Pulling Strings Part 2 – Flipout [Interview]
Vancouver, B.C. – Flipout dislikes camping, skiing, and DJs who fail to play the classics. He’s quite definitive in his views, and certainly he’s earned the right: described as “the all-elements hip-hop head” by promoter GMAN, he was an obvious next step in the Pulling Strings series of people behind Vancouver’s hip-hop scene. Flipout has been there from the beginning of Vancouver’s scene, not only as a DJ but a b-boy, a freestyle champ, and a somewhat sheepish tagger. In his narrative, our story about how the city’s small hip-hop community came into being unfolds a little further, and it seems to have all begun with dance. A long-ago b-boy crew included everyone from Red1 to Rob RIZK to Dedos to Mad Child – the stirrings of a movement that decades later has become iconic and far-reaching in its sound.
Flipout has spent the last eight years as a DJ and personality on The Beat 94.5, and many years before that as a college station DJ and prominent mover and shaker in this city. HipHopCanada had the chance to chat with the Traffic Jam host at our Gastown headquarters, where we not only witnessed his biting wit and insight but some great dance moves as well.
HipHopCanada: So why do you think GMAN and RIZK referred you as the next interview in this Pulling Strings series?
Flipout: I don’t know, its cool of them to do that. I’ve worked with them for a long time. I went to high school with Rob, I met him in grade 9. Long time. I wanna go on record saying something. I think it’s really cool that Garret and Rob suggested me. I haven’t DJd on their Friday at Fortune. I just wanna go on record and say, “Garret! When can I DJ on Friday?” Over a year I’ve asked politely, said my schedule’s open, but never.
HipHopCanada: I didn’t quite realize just how long you’d all been working together since you posted up those old fliers on Facebook.
Flipout: I posted those fliers when I found the box in my parents’ house, I keep all types of stuff. I’ve been on the beat 94.5 for eight years now, it started off as a hip-hop station, now it’s all top 40, complete with Taylor Swift. Because it’s been eight years, that’s a lifetime for some listeners. Using facebook and twitter and all that networking stuff, I wanted to show the history before that because a lot of people might think it’s all about radio, this guy plays all the top 40 stuff and must have started in radio, an awesome gig. But like you just mentioned, we’ve been doing it since 1990 in one shape or form and it started when we were kids. I started DJing when I was fifteen.
HipHopCanada: I read in a bio that you’d actually started DJing at the age of 7…
Flipout: My aunt gave me a kiddie record player for Christmas when I was seven and it had a Pinocchio picture disc record to go with it. I remember looking at the present and it was shaped so weird cause it was square, then the record was a little bigger than the record player. I tried to peek, and it was black and white, didn’t really have any design on it. I’ve always been drawn to it, and I used to play my dad’s records on the old record poayer too. Hip-hop was all about records. I’m a little too young for the disco era but hip-hop embraced records even more.
“Other b-boys would see my DJing in the club and would be like, ‘ya, smart move man, cause there’s no money in b-boying, that’s really smart, you’re making money, huh?”
HipHopCanada: You embrace all elements of hip-hop, yet you’re known most for your role as a DJ. Why do you think that is?
Flipout: I wrote a rap before I even started listening to hip-hop, I was drawn to rapping cause it seemed smart and it was rhyming and it was cool. And dancing went along with the music too. And then DJing was just part of collecting the music and really being into it. And along my way, when I was really heavy into b-boying, dancing a lot, really like an athlete, me and my crew. Other b-boys would see my DJing in the club and would be like, ‘ya, smart move man, cause there’s no money in b-boying, that’s really smart, you’re making money, huh?’ I don’t know if that’s totally true and more because of So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew and all types of stuff and YouTube in general, dance has gotten way doper. But with DJing, I did find out that I could basically pay all my bills. And that started with Rob and Garret when they moved to a bigger night club, where Fabric is now, used to be called Sonar. They started the first kind of jiggy hip-hop night of the new generation, cause there was stuff going on before that. 95, 96, started getting one or two gigs a week and I lived at home. Anything I did as far as making mixtapes and playing music started paying off. I can’t really dis the work I put in when I didn’t expect anything out of it, and then to come back and me get a job on radio, be able to do radio…college and now to the commercial radio. I never went to school for anything. I never went to school for broadcasting, dancing…we don’t learn how to break dance in class. You learn on the streets.
HipHopCanada: How did you get to where you are on the radio?
Flipout: You should go to school. But I didn’t just land on commercial radio on one of the biggest markets in North America. I started on college radio at UBC where you don’t have to be a student of UBC to have a radio show: that was the key for Jay Swing, he’s who started it all. He started a hip-hop show, it was free, we had to drive all the way out to UBC. He lived in Burnaby and I lived in White Rock. That’s where I started with six years of doing free college radio, and then from that we got an opportunity to buy time on 96.1, the multicultural station. And then from there and opportunity opened up at CFOX, like eight years later, with a cool guy named Dave Hawks that was in charge there who wanted to put hip-hop on CFOX. He gave us a show on Friday nights and we smashed the ratings. In all of radio our show was number one on a Friday night. There was something there. They canned him, they canned all of us from CFOX, then the Beat came up. It’s just sticking with it. We got hired to do the hip-hop show but I went to the program director aside, and had a personal meeting with him. I told him I wanted to be on the radio, to have my own show, to be a host. The second before he put me on the air for the first time he looked at me, he paused, and said “I hope I’m not making the biggest mistake.” And then we turned the mics on. So go to school kids. But if you’re going to school, make sure you like it. It’s hard to get into radio.
“In all of radio our show was number one on a Friday night. There was something there.”
HipHopCanada: How much control do you actually have over the music you play?
Flipout: On the Traffic Jam I can’t play any obscure new music. What I can do is play anything else that I want. New music is the worst thing you can play on top 40 radio, it’s like an instant channel changer, no matter how good the song is. When people hear a song they don’t know they’ll flip the channel. I don’t have that power anymore, we used to when we had our own specialty shows like Straight Goods and even the weekend mix shows I used to do with Jay Swing. But what I can do is, like, today I played Wild Boys by Duran Duran, and a lot of people won’t know what that is but the people who know it will be like, wow, I haven’t heard that in a long time. So that’s the freedom, I really like it cause I can play anything, can play Tom Jones in that hour. I basically am free to play anything except something brand new – which is kind of like the anti DJ breaking records thing, but in everything else I do, in a club, I can make any mix that I want.
“New music is the worst thing you can play on Top 40 radio, it’s like an instant channel changer, no matter how good the song is.”
HipHopCanada: Do artists tend to send you music and hope you can break them?
Flipout: If it fits the format of the radio and it’s local and stuff, I’ll put in a good word with the music director and if I think it’s good I’ll push for it. If you wanna be on the Beat 94.5 nowadays, it’s tough, it’s always changing. Don’t ever try to sound like what’s on the radio cause you’ll never get far doing that. That’s my advice. Just do what you’re doing. I feel shitty saying I don’t have power to do anything but I really don’t, not on that. But I can play it in the club, tell other DJs about it, I still have power as a DJ.
HipHopCanada: What do you like to do in Vancouver?
Flipout: I don’t snowboard, I don’t ski, I don’t cross-country bike, I don’t like hiking that much, camping’s stupid, I like to stay in hotels if I go anywhere. Holy shit. Hip-Hop Karaoke is super fun cause it’s the most unpretentious crowd. It’s at Fortune Sound Club, owned by two young blokes GMAN and RIZK who’ve been holding it down for a long time. I like to go to Keno Café on Cambie and 16th cause I have some friends that are in the Flamenco group there. My friend Gary plays the guitar, one of the illest guitar players of all time. And my friend Zak Santiago also plays percussion and I enjoy that Flamenco culture. Those things are fun for me. Going to the club is always fun, DJing a dope crowd is fun.
HipHopCanada: How do you find the crowds that you play to in Vancouver?
Flipout: It depends. There’s so many different crowds. The crowds that I usually DJ for – and this is also the opinion of my friends that come from out of town, like from Toronto and the States – in Vancouver they’re a little behind. For the most part. That’s just true for some of the nights that I do that are big club nights. Mind you, when I was doing the back room and Shine a couple years ago, that was the best crowd ever. Like thirty or fifty of us just going off to anything. Led Zeppelin, Common, anything that was dope. It was called Elsewhere. Sean Lalla, a promoter in town, that was his idea. He still does one-offs but that was awesome.
In Vancouver the specialty crowd is really small. If you go to Toronto you can have a really awesome bigger group of people that are into all nineties hip-hop, a vast variety of age groups.
I just wanna say that DJs in Vancouver are fucking up the tradition of especially hip-hop but even some electornica, house. Not enough dudes are playing classics. Some kids don’t even know hypnotize anymore by Biggie. Everyone’s playing so much dance in the top 40 hip-hop clubs that they’re fucking it up. I’ve seen it. Biggie “Hypnotize,” no one knows Bel Biv Devoe “Poison,” if you’re under the age of 25 now. It’s sad cause in Toronto and I’m sure in other spots they have big brothers, older siblings, the DJs always play that shit, always play an old school set. So I’m mad at the DJs. It’s just hit after hit after hit, they don’t take chances. You gotta play everything, it’s your duty. That’s why I like the radio show that I do, Traffic Jam. I get to play old shit. I think people who just play the newest shit are like, “Oh, people are so stupid,” but I think they’re stupid. Play good shit. That shit is so nerdy to me. Make a choice of what’s good. Just cause it’s new, could be the stupidest shit ever.
“You gotta play everything, it’s your duty.”
HipHopCanada: So where can we find you online?
Flipout: You’re more than welcome to listen to the 5 o clock traffic jam Monday to Friday, it’s with my friend Holly Conway, she hosts. It’s different from the radio station and they told me to make this hour different so it stands out, something special. Also I just got a soundcloud account where I put only stuff I like, no one tells me what to put on there. Some edits that I do. Soundcloud/flipout. ThoseMFS.com – which is Jay Swing, Kemo and myself – all the throwback mixes that Jay Swing and I did when we had our radio show. That’s a good place to get a lot of shit. And Facebook/flipoutvancouver, I like to put up stuff I like there, and links.
HipHopCanada: Who should I interview next in this series?
Flipout: Jay Swing. You gotta.
HipHopCanada: Got a good question I can ask him?
Flipout: Ask him if he still thinks DJs have the power to break records, and if so how? And also ask him where my money is. Just kidding, I probably owe him money.
Interview conducted by Amalia Judith for HipHopCanada
Photography by Scott Alexander for HipHopCanada