DOA: Hey Shortee! For some background info on yourself, where are you from originally and when did you first start DJing?Related Videos:
Shortee: I was born in Alexandria, VA and I currently live in Los Angeles, CA. My first real turntable was a Strawberry Shortcake turntable my mom got me when I was like 6 and I used to jam out to “Alvin and The Chipmunks” and “Michael Jackson” records. I had this tape recorder and I would make little radio shows recording my voice announcing the next hot track from the Care Bears and Winnie the Pooh (I still have all those records!). But seriously, I didn’t really start DJing until I was in college in 1995.
DOA: That’s funny. Seems like DJing was in the cards for you! So, what inspired you and how did you first get into it?
Shortee: My dad is a composer/musician so he taught me how to play the piano and I’ve been playing drums and percussion since I was in grade school. (I attempted the violin but I totally sucked at that). I was a total band geek and played drums and percussion in all the symphonic and marching bands up through high school and college. I guess I wasn’t a total nerd though because in high school I used to sneak out and go to the raves and clubs in DC and Baltimore. That was my first real exposure to DJs with the exception of seeing Jam Master Jay with RUN DMC on MTV. The first time I tried to mix 2 records was in college at this house party in ’94, I had tons of friends that were DJs so I would just mess around with their turntables.
Regardless, I still wasn’t really interested in DJing or even respected the DJ as a musician until I saw this guy (DJ Faust) scratching records in my friend’s living room in college. I had never seen a DJ scratch like that before and it was so musical with complex rhythms that I was totally drawn to it. I immediately saw the turntable as a percussion instrument and had to learn how to play it. Around that same time I was also playing drums in a punk rock band and Faust was at one of the house parties we used to perform at. (Think smelly basement with kegs of beer… very high brow). Anyway, he thought I could learn to scratch really easily with my percussive background and offered to teach me the basics. I’m still not sure if that was a pick up line or what… but if it was, it worked because we also started dating and now we are married. I started out learning to mix scratch and beat juggle all at the same time. I was mostly working with hip hop, breaks, and house music because those were my main influences at the time.
DOA: Nice, I didn’t know you played drums as well. What types of music are your most beloved, generally speaking?
Shortee: When I’m just chilling I love jazz, funk and soul. Think Chick Korea, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Jimmy McGriff, James Brown, Average White Band, Fatback etc.
My favorite genre of music to play and produce is definitely drum and bass although I also play hip hop, breaks, electro, house, techno, rock, funk, soul, dancehall, 80s and top 40. Each genre has its perks but nothing smashes the dancefloor like DnB.
DOA: When it comes to DJing or production, do you feel it’s important to be diverse or to concentrate on one genre?
Shortee: I feel that there are pros and cons to both. If you concentrate on one genre, you are likely to succeed faster in your career because all your efforts are going towards one specific goal. The drawback would be that you will only be versed in one genre of music.
However, each genre has different sensibilities and techniques when it comes to DJing and production so if you are diverse I feel it can make you stronger as an artist because you can combine the different sensibilities of each genre. The drawback to this is that it is very difficult to truly master multiple genres and takes much longer to succeed if you are spreading your efforts across the board.
Personally, I’m way too indecisive to pick just one genre and I’d get bored with only one style. There is just too much good music out there. Being versatile also enables me to work as a DJ much more because I can work in different genres of music and stay booked consistently. If one genre is in a slump, my bookings won’t suffer because I have other things to fall back on.
DOA: Great points. I often find the most generally motivated folks, yourself included, are the ones who don’t pin themselves down to one thing. When you first started out, were there many females involved in turntablism? If no, did this encourage or discourage you?
Shortee: There were very few. I personally didn’t know of any when I started except maybe Spinderella doing simple cuts with Salt and Peppa. The first girl I ever saw beat juggling was DJ Symphony. I saw her battling in this video with the Beat Junkies and that was very inspiring to me because until then I didn’t think other girls beat juggled. Being one of the only female turntablists in the game actually motivated me to perfect my skills because I really had to be able to hang with the guys to be taken seriously. It was impossible as a female to gain respect without the skills to back it up because you’d always hear the line “she’s good… for a girl”. That wasn’t good enough for me. When Faust and I formed our turntablist crew along with Craze, Klever, Shotgun, T-Rock and King James it forced me to step up my game even more because they weren’t going to settle for less and I never wanted to be known as just a token girl in the crew. I always had to practice and work hard to gain respect and that mentality is still ingrained in me today.
DOA: Good on you for sticking with it… it’s really paid off. I found seeing you at gigs when I was younger really inspirational, because you rocked it and not only just “for a girl”. Can you tell us a bit about how it’s been to have worked so closely with your husband throughout the years? I know a lot of people try not to mix business with pleasure, so to speak, but this had to have all brought you both to become extra close.
Shortee: I couldn’t imagine it any other way or with any other person. It’s so awesome being in a relationship and having a business together with someone that totally gets it. We are working toward a common goal and we are both invested in it 100% because it is our future together. Neither one slacks off on the job because we don’t want to let the other one down. We each have our strengths and weaknesses so we balance each other out in the relationship and the business. There is also this chemistry that a couple has that can’t be duplicated anywhere else. I think it shows on stage as well as in the studio. We inspire each other to do our best and we are totally honest with each other. I’m not saying its all roses and sunshine-- we definitely fight about stuff and it’s usually work-related. If we don’t like something we don’t sugar coat it, we just say straight out that we think is sucks and needs to be changed and we may argue about it but it always comes out better in the end. We know we have each other’s best interest at heart, we trust each other and we are so comfortable together that it just works. The hardest part is balancing the work side with the relationship side. Sometimes the relationship becomes consumed by work so we have to consciously make time to relax as a couple.
DOA: Sounds like you are both really focused and make for a great duo! How was it to be featured in the renowned Scratch documentary? Could you tell us about this experience as far as how it came about and what opportunities you’ve gained from it on a larger scale?
Shortee: It was dope! I feel so proud just to be in the movie and I am the only female DJ in the thing. It documents a time in history when the turntablist scene was at its peak and I’m honored that I was considered to be a part of that movement. I guess it came about because Faust and I used to be a part of this collective called Future Primitive Sound (Cut Chemist, Shadow, Kid Koala, Z-Trip, Shortkut, Q-Bert, Craze, Radar, Jack Dangers, Ben stokes, Devious Doze, Romanowski etc) which was really just a series of parties thrown in San Francisco in the late 90s that fused music and art. The promoter was Mark Herlihy and he would throw these parties by pairing together the DJs on 4 turntables and then have artists paint live murals and mix video collages to the music, all on the same stage. Mark put on a Future Primitive event for the filming of Scratch with us, Cut Chemist, Z-Trip, Doze and others. The show was filmed in 1999 but the movie wasn’t released until 2001. For years we couldn’t go anywhere without people saying they saw us in Scratch because it was in the theatres and on HBO, Cinemax, Sundance, IFC, Documentary channel, PBS and more… it was just a massive amount of promotion and exposure that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else so I’m really grateful for the opportunity. Every once in a while when we are flipping through channels we will stumble across it and that’s just crazy to us. We had no idea how popular that movie would get and the coolest part is that it’s become a cult classic like Wildstyle or The Freshest Kids so 50 years later it will still be a testament to that time.
DOA: That’s really cool, what a big experience! What were some of your first ventures into production? And do you feel your skills as a DJ helped you in this department?
Shortee: My first 3 releases were turntablist productions, so my DJ skills were the main focus of those records. The 1st was a cameo on Faust’s “Man or Myth” album which was the first turntablist album of all time. It was produced on a cassette 8 track recorder and the entire thing was made of records and scratching. The 2nd was The Fathomless EP which was produced by myself, Faust and Craze and had the 1st all scratch DnB songs ever. The 3rd was my solo album, “The Dreamer”, 1st and only tablist album by a female. By then I had started using computer software to record music circa 1999. That’s when I really started making beats as opposed to completely relying on samples and scratching. After that we were trying to break away from the turntablist stigma so the next 2 albums (“Digital Soul” and “Satisfaction Guaranteed”) were completely scratch free, instrumental music DJs could mix in their sets. My production has changed over the years but my DJ experience always influences what I make whether it is a scratch track or a tune made for made for the clubs.
DOA: Speaking of your production work, you’ve got a lot going down currently. Clue us in on what we can look out for in the near future from yourself; any and all studio work you’ve been busy working on.
Shortee: As far as Drum and Bass goes, I have a few things in the works…
Faust and I produce drum and bass under the team name ‘Urban Assault’ and we started our own DnB label called Heavy Artillery Recordings which we are launching digitally in the next few months. As far as other labels go, we’ve produced 2 tunes for Skibadee’s forthcoming album on Easy Records which will also have corresponding 12” releases. We also have a 12” coming out on Restless Natives Records (DJ Kid’s label: Scotland’s #1 DnB DJ <– he told me to say that... haha). We are in negotiations with a few other labels as well but we are always shopping tunes. I included a few of our unsigned tunes on my DOA mix :)
I’m also finishing up a mix for Easy Records forthcoming album “Jungle Story” where each tune has a legendary DnB MC telling their story (releasing in summer 2008). It will be a 2 CD set – one CD is the album and the other CD is my mix of the albums tunes. The mix is all mashed and cut up with juggles and scratching as well as exclusives and original productions by Faust and I (aka Urban Assault). Artists include Total Science, Modified Motion, Drumsound and Bassline Smith, KG, Phantasy, Shodan, Shy FX, Nicky Blackmarket, Mickey Finn, Markey, Bryan G, Benny Page, Nicol and Majistrate, ErbNDub, UK Apache, Ragga Twins, Biggie, Skibadee, Shabba D, Tali, IC3, Spyda, Fearless, Fatman D, Darrison, Debo General, MC Flux, MC Supastition and more.
Faust and I have another label called “5 Star Records” which is geared more towards battle records and DJ tools. Our latest release is “Bikini Wax” (Shortee and Step1) and we are currently working on the follow up to that record along with a few others with different themes.
As far as my Instructional DVD series goes, I just finished filming 3 more workshop style DVD’s (one mixing, one scratching and one beat juggling) and they will be released this year complete with records and workbook. I’m also working on the “Shortee’s DJ 303” DVD which is the follow up to the “Shortee’s DJ 101”, “Shortee’s DJ 202” and ”Turntable Tune Up” DVDs released a few years back. I also just finished filming 17 mini instructional videos for the Grammy Foundation which will be released online for kids to learn from.
Oh yeah… and I just did this crazy mix for DOA (super stoked about that one!).
DOA: You sure are a busy lady! I’m looking forward to all of that for sure. As if that weren’t enough to have on your plate, you were a supporting act on the Pendulum Live tour, which is awesome! Would you be good enough to give us a bit of your perspective on this endeavor?
Shortee: It was an amazing opportunity and I was lucky to be part of it. Their live show is really dope and it was cool to see them tightening it up as the tour went along… those guys are amazing. The crowds were massive and that’s always a plus. They draw a really diverse mix of people: emo kids, rock fans, ravers and DnB heads. My favorite show was in Glasgow at The Arches, it wasn’t the biggest venue on the tour but the architecture was unique and added to the ambience of the concert. Everywhere I went people were getting hammered… what can I say, the UK really knows how to party!
DOA: Bunch of lushes! As of late, I know you’ve been involved with Reid Speed and MC Tali for the Queens of the Jungle. Give us the low down on this group project if you will and where people can catch you ladies in action.
Shortee: I had an idea to form a female DnB group. I was already friends with Reid who’s a dope DJ and producer so I thought she would be perfect to pair up with on 4 turntables. I met Tali at WMC last year. I’d seen her perform in the past and in my opinion she’s one of the best female MCs in DnB so that was a no-brainer. We have great chemistry together and after our first show people were telling us they thought we had been performing together for years. We are currently getting some stuff together in the studio and our tour is ongoing. You can peep an intro to one of our shows by clicking here. In addition to other tour dates, we’ll be playing a set at World of Drum and Bass in Miami for Winter Music Conference in March.
DOA: I wish you guys much success with that. Could you tell us about some of the more commercial enterprises you’ve done DJ or production work for and how it compares, for you, to playing at raves and smaller clubs throughout the years?
Shortee: I def prefer playing at raves and clubs because I have so much freedom with the music so I usually get to play what I want to play (with the exception of some top40 clubs) and it’s fun to hang out with the other artists that you respect and are into the same music you are into. I’m an underground chick at heart so I got into this DJ thing with raves and clubs as my main focus. The only downside to a rave party is that occasionally the promoter leaves without paying anyone and that really sucks, but that is rare.
When working for a corporation, I’m more restricted as to what I can play but I always know I’m going to get paid and it’s usually a string of tour dates. I’ve done corporate tours and showcases for companies like Playboy, Frito Lay, Sprite, Simon Malls, Channel One News, Camel, Rane, Serato, Cakewalk and the Grammy Foundation. I’ve performed at movie and television wrap parties for shows like ER, Law and Order, Everybody Hates Chris and New Line Cinemas. I was the DJ on the Tyra Banks Show which airs on mainstream television networks like CBS, NBC, ABC and UPN and I was also a DJ on Power 106 fm which is a very popular mainstream hip hop radio station here in LA.
DJing on Power 106fm is nothing like DJing in a club because even though you are mixing live, you have to play from a restricted playlist and play specific songs at specific times. You also have to communicate with the board op and play an instrumental before the vocal version so they can drop the sweepers and it’s kind of stressful.
DJing on TV is also much different than a party or club; I would play in short segments in and out of commercial breaks and have someone yelling directions in my earpiece. I could scratch like crazy but I was only allowed to play “soundalikes” which are fake songs that sound like popular songs. The exposure is enormous though and it is amazing how many millions of people watched that show. Even friends of mine I never expected to see it were hitting me up saying they caught it. (AJ of Evol Intent... haha, sorry man)
The Playboy events are high scale celebrity parties. When I play the Playboy Mansion it reminds me of playing a catered wedding in someone’s tented backyard, except it’s an abnormally huge backward with a zoo, a grotto and tons of girls who aren’t wearing much. The Playboy 50th Anniversary Tour was nuts cause we traveled to 50 cities in the US on 3 tour buses and set up the entire production in each city. That was one of the hardest tours I’ve ever done because I traveled with my DJ rig on the bus and then had to set it up at every show, do sound check, dress sexy and DJ in heels for 5 hours and then break my rig down again.
The mall tours are really funny because they are targeted towards younger kids so I would perform with teenybopper groups like 3LW in a DJ booth that was shaped like a huge Sprite can and then teach the kids how to scratch. The kids would wait in these long lines and when it was their turn they’d come up to the booth. I’d ask them their DJ name, then show them how to scratch the record, we’d take a picture together, give them a free pack of Mentos and then onto the next kid. I felt like one of those mall Santas… Shortee Claus. :)
The work I do with the Grammy Foundation is much more rewarding because we are traveling to inner city schools and really teaching kids how to DJ and produce music.
I am sponsored by Rane, Serato and Cakewalk so I do product showcase for them at places like Remix hotel, various music stores and trade shows like NAMM and Music Messe. I basically describe the product and then demonstrate it. Super easy and those companies are run by really cool people so it’s fun.
DOA: Wow! What a progressive career you’ve got going and to see how motivated you still are for new projects is really great. When you’re not touring or in the studio, you teach at the Scratch Academy, which sounds like a cool experience. How did you get involved in this and how do you like it?
Shortee: I was playing a show and the director of the scratch academy in LA was there. He asked if I would guest teach a class and I told him I’d rather have my own class so I gave him my instructional DVDs (www.shorteesDJseries.com ) and a few weeks later I started teaching. I have 3 classes (mixing, scratching and beat juggling) along with Faust and have taught there for 3 years. I love teaching in the class setting because of the interaction I have with the students each semester and I meet so many cool people.
DOA: I bet. It really does sound like something great to be involved in and teaching is the best way to give back. What else do you have on the horizon?
Shortee:I was nominated for the drum and bass awards in two categories (Best female DJ and Best International Act). I’m really excited and honored just to be nominated.
Regarding tour dates, I’m always on the road doing one-off gigs so the best way to check out the full schedule is on MySpace or my websites. Some upcoming dates include a short tour with Rane/Serato and Cakewalk at Music Messe in Germany, followed by a random club gig in Macau, China and then off Winter Music Conference in Miami. I do a lot of work at the conference every year and this year will be no exception. I’m hosting the WMC/DMC DJ battle again, teaching on a DJ instructional panel with the scratch academy and presenting an award at the International Dance Music Awards. My party gigs include Future Sound of Breaks (a 3x6 w/ Reid Speed and Annalyze) as well as 2 sets at the World of Drum and Bass party (main room w/ Queens of the Jungle and a solo set in the hip hop room). Other events include an At Large party at Area 51 and showcases at Remix hotel for Rane/Serato.
As far as the longer tours go, I have another UK/European DnB tour planned for May 24-June30. It begins with gigs at the Gatecrasher Festival (North Hampton) and Metropolis Warehouse Project (Manchester) and ends with Random Concept’s Innovation in the Sun (Barcelona) and Metropolis (Ibiza). There are a ton of dates in between all of which will be posted on online.
I also have another Asia Tour in the works for summer which will include Australia so be on the lookout for that as well.
DOA: Lots to look out for! Thanks so much for your time today and for putting so much effort into this mix for us! Do you have any shout outs today, miss?
Shortee: If you have read this entire interview you rock because this thing is LOOOOONG!
Gotta give shouts to Faust, MC Supastition, Michelle Levy, Wilf @ Metropolis, Rane, Serato, Shure, Cakewalk, Callide, Phantasy, Modified Motion, Faction, DJ Kid, Shimon, Nightwalker, Simon Bassline Smith, Sudden Def, Y2D, Heavy Hittahz, Annalyze, Step1, Reid Speed, Tali, Tyra from Saigon, Females Wit Funk, Craze, Klever, Z-trip, Ewun, Evol Intent, XYZ, Batman, Platurn, Enki, Machete, Matter, Infiltrata, Jayvon, Skibadee, Red One, Andy C, Dieselboy, Future Prophecies, Inaya, DOA, Hipp-e and Scratchmo, Danny the Wildchild, Die, Tonn Piper, Biggie, Skeez, Andler, Mark XTC, Mark OD, Mark Metropolis, Simon Xplicit, Origin, Priest, Magika, Ben Verse, DJ Fu, Rich Reason, DJ SS, Repete, Chuck B, EnerJ, Jordan V, Maldini, Bexxie, 404 Audio, Lost, Puffs, O, Fade, Elsewhere, Mixtine, Sean O, Dynamix, Balance, Solo, Jazzy Jay, Roc Raida, Aaron @ Mix Revolution, Vajra, DJ Sprite, My Family, Vodka and Cranberry…
And most of all, all the peeps that support the music and come out to the shows!
For bookings contact:
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13428 Maxella Ave #459
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
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