Interview with Dj Numark

Since we first wrote about his forays into musical experimentation and what some are calling controllerism, Dj Numark has added more toys and a bunch of new tricks to his arsenal. Curious to finally find out what he is actually using we decided to give the man himself a shout out and ask a few questions.

Dj TT: Would you call your performances with controllers a dj set or a live show?

Numark: Well I do two types of shows right now. The first type of show is basically a straight DJ set where I mix records for people to dance to (rare Funk, Hip Hop, Brazilian etc). The second set involves a bunch of Kids toys, gadgets and drum machines. I use an Mpc as my cue point controller for both shows. I guess I’d call the DJ set a DJ set and the Toy set a DJ set / performance. I think I bring a performance quality to both sets though.

Dj TT: As a member of one of the most famous hip hop crews in the world how do the hardcore take to seeing you play live with toys?
Numark: Not sure If I’ve ever seen any hardcore heads at my shows. lol. People tend to tell me how unique the show is. The ladies usually want to take the monkey home with them (he gets all the action). When I play the toy set, I incorporate a lot of different types of music that usually appeal to the heads that want to hear something raw as well as seeing something innovative.
Dj TT: tell us more about the sound blocks and how they work, who designed the concept?
Numark: Music Blocks were designed by a company called Neurosmith. There are five blocks each color coded with different shapes on each side. Each shape plays a bar of music from a specific part of the band…..i.e. stars are pianos, circles are bass lines etc. So when you press down a specific shape a sample triggers. The machine turns off every 7 seconds so you really got to be on your toes for the machines to stay on during a performance. The first night I practiced with them, I thought I’d like them more than turntables. It’s funny how the toys manage to stay in good shape on tour but the professional equipment always seems to have problems.
Dj TT: If there is any software involved in that particular process which do you use?
Numark: For Music Blocks there is no software, just cartridges that hold the genre of music you want to hear. I think I have the whole series now.
Dj TT: Have you heard of the term controllerism, if so- what do you think about it?
Numark: I don’t think I’ve heard that term but it sounds cool. Does this relate to a performance based on controllers? If so, I kind of dig it.
Dj TT: Do djs have an obligation to move beyond the turntable paradigm at this point?
Numark: DJ’s have the obligation to push themselves in a way that is truthful to their musical expression. Each musician brings something unique to the table. I don’t expect DJ’s to change their style up just to be different. I’ve seen people try too hard to be abstract or inventive and it looks desperate. It’s good to follow your vision the best you can. Some of my favorite songs are extremely basic with maybe 8 tracks of music involved.
Dj TT: as a hip hop producer buttons are an integral part of your work flow but do you think they are as relevant to others as a musical interface?
Numark: No, I think the mouse is the most relevant unfortunately. Most of the production programs rely heavy on the mouse and it gets a bit frustrating for producers of my age that kind of miss scrolling though patches by hitting a button. These days its all about drag and drop which is basically a hand cramp lurking in the dark…..arthritis is wack. The really good programs understand how important pads and buttons are to a musical producer that has had some experience playing and instrument(s). Bring the buttons back!!!!
Dj TT: Who do you most respect in the dj world?
Numark: I like different DJ’s for different reasons. Q-Bert does the amazing scratch thing, J-Rocc is one of the funkiest DJ’s I’ve seen, Jazzy Jeff is super clean with his doubles and blends and cuts. Each one of these DJ’s express something true and their dedication shows.
Dj TT: What is your vision for the future of live musical manipulation aka djing.
Numark: Serato and other programs will continue to give DJ’s more and more tools for us to manipulate sound and edit / effect songs live. File management will be a must. The DJ’s that will struggle the most will be the ones that embrace the technology but not the file management of the technology. Hopefully programs will begin to pride themselves on being stable and user friendly instead of just meeting software deadlines.
Dj TT: Where can people find out more about your work?
Numark: My myspace has all my show details, booking information etc. Reach out!!
Dj TT: Thanks my man!
Numark: Thanks for having me!
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