The Dj Whatt Interview
Dj Whatt, the funky breaks technician, is many things, not just another dj born and raised in Brooklyn, NY; this label boss, producer, remixer, and dj has many releases and is a man on a mission; the mission is to move the dance floors worldwide spreading the funky breakbeat sound. I got the chance to sit down with this man in his lab. This is what I got out of him.
What part of Brooklyn are you from?
Originally born in Greenpoint, which is right next to Williamsburg.
How was it like growing up in your neighborhood around that time?
Very Polish influence it was very European and I think that obviously had a weird mix with heavy hip hop in the early 80s late 70s and the European vibe at the same time so it was a good hood to be in that time frame.
That’s probably why you got into Hip Hop in the beginning then?
I got into hip hop in the beginning, all the rage was slowing down these hip hop records to make them all sound all slow, like they were kind of drunk and retarded but yea it kind of worked out kind of funny.
Explain your personality in three words.
Stupid, Funny and spontaneous. But that’s my personal that’s not like DJ Whatt, I see DJ Whatt as work, I see Franklin Gomez as the Stupid, funny and spontaneous guy, DJ Whatt is a hard worker, Frank Gomez isn’t.
You started your DJing like many people did using whatever they had available to them in their house; tell me what equipment you started with?
I’ll never forget I got a (no offense) a Gemini a piece of shit plastic Gemini turntable, I was so happy to have this turntable because it had pitch control, for like 6 months I was using my parents turntable and it how no pitch control so I was like how the fuck can I go out and listen to these people play and they can beat match and I can’t and like an idiot I didn’t know, then I picked up this Gemini turntable it was like $25 at a pawn shop and I was like okay cool I got one piece of crap turntable and this other one that I sneak inside my bedroom when my parents go to bed and what set it all up I had this DJ Jazzy Jeff mixer and its still actually available and when I met Jazzy Jeff and I told him that that was the first mixer I had he thought it was pretty funny eventually I saved up some money I bought a Technics turntable with pitch control and it wasn’t a pitch control like on a 1200 it was a knob pitch control, so it was really really hard to beat match, at least I thought I was beat matching but I mean if I listen to those tapes now you know it would be like Amtrak city, very very bad, so I had a piece of crap plastic Gemini I had a Jazzy Jeff Mixer and a technics knob pitch control turntable, and that knob turntable is still at my parents house and that Gemini is in some garbage can somewhere.
Starting with hip hop how did the transition come to be to start spinning breaks?
One night I was out and about and I kept on hearing about these parties at night time that I would hear about on the basketball courts on how they would stay open later than the regular clubs and you need to go to this and you need to go to that and I was like alright pretty cool, so I tried to convince my friend Alan and Greg, I was like hey, we need to go to this, and they were like are there going to be a lot of girls there, I was like fuck if I know I never been to one, I was like there are 3000 people there so they were like alright lets go, I mean 3000 people at around 5 to 6 in the morning there must be girls so, but ehh I wasn’t to worried about the girls you know I was just going to hang out and I showed up and my friend saw the line and they were like what the fuck it’s a bunch of freaks we’re not going in there, where fucking out of here, I was like WHAT!, I was all the way in downtown I lived around 7 miles away, I was like fuck it im going in, so they dropped me off and they were like don’t call us to pick you up, I was like don’t worry about it ill find a ride, im sure ill know someone in there, and they were like alright whatever, so they took off and I saw one of my friends in there and remember I never did any kind of drugs so I was like what the fuck is wrong with this guys eyes, why is his teeth chattering, his eyes are rolling, I was like Mike you have to give me a ride home, and he was like yea yea yea yea, so like an hour and a half later boom I lost em, then I saw this girl and I cant remember her name right now but I was like you have to give me a ride home and she was like yea yea yea and the same thing with her her teeth where chattering and her eyeballs were all fucked up and I lost her in like 45 min. So the club is closing at 7 in the morning and I was like fuck, so its like 7 o clock in the morning and I have to be somewhere at 8:30 so I just walked. I walked 7 miles from the rave all the way home and I got home and I had to go out to a soccer match and ill never forget it, I walked through 2 ghettos, scared shitless, my cell phone battery was dying and this was before it was so easy to catch a cab cause I was in Florida there was like no fucking cabs anywhere on a Sunday morning so that’s how I transitioned into breaks from hip hop cause I was like holy shit it sounds like hip hop but its just sped up instead of it being 90 bpm its like dancing it a 130 bpm, it sounds to me like apache and the Mexican but even a little faster than that because Apache and the Mexican is like 120 so I was like this is awesome and the DJ of that night was Icey and I heard him play his 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 like 3 4 times and people were going crazy and I recognized some of the B Boy samples in there so I got hooked. After the soccer match the next day I found a little record store locally and I walked in and I started to purchase stuff.
What are some of your musical influences?
Its sounds really funny but every morning when I wake up, I told this story numerous times, and I should incorporate it into my bio but every morning when I wake up I listen to 2 records. I have a little vestax turntable, portable. The two records are the “Mexican” and “Apache” so anything around that culture, the b boy culture im very very influenced. After that culture I am extremely influenced by the early days of Icey and to me if I could write music like that on a consistent bases I would be happy. Then in between Icey and the B Boy stuff is defiantly when it was called Hardcore UK, when it about 130 bpm and they call it hardcore but it was actually breakbeat. So yea stuff like that I am extremely influenced by, I used to say freestyle but now when I write it’s far far from it. Maybe 5 years ago when I was writing 5 years ago I was influenced by freestyle but now, not at all…unfortunately.
I understand that you produce, what equipment do have in your studio…hardware or software?
Originally a lot of hardware, lots of keyboards, synthesizers, and a lot of rack mounts but with technology today its amazing that all you need now is just a midi board and a strong desktop or a strong laptop. I carry my laptop every where with me with my mini midi board so if something pops into head I can just sit there and write it BSTs are a space saver, I went from having a two room studio to basically a 10 x 10 studio and it’s a space saver but it still very expensive, its not as cheap as I would like it to be but you know it pays the bills so im happy.
Tell me about your labels?
Alright well the first one I did was called Whatt Kastle, which is a funny story because I enjoyed white castles’ hamburgers and it was really cheesy but I had a friend named Rick Kastle and I go by Dj Whatt so it makes Whatt Kastle and I changed it to two ts and instead of a C we made it a K and I said ill keep this label around and it started to do very well after the first couple of pressings sold out and I was really happy and I opened up some sub labels under that but solely for re mix work while Whatt Kastle was just for original work but Whatt Kastle came out with so many re mix work people weren’t giving it enough validity it deserved for the original work so I decided to close down Whatt Castle and in 04 I decided to open up EMUOR and that’s an acronym for Electric Music Under One Roof. I initially opened it up with Madam Mercury and it started off great with her doing all of the design while I did all the paper work and building it from the ground up and EMUOR being a resource to get out domestic breaks but also signing international artists that you know that weren’t the same UK Nu School sound, so we ended up signing several artists and EMUOR we created some sub labels; Broken Four, Level which is a house like label, Intertwine, which is we don’t call it musical we call it dark beats it doesn’t have that groggy sound to it, Code Three which is for funky breaks, and HomeBase which im developing it right now and I think I am going to keep it around to re issue old tunes hence the name HomeBase. So this year we have around 7 really solid releases that will obviously will be available at all your record stores on the vinyl and I just got through signing an exclusive deal with Beatport.com for all the labels so beatport will be a great place to pick up all the stuff at.
You took the route a lot of producers now of days are doing…why shop for labels when you can start your own. Do you personally think this is the best way to go about it?
I still shop, not my songs out but I shop my talent out, if that makes any sense and talent not like the artists I have signed to the label, when I say I shop my talent out I shop myself out to other labels which are obviously larger than EMUOR in recognition to showcase my production talent or other artists I have signed to the label their production talent. So do I think it is the way to go to start your own label? I would say 4 years ago or 5 years ago I would say yea, but now of days its so hard to be picked up by distributors that you know, bang the box as much as possible and write tunes that you think will make people go real crazy and then send it over to us and if we can’t help you out then we will point you to the right direction with someone that can.
What advice can you give to the producer or average Joe who wants to start their own label?
The best advise would be before you start spending any money getting everything set up the business, the licensing, getting registered and all of that is to put together a CD and get it out to distributor and say would you be interested in picking up this stuff and if they are then you know, like you can have the best product in the world, its like any business strategy but if you don’t have distribution I doesn’t matter, no body is ever going to get it so that would be the best thing, find a distributor that sells your genre of music, send it to them and if they are interested then talk about manufacturing but that’ll be a good stepping stone.
What advise can you give an up and coming dj/producer to make it in this industry?
Well that word making it is a very strange word because the goals for one person maybe different for the goals of another person. Making it for one person might be playing at the hippest club in his town making it for the next person might be you know playing 100,000 miles in one year. But all of them need to take the same initiative and same steps in achieving either of those two goals and that would be that you have to commit 24/7 to this, this isn’t something that is going to happen because of luck grant it luck helps but luck isn’t guaranteed. If you give your blood sweat and tears into this industry and you have talent, because you can give yourself that much but unfortunately you don’t have talent or your not doing it the right way its not going to work out, you have the right chemistry and you have the desire and strive just the hunger for it it’ll work out. Practicing at first to be a dj to make everything to sound flawless, when people go out and they are like wow this is awesome it’s the same thing as working in the studio producing…what you put into it is what you are going to get out of it.
Give me your discography.
Well about 35% of it is original and about 65% of it has been remix work, looked down on some looked upon by others to be a great thing to have at their club, I have gotten a lot of heat by putting out some many remix records you know white labels by other producers but the people purchasing the records they e mail me and say that record really helped me really well at the club, that they love my remixes and how they really appreciate it and they hope I put out more you know and the original stuff its obviously a lot harder to produce that the remix stuff, with the remix stuff you already have a great song your just making it better or hopefully better whereas you are making it into the genre that you want to play it in like if you grab a house track and you want to make it into a breaks track so like 35% original 65% remix and it extends back as far as if my memory serves it correct late 2000 or late 2001 I think, so its been a quite a few releases total amount being about 20 vinyl releases but that doesn’t mean just 20 songs, some records had up to like 6 tracks on them so its been pretty extensive.
Talk about the two downloadable mixes on your website, how are they doing?
Well the transition I decided to do after Broken Floor that was a CD that myself and madam mercury put together and it was a nationwide release, north American release and it was also available in Canada. I started to see that CD sales weren’t what they used to be and to be completely honest there isn’t a lot of money in it like there used to be in sales the biggest thing is gigs even major artists there was an article in the USA Today that 80% of all money made by artists is by traveling or doing tour shows so I said ok, I didn’t see much money from Broken Floor so why is it going to hurt me to put out a complete promotional album and give it away for free on line, do remixes of stuff that I know I would never be able to get cleared and put it on cd and its not like I wouldn’t be able to get them cleared but it would just cost way to much money, you know Madonna, Gwen Stefani, just huge acts like that are not going to give you the time of day only if you were going to be selling 500,000 copies and I said well I finished an album towards the end of august in 05 called Always Different and I put it up on line and I said lets see how this does and see what kind of response it gets and I put it up without any type of promotion just me putting it up and passing it along to people, then came the whole myspace.com thing and I signed up around mid October and ill tell you what that thing is great for advertising or promoting your band if you do it the right way. Everyone that I have as a friend has come as a friend, I don’t go out and seek friends because I want people to come to me because they enjoy my music I don’t want to approach some body because they are in the music industry thinking that they are going to like my music I don’t think that’s the right way to do it. So I also started to spread the message on myspace well by the end of January in like 5 months Always Different Vol 1 generated well over 80,000 people coming through the website and I said Holy Crap when I started to see these numbers by mid December and I already had enough material to do another one I said let me hold off and put out volume 2 on Feb 1st and at the end of it generated around 50,000 people through the website and those numbers really have opened up my eyes. I have gotten very good responses, I get e mails every day in regards to the tracks on there asking when they are going to come out where they are available if I can pass them along etc and it has brought in more revenue in the sense of playing out because people are like hey would you be interested to play here cause we want this type of music and you’re the only one playing it so it served its purpose and its served it purpose so much that now I have meetings with major labels because they saw what kind of on line presence I have and what I can do to their original stuff so this up coming week actually (March 06) I have meetings with not one but two major labels in regards of me doing some projects for them. It’s served its purpose and I am very very happy with it.
Are you working on any projects right now?
Right now I am finishing up the last vinyl for the year, it an original tune and after that I don’t want to write anymore original music until I see what happens with these meetings coming up because I don’t know if they want me to so remix work, original work or whatever the case may be.
Any big collaborations happening anytime soon?
Yea. To refer back to myspace, I hooked up with this group from Montréal called the Hard Steppers and they did a song called 10 steps and I listened to it and originally it was only 2 min track at a 134 bpm and I was like this track is awesome I want to remix it and they sent it over and when it was done I don’t know what happened but it’s a 10 min track now it’s a pretty long track but it’s the first track on Always Different Vol 2 and myspace and beatport are really going to open the doors for me with more artists. I in the past didn’t want to work so much with collaborations but now once you start getting older you start realizing that it doesn’t hurt you it can only help you and the thing is that if I work with someone that does house and I do a remix for them you know that sheds some light on me in house music and if they work with me it sheds some light on them within the breakbeat community. I worked and I have vinyl coming out this year with Who-ozzy crew which are B Boys from Italy and the vinyl is coming out and it will be released on EMUOR and it’ll be EMUOR issue No 2 called Funky Port B-Boy also coming out this year on vinyl I have some collaborations with re mix work with Brad Smith and he’s down in Florida but as of stuff that isn’t coming out as of yet I have a ton of collaborations coming out probably a good 5 or 6 good ones if not with other producers but with other labels so im very excited about that.
If you could pick 2 producers, who would you want to do a track with?
If I really would love to have someone in the studio it would be BT when he used to write breaks, that would be a lot of fun and it really sucks but I cant remember the guy who made apache I believe its Michael somebody, if someone knows they can e mail me that would be great but if I can have him in the studio and I know its only one song but just to pick the brain on how he thought, the way he was thinking when he wrote that song would be awesome to have in the studio.
You said to me on the phone that you are the producer that many people have heard but not heard of explain that.
I get a lot of oh you did that track because like I said my discography is 65:35 remix to original and they obviously know who the original artist was if it was an 80s track lets say but they don’t know who remixed it but when they find out they are like oh you’re the one who remixed it and Im like yea so its been told to me numerous times I heard you but never heard of you or heard of your name because of this individual track which is a good thing because at least the track is being played and that’s fine by me, im happy with that.
So how about you tell me where people can learn more about you and where they can pick up your stuff?
The website is the easiest and obvious way its www.djwhatt.com and also the record label www.emuor.com , the stuff as I said is available on line exclusively through beatport.com for an extended amount of time and they can also purchase it at dmswax.com, satelliterecords.com and any local vinyl shops they should be able to pick it up. Great thing I did with beatport which should start up around May 06 is since I can not legally release some of the remixes that I do what I want people to understand is that everything behind the original track are beats that I originally wrote so on beatport.com they came up with this idea and they said hey, I can’t sell this remix but I can sell the beats so instead of going crazy looking for a dope breakbeat or whatever beatport.com is going to be selling my beats as a dj tool for your own personal use or if your at a show you have a 10 min long breakbeat with proper break downs and good timing and whatnot and you can play them live at your show and now you can do remixes live by purchasing this from beatport.com, yea it’s a great idea.
So where are you playing next, any residencies/special events?
Next im playing in Florida, then believe it or not im going to Montana, it sounds pretty crazy but I went and played in Montana in the first weekend of December and really had a good time and im going back over there playing three cities in Montana and that takes up my month of April playing Florida and Montana, in May I have coming up about 6 cities in California. Residencies I am working on having one here in NY, I’d like to have something once a month to give me a reason to stay here because for example from October to the end of January though I live in NY I was only home for like 3 weeks, so I would like to set something up as a residency for a reason to come back home to play once a month here, radio shows I am working on closing a deal with a satellite show and there is only two so you can obviously choose one and eliminate the other one, 50% shot, and yea residencies I would like to set one up here and I would also like to set one up elsewhere in another city cause the amount of music I have people have never heard I could probably play a 10 hour set of stuff you’ll recognize and you heard but you never heard it in this form or fashion so its really different and I really hope to set that up sometime this year
What’s your top ten right now?
I think right now it would be, to hard to for me to say and sound bias reason being I don’t listen to the radio because I won’t get influenced in production. I only really listen to the records people send me and I would say the top ten currently would be 9 of my tracks because that’s what I play out. All time, would be easier without me sounding so bias but top ten all time would be Apache, the Mexican, but then I love Grand Master Flash, I don’t think its more of the songs of the top ten its more of the top ten artists that they wrote so much great music that I really enjoy. Even from like Biz Markie, to De La Soul, umm and that person that Rob Bass stole that beat from, its not really Rob Bass it umm (Runs into studio and goes through record crates)…Lyn Collins, as you can see its heavily b boy and break im more into but that’s not to say I’m not into other peoples stuff I really enjoy things from the international I enjoy KraftyKutz a lot because he sounds very old school.
Any special thanks?
Honestly, all the support and appreiation I get and when I play live shows it really means a lot to me. I got into this industry and I have been living off of it for 8 years and there is no bigger reward or better feeling when I open up my e mail and just read how these people really enjoy my music it means a lot to me, I appreciate that from everybody that sends in those e mails and I started to say this one thing “In Breaks I Trust” so that’s it.
Any final words?
In Breaks I Trust, It hasn’t let me down, im very happy with it but I appreciate you for coming by, thanks!