In 1985, the Disco Mix Club (DMC) launched the first ever DJ battle for world supremacy. Within a few years, various turntablists from around the world were doing imaginative tricks like scratching with pool cues, football helmets, bicycles and even kitchen sinks to impress judges. Legendary DJs like Cash Money, Mix Master Mike, Q-Bert, A-Trak, Craze and Kentaro all won DMC titles and have gone on to big things.
But DMC hasn’t kept up with the times. Its world champions still show tremendous skill manipulating records for six minutes, but what they do is no longer a reflection of what happens in clubs. Instead of scratching records, club DJs today use MP3s and the vinyl emulator, Serato’s Scratch Live, to flip through hundreds of different tracks — and to make sure the party is rocking.
While the popularity of DMC has waned, the Red Bull Thre3style world championship is swiftly gaining cachet. Under this battle format, contestants have 15 minutes to showcase their skills and party-rocking abilities while playing at least three different styles of music.
“I think the Thre3style competition is more of a reflection of modern day club deejaying,” said Skratch Bastid (real name Paul Murphy), a battle champion and one of the most renowned DJs in the world.
One of the new countries participating in the Red Bull Thre3style world championships this year is Taiwan. Thirteen contestants (full disclosure: I’m one of them) and five wild cards have been chosen to take part in the three-city qualifier. The top two performers from each of the three qualifiers will then battle to represent Taiwan in the world championships on Nov 9 in Toronto, Canada.
To kick off the two-week battle series, last year’s Red Bull Thre3style world champion, Four Color Zack (real name Zack Prucha), will showcase his skills tomorrow night at Myst.
WHAT IT TAKES
Last year, Zack entered as a wild card. “My wife made me do it,” he said jokingly. “I was a fan of the competition and the people involved, but she was the one that supported and gave me that extra push to do it. I’d say it worked out pretty well.”
As soon as he arrives in Taiwan, Zack will be whisked to dinner with all the contestants before his show and will give them a small pep talk. But, he said, “there is no formula to a good Thre3style set.”
He added that originality and creativity are crucial to gaining the attention of judges, and the “trick is trying to … connect with the audience and judges at the same time.”
Zack leaves before the competition, which will be judged by four local DJ legends including Xuan, real name Liu Shiuan (劉軒).
Xuan began playing music when vinyl was king, but he’s impressed with how Thre3style is pushing the DJ industry. “There’s something magical about the old days, but you can’t go back them again,” Xuan said.
“To me, this is the future of deejaying — to take advantage of technique and technology to serve up the greatest musical variety. It’s deliberately crossing genre barriers, which in a way goes back to the earliest days of deejaying when genres didn’t matter so much. So it’s old school and new school at the same time.”
Skills and the ability to rock a party are qualities Xuan will be looking for when he judges the competitors, but they are not on the top.
“Most of all, it’s the storytelling ability,” Xuan said. “How can you take the crowd the greatest distance from A to B and still make sense.”