ON THE FRONT FOOT
Every scene owes its predecessors a certain level of appreciation and acknowledgement. With a movement like hip hop, which is still in its adolescence, both locally and abroad, those who follow must look to the past more often for future direction.
Brisbaneâ€™s music scene is as rich as itâ€™s varied; the hip hop culture of the city a fertile ground for what we hear today. But it wasnâ€™t always that way. One of the many contributors to blaze a path for future beatmakers, emcees, b-boys and graf artists is DJ Sheep.
From the influential Terntable Jediz, to taking out multiple Queensland DMC championships, holding down residencies for MOS in Taiwan, and owning one of the best vinyl collections this side of the moon, DJ Sheep has earned his place amongst Brisbane musical identities.
What or who was the biggest influence on you, musically, when growing up?
Run-D.M.C. and Public Enemy. Seeing Public Enemy in concert at Festival Hall in 1989 for the â€˜Tour Of A Black Planetâ€™ was my first exposure to hip hop in its live context; simply mindblowing. As far as mentoring goes, I went to high school with Lazy Grey; he and his brother taught me a lot about hip hop culture, we traded tapes and read magazines. I also want to give respect to my mum for buying me a drumkit and letting me do what I wanted with music; N.W.A. was not a problem at my house! Also, major respect to DJ Damage and DJ Bribe/ Angus (R.I.P.) for teaching me how to DJ.
Do you see yourself as an educator when youâ€™re DJing?
In a way, Iâ€™d like to say yes, however the people who want to be educated are few and far between. There are more requests than people coming up asking â€œwhatâ€™s this youâ€™re playing?â€ Travelling the globe for the past decade and unearthing records does obviously give me exclusive material to expose to the crowd, however itâ€™s abroad that this is most appreciated.
Would you ever consider running your own DJ school?
DJ Damage and I ran the Australian School of Turntablism back in the mid-2000s in the Valley. A-Trak was one of the guest teachers. It was highly successful and spawned some great talent, including Lopsided (750 Rebels). Iâ€™m too busy managing my own career to be teaching others on a regular basis unfortunately. However we may re-open the school again sometime in the future.
If you were given the reigns of the Brisbane music scene, what would you do?
First, Iâ€™d shut down all of the generic clubs. â€˜Jersey Shoreâ€™ lives in the Valley, itâ€™s full of fist pumping footy jocks that want to start fights. Next, Iâ€™d forbid management to have ANY say in what DJs play. We should be given free reign to play the music we love, as we are the selector. In my experience, most club owners know fuck all about music in the first place, however they always have an â€˜ideaâ€™ of what they want â€“ â€œsomething funky, up-tempo, groovyâ€; that description ALWAYS means something different to what they really want, itâ€™s frustrating as hell. Iâ€™d also implement a strict â€˜no requestâ€™ policy. If you donâ€™t like that, stay at home with your slab of VB and iPod on repeat. People need to re-learn how to appreciate a DJ for what they are, a music connoisseur, not a jukebox.
Youâ€™ve played all over the planet; Brisbane on the global scale - do we rate as a musical destination?
No. Thereâ€™s definitely talent, but not that much of it when it comes to skills. That might hurt some feelings, but itâ€™s true, even with technology at peoples disposal, half these â€˜so-called DJsâ€™ wouldnâ€™t know the history of disco, rap, dance or black music! If youâ€™re a DJ, do yourself a favour and read the book â€˜Last Night A DJ Saved My Lifeâ€™.
With all of the technological advances at the disposal of anyone with a flash drive and 500 Facebook friends, the club DJ circa 2011 is a much different beast; are we reaching a point where DJs with actual talent will start to weed out the â€˜paint-by-numbersâ€™ jocks?
Iâ€™m training this one guy, Prop. Greg. Heâ€™s someone to look out for. Weâ€™ve revamped the Terntable Jediz with DJ Damage and myself back in effect as a duo and I have a new crew called Dirty Diggaz, coupled with the monthly Weird Gear eventâ€¦ quality music is coming to the forefront. These â€˜mash-up-one-trick-ponyâ€™ types will eventually just fade away.
Now Sheep, try and avoid a lawsuit here, what irks you about the music industry?
A shitload. Iâ€™ve worked for major labels (75 Ark in San Francisco), Iâ€™ve worked for mega clubs (Ministry of Sound in Taiwan), Iâ€™ve worked as a promoter (multiple Australasian tours with Q-Bert, Craze and A-Trak), and Iâ€™ve worked as a DJ worldwide. Iâ€™ve seen every side of the industry with my own eyes. Thereâ€™s so much shady shit that goes on. One thing that sticks out are clubs who pay poor wages to the DJs. The effort into purchasing equipment and records highly outweighs the income. People who make requests piss me off; I don't give two shits if itâ€™s your birthday or what you want to hear. Iâ€™m at work. Give me some room. I donâ€™t come to your job and tell you how many pickles to put on a Cheeseburger, or how to edit your spreadsheet, do I?
Dig back through all of the sets youâ€™ve played over the years; which ones stick in the memory banks the most?
Firstly, when I won the DMC for the first time. It was an overwhelming feeling. Participating in the healthy Brisbane DJ battle scene from 2001-2003 was a time Iâ€™ll never forget; five titles all with unanimous outcomes in my favour, then walking away from it. â€˜Quitting while youâ€™re aheadâ€™ is my motto. No more battling. Point proven.
Secondly, Iâ€™d have to say when I played at the Do-Over in Los Angeles with Aloe Blacc on the microphone at the Mayer Hawthorne video shoot with J-Rocc. Then having my photo appear on the front page of the L.A. Times Entertainment section the next morning. The Do-Over is the holy grail of DJ gigs; you are â€˜invitedâ€™ to play, you canâ€™t â€˜askâ€™ for a slot.
Thirdly, touring with DJ Damage in 2001 for a month around Europe, driving all over playing gigs off records we bought in stores on the road. We supported Big Daddy Kane, Phife Dawg, etc. and watched DJ Craze retire at the DMC World Finals. It was great being on tour with my mentor. Fourth, going on tour with J-Zone as â€˜Extra Chee$eâ€™, our DJ duo. We had a lot of fun and did a ton of shows around the US and Europe.
Finally, holding down the fort at Ministry of Sound in Taipei for a year gave me a taste of what real DJ â€˜fameâ€™ feels like. Playing to a sea of people multiple times a week solidified my skills as a club DJ, especially in regards to mixing and programming.
Aside from the monthly Weird Gear events you run, where else can we find you playing out?
Rumpus Room, 56 Russell Street, West End. First Saturday of the month: 8pmâ€“2am. Rotating Thursdays with Fisher Price for Dust: 8pmâ€“1am. And as you mentioned, the last Sunday of the month at Weird Gear from 3pmâ€“8pm. Rumpus staff and management are family to me. Itâ€™s the only venue that has stayed consistent and never jerked me around. They have their ears finely tuned to where music should be in this city, treat the DJs with respect and most importantly, let us play what we want. I actually look forward to going to work. Thatâ€™s the best gig Iâ€™ve had in my 15-year career as a DJ. I also play intermittently at alloneword. For more information and bookings please visit djsheep.com and facebook.com/mobbsheep
You can catch both the Terntable Jediz Reunion this Saturday (July 30) and Weird Gear on Sunday (July 31) at Rumpus Room.