buddy of mine introduced me to the crew as I picked up and Q-Bert's "Evolution" "Hot Sauce In Your Dickhole" from a hip hop shop in Salt Lake City of all places. Can you drop a brief history of how you came into the Hobos with Dibbs and Skip?
JD: I already knew the basics of just scratching before I met Dibbs through a mutual friend named Rubox. The first time he saw me scratch, he was pretty impressed, I guess. He made me a Hobo after that. Dibbs and I DJ'ed together on the B-Boys Underground radio show in Cincinnati for about 2 or 3 years.
W: Originally, you were known more as a battle DJ, competing in showcases and the such. Why the progression from battle DJ to more of a mixtape DJ?
JD: As time went on, I had less and less time to practice for battles and not a whole lot of opportunities to battle. But I always had ideas. So what I ended up doing was taking those ideas, extrapolating them and using them as the basis for my mixtapes.
Also, I was extremely disappointed with a majority of mixtapes that I heard around that time. A lot of them weren't worth listening to again. I would listen to other DJs' mixtapes and think to myself, 'If this was my tape, I would have cut this instead,' or 'I would have totally scratched this instead of that.' As the saying goes, "If you want something done right, do it yourself." So I did.
W: The term "mixtape" has obviously changed over the past 5-10 years. How do you view the traditional mixtape (with scratching, songs, and the good stuff) scene these days. How has it changed in your view?
JD: I don't know how many DJs are doing traditional mixtapes nowadays. What people call "mixtapes" today are either compilations or "street albums." My work doesn't really fall into either of those categories. They're totally different things from what I do, so it doesn’t really affect how I put my mixtapes together.
W: On your mixtapes, you still keep the DJ essence alive with plenty of "trickery" and to quote yourself, "vinyl manipulation". When listening to your latest project "The Last Amateur," it's a real listening experience, the whole thing just flows for a good 60 minutes. To you, what makes a good mixtape project?
JD: Whatever format (CD, mp3, etc) it is, a good mixtape should flow just like a cassette tape. It also needs to be more than just a collection of songs. A good mixtape should showcase your skills as well as what you're really about. That being said, there should also be a concept behind it to help bring everything together so it makes sense.
W: Explain the whole concept of "The Last Amateur". What can listeners come to expect from it?
JD: The main levels to the concept:
1) The packaging. For something amateurish, you would probably expect a CD-R with the title written in a Sharpie in a slim case. “The Last Amateur” is in a standard clear/clear CD case with a full color 4 panel insert and a pressed CD.
2) Method of recording. I used all vinyl for the beats and scratches, and recorded everything on a Tascam 688, a cassette 8-track. I didn’t use any kind of digital DJing program or software to record because I don’t own them. I don’t even have a computer in my studio.
3) Me. I’m technically an amateur DJ, since environmental chemistry is my profession.
What can listeners expect? A lot of breaks, samples, 90s hip-hop cut up, and tons of scratching. Expect to hear an hour's worth of songs reconstructed and/or deconstructed into its sample elements. There's also a lot of turntable wordplay and actual mixing! There are no less than 90 songs used in the 60 minutes, so it's packed pretty densely.
W: How much time did it take to make "The Last Amateur"? I'm assuming it probably wasn't a one take thing that you did in the afternoon. Do you have to do "practice runs"?
JD: It took about a total of a year's time to compose and record everything. There was a lot of planning and mapping out involved. Composition books, legal pads, and Post-It notes were all over the studio!
W: How do you choose what songs to cut up and manipulate? Are these personal favorites, or do you go with the general hip hop consensus of the classics? How important is it to pick the right song for the mood/feel you are looking for?
JD: Songs with a lot of samples in them are fun to work with, and if there are great lines in there, that's a plus. I'll start with one thing and kind of run with it. I try to stay away from the classics, but sometimes, those are great to take apart and put back together, especially if they're based on great samples - then you can go either this way or that way with it.
As far as going for a particular mood or feel, I just go with what makes sense to me. I don't know if it's my scientific background that makes me do that, but the flow of "The Last Amateur" is completely linear. There's nothing random. Every beat, every scratch, every insert is in there for a reason.
W: What else do you got on the burners for the upcoming future?
JD: There are plans for another CD in the vein of "The Last Amateur," but in the meantime, I will be dropping some short turntable-based tracks here and there. The tracks will be posted on myspace.com/johndoe1200hobos and/or johndoe1200hobos.blogspot.com.
W: Who are some classic "traditional" DJs in your opinion, who do you view as some of the best in the biz? What makes a good DJ?
JD: Good DJs are the ones that inspired me: Mr. Mixx (2 Live Crew), DJ Man, Mike Fresh & DJ Toomp, Mix Master Ice (UTFO), Cash Money, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, QBert, Mr. Dibbs, DJ Noize, Cut Chemist, and Kid Koala.
W: Any last words for the loyal readers/listeners/followers?
JD: I'd like to give a big thank you to all the people who have checked out my material, appreciated it, and understood it.
JD: No problem, thank you for the interview!