It’s 2003, and I’ve just seen a demo of the new Technics SL-DZ1200 at PLASA (hi Paul!). Ambling back to to the show floor, I found myself in a lift with legendary UK DJ Brandon Block, and DMC’s royal ruler himself, Tony Prince. Brandon had just witnessed the same demo, and somewhat enthusiastically enquired as to whether the DZs would be allowed in the DMC battle. Obviously seizing on the opportunity presenting itself to me, I asked “Yeah Tony — will they?”. Glancing down at my media badge (nobody knew me back then), it was clear I’d put him on the spot, but he indicated that it was a definite possibility.

Fast forward 15 years, and we’re yet to see them in any battle ever, let alone DMC. But as the digital age continues to permeate the DJ scene, thus the gear that’s acceptable in the DMC battle evolves. And as the main sponsor, Rane is obviously very happy to announce that the Rane TWELVE controller is now an acceptable device to use in the battle. And with said happiness comes the need to shout about it with the usual amount of zeal:

RANE® TWELVE MOTORIZED TURNTABLE CONTROLLER OFFICIALLY ACCEPTED AS PERFORMANCE HARDWARE BY DMC

RANE and DMC jointly announce that RANE TWELVE has now been added to the official performance hardware list for all DMC mixing competitions from this year onwards.

CUMBERLAND, RI USA (March 5, 2019)—RANE (RANE), the established innovator in the DJ industry, noted for their standard-setting solutions coupled with unequalled reliability and customer service, today announced that they will continue their successful partnership with DMC for this year’s mixing championships. RANE will support the American regional heats alongside the World final in the UK on September 28th at the Islington Assembly Hall, London.

RANE and DMC are excited to jointly announce that the RANE TWELVE motorized turntable controller is now officially accepted as performance hardware in the DMC mixing championship events from this year onwards. This announcement includes all regional heats, finals and the online competitions. To support this, RANE is offering custom made 12” acrylic control discs to any DJ that competes in the 2019 DMC globally using the TWELVES*. Keep an eye on the RANE website and socials for more information coming soon.

“We are extremely pleased to once again welcome RANE as our prime supporter for the 2019 DMC WORLD DJ CHAMPIONSHIPS and the ONLINE DJ CHAMPIONSHIPS which will give competitors anywhere in the world an opportunity to compete in the live World Finals in London on the 28th of September. Many DJs have asked that we include the RANE TWELVE turntable and we are happy to confirm that this year we welcome this great turntable onto the stages of the DMC World.”

– Tony Prince (Director DMC)

Introduced in 2018, the RANE TWELVE alongside the SEVENTY-TWO battle mixer, has taken the turntablist and DJ world by storm. Now an essential part of the riders for some of the globe’s greatest DJs such as Jazzy Jeff, Scratch Bastid, JFB and many more, the TWELVE offers DJs that true vinyl-like feel with all the benefits of the digital DJ world.

* To qualify for the custom acrylics, DJs will need to use the TWELVE’s throughout their time within the 2019 DMCs with video recordings of each performance.

INSERT OBVIOUS INFLAMMATORY HEADING ABOUT THE DEATH OF TURNTABLES OR SOMETHING HERE

It would have been oh so easy to whip up an absolute shit storm in the comments section about how Rane’s TWELVE is obviously aiming to slowly but surely displace the venerable Technics 1200 at DMC, and even pushing it as far as hypothesise an insidious conspiracy theory that Rane is looking to replace all Technics EVERYWHERE.

Of course this is utter bollocks. It’s just DMC moving with the times, and responding to the number of TWELVES that are appearing with increasing regularity in online performance videos. And if they’re good enough for Jazzy Jeff to put on his rider, then they’re good enough for DMC, and everyone else too for that matter.

Let’s not however understate the significance of this move. DMC fought tooth and nail to remain true to the roots of the turntablist culture and keep DVS out of the battle. But in a move to remain current, and indeed relevant, the stage was opened up to utilise laptops. After all, despite purist protestations in the early days, DVS technology had proved itself to be more than good enough to the point that everyone was using it away from battles anyway. It also a way to push the craft of turntablism forward, and to stop having expensive custom vinyl made, as first witnessed when Netik won the world title in 2006.

So turntablism has pushed forward over the years. First it was original vinyl, then battle wax, then custom cuts, and finally DVS. But at each stage, the principle tenets of the original craft were still intact. A computer had been added, but it was still about the vinyl, the needle, and the turntable, albeit without the need to ruin original vinyl, or have to worry about skipping.

TAKING THE TURNTABLE OUT OF TURNTABLISM?

Well… that depends on how you view the craft, and the Rane TWELVE. As a product in this current marketplace, it’s a controller made to work and look like a turntable, but without the tonearm, needle, or vinyl (it’s a control disk now). You don’t play music on it, but control music with it. And you never have to worry about swapping vinyl, breaking a needle, or howling feedback either. It gets down to a semantic interpretation of whether the TWELVE truly is a turntable in the turntablist scheme of things. Twelvetablism anyone?

But turntablism is more than the technology. It is a craft that sees manual and dextrous manipulation of equipment and music to make entirely new creations. And regardless of technology the performance skills are largely the same with DVS of with TWELVEs. I still miss cue burn in performances though.

But does turntablism at its core mean that it has to be done with digging original pressings of hard to find vinyl? And playing only on Technics with Shure carts using two channel analogue mixers? I would love to see a battle where this happens again, but it increasingly feels like a display of traditional artisanal crafts at a heritage centre. I simply can’t imagine a DJ turning up with a stickered-up pile of OG wax and having a chance in a modern battle.

What is interesting to me is that I don’t believe the TWELVE will meet with the same resistance that each previous wave of technology has had to fight against. Laptops are standard now, and the traditional turntable workflow offers enough hurdles to make the TWELVE an ideal tool in a battle scenario — any DJ scenario to be honest. Turntablists are slowly adopting the TWELVE, so why not put them into battles too?

NOT OR, BUT AND

There has always been a natural fear that new technology is designed to mercilessly rip the old tech from your dying hands. Apparently synths will kill real instruments, and CDJs will end vinyl and turntables. How’d that work out for you?

What happens is that natural curiosity or insane hunger for new toys sees a rush towards them at a breakneck speed, which in turn ignites the natural human fear in others of new fangled doohickies and sparks a resistance. But what actually happens is a partial return to what is already established, and a peaceful coexistence of differing technologies.

And that’s exactly what will happen here. People love turntables and that is unlikely to change. The process of putting vinyl on the platter, placing the needle in the groove is magical. For some, keeping it real and respecting the craft. For others, the utter convenience of rocking up, plugging in, and playing is how it should be. Each to their own.

And that’s the thing that’s always missed in these scenarios. Kneejerking kicks in and fights the new thing with a passion. But in the case of the TWELVE at DMC, it’s a simple matter of it being an option. Turntables and TWELVEs will be available, not one or the other. And I suspect that the existing DMC 1200s will still be rocked long after this and several future iterations of TWELVEs have been despatched to the great gear mountain in the sky.

Times change. But the turntable in turntablism is quite safe for many years if not decades to come. And choice is good. Do you really want to return to a time before DVS?

OVER TO YOU

I’ve written this deliberately in a way to explore traditional and modern thinking. Is turntablism a skilled craft that must remain true to its roots? Or has technology allowed it to evolve to be something more? Or as I subscribe to, can it and should it be both?