Interview: Si Symatic from Cut & Paste
Following on from his recent interview with Ritchie Ruftone, somethingyousaid.com’s 25ThC spoke with Si Symatic from Cut and Paste Records about scratching, skip-less scratch records and 7″ record bags:
Who is involved in running Cut and Paste Records? When and why did you set it up?
I’ve been making custom scratch sentences and dubplates for a while, but I started selling digital scratch sentences on Bandcamp back in, like, 2013. They started out as sentences just for me to mess with, but more and more people kept asking for them and I figured what the hell I may as well charge a £1 :). After a few months I had made a couple of hundred pounds and around that time my friend Darcy contacted me and said I should be putting this on vinyl. He’s a real motivated guy and really positive, and I was kinda thinking it was all impossible and expensive but he planned it all out using Kickstarter and so on. I had also recently been dragged onto Facebook by another friend who I make music with because he said I’d never get gigs and stuff if I wasn’t there, haha. It worked out well though, and I started using Kickstarter and Facebook to promote it all.
Meanwhile, the Tinychat scratch community had built up from basically me, Ritchie Rufftone, Tableturnsmore and Vekked being on it all the time to a really busy thing with maybe 20-30 people online every night. So word was spreading there and people got more of a taste of the sounds we were using. Another important person to mention is my friend Leighton. Without him doing the infamous Man O’War record, we wouldn’t have seen it as even a possibility, and he helped us with the whole process of getting the pressing done.
You have now released two excellent scratch records “Cadence with Rhythm & Flow” and “Combinations from the Masters”. How do you go about choosing what scratch samples to use and what makes a good scratch record?
Well so far the concept has been about digging through hip hop A Capella records looking for interesting and original sounds. Not to try and diss anyone else making scratch records, but I felt a lot of stuff coming out was using the same old tired sounds, and I thought there are so many cool phrases and sounds, just from the Hip Hop genre alone, that all could be used to scratch. Listening to people like Toadstyle and Manipulate inspired me a lot to get interesting and obscure phrases, as well as stuff that just sounds tough and can be used in the context of a battle or in a song as a hook or whatever. Choosing the samples is a long process, because it’s not just finding a cool phrase, there’s all sorts of obstacles…. Is there another sound in the back ground that will affect it when you scratch it? Is the voice so deep it won’t work well when used on ultrapitch? Are the syllables of each word delivered in such a way that they can be scratched easily? Does the sentence make sense on its own? Does it make sense when cut up into pieces? There are so many things. You have to just use trial and error a lot of the time and some educated guess work. Sound quality is very important so we tend to sample from the source. We don’t want to be selling vinyl that has originally come from a mp3. It will sound very bad. There is no comparison! For me a good scratch record will have original sounds, be well pressed, be open to interpretation, and should sound good.
You recently ran a video competition for people to use “Combinations from the Masters” to scratch over loops. How impressed were you with the entries and how did you decide on a winner?
Really impressed! We were totally amazed by the response. The support for the whole project in general is really amazing and we really thank the turntablist scene worldwide for their support. The entries were all great for the competition and it was tough to decide the final winner. I think Electrofood could have won but he recorded his video in a hurry and he didn’t use a beat off our looper by accident! In a way I was relieved because people would think I was just giving the prizes to my friends if he won the second Cut & Paste competition in a row!! But Demetri Manoofthetreez totally smashed it! His vid really made my head nod. When I watch battle vids I look at it with the eyes of a scratch nerd but I also try and remember what it is like to listen to this without being part of the scratch scene and listen to the parts that are intrinsically musical and fun so he covered all of that in his set which I really liked.
You sell your scratch records on vinyl only format and do not include digital copies. Why have you made the decision to do it in this way?
Firstly, I am a vinyl head. scratching comes from analogue formats and it’s one of the things I love about it. So that is why I prioritize vinyl. We DO release digital copies. You can download “Cadence With Rhythm And Flow” from the Cut & Paste Records Bandcamp page but we wait until the vinyl is sold out before we release digital. I chose to do it this way because I think it is important to give vinyl the promotion. Digital is not seen as valuable. It’s not something you collect and look after, you just HAVE it. Also the moment the digi comes out it is being shared. It doesn’t bother me, I know that is just how it goes, but as there is no real value attributed to digital files it makes me think it is ok for people to wait haha. I know this has frustrated people in the past. I told a DMC finalist he had to record his copy of Cadence into Serato himself if he wanted to use it in his set haha. I know that was mean but also if I make one rule for one person and another rule for others then that is not fair either so… But yeah the main reason is that we are a vinyl record label, we love vinyl, we believe it is still the best format for what we do so that is why it is at the top of our list.
The majority of DJs these days are scratching using Digital Vinyl Systems on Traktor/Serato. What in your opinion are the pros and cons of using DVS as opposed to pure vinyl records?
I remember when Serato first came out. Final scratch was there but was this mythical thing that only Craze seemed to know about, haha. My friend DJM was a very early user of Serato and we were totally blown away by what you could do with it. But I actually never owned it myself until about 2012. As I said before I always prefer vinyl 🙂 but I finally bought Serato after a bad day. I was playing a free gig for a friends and on the way to the taxi my record box broke and sent 100 precious records into a puddle, of course it was raining. It was bad so that was when I thought it is better to use Serato for gigs like that. You can lose a laptop and your Serato box but you probably have backups and so on. It’s not hard to replace except for just money. But records are a limited resource. If you have a rare record and it breaks that can be it! Anyway, getting Serato meant that I can test and create scratch records pretty easily. It’s a lot cheaper than getting Dubplates cut every time you want to test something! My only negative about DVS is that latency is still an issue. It’s very good but the moment I go back to scratching on vinyl I know I’ve been missing something. This will get better over time though. I’m splitting hairs really…
How and when did you first get into scratching and which DJ’s inspired you?
I got into scratching when I was a kid, early teens I guess, but I never actually had a proper go on turntables until I was older, like 18. Until then I was stuck making pause-tapes on casette and playing with free software 🙂
DJ’s that inspired me early on are Mixmaster Mike, Liam Howlett (The Prodigy), Coldcut, Q-Bert, Babu, Shadow and Cut Chemist….
You also produce loopers for people to scratch over. What software/hardware do you use to produce and what in your opinion makes a good beat for scratching?
I use lots of stuff. I used to have a Roland SP-404. I mostly use Ableton now. Most of my beats on the loopers are made using iMaschine on my phone! I then bounce it onto my reel to reel deck for some interesting grit and phatness 🙂
I also make beats with my friend Mirapid and we use Logic. I also use my loop pedal a lot too. A good scratch beat makes your head nod and has enough space to let you get busy.
What plans do you have for future releases?
Lots 🙂 We have another similar record in the works and quite a lot of producers have been wanting to work with us to get vinyl out…. there’s a lot to be done!
Your girlfriend is also very creative, making you a brilliant 7″ record bag out of an old pair of jeans that I want out! What plans do you have to sell/market this in the future?
Haha, that was just because I kept asking her to help me make one and finally she gave in :). We have ordered some materials and will start making them in small batches very soon. The Denim thing was just what I had to hand at the time but a few people like the idea of denim so we may do more like that. The ones we’re making now are rugged material like rucksacks and stuff. But yeah she is very creative with stuff like that and has an eye for detail. I hope we can make more stuff like that. I always wanted a 10″ bag for dubplates 🙂
Interview by 25ThC