Controllerism is often seen as the bastard offspring of turntablism. Both share a common cut and paste performance based mentality. So what happens when DMC champion and long time exponent of MIDI controllers DJ Unkut turns his entire attention to the controllerist friendly Vestax VCI-400? Magic happens.
We caught up with Unkut, and thought it would be a good idea to find out how he created the set, what he feels about controllers in general and how they figure in the future.
Great Set. How long did it take to put together?
Thanks Mark. Well, this time I didn’t create the routine in one run. I had a lot of other projects going on, so I had to pause a couple of times. Altogether it took two weeks of intensive work to get it done.
Did you approach this set any differently? Did you for example deliberately spend less time on the jog wheels because it’s not vinyl?
Yes, it was a different approach on the VCI. Not working with vinyls and turntables was something completely new for me, and therefore it was also more work. It was only partially possible for me to revert to my usual methods.
It was because of artistic reasons that I didn’t use the jogwheels more. I decided to use them in a different way, and to apply them more conscious and specifically in the routine instead of scratching an 8 bar “ahh” part for example. My intentions were to build bridges, rather than performing “classic” turntablism on a controller.
Are there cool tricks and techniques that you can do on a controller that can’t be done on a DVS setup?
I’ve never heard that it could be possible to apply fx chains onto turntables, and to adjust the intensity by just touching the turntable (0:50). On the other hand i can’t imagine to do beatkuts, or more sophisticated scratches on a controller jogwheel. I guess everything has its pros & cons.
The VCI-400 has a lot of buttons already. What does the Pad-One do in the clip?
I needed a few more buttons . Otherwise it would have been too complicated to realize the whole routine just on the VCI. I partially mapped some buttons in the patterns in a way that they were able to trigger the sound, and at the same time switch files for example to deck A which was not used in that moment. That put me in the position to have 8 new triggerable cuepoints to play another variation of the pattern only 1 or 2 bars later. Only like that it was possible for me to realize something that complex.
When I close my eyes and just listen, it does sound like a classic Unkut set. Can you do the same set on turntables and a mixer?
It might vary a little due to simple fact of the different sound attributes of a controller/turntable. At bottom I could reproduce the routine with turntables & effects, I guess.
If Moldover did that exact same same set, it would be considered controllerism. When you do it, what makes it turntablism?
What about calling it turntrollerism? =) Probably its the whole approach of this routine which reminds more of turntablism sets due to structure, composition + scratches.
A lot of turntablists are prejudiced against controllers for obvious reasons. How do you view this new technology?
My weapons of choice will always be vinyl and turntables. Trading a turntable setup for a controller will not be up to discussion. Still I can see the possibilities controllers offer, that’s why I’m not that critical about them. I don’t think I have to limit myself because of the “realness” state of mind which makes people pretty much reproduce things that have already been done. This video also shows that it is not only about the equipment one uses, but about the ability one has to combine old and new technologies to create something special, regardless of trends, opinions or expectations.
Do you worry about how turntablists will view you now that you’re endorsing them?
Not at all. I think what I’ve delivered over the last couple of years clearly shows who I am and what I do. I just wanted to try one of these controllers out, and flip them on a high level with a turntablistic approach. Nevertheless, it was a one time project and flipping dj controllers is nothing i would want to work on again.
Thinking as a battle DJ, do you think a controller brings anything to the battling table?
Depends, if one day dj battles would be about dudes battling each other with controllers only, I’d say something went wrong. They should enrich dj performances, not replace them. Then again, allowing controllers like the X1, Pad-One, Dicer or Maschine in combination with turntables, is enriching and brings a fresh breeze into competitions I’d say. In the end it should always be about skills with or without controller.
I noticed that despite the anything goes policy of DMC’s online battle, almost everyone stuck to turntables and a DVS. How do you think you’d do if you created a 6 minute set for the VCI-400?
Phew, doing a 6 minute routine on a the VCI would be exhausting. I would’ve have to be a lunatic or getting paid damn well to endure something like that . It would probably cause controversy among a lot of people because it doesn’t fit into their image of a battling dj. Still, I think at the end of the day you cant deny skills with or without controller. Hard to say, but I probably would do good on it in a battle.
As a working DJ, do controllers figure strongly in your DJ future?
No. I do use controllers as a compliment in a showcase or in a club, but as i said before my preferred medium is vinyl.