If you haven’t heard of The Disablists, you must have been living under a rock for the past few years. They are not only the three-time British Team DMC champions, but they placed second in the world in 2006.
However, these turntable tricksters are far from your average DJ crew. We caught up with them to discuss their views on music, the media and winning the Team DMC Championships “by accident?!”
Well first of all I guess we better get the formalities out of the way: Would you care to introduce yourselves?
Mighty Atom, Clever Munkey and The Asian Hawk!
Where are you all from?
Mighty Atom and Clever Munkey are from Reading, and Asian Hawk is from Bath.
How old are you all?
Hawk and Atom are 24 and Munkey is 23.
I believe you started out as a jazz trio. How did you manage to make the shift from this to turntablism?
There are so are many parallels between Jazz and turntablism that it seemed a natural progression for us.
Have your roots a jazz trio affected your music? Do you tend to have a more diverse range of influences / sample than other groups?
Of course! We love so much music from all eras that we couldn’t just confine ourselves to one style of music. This year we incorporated Jazz and Big Band music into our world final routine.
How would you describe your music?
Post symphonic punk country disco!
When did “The Disablists” that we all know (i.e: a collective of DJs) officially form?
We met at college in 2001, then started practising and doing shit together in 2002 / 2003.
It was a relatively short period from when you formed to when you won your first UK DMC championships in 2004. How did you manage to achieve such big things in such a short space of time?
We won kind of by accident, we entered for the first time in 2004 to test the water. We had a lot of material we were doing at local gigs and thought if we condensed the best of it then we might be able to place in the top three. We thought if we could come third or second in our first attempt then that would be amazing. As it turned out we won it and have worked hard on improving ever since!
Has there been one title / championship that you have won that gave you more satisfaction than any other?
Coming 2nd in the World DMC Team Competition this year (2006) has been our greatest achievement to date. The standard of the competition was really high and C2C were going for their fourth consecutive title so they had it in the bag as soon as they walked on stage. But I think we really proved that we’re among the world's top crews.
On your website, it states that you have adopted a “musicality before technicality” mentality. Can you explain this for us?
We believe the focus should be on making music. Its all very good being technical but if people can’t appreciate it on a musical level then its just turntable masturbation.
Do you think that your unique tricks (i.e. the blindfold thing) have made you more recognisable to the media and the public? If so, why?
Yes, everybody loves a gimmick. It was funny and entertaining at the time but people still going on about it now distracts from the serious musical stuff we’re doing. It served its purpose as people remember us for it… so its all good!
It is well documented that UK hip-hop is generally an “underground” art form in terms of the mainstream media. However, you guys have featured on the likes of Blue Peter and The Paul O’Grady show. Why do you think that turntablism has been allowed to grace the mainstream airwaves and some of the other elements of hip-hop have not?
Turntables are allowed on TV in the same way that breaking, MC’ing and graffiti are; in a watered down, corporate controlled format. You know breaking and graff on music videos, turntables on shampoo adverts... its bullshit really and doesn't really reflect the true nature of these art forms. We were given the opportunity to be on TV because we’re not a stereotypical turntablist crew... and we’re born performers!!! Ha Ha Ha.
Because of your achievements, you have performed alongside some of the world’s top hip-hop and drum-n-bass names. Where there any that you particularly enjoyed performing with?
It was an honour to finally meet Guru. He seemed really humble and approachable, yet still very professional at the same time... a definite inspiration for all aspiring musicians. This is the main perk of the job, getting to meet different people from all over. Be they big established artists / DJs that we admire or general party people up for having a laugh. We’ve been lucky enough to meet some real characters on our travels. Dudley Perkins is a really nice guy, as is Skinnyman. Like I say its cool to meet these people who you’ve grown up listening to and for them to be genuinely nice people.
Asian Hawk, we all know that you have entered the solo UK DMC championships for the past couple of years. Which form of competition do you prefer? Do you like doing sets where you dictate everything or is it better to have your boys up there supporting each other?
I won it in 2006, so I enjoy it as much as the team comp. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. For instance in the teams having to rely on other people can play on your nerves, but confidence wise it’s easier to stand on stage as a team. When you’re doing solos its really scary, but if you fuck it up you’ve only yourself to blame!
What advice would you give to upcoming DJs that want to mimic your achievements?
There are a lot of people out there who are really good technically but are just following trends within turntablism. Emulate your heroes, learn their skills and then use them to make the music you want to make. Most importantly enjoy what your doing, by all means take it seriously, but not so seriously that its no longer about having fun.
That’s all from me thanks guys. You got any final thoughts/ shout-outs?
Thanks mate! We’ve got some really good people who’ve agreed to guest on some of our tracks, and we’ve got a really cool mix tape ready to drop in the new year so any fans of musical turntablism should keep their eyes peeled!
NCM crew, Gusto Fresh, Mike Ayre, Cat, Emma, Awekid, Muzzell, Mikey T, Wandan, Sir Real, John Smith, King English, Bobba Fat, Sally (DMC) and Eon Beall.
Any one can get hold of us at myspace.com/thedisablists