Turntable Tyrannosaurus DJ Craze is one of the world's deadliest scratch masters. As devastating on a technical scratch routine as he is playing a hyped-up party set, the Nicaraguan-born, Miami-raised don is the only DJ to win the DMC World Championships three times. No stranger to the dancefloor, he's mixed the latest emission from the Fabric Live camp - 'Fabric Live 38: Craze'- which drops on 11th February. A veritable audio riot taking in electro, hip-hop, B-More, Miami bass, funk, house and breaks, it's an exhilarating rush that will challenge what many people associate with Craze. We linked with the Miami mixing machine to talk beats, scratching and words of advice…
You've mixed the new Fabric Live comp. What kind of vibe did you want to create with the mix?
"I'm known for turntablism, hip-hop and drum & bass. I wanted to make this a little bit more club, a bit more what's going on right now, and where I'm at right now. A lot of the music that I have on there is my friend's music, there's a lot of my boys' music on there."
You've won the DMC world championships three times – an unprecedented record. What advice would you give to upcoming scratch DJs, or DJs in general?
"Well for DJs in general, just keep practising your craft, practise makes perfect. And always be yourself. I've never followed anybody, I've always done what I liked whether it was turntablism, hip-hop or drum & bass, and what I'm doing now, I've always followed what I like, not got stuck on someone else's vibe. Do your own thing, practice, and eventually you're gonna go far."
With your Fabric mix, you've not really gone down the scratch route. Do you think it's necessary to separate a dancefloor set from a more technical, turntablist routine?
"It's not necessary 'cos I still get away with scratching on all of my sets. On my mix I did cut between tracks and mixes. But I don't think they should be separated, no, 'cos it's cool if you do it in a nice way and you do it funky, not just scratching for the sake of a scratch. There's always room for some funky cuts."
The mix takes in loads of styles – obviously the foundation of scratching is hip-hop, which you nod to, but you've also included electro, B-More, disco and house, which a lot of other hip-hop DJs seem to be doing now as well, people like Stretch Armstrong, Eli Escobar and Spank Rock. Is this the way that hip-hop is going, or mutating – mixing with other styles?
"I think so. The thing with a lot of hip-hop DJs, is that spinning hip-hop became boring, well not boring, but maybe a bit stale. It's like, how many times are you gonna play Pharoahe Monch? Certain tracks are overdone. I love those tracks, but when people are just bobbing their heads to hip-hop tracks, it's not where it used to be, and I could play a Miami Bass track and the whole party will just go insane! Or an electro or B-More track. The party vibe is way more intense, rather than just nodding your head and reciting some lyrics in a club, you know what I'm sayin'?"
Has growing up in Miami influenced the Craze sound?
"Yeah. Growing up in Miami, it's real Caribbean. We got the heavy Latin vibe, the heavy Jamaican vibe. And all Caribbean music has a lot of bass in there, like merengue, like reggae, all kinds of music. They have that very, very bass-heavy sound. Growing up here and listening to Miami bass and freestyle music, early hip-hop, it all had a lot of bass. And I just love bass, growing up in Miami is why I love it!"
As far as turntablism is concerned, what do you think is the next big thing?
"Technically the skill levels are really high right now. But I think that what's missing from the scene is that there's a lot of dope cats but nobody really stands out. Nobody has a certain style or a certain flavour to them, like back in the day, when X-Men were battling, Invisible Skratch Piklz were battling, we were all different kinds of characters. We all had skills, but you could be like, 'Oh Q-Bert, that's the scratch guy', or 'A-Trak, he's on a technical thing'. Now everybody is all the same, people need to get back showcasing, doing some body tricks, make it fun for people to watch. A lot of battle cats make their own battle records, and people don't even recognise the records they're cutting up. People need to get back to the fun, and to the crowd pleasing of turntablism."
What's next for Craze?
"Right now I'm working on my beats, a mixture of Miami Bass, B-More and club, and I got a bunch of hip-hop beats and a bunch of drum & bass bits that I got to finish off. Hopefully I'll have an album of my own material come out by the end of 2008."