Wednesday, August 17, 2011
DJ Mike C. in tha house!
Most flatlanders live a dual life. Off the courts, you're likely to find a flatlander just about anywhere. When Mike Chua showed up on the flatland scene, he said he was into DJing, but I didn't know how deep into the turntable game he went until I found this clip. Two legendary DJs battle it out for ITF supremecy! Check it!
FM: Sup, Mike! Where and when is the battle in the video taking place?
MC: What up Bobby. That was an ITF (International Turntablist Federation) battle, the U.S. Finals for 1999. ITF turned out to be kind of like the ABA of DJ battles: nowadays in basketball, there is just the NBA. But back in the day, the two major leagues were the NBA and the ABA. Likewise, in DJing the two big worldwide battles at the time were the ITF and DMC, and nowadays I think it’s just the DMC.
The way those ITF battles worked is that they had an East Coast prelim battle and a West Coast prelim battle. The top four DJs from each coast qualified for the U.S. Finals, which was held in San Francisco and is the battle in that video. I placed fourth in the West Coast battle, and then second in the U.S. Finals.
FM: So for 1999 you were crowned the 2nd best DJ in the USA for the ITF?
MC: It just means I placed second in that particular battle. Just like in flatland contests, there are plenty of people who don’t enter a particular contest who might have placed higher. And also like in flatland contests, this stuff is all art and all subjective. That’s just how the placings went on that particular day.
FM: Were you with a crew? If so, what were they about?
MC: Yeah I was part of a DJ crew called Top Rawmen. It was me and DJs Nando, Yeroc, Nomad, Coy, and Jay Slim, plus Kidragon and Omega. We were pretty much just a bunch of young kids who were friends and were all into DJing. I grew up with Yeroc and Nomad in Sacramento, and then we linked up with all the others after we moved down to SoCal for college. Some of us in the crew ended up winning or placing high in some major battles during our era, which was more than I would have known to expect for me and my friends just goofing off on some turntables.
FM: Did you guy also get it jumping on the party scene or did you stay strictly to technical DJing?
MC: I did do some club/party DJing, but the artsy technical DJing (turntablism) is what I was really passionate about at that time. In comparing it to other kinds of DJing, I think it’s a lot like painting: there’s the more workmanlike kind of painter who paints houses and walls and such; and then there’s the Van Gogh type who does something totally abstract and kind of unnecessary, but that could potentially make you say “wow.” Obviously the first type of painter is more practical and useful; whereas the other type is more likely to end up crazy and broke and cutting off his own ear, haha. So likewise, it would be way more practical to be the kind of DJ that plays music for people at various events, but I just found scratch artistry more interesting. However – just like the two kinds of painters – they are both valuable skills, and you could be good at one or the other or both. I’d like to think I was capable of both.
FM: I saw this poster online as well. Its a picture of you and DJ Nando. Talk about this release.
DJ Nando (L) and DJ Mike C. (R)
MC: Wow, you must’ve done some serious online digging, haha.
FM: Google, baby!
MC: This is the cover of a mixtape that I put out with my boy Nando back in 2000. We’re both really opinionated types, so we couldn’t truly “collaborate” on a project; we each had to have our own side of the tape, something you don’t experience with the CD or mp3 mixtapes that came later on. This tape was pretty much a collection of the ‘90s-era hip-hop that we both grew up on, all mixed together with our scratching stuff. We got a good response on it from people at the time; I’ll send you a link to an mp3 copy one of these days so you can check it out.
FM: How long were you in the DJ game?
MC: I first got into DJing in 1993, during high school. I was into the battle scene from ’96 until 2001 or so, and then I got into production and did songs for some local hip-hop acts until about 2005. One of the groups I used to produce for, called Far East Movement, actually went on to become huge in the music scene and made some of the most popular songs of the last few years; so it’s neat to be able to say that I made songs with them too back in the day.
FM: Can we hear any of the tracks you produced for Far East Movement online?
MC: Yeah, here is a music video for the song “Western” which we recorded in 2004 or so.
FM: Why did you not continue to pursue more in the music scene?
MC: I think in the end, I just felt I was putting more into it than it was giving me back: not only in terms of time and resources, but also in enjoyment. There were other hobbies and things that I got into – such as flatland – and I found that I preferred to spend my time and energy doing other things besides music, even if that meant I had to start from zero trying something new.
I could picture myself getting back into it someday, especially if it tied into my current interests somehow. Maybe I could DJ at BMX events someday; but not at ones like Hollywood Jam, where it might just start raining on us or we could get kicked out for no good reason, haha.
FM: You'll probably be too busy riding at the jam too! haha!
FM: I noticed you were jugging a lot of words together in addition to beats. Did you have a special style or some thing that stood out in your skill set?
MC: I don’t know if I had anything that stood out; I just tried to have a well-rounded set of skills. Turntablist skills are generally categorized as scratching (manipulating the sound on only one turntable), or juggling (splicing back and forth between both tables). So I tried to get down with both styles. The words and disses and stuff aren’t what anyone would consider “pure” turntablism or musical skill, but they’re appropriate for a setting like a hip-hop battle, which is what this was. You might think of it as kind of like those emcee battle scenes in the movie “8 Mile,” but with turntables and records instead of mics.
FM: Do you still have any of your tables and equipment?
MC: Most def. Ask my wife, that stuff takes up way too much space in our house, haha. I don’t mess with them much these days; but every now and then I’ll get the itch and be on them heavy for like a week, and then I won’t touch them again for months. If I had all the time and energy in the world, I’d certainly get back into it. But being things as they are, when I have free time I end up doing other stuff instead, like hanging out with friends, playing ball, lifting weights, or riding the bike.
From the tables to the beach, Mike's got you covered!
It’s funny because flatland is what I was into before I got interested in DJing: I had an ’87 Dyno Pro Compe Team Model way back when. But I think one thing that got me more into music at the time is that if I were to mess up during DJing, it would sound bad and I’d look stupid. But if I mess up trying a trick on the bike, I might actually get hurt! So getting back into flatland during these last few years is like coming around full circle for me in a way.
One thing the two have in common is that you’re taking something that was meant to be used a certain way, but you’re flipping it in a creative and skillful way to end up with something else. So who knows, maybe ten years from now I’ll be really into making sculptures with food or something, haha.