Music interview: DJ A-L talks flexi-disc vinyl
Something You Said’s 25ThC remembers flexi-discs from the music magazines of his youth and was pleased to see that DJ A-L out of Denver is releasing stone-cold classic hip hop and funk re-edits on brightly coloured Flexi-Discs in 2017. He asked him more about these releases, his favourite 45s and more:
Your productions are re-edits of classic soul, funk or hip hop tracks. What is it about these genres that attracts you to them and who first introduced you to these styles?
Hip Hop introduced me to almost every other genre that I have an appreciation for today. I grew up in a household where my dad played a lot of Rock; The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Aerosmith, etc. My mom didn’t have a specific music taste but my aunt was playing a lot of Funk, Soul and R&B; Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, etc. When I was growing up in the 90’s I was really tuned into all of the new Hip Hop and R&B music that was coming out but I also paid attention to a lot of the classic music my family was playing as well. Back then I was able to hear new songs and reverse engineer them and understand where the samples came from. Being such a young age and being able to understand how music was made was really empowering, at the time it was something that gave me self-esteem and now has helped me make a name for myself 25 years later.
Your most recent productions have been self released on brightly coloured flexi-disc. For many people these are a throwback to the 80’s when they came free on the front of a magazine. Why have you chosen to release on flexi-disc?
Putting my remix work on flexi-disc vinyl was an obvious choice for me because, like companies used the medium in the past as a promotional tool, I’m kind of doing the same thing. It’s not something I’m aiming to make a lot of money off of but instead I view each release as a fancy business card. For me I knew releasing a series of 7” square plastic flexi records as DJ tools was a unique idea and that it would most likely get people to want to talk about it.
What technical issues or limitations do you find with releasing on flexi-disc as opposed to standard vinyl?
The technical issues and limitations of flexi-disc vinyl is something I’m more than happy to welcome. Because a lot of the remixes I’m releasing are straight up classics I don’t want to make it any easier for DJ’s to play these songs out. I want DJ’s to be challenged by trying to use the flexi’s in the same way they would traditional vinyl, I also want them to be nervous before they put it on the platter because there’s a chance it might skip. However, for the most part the records track very well and can be scratched and juggled to the extent normal vinyl can be. There’s been plenty of skilled DJ’s in the world that have already proved that.
I saw a video from last year of DJ Numark spinning two of your Flexi’s at Scratch Bastid’s BBQ. Jazzy Jeff filming the video seemed very intrigued. How does it make you feel to see some of the best DJ’s in the world playing and commenting on your releases?
I’m flattered and grateful for all the exposure people like Nu-Mark, Z-Trip and countless other DJ’s in the world have given me. Truthfully, I put these releases out for me. I never set my expectation so high on this project that I told myself that the world was going to know my name or something silly like that. The lesson in all this for me is that if you do what’s in your heart everything else will work itself out in the end.
Like yourself I am a big fan of 45’s. What do you think it is about this format that makes it so special?
As a record collector, who’s running out of room, I love the lack of space a 7″ 45 takes up compared to a LP. As a DJ who can appreciate a challenge I think it’s more challenging to control a smaller record and mix specific genres that were popular on 45 but weren’t necessarily meant to be beat matched by DJ’s. A lot of those styles of music, like Funk and Soul, contain drum patterns that were played without the help of a metronome to keep everything in sync, to be able to mix those kind of records all night makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something and that I’ve earned my money at the end of a gig.
Can you tell me your top 5 favourite 45’s?
My favorite records are always changing and usually it’s nothing rare. Lately the top 5 45’s I have in rotation are Nancy Sinatra “These Boots Are Made For Walking”, Cher “Bang, Bang”, The Honey Cone “Want Ads”, The Fatback Back “Let The Drums Speak” and Jamiroquai “Canned Heat”.
What is the music scene like where you are based and does it encourage your music style to thrive?
The music scene in Denver, CO is great! I really have the support of a lot of good people who encourage me to keep it funky and come from the heart. The B-Boy and dance community has really had my back, you can hear that influence in a lot of my remixes.
How do you go about choosing which tracks to re-edit?
I geek out. A lot of my remixes start with me being a big fan of somebody else’s work. I’ll pick apart a song simply for the fun of it and then realize a few days later that maybe someone else besides me might appreciate what I did and then I’ll have to get serious about it.
What advice would you give to any producers out there wanting to make their own edits and about potentially self-releasing them?
If I had to give another Hip Hop artist specific advice I would say to release vinyl. It legitimizes your work and tells people how you feel about your music and that you’re serious. I’ve never seen anyone take a record and throw it away but I’ve seen plenty of CD-R’s thrown out of car windows in the 2000’s and fast forward to today, plenty of unsolicited email blasts and DM’s get ignored. If you want a legacy then press records. I guarantee out of a short run of 250 records at least one of those will still be around telling your story after your gone!
What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
I actually teach music production classes to High School students in Denver a couple of days a week so one of my goals now that school is back in effect is to make sure I’m dropping gems on the shorties. As a High School drop out myself I’ve come full circle in life and I want to make sure I’m not only teaching my students how to make dope beats but planting seeds in 2017.
Interview by 25ThC.