How DJ Prime Cuts started from scratch
Four-time DMC World DJ Champion looks ahead to this weekend’s competition
05 October, 2018 — By Róisín Gadelrab
DJ Prime Cuts: ‘The whole thing needs to be compelling, entertaining and skilful with a shedload of bravado as well – it’s the performance’
“FOR me its 100 per cent what people are doing there and then, it’s a performance, not results, it’s not something you’ve canoodled at home.”
Four-time DMC World DJ Champion DJ Prime Cuts, aka Joel Clements, a member of DJ collective Scratch Perverts, and long-time judge of the competition, is explaining what he is looking for in a contestant.
This year’s DMC World DJ Championships has moved from Koko to Islington Assembly Hall where, on Sunday (October 7), contestants will pit their DJ skills against each other to win the coveted crown in the long-running competition.
There will also be performances from top names, workshops and a portablist contest for attendees to try their hand at DJing on the day, with the final taking place on the main stage.
Prime Cuts, who credits his first championship win in 1998 as “a pivotal moment” in his career, returns with a special showcase to mark 20 years since his first winning performance.
“It had a real knock-on effect, it was a springboard for me. It’s mad to think it’s 20 years,” he said. “For the showcase, I’ve tried to build something that’s simple, honest and draws on a few things I invented. There’s a nod to the past but I think it’s a fairly futuristic routine. There’s some unusual stuff in there that no one else has done. Initially I wanted to recreate the original routine, but having discussed it with the missus there’s already a younger more attractive version of me doing that online.”
DJ Rena during last year’s DMC World DJ Championship Finals at Koko
Last year Joel formed part of the judging panel that selected 12-year-old DJ Rena from Japan as the winner. DJ Rena returns to defend his title this year against a host of talent, including 13-year old DJ K-Swizz. When judging, Joel is wary of those who spend too much time carefully planning DJ routines, instead, looking for talent and performance on the day.
“For me, it’s a relationship to what someone’s doing. I need to relate to it,” he said.
“If I’m watching someone perform or compete, I want to understand on some level what you’re doing. The fact there’s been a culture of pre-production in routines removes the ability for me to relate to what you’re doing.
“It may be technically brilliant but I don’t care because I don’t relate to it. It doesn’t mean someone has to go on and do a beat juggle with a pop record. You need to convey an emotion.”
Seeking entrants showing a skill set, he added: “Someone who can scratch and juggle but the whole thing needs to be compelling, entertaining and skilful with a shedload of bravado as well – it’s the performance.
“I’d say someone like DJ Craze is the greatest. He had the whole thing – he could choose music very really wisely and perform it.”
First inspired by hip-hop culture in the 80s, Joel became obsessed with scratch DJs of the time.
“I was into breakdancing and that exposed me to all the music. I got into buying records, I’d spend dinner money on records and all the records I was into had scratching on them – DJ Cheese, Mixmaster Ice, then Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money, I became obsessed with their different kinds of scratching and that was my route into it. For my 16th birthday my nan bought me a pair of Technics.”
He added: “I wasn’t interested in mixing, it was the scratching. Mixing is the blending of two different records but the scratching is the particular sound, that’s what I became quite obsessed with and before getting turntables it was a thing that was private to myself. I would try to emulate those patterns. Having done it in front of the older kids at school and got a degree of respect from kids in fifth years I thought it was a cool thing.”
After securing a career in TV, Joel decided to deliberately get fired so he could concentrate on his DJing.
He said: “There was no money to be made from it so I had to get sacked to be able to sign on. That was the only sleepless night I had. In hindsight it was not a bad a decision.”
Joel entered a number of DMC championship competitions, reaching various stages and, in 1997, he joined Scratch Perverts. In 1998 he finally won, going on to be four-time world champion.
• Joel has just put out the third in a series of electronic releases under the name of Hardworking Families, called HWF 003. For tickets and information on the DMC World DJ Championships, visit www.dmcworld.com