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Interview with DJ Chile

Not only is DJ Chile an incredibly talented turntablist, as his YouTube videos and a 2011 WTK World Freestyle title testify, he is also quite the philosopher when it comes to skratching. In this interview we learn about his process of first learning to skratch, how playing drums have inspired him, his debilitating tendonitis and the frustration of not being able to cut for two years, and much more. This is essential reading for anyone serious about skratching.

What is it about skratching that first made you want to do it?

DJ Chile: I guess what drew me to it initially was the sound; it seemed so different to what I’d heard before and it would sometimes give me the shivers, like when you hear music you really like. I also used to be heavily into Drum and Bass in my mid-teens, so I would listen to people like DJ Hype, Scratch Perverts, the Mixologists, and DJ Craze scratching in their mixes, and it would amaze me.

Can you remember the first piece of skratching that got you excited?

DJ Chile: I remember a friend burned me a copy of DJ Craze and Marky’s One World mix for BBC Radio 1 back in 2002. I probably listened to it over a hundred times. It was around that point that I started to think about trying it myself.

Why is skratching so hard to learn?

DJ Chile: It depends how you approach things really... If you try to do the advanced stuff before you have a good grasp of the core techniques you’ll likely set yourself up for a lot of frustration and substantially slow your growth because the advanced stuff requires a solid foundational understanding. The process is a lot like learning a new language, so if we first focus on understanding the most used words and phrases (baby motions, tears, chirps, transforms, 1 click flares, etc.), later on we can embed the more complex words into the basic sentence structures we understand well, and develop our fluency in increasingly sophisticated ways. On the other hand, if we spend a lot of time on the complex stuff, but not much time developing fluency with the basics, then we just have a bunch of long words that lack meaning and flow disjointedly.

Developing a good grasp of the core technique can take years, but it’s a fun process. It’s also very creative, even though we’re practicing the most understood and mapped out techniques... I mean scratching differs from language in that we have the freedom to create our own sentence structures, so we can order the basics in whatever way we want so long as it appeals to our own principles of what sounds logical and interesting.

How long did it take to get to your level?

DJ Chile: I figured out a few months ago that I’ve actually been doing this since April 2003 (not 2002 as I thought previously), so it’s been just over 11 years with a 2 year gap from hand injury.

Any particular break-throughs?

DJ Chile: Aside from cross rhythms and phasing which I’ve talked about before, I’d say learning how to connect and order scratches has been another continual development. Once you’ve acquired a big library of patterns and styles, practice seems to become more about learning to fully access your library of techniques and fluidly reorder what you know, in real time... To do that we have to overcome long term habits by consciously implementing new strategies. For example, for some time I’ve been learning to space intricate patterns (hippopotamus, 2 click orbits, 3 click orbits) out with shorter simple patterns (babies, scribbles, forward scratches and chirps) that easily connect. After playing around with this for a while you start to see what you do as a combination of two interacting voices, not just the usual one on going voice… and then we can focus on creating variations between how the simple voice and the complex voice interact by elongating either or both in various ways... This creates some interesting and sometimes very dynamic rhythmic changes.

We can also blur the distinction between simple and complex by doing the simple stuff fast and the complex stuff slow. It’s a bit like creating lots of categories for things, and then intentionally finding ways to undermine the category system you’ve created, by putting things where they shouldn’t be and finding a way for it to fit.

How did you choose which would be your fader hand?

DJ Chile: I don’t remember choosing a side really... I just went with what felt right at the time. I’m left handed so I’ve stuck with my left hand on the record since day one.

Did you practice on both hands or just the one?

DJ Chile: 99% of my practice has been on one side. I have tried to practice the other side on occasion, but never really consistently.

How did you choose whether to go hamster or orthodox on the crossfader?

Again, I don’t remember choosing really. I just stuck with the orthodox setup. I have in the past tried to develop hamster fader technique, but decided against it with my fader hand being how it is.

Most enjoyable battle moment?

DJ Chile: Lots but if I had to say one, I guess Tigerstyle vs Rafik in ITF 2003.


Tell us about your tendonitis: How many hours of practice per day were you doing at the time?

DJ Chile: Anywhere from 8-10 hours usually and on some occasions up to 14 hours. I was pretty obsessed back then. The time I had off I would play computer games too, so lots of mouse clicking and keyboard typing really didn’t help either.

How did you know it was serious? Where was the pain?

DJ Chile: I remember I had pain in my fader hand for a few weeks but had ignored it. It started as a burning sensation on my palm below my index and middle finger. Then one night while taking a break from scratching, I was playing Red Alert on the computer for a few hours and I seemed to lose the strength in my index and middle fingers just to be able to click on the mouse.

What did the doctors say?

DJ Chile: The first few times I went to the doctors they didn’t really seem to have much of an idea of what it was and just advised me not to practice and sent me off with anti-inflammatory medication (diclofenac and ibuprofen) for the swelling. After a few months of back and forth doctor visits they eventually put me on a waiting list to see a specialist in Leeds. The specialist confirmed that the tendon swelling over the MCP joint of my thumb, index and middle finger was a build-up of scar tissue on the tendon, caused by micro tears to the tissue from over use.

How long did you have to stop skratching for and how frustrating was that?

DJ Chile: I had to stop for 2 years. It was pretty frustrating considering how obsessed I was with scratching. Back when I was first going to the doctors I tried to continue to scratch even though they advised against it. My hand was already in bad shape, and that made things a lot worse. I guess that’s the maladaptive side of obsession. I got pretty depressed about it for a while, but it got easier. I started meditating for long periods during that time in an attempt to heal my hand. I don’t think it helped much with the healing, but it did seem to help me face the situation I was in, instead of pretending it wasn’t such a big problem and continuing to practice while in pain.

Did you do any work just on the other hand?

DJ Chile: I practiced faderless occasionally but I found that I also started to develop pain on my record hand and out of habit I’d go into using my fader hand after a while, so I had to limit that.

How did you deal with getting back into scratching after your injury?

DJ Chile: I started to focus a lot more on developing technique with less click heavy patterns. I developed my chirps a lot and came up with variations of chirps that included baby scratches so I could minimise the amount of clicking I was doing. I worked on my tears too since I could practice them without clicking. I also spent a lot of time on 1 click flares and on good days, crescent flares. Over time I started to push my fader hand in order to build up an understanding of how much I could do and then went from there. Getting an injury like that can change the direction you take quite substantially and I probably wouldn’t sound as developed as I do today without it, as it forced me to spend a lot of time on the basics.

Can you feel the glove make a difference? Or is it more precautionary?

DJ Chile: Well considering that the gloves are intended for arthritis, they seem to work quite well. It took a while, but I’ve gotten used to scratching with them on and I found that they seem to provide extra support to my finger joints. I have hypermobility syndrome, which means I have very flexible fingers, so the gloves help to support the joints from excessive bending during certain motions. They’re very good for warming the fingers up too and the gloves are made to compress the hand in order to increase blood flow, so I tend to wear them most the time and on nights I have pain. They just need a bit of hand washing in soapy water every few days.

A major downside though is that they’re a bit like an expensive sock. They tend to develop holes rather quickly, but they can be fixed in the short term with a bit of stitching. The fabric on the pair I have now has become riddled with holes and seems too damaged to repair with stitching, so I’ve just ordered another pair. They lasted about a year to get to that point though.

IMAX arthritis gloves

Where can you get a glove like yours from?

DJ Chile: They’re called IMAK arthritis gloves and are available online from various places. I got mine from Amazon for around £17 with postage.

Did you try anything else to ease the pain or prevent injury? 

DJ Chile: I’ve tried most things available with the exception of expensive private care treatments, cortisol injections, and operations. Aside from the gloves, I have a Powerball, Flextend orthopaedic glove, a Novasonic ultrasound massager, and a set of dumbells and resistance bands. Arm exercises seem to help in a similar way to ice to deaden immediate pain, and also help to prevent future injury by building up tissue strength overtime. Ultrasound massagers also help to minimise pain and are supposed to enhance the cell-repair effects of the inflammatory response. The Flextend glove is another exercise and rehabilitation apparatus specifically used to treat a variety of RSI issues. I also do 20-30 minutes of skipping most days as cardio exercise is meant to enhance blood flow and promote natural healing to injured sites of the body. Stretching the arms, neck and back also seems to help a lot since pain in one area can be caused by nerve pressure at another seemingly unrelated area.

What advice would you give skratchers for injury prevention?

DJ Chile: If you practice for long sessions, take 5 minute breaks every 20-30 minutes and drink lots of water as your muscles work more efficiently when properly hydrated. Change what you’re doing at the first sign of pain, so if your record hand hurts then switch to slow motions on the record and focus more on fader motions... If your fader hand hurts switch to simpler and slower fader motions and practice more intense record motions. If your hands hurts even after the switch then take a few days off and if that doesn’t help then take longer off and start forearm and finger muscle building exercises. Research the exercises and stretches that would work best for you and look into specific exercise equipment that might help. Don’t overdo exercise and go easy on practice during exercise days. Also get enough quality sleep daily as a lot of healing takes place during that time.

dj chile tag

In the TurntablistWorld interview you expressed some disenchantment with the comp organisers not looking after DJs. What would you like to see?

DJ Chile: I’d like organisations to be what they say they’re about.. If they say they’re about respect for the DJs, then treat the DJs with respect... Otherwise it’s just a hypocritical statement intended to boost public relations. More prizes would be nice too... Cash instead of DJ gear, which DJs already have.

You also mentioned you were learning the drums - how does that compare to learning skratching and are there crossovers?

DJ Chile: Yeah I’m part of a drumming group called Althea Sound, check us out on facebook. We play mainly African rhythms. I play Ken Ken, Sangbane, Dun Dun and sometimes a little Djembe. There’s a lot of crossovers between scratching and African rhythms. Africa also seems to be where cross rhythms originated and have been most developed and emphasised in the music there. The solo approach to African drumming seems to run parallel with scratching solos too. I often hear drum rhythm embellishments during practices that remind me of certain scratches patterns and flows. Whenever I come back from drum practices I tend to be up until late scratching because of the ideas it gives me.

Enjoyed listening to your recent EP - what did you use to make that?

DJ Chile: Thanks! I used Cubase 5.1 for arranging the tracks. For melodies I used mainly VSTIs, and some orchestra samples from records. For effects I used a UAD-1 card and a mixture of various native Cubase VSTs and third party plugins. I also used an Electribe EMX-1 for some of the drum sample patterns, and a PDX 2000, Hak360 and Super Seal / some of the Scratch Sciences for the scratching and drum scratching parts.

Is there an album coming out soon and what will it be like?

DJ Chile: I haven’t started it yet so you’ll have to wait and see!

dj chile


Keep up with DJ Chile on his website or on Facebook. Interview conducted by Dan Leach, follow him on Twitter @Danno_live

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