I'm a bit surprised that it's taken this long for a book in the series to consist mainly of an extended interview with the creator(s) of the album in question. Maybe it's because the musicians don't have much to say; or they don't want to lower themselves to the level of these books and their authors; or maybe it's because they're dead. Josh Davis, thankfully, fits into none of these categories, and Eliot Wilder's forthcoming book about Endtroducing is completely fascinating as a result. Here's an extract (the book itself should be out in September):
In the mid-‘80s, I started watching an independent TV station up in San Jose that would show videos for hip-hop records by Run-D.M.C., the World Famous Supreme Team and Grand Master Flash. I was able to see people scratching on video. Somehow hearing scratching and seeing what it looked like – it made sense to my experiences touching vinyl and making it do things. The whole technological thing came back 360 because it seemed like such an out-there concept. And it was very much a stamp of hip-hop. It was something only hip-hop embraced and only hip-hop seemed to do. And this is way before the idea of genre meshing.
So now it’s late ‘84, and that’s when I got my first turntable.
What was it?
What I asked for was a Sears combination turntable, radio tuner and dual cassette deck, so that I could dub all of Stan Green’s tapes, so I could dub my own records and so I could still listen to the radio and dub mixes off the radio. By now I knew all the DJs names on KSOL. And I had also, by this point, figured out when the main guy who plays rap on KDVS, when his show was. His name was Oras Washington. He was a black guy from Richmond, California, who went to school at U.C. Davis. His real interest was groups like the Time but I think he decided that one way he could make his mark was to play hip-hop and rap and make a show out of it.
By now I was able to take in a lot of stuff. I stopped buying comic books. I stopped buying video games. I stopped spending my money on all the other things that kids at that time spent money on and started saving my money for records. And that pretty much became my spending pattern until I was off to college. I’d save almost all the money I had, sell my comic books, sell whatever, [laughs] to be able to buy records. Stan and I worked out a thing where we’d go to a store, and he’d buy two singles, and I’d buy two singles, so that between us we had four new 12-inches to record off each other. With the Sears turntable, the first thing I did was try to see how it worked for scratching. And, of course, I didn’t understand that you needed to have a mixer, and that belt-drive turntables don’t quite work the same as direct-drive turntables do, and that has to do with the motor in the turntable. If you pull back on the turntable with a belt, the belt slips, and it doesn’t speed back up again very fast, so you have to push it along. What I did figure out is that, if I held the little selector knob in between “tape” and “phono,” I was able to dub a tape and scratch over the top of it. It was like a glitch in the way that the turntable operated. I had wanted my own stereo for so damn long that, when I got this thing, I absorbed it. It became part of my bloodstream. I touched every knob and fiddled with the thing endlessly and sat there at the radio.
Just out of curiosity, could you tell me what you think is the difference between turntablism and scratching?
Turntablism is the description of scratching that’s supposed to make people who don’t listen to hip-hop, sit up and go “Hmm, maybe it is real music.” Scratching, to me, is just what it is. Turntablism has this virtuosic aspect to it, and to me, that’s when things start to turn jazzy. And I’m not a huge fan of when things turn jazzy. Because when I think of jazzy, I think of Wynton Marsalis. He came to speak at my African-American Studies class at U.C. Davis when I was a freshman. I remember him just standing up there, and just dissing rap for 20 minutes straight, and just loving the response he was getting from the lily-white audience. As if they were so thrilled that finally a black guy was speaking out against rap. I remember just sitting there thinking, Oh this sucks. I was venting about it afterward in class. Ever since then I’ve had this thing against people who over-intellectualize everything and make it an in-crowd-only thing. So, any time anything starts getting jazzy – and you are going to have to say it [whispers] “jazzy” – I run in the other direction because “jazzy” to me isn’t where it’s at.