Interview: DJ Ducats
Ottawa, ON – Dabbling in DJing since childhood, DJ Ducats has without a doubt carved a solid name for himself in the Ottawa hip-hop scene. Best known for his unique style and successful radio show, Peaceful Journey, some say Ducats is the gold standard for DJs here in Ottawa. With one of the biggest vinyl collections in the city, you’ll be sure to enjoy his mix of old school beats and new school flavour.
Getting his first set of decks in ’91, Ducats has always had a passion for hip-hop. With one of his main goals always being to please the crowd, he has a very distinctive way of blending together those old gems with today’s up-and-comers. He has worked with many well-established artists, producers and DJs such as Pharcyde, Kardinal Offishall, BrassMunk, DJ Drastik, and DJ Illo, to name a few.
When asked what he prefers between battles, clubs and radio, Ducats will always choose radio. He has been a part of the weekly radio hip-hop show The Peaceful Journey for ten years now, and with the help of Val, Ill Real, and Arun, they continue to bring us great music, interviews and commentary every Friday night from 8 to 10 on Carleton University’s CKCU 93.1 FM. Ducats now also spins monthly alongside DJ Karyen at Ottawa’s The Urban Well for “Back To The Future”, featuring the best of 90’s hip-hop and R&B, every third Saturday of the month.
HipHopCanada: What made you want to start DJing? How old were you?
DJ Ducats: I’m not exactly sure because looking back, I was always into music. I can remember as far back as being about five years old and my parents got me a Fisher Price record player with a microphone. I always used to play their records and when they got me a Fisher Price tape recorder, it went everywhere with me. It just continued to progress from there as I got older.
HipHopCanada: Where did you buy our first set of turntables? What were they? And what do you use now?
DJ Ducats: My first set wasn’t a set for about a year. My friend Dave C. and I had met and shared the mutual interest. After messing around with some bullshit turntables for a while we finally managed to get one Techniques 1200 each. For a whole year we used to constantly loan one another our 1200’s and practice for a couple weeks and then basically switch houses so the other could use them for a couple weeks. [It] was annoying at times, but we did that until we picked up our second turntable. I still use those same two turntables to this day.
HipHopCanada: I was going to ask you about Dave C. Tell me more about working with him.
DJ Ducats: Dave C. and I met back in the day through mutual friends who told us that we both shared the same passion for DJing and music. We met and never looked back. I just got off the phone with him actually. We started making a lot of mixtapes and sold them to friends and people we met at school or around the way, all the while doing house parties and plotting on how we would get into clubs and radio. We practiced on our skills for years, cutting records back and forth for hours on end, scratching and listening to other DJs for ideas and tips on how to improve our own skills, watching videos and listening to tracks basically, because there weren’t any ‘battle videos’ or ‘training videos’ back then… at least not until years later.
HipHopCanada: I’ve heard that you have one of the biggest vinyl collections in Ottawa. Do you remember the very first vinyl you bought?
DJ Ducats: Public Enemy, 911 Is A Joke 12″. One of the biggest, maybe. I know of a few that are bigger (two of which I’ve seen).
HipHopCanada: Is it easy to get vinyl here in Ottawa or do you usually have to look elsewhere?
DJ Ducats: It’s not exactly hard to get, but Ottawa only ever had a few spots you could shop at for the most part… at least for decent rap. Downtown Records was the first spot I shopped at. The first two records I bought were from Downtown Records when I moved here in ’91: Brand Nubian, Punks Jump Up and Double X Posse, Not Gunna Be Able To Do It. Later, Spinables became the main spot (which is now Vertigo). Otherwise, I used to do a lot of shopping outside of Ottawa. Those spots were cool, but for what I was looking for, I had to go outside the city.
HipHopCanada: Tell me about how your radio show, Peaceful Journey, got started and what we can expect to see in the coming months.
DJ Ducats: It’s tough to say precisely what was going on when Peaceful Journey started, although I did become very good friends with Mikey Wizdom. But, basically my understanding is that Mikey Wizdom, Jedi-One and the late Warren Peace (Rest In Peace) had started the show around the spring of ’96. Somewhere within a year or two after it commenced, Warren was shot or stabbed at a club downtown. I don’t recall more than that, so I’ll have to leave it at that. The show continued despite the great loss and in the late or early part of ’97 I had met Mikey through a record pool he was running. I knew that they didn’t have a ‘live’ DJ and offered to bring my gear down to the radio station and help out. To make a long story short, they liked what I was doing so much that they pretty much immediately made me an official Peaceful Journey member. Nowadays, many have come and gone but the end goal remains the same – “Straight Hip-Hop, No Fluff!” The show wouldn’t be the same without ill Real, Val and Arun, whom all assist in keeping things flowing smoothly. We plan to continue conducting interviews, providing light, humorous commentary and bringing brand new dope music every week. Behind the scenes, we’re continuing to develop our marketing and advertising through emails, and blog posts… stuff like that, as well as shows once in a while at various clubs.
HipHopCanada: In some of your earlier shows, what were your favourite artists and albums to play? And what have been some of your favourites lately?
DJ Ducats: Too many. My favourite group has always been Gangstarr, and pretty much anything that Premier has produced (which speaks for a lot of artists and groups). Always dug any Boot Camp Clik, Sean Price as of lately, especially. Masta Ace, Big Shug, Black Milk… the list could go on and on. Most of what I play on the show, I like.
HipHopCanada: Can you compare what hip-hop is like today as opposed to when you first started? How do you feel about the current Canadian hip-hop scene?
DJ Ducats: Good music is good music. I definitely came up in a different era than what’s going on these days, but there’s still so much good shit that continues to come out. When I dig for music, I’m usually trying new artists out and continuing to watch for my older heads to drop stuff too. These days there’s a lot more bullshit, but that comes with a lot more audience. Hip-hop as a whole grew in numbers, so to me, you’re bound to get more jokers and garbage coming out. The big difference to me is that it doesn’t seem to have the same (almost) simple stance it used to. Lyrics were about girls, and possessions… tales of the hood, and gunplay… but it still seemed more meaningful than what the mainstream decided to build on. I’m all for having a good time and not needing to concentrate too much on the lyrics sometimes, but these days it sometimes seems as though the mainstream just wants you to concentrate on ‘not thinking’ all the time. As for Canadian hip-hop, I feel the same way. Good is good and wack is wack.
HipHopCanada: As a DJ living in Ottawa, have you found that its restricted your opportunities in any way? Did you ever plan on leaving Ottawa to further your DJing career?
DJ Ducats: The only restriction I’ve had has been myself. If I wanted to take it further than this, then I would have left the country. Not the city, the country. I’m of the belief that anyone that has become successful in the entertainment industry went south of the border in some way, shape or form. Most of which, I’m of the impression, didn’t return. I love Canada as much as the next. It’s my home, it’s where I grew up and met a lot of great people. I partly got comfortable and drawn into the ‘living’ element. However, at the same time, I still may leave one day to pursue other endeavours… whether DJing or something else. I tend to think that I’m here building for future DJs to take over and continue where I left off. Then they can take it further and bug me out with their new ideas and skills. If I left… who’s gonna do that? Just buggin’. There are a lot of talented people in Ottawa doing the same type of thing: helping to build a strong culture for the youth.
HipHopCanada: I’ve come across some DJs that have branched off into producing and rapping, is this something you’ve ever considered pursuing?
DJ Ducats: I’d be lying if I didn’t confess my very short-lived attempts at rapping. I still think the pile of (shit) rap sheets are laying around somewhere! Short story: I finally stepped in the booth, did my thing and realized it wasn’t for me. I decided then and there that I would focus all my attention strictly on DJing. As for producing, I’ve dabbled. But hung it up a number of years ago with the intention of picking it back up at some point in the future. Working a day job and DJing has consumed a great part of my time. One day I’ll get back into it. And to answer the question on some people’s minds: “Not yet”. Few heard the beats I made but gave me positive feedback. I trust that they weren’t ‘yes’ men.
HipHopCanada: Do you ever take part in DJ battles or you do you prefer the club scene?
DJ Ducats: I prefer the radio to be honest. College/university radio has allowed me a lot of freedom. I entered the DMCs once, knowing that I wasn’t ready for it. It wasn’t a confidence thing, I just knew that the skills I had developed were dated and the newer guys would come out deadly. People I was hanging around with at the time talked me into entering. I’d enter again one day perhaps, but only providing that I brush up on my rusty skills. It’s not high up on my list of things to do.
HipHopCanada: When you play a set, do you know what you’re going to play beforehand or do you just play what you’re feeling at the time?
DJ Ducats: The furthest ahead my preparation might go is what genres I will be playing. But other than that, it’s open game. I never plan too much ahead. The records go in and it’s no holds barred. These days with mp3s it’s REALLY open game because instead of approximately 70 records in a crate, I have tens of thousands of tracks at my disposal. So, even if I set out to play a 90’s night at the club, I still have the option of playing pretty much anything else I please. Depends on what the crowd is there to hear.
HipHopCanada: Do you ever find it hard to keep up with technology as a DJ? Tell me about transitioning from radio to online.
DJ Ducats: So far I think I’m doing alright. The technology has been somewhat easy to transition to. You just learn it if you’re passionate enough. I continue to do radio on the FM dial, but now we’re also promoting the show online. So, people are able to listen live via Real Player or stream or download the shows that I post up on my site – http://www.djducats.com. I’d like to get on Satellite radio though. I think that would have to be the next big goal for me.
HipHopCanada: I’ve come to look at DJs as music educators. Would you call yourself a hip-hop educator? What would you say sets you apart from other DJs here in Ottawa?
DJ Ducats: Mos def! I had the opportunity to interview a really dope MC by the name of the Last Emperor, and he really uplifted me during the interview we did on the radio when he said that I was a very significant part of the culture because I, as a DJ, was like a hip-hop historian. I have definitely heard and seen a lot of shit in my time and I’ve also tried to fill in the blanks as best I could by talking to other people – especially my elders and peers. Other DJs that have been here longer. This way, I’m able to pass on what I know about hip-hop (in Ottawa especially) to others. As for ‘what sets me apart from other DJs in Ottawa, I’m not too sure. Perhaps my knowledge and my style at the same time. Maybe I’m wrong, but I really don’t think there’s anyone doing what I’m doing. Not even similarly.
HipHopCanada: You and DJ Karyen are pretty tight, I’ve seen you two spin together and you have a great chemistry. What do you think makes you two work so well together?
DJ Ducats: [Laughing] Karyen is just good shit and as you said, I guess we have a certain chemistry together that works. I hope she agrees! We’re just easy going and like to spin good music, really. And that, kids, is the difference between cookie cutter and coming from the soul! [Laughing]
HipHopCanada: What advice would you give to young kids aspiring to be DJs in the Ottawa scene?
DJ Ducats: Dive in and start learning. Experience is the best method. Listen to earlier hip-hop and a lot of it will teach you the right things to do. You just need to decipher what’s right and wrong, what’ll work for you and what won’t. Talk to peers and ‘listen’. Know when to speak and when not to and, most of all, know when it’s time to admit that this isn’t for you. Truly, there are other things that the hip-hop culture in Ottawa needs besides DJs and MCs –managers, marketers, advertisers… background help.
HipHopCanada: I know you’ve got other talents besides DJing. So, if you weren’t DJing, what would you be doing?
DJ Ducats: What we do every night Pinkie, planning to take over the world! Any number of things really. Sound engineering, mixing tracks down and recording projects at a studio… producing, or maybe managing. Any number of different things. Promoting…
HipHopCanada: In your opinion, what are some of the hottest records out right now? Who do you see coming up that might be the next big thing?
DJ Ducats: I really like Guilty Simpson, Black Milk… Locally I’m working with God Bless from the Thorowbredz and Boz Faramone. Those are two of several to watch for out of Ottawa. Dynamic, Radius… I’m blanking right now.
HipHopCanada: What are some things we can expect from you over the next year?
DJ Ducats: A lot more music!
HipHopCanada: Where and when can people hear you spin?
DJ Ducats: Every Friday from 8-10PM est. on www.CKCUFM.com or check the backlogs at http://www.djducats.com. Every third Saturday at “Back to the Future” at the Urban Well (http://www.urbanwell.ca) with Dj Karyen. Every month at “One Love” Thursday’s at Babylon Nightclub (http://www.babylonclub.ca) and here there and everywhere.
HipHopCanada: Any last words or shout-outs?
DJ Ducats: Keep your chin up! Thanks to HipHopCanada for the opportunity (gotta throw that in, everyone does on HipHopCanada because they the shiznit), to all my crews, clans and posses… a phat gang sign shout-out! Mo’ Jointz for all the love & support over the years. My moms, my pops… God… the academy… oh wait, wrong venue. Thanks, peace.
Written by Vicky C. for HipHopCanada