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DJ Wristpect [Interview]

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Interview with DJ Wristpect

Toronto, ON – When Canada’s best DJs got together in 2009 at the Stylus Awards, only a few could walk away more distinguished than they left. DJ Wristpect was one of the lucky ones, taking home Club DJ of the Year. That means, by definition, for 365 days he was the number one jockey holding down jams across this vast country of ours. Maybe it came down to his diverse, eclectic capabilities.

Maybe it was a reflection of his non-stop schedule of club appearances. Maybe it was the sum of all the work he’s done building his brand. Either way, Wristpect got his due respect. A year later, he’s released his latest installment of Bridging The Gap Mixtape Series, this time Toronto to Virginia. He collaborated with DJ Jester to release an all house mixtape. He’s played dates in Hong Kong, Shanghai and New York and is about to embark on another west coast tour.

Oh yeah, and he’s now part of Smash Squad DJs with Clinton Sparks and Starting From Scratch. HipHopCanada’s Ajani Charles (Project T dot) sat down with arguably Canada’s hardest working DJ to see what he’s working with and working towards.

HipHopCanada: So, you did some gigs in Asia last fall, right?

Wristpect: Yeah. I was just out in China…from September 4th to 5th. I just went out there, for about 32 hours.

HipHopCanada: Based on what we talked about previously, how did you go from performing at small venues in Guelph, Ontario to performing in China and also performing with the likes of DJ AM, Hi-Tek, DJ Roc Raida? How did this evolution come about?

Wristpect: What I’ve done, in terms of my business acumen has also been very important. That’s a big part of it—having some foresight into the business side of things, as opposed to focusing solely on the music.

Apart from knowing the music and being talented, I think the business is a big part of thing that musicians (whether they’re a singer, rapper, DJ, etc.) often take for granted.

I went to school for Economics and Marketing. The whole time I was in Guelph, no one gave me the time of day, in terms of DJing. So, I took it upon myself to throw my own parties, promote everything, design my own flyers, build a street team, flyer, setup marketing plans and schedules, setup sponsorship proposals for corporations like Universal (Music Group), Artizia and so on.

I think it was a blessing in disguise that I chose to go to school in Guelph, where there was nothing and I had to learn everything myself and take it upon myself to begin to make things work. With that being said, Van Gogh’s was really the spot where I began to hone my DJ skills and began to create my own sounds and began to become comfortable with myself as a DJ.

At the same time, it was where I first learned how to deal with venue owners, club promoters and the business end of things.

I was fortunate to see both sides of a spectrum early on—as an artist, as a DJ and then also as a business man. That’s always been my mentality—I’m very passionate about music, but I’m also passionate about business and commerce. Because I married the two together early on, I think that it was only natural that things started moving along quickly, in terms of how I would deal with people, collaborating with artists and so on.

HipHopCanada: How does the Toronto hip-hop DJ differ from the Premo of New York or the DJ Quik of L.A?

Wristpect: Toronto’s a DJ’s dream, because it allows you to get creative and learn about different genres, markets and apply those influences to whatever it is that you’re doing, whether it’s hip-hop or any other genres.

You have to (be versatile), that’s how Toronto DJs are raised—you have to know your music. And that’s something that doesn’t really happen in other cities. For example, if you go to L.A. they’re not really familiar with dancehall. They may know Sean Paul, but that’s pretty much it. I’m not going to name off cities, but I’d like to say that in general, we have a very well rounded and diverse scene. Whether you’re an electric DJ or hip-hop DJ in Toronto, the culture that the city has to offer is naturally going to manifest itself back into the DJing and into the music. It’s like being brought up in a diverse household.

HipHopCanada: You recently released another volume of “Bridging the Gap” mixtape series, this time featuring The Clipse. How did that series come about?

Wristpect: That was an idea that I had one day. I basically woke up one morning, had the idea and wrote it down and a week later, I was on the phone with AZ in New York. AZ’s an artist that I really admired and grew up listening to—“Life’s A Bitch” by Nas and AZ is one of my favorite records. Anyway, that was when I walking to class at 8:30 in the morning and making these calls and connections and networking like crazy, that’s when everything started coming together. That’s when I realized how relationships can really propel you, how small the world really is and that there really is six degrees of separation in terms of who knows who and how everything works. I realized the world really is a small place and that I can really do what I want with this DJ thing. That was back in ’06 and since then I’ve been really focused—focused on getting done what I’ve set out for myself. Luckily, God willing, everything’s been coming together. I don’t have any elaborate explanation—it’s more so a foresight and a vision that you have to keep in the back of your head. If you remain positive and persistent and I truly believe if you have your goals in line, subconsciously every decision you make will manifest itself into the vision or goal that you have in the back of your head.

HipHopCanada: I understand that, but what does your subconscious voice say that causes you to be unsatisfied with every new goal or level that you attain? For example, what if you released the first “Bridging The Gap” mixtape, were satisfied with it and just continued spinning at various venues without producing another mixtape (in general or as part of that specific series) or gravitating towards other DJ-related endeavors? You seem to always be adding things to the list and exceeding expectations that most people would associate with the average DJ? At a deep subconscious level, what is perpetuating that voice?

Wristpect: One thing that I like doing, is building brands and I look at that mixtape series as a brand that’s grown to the point that it’s recognized nationally. I reached out and picked some of my favorite artists, like Little Brother, Kids In The Hall and Lupe and I basically said to myself, all these Canadian-based artists are in different cities, so I’m going to take this “Bridging The Gap” brand nationally and I’m going to use it as my networking tool and I’m also going to use it break music and to connect Toronto-based and other Canadian-based artists with artists in producers in North Carolina, Virginia or whatever the case may be.

I guess it comes down to my personality. I’ve never been comfortable with getting something done and then just leaving it at that. I always wake up feeling like “what am I going to do today, that’s better than yesterday?”

It’s a natural thing for me as opposed to a process that I consciously think about. I kind of wake up, feeling like I have to create, feeling like I have to take things to the next level. For example, I did the “Bridging The Gap Volume 1” and it worked out with New York, a lot of Toronto artists got shine and I developed some great relationships with various artists.

I’m not satisfied, you know? Even though I have a lot of cool accomplishments under my belt, I’ve worked with a lot of good people—people that I look up to, I’m still unsatisfied. That’s just my work ethic. I don’t know if it’s inherent or a conscious thing, but I still like to treat all my projects like they’re my first projects.

HipHopCanada: Right. If you adopt that philosophy, you can basically continue evolving and learning, as long as you continue to live.

Wristpect: I have a million other goals that I’d like to attain. I have a million other plans and projects that I have to get through and until they get done, it’s 20 hour days still.

HipHopCanada: Speaking of evolution, you’re planning on entering the world of production? I had no idea that you were planning on going into production. How did this new direction and vision come about?

Wristpect: I think it’s a natural progression. One of the reasons I originally bought my turntables was because of DJ Premier (and his beats, his cuts and his choruses). Production-wise, going to DMCs and watching artists like J-R-Flo and Grouch also heavily influenced me. That live turntablism stuff, is essentially live production. You’re basically recreating beats and melodies and all that live on the spot. The production end of things is what originally grabbed my attention in terms of DJing. I never originally wanted to do clubs and what not.

Besides that, through record digging, I would come across breaks and samples and I’ve just been collecting samples and have been collecting breaks that I’ve thought would be great to flip into production, for the last 8 years. So, I’ve been sitting on a lot of material and I haven’t really had a chance or an opportunity to bang it out.

I have a passion for A&Ring records, which is why I’ll put certain artists over certain beats on the “Bridging The Gap” mixtapes. Like, I put Drake over a 213 instrumental that I ripped off vinyl that I sent to him when I was in my dorm room in Guelph, because I thought he would be a good fit for it, and he ripped it.

HipHopCanada: So, you want to evolve into a musician that’s eclectic and versatile as opposed to some guy that plays records in clubs?

Wristpect: I feel like it’s something I’m ready to do. I feel like I’ve developed an ear over the last eight years, I’ve been surrounded by a lot of dope producers and have been watching them bouncing back ideas. I have about four crates of records that I have stickered up, with samples, from rock to country to jazz—all sorts of stuff to flip. So, I feel like I’m ready to get my feet wet—I’m ready to jump in and to get into the production end of things.

As far as my club sets go, I’ll play an electro-hipster night one night and then I’ll play a straight hip hop party the next night and then I might do a night where it’s like a mash-up of house and rock. So, I’m playing all these different genres and I see how people react to different genres of music, so I think that has helped me developed an ear that will help me in production.

Written by Ajani Charles for HipHoCanada
Introduction by Jonathon “Bizz” Brown for HipHopCanada
Photograhy by Ajani Charles

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Ajani Charles is a professional photojournalist, advertising photographer and cinematographer based in Toronto -- the Canadian city famed for its cultural diversity and the creative dynamism of its artistic community. A graduate of the nationally acclaimed Claude Watson Arts Program, Ajani also apprenticed at the Toronto School of Art, the Art Gallery of Ontario and at 235 Films. Though his images bear the distinctive stamp of his unique regard and sensibility, his work evidences an eclectic panoply of influences which includes Markus Klinko and Indrani, Jill Greenberg, Yousuf Karsh, Ansel Adams, Alexander Rodchenko, Richard Avedon, Nabil Elderkin, André Kertesz, David LaChapelle, Steven Spielberg, Hype Williams, Zack Snyder, Martin Scorsese, Helmut Newton, Annie Leibovitz and Jamel Shabazz. Ajani is also the founder and executive director of The Young Visionaries – a Toronto-based photography and cinematography program, providing education to youth from the city’s priority neighborhoods. In addition, Ajani has gained considerable notoriety in the Greater Toronto Area through his first photographic documentary, “Project T Dot” -- a visual chronicle of the city's Hip-Hop culture and community in its entirety through a wide-ranging collection of intimate and dramatic black and white photographs. In production since 2007, “Project T Dot” is currently scheduled for an early 2015 publication date.

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