DJ Brace is OG in the game with over 20 years DJing and almost as many producing. His commitment and dedication has been paying off majorly in the past few years. In 2009 he picked up a Juno for Instrumental album of the year, he recently won 3 DMC Online World Championships and was the runner-up in the producer battle at A-Trak’s first annual Goldie Awards. On top of all of this, he’s just released a brand album entitled Apatheia. The ten track offering is a journey through sound. An instrumental hip-hop expedition that bears shades of DJ Shadow & RJD2 while charting its own course. From turntablism overtones to wordly influence and cinematic samples, it’s a multi-layered work that’s rich with emotion. We had the honour of connecting with Brace to discuss the new album, his DMC titles, the Goldie Awards and much more. Check out our full interview below.
You’ve won multiple DMC titles in the past few years. What impact have these achievements had on your career?
Going viral made a lot people who don’t normally like scratching, or djing, notice me and become fans. Getting booked more, seeing places in the world I’ve never seen.
Your 2016 DMC Online Finals routine featured a ton of interesting gear including 2 foot pedals and a Fretless Fader. How did you come up with this set-up? Are you constantly experimenting with new gear?
I used a wah-wah pedal to have more expression on my Fretless Fader and because I scratch a guitar tone and wanted it to sound more like a real guitar. Delay pedal was to give a more life and atmosphere. I had an On/Off switch for my Controller 1 turntable. The On/Off button on the C1 was too far. The setup was made based on needs. The Wah-Wah sounded too dry so I used delay pedal.
I came up with the setup by using the dope equipment I have in the lab. I also thought of using what other people hadn’t used in other routines.
When I need to change notes, be very precise, I use my Vestax Controller one. I built the Fretless clone with the help of a friend online because I thought one of my competitors would use one and wanted an edge.
Yeah, I always like to try new setups. Recently I used an MPC, synthesizer and turntable setup to perform at the Goldie Awards.
Since you’ve been so successful as a DJ, do you find people tend to overlook you as producer?
Yeah, I feel like most people think of me as only a battle DJ. Goldie Awards helped me change that.
You were the runner up in the Goldie Awards beat battle this year. Can you tell us a little bit about the experience? What made you decide to enter the beat battle vs. the DJ competition?
The experience was awesome, the crowd was huge and ope- minded. The competitors were all super cool people. Hanging out with and being judged by people like Diplo, Mannie Fresh, DJ Craze, Mija, The Whooligan and A-Trak was awesome. I entered the beat battle because I’ve been producing since 1999 and I wanted people to know.
Can you tell us a little bit about your production process? How do you go about finding samples? Are you still digging in the crates or do you find sounds digitally?
Inspiration is the key. I have to start right when it hits me. The process has evolved over the years. When I produce sometimes I start with making a drum beat or sometimes I hear a melody in my head and record that first.
It used to start with my MPC and samples. On my first album I used a bunch samples. I’d listen to records and the samples jumped out and was obvious what to sample. Then I’d chop em up on the MPC or ASR-10. I always try to flip samples so I’m not just looping. I usually would go digging but then I moved on to playing instruments and recording my own sounds. On my second and third album I recorded live instruments and I used vocal scratches from rap and spoken word records. I still dig for records, for inspiration. Since finishing my trilogy – Nostomania, Synesthasia and my new album Apatheia.
Lately I’ve been playing with Roland’s new boutique synths. You can record with them direct to your computer via USB without a sound card. So the last few beats I’ve been using Push 2, Laptop and Synths
On the technical side – once I have a groove, I start to compose. After that I add some cuts, more melodies and vocals. Lately I’m trying to go with the “less is more” vibe. Once I have a rough sequence of the song, I build around it adding nuances and effects. I sequence an intro after I have the main body. I’m always semi-mixing my sounds along the way – eqing, adding compression and panning the sounds to make things fit. After the song is done I go in for a final mix and then send it off to mastering.
What’s the most outrageous juxtaposition of sound/samples you’ve put together?
Anne Murray band for drums, Frank Zappa for Vocals cuts with Sonny Bono & Cher on bass.
I wanted to create a space for the listener to be in the driver seat because I feel that a lot of people focus on the artist and their image.
What was your goal in creating Apatheia?
It’s the final installment of a trilogy. It had to have continuity with its previous two albums.
This one was about clearing your mind and finding out what is true to you in the music with no preconceived notions. I wanted to create a space for the listener to be in the driver seat because I feel that a lot of people focus on the artist and their image.
Apatheia is finding that space where you have no outside influence and can see what you truly feel about the music.
The project packs a lot of emotion and variety in mood and feel. How do you go about creating these feelings when making music that’s predominantly beat-based?
I just start playing and the songs unfold.
I’m passionate about music, can’t live without it. It doesn’t take much to get me excited about it, just looking at my gear, or hearing a dope beat and I’m hyped. That will never stop.
You’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years. What keeps you excited and moving forward?
I’m passionate about music, can’t live without it. It doesn’t take much to get me excited about it, just looking at my gear, or hearing a dope beat and I’m hyped. That will never stop. I’ve always been about trying to push the boundaries and looking to find what’s next with turntable techniques, sampling and music production. Also people like Vekked, my partner in my turntable band the Fresherthans, keeps me stoked and pushing the boundaries as far as they can go.
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