In the space of a fortnight, a number of resources devoted to the burgeoning portable scratching scene have appeared. Firstly our buddy Mojaxx over at DJ City did a whole video feature including following Ritchie Ruftone into the Scottish hills to freeze his nuts off in the name of portable scratching. Next up was Emma at Studio Scratches who wrote the most amazing Ultimate Guide to Portable Scratching without having to get cold. And finally portablist.com, a whole website courtesy of Paul Scratch appeared in my time line. It seems that scratching 7″ vinyl on really crappy record players is cool right now.
So having such stellar resources just a few clicks away, there seems little point in us duplicating effort and devoting too much time to the subject. I like to stay warm, can’t think of a way to improve Emma’s amazing work, and have already done a scratch site. So instead, I’m going to ponder why this whole obsession with scratching 45s outside in the depths of winter has become a thing.
Newton’s third law and the cyclical nature of things
Being old, I’ve seen a lot of things. And one recurring theme is how things push in one direction, but naturally ebb back to a point where old and new happily coexist. And if you’re wondering about the Newton reference, it states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. And this is certainly true from a technology perspective. But while I struggle with the concept of VHS being popular again, I’m convinced that CDs will at some point experience a renaissance, something that I seem to be alone in thinking within the DJWORX team. We shall see.
And there’s a good number of reasons why DJs are actually excited about taking a massive step back in time to what really is the very start of DJing. Let’s kick around a few of them
Having endless mountains of shiny nextlevelness shovelling under our noses has taken its toll. There is an expectation that to remain relevant, DJs must adopt this new spangly stuff to stay current and cool. But many DJ setups now resemble cockpits — they have become the equivalent of sofas littered with stacks of remotes where one used to do the job. It seems like you need so much to do the same job of mixing records and making people dance. It’s incessant, and just when you think you’re on top of it, some other essential lump of expensive shiny comes along.
It gets wearing — trust me. My next review for example is the Numark TT250USB, and I’m relishing the simplicity of it. That said, it’ll be rapidly followed up with the Denon DJ MCX8000, a device that will sure cause a global knob shortage.
One thing has struck me as weird in much of this portable scratching lark. It’s common to see a DJ totally nail a short 7″ scratch flurry and feel really proud. The huge irony is that they’ve shot the video in their man cave that is littered with a huge array of expensive scratch gear. So why not just do the same thing with your costly and clearly more capable traditional DJ gear? Because it’s raw that’s why. DJing is becoming something that has been made easier with technology, and sometimes it’s good to have the struggle, to feel the pressure of keeping the needle in the groove, and making a shitty plastic turntable perform like a Technics. Pulls off scribble scratch… ROOOAAR… muscle pose…
Aaah… the F word. It’s something that seems to disappear when the full thrust of the latest tech hits us squarely in the face. We do get very serious about our gear, and will often forget that while the dance floor demands that we keep it satiated with the hottest four to the floor tunes, we must also enjoy what we do. And certainly for a seasoned scratcher who is totally focussed on creating 6 minute battle sets with military precision and execution, putting all that to one side and hammering 7 inches of ahhh over a beat is the best fun and release that you can possibly have. And let us not leave out the unmitigated fun of collecting vinyl too. It’s all too easy to unleash Paypal on many sites offering 7 inch scratch tools at an unrelenting pace.
There’s technical reason for the success of portable scratching. I feel the reasons are rather more human — less complicated, more satisfying, and definitely more fun is the order of the day as far as portable scratching goes. It may well be a fad that quickly runs out of steam, or conversely it may spark a real revolution in personal scratching and see some quality 7″ decks come out (fingers crossed for the 7PS). But who cares — all that matters is that you have fun, because for me that’s what it’s all about.