2tall feature – Published in Serie B magazine, 2005
This feature is based on various much q&a sessions which took place over a year at 2tall’s home and studio. The first and longest of these q&a sessions is available online at spinscience.org.uk and ukhh.com.
Musicianship can take many forms and artists many shapes. And in many ways the above sentence has never rung truer than when applied to scratch DJs. From the musical stylings of Mixmaster Mike and D-Styles to the dnb productions and club sets of Craze, scratch DJs are constantly redefining concepts of music. And in the UK, one DJ in particular is standing tall over the rest.
2tall first came to music in the early 90s and through playing the piano and drums during his youth and teens. 1995 saw him catch the DJ bug, and after a few years of mixing he discovered battle and test tone records, opening up a whole new world of sonic possibilities which he started to integrate more and more into his mixing, experimenting with scratching as he went along. This led him to take scratching more seriously and find out about its history and the emerging turntable music being made at the time. By 2000 2tall was incorporating all the different music making skills he’d learnt in his youth alongside his newfound love (and talent) for scratching. 2001 saw him take to the battles for the first time as well, both solo and with UK crew The Truesicians. All this ultimately led to his first official release, the ‘Rise EP’, on Needlework Records in 2003. A snapshot of his time battling and learning the scratching ropes, the EP also hinted to a different and more musical side, which would eventually materialise further into his first full length solo album, ‘Shifting Tides’.
The album was released in early 05, and soon found acclaim in various parts of the music industry. Over a year in the making, it showcases a singular approach to an emerging and constantly shifting genre. More than that the album is a lovely piece of music, regardless of its means of production. “I’ve learnt a lot since the LP was released… I’ve lost some of my naivety. I feel like there is a steep learning curve being a debuting artist and it has changed a lot of things with regards to my making music all the time. Now that this album is finished I find it hard to stick to what I want to do musically, I feel pressured in a way to change my sound, to make it palatable to people.” His logic is pretty sound and not that surprising when you consider how open the current scratch music scene is becoming around the world. “I find it hard to expand on things I touched on with this LP in a way, but I feel confident I can move on. The way I look at it is that I’m doing my own thing within this current movement of pushing turntablism in a lot of different directions. I’m constantly experimenting with new ways of incorporating the turntable into production and live performances.”
2tall is also a keen hip hop producer and beat maker, something he intends to take much further in the future. “Again I’m learning a lot more about that aspect of producing, and taking it more seriously than I have in the past. Right now I’m trying to find a way to incorporate the sound I’ve found and developed on ‘Shifting Tides’ into my hip hop productions.” Armed with a lot of ideas and dedication to his craft, 2tall his hoping to lift his hip hop work even further in 2005 with some collaborations in the works. “I’m working on quite a few bits but I don’t want to say too much in case it doesn’t come through. For now I can say that there will be a couple of tracks released with Aphletik”.
Live performance is another area in which 2tall is keen to develop himself further, following some initial forays in late 2004 including loop pedal showcases and work with live musicians. After a break from live work, he’s keen to approach the idea from a fresh new angle. “The stuff I did last year was the first grounding for me really and a good experience. Now I want to take it more seriously as well as bring in new ideas. I’d like to incorporate some new technology to my setup, like laptops, and use that on stage to create music in a new way.” In addition to this, 2tall is also working closely with other tablists and DJs around Europe, but again doesn’t want to say too much. “There are a few things in the works with people across Europe. One of which is with Lamont from the Big Band in Belgium. We should be doing some dates together in Europe, which will be announced soon.”
As our conversation drifts towards showcases we touch on the lack of high profile turntablist showcases in the UK by foreign artists, and the irony of seeing people such as Excess and D-Styles being more easily booked in mainland Europe than the UK. “I think the problem here right now is that culturally speaking there is a lack of people willing to put on artists who are doing something different to what is considered popular. People don’t want to give them a chance, which is really ironical when you consider that the UK exported DJ culture to Europe. We have the most socially integrated club and DJ culture but we can’t get interesting and different acts to do one off gigs or small tours. On that point I’d like to say that at least in London we have Resonance FM, who have put me on at live seated concerts which is great. It should be respected for being an independent bastion of musical originality and showcasing real creativity and freedom.”
As we part, one thing comes to his mind that encapsulates his view of the upcoming turntable music today. “When someone like D-Styles releases an album, it’s like a movie. Then, a fan of the movie comes along and takes a 2D photo of it and claims that to be their movie, their art. But it’s not and they need to drop that and express themselves. Especially people who post music on message boards and online. Do what you want to do not what you think you should. Unfortunately I think that phenomenon is also indicative of society as a whole today.”