DJ Shiftee – Interview – Super Turntablist
Sam Morris Zornow, who goes by DJ Shiftee, is not only a DJ but also a turntablist and producer. The multi-talented musical artist from Manhattan, first became interested in creating music at the young age of six, when he asked his parents if he could start playing the saxophone.
A few years after first gaining a real interest in music, Shiftee’s name came about when he was only thirteen years old.
“At the time, I was really into Eminem like any other suburban teenage. He had a lyric “I’m low down and I’m shifty”. I thought, “Hey, I’m low down and I’m shifty .. DJ Shifty!”. I changed the spelling to Shiftee when I heard about the guy from the band Crazy Town”, Shiftee explained to Spinr during an exclusive interview.
Shiftee started entering DJ battles at age 15, and was in 7 national finals before he graduated high school. He also won my first DMC World Supremacy title in 2007 before his senior year. Shiftee’s first musical influences included a range of battle DJ’s, including X-Men, Scratch Piklz, The Allies and his own crew, Lo-Livez. Shiftee not only had an interest in music, but also mathematics, which he studied at Harvard University.
While in college, Shiftee pursued music a little bit, such as DJing at all the college parties and enrolling in many music courses, such as Intro to Music Theory, Intro to Composition, Swing Era Jazz, African Music, along with many more.
Shiftee’s current primary musical influences are the Grime scene, especially the Butterz label, and also artists like Rustie, Hudson Mohawke, and Lunice
When asked if he could do a collaboration with absolutely anyone, who it would be, Shiftee responded with the answer “Woody Allen”.
Besides partaking in DJ’ing, Shiftee also has acquired a professor position teaching the art of DJ’ing.
“After I graduated, I initially enrolled in a graduate school program in Music Technology. After two days, I decided it wasn’t for me and I quit, leaving me with no schooling and no job. I had heard about Dubspot, so I emailed the school, took a meeting with the owners and bada bing, bada boom – I was almost immediately teaching there and heading up the Turntablism program”, Shiftee explained of his teaching career.
“Since then, I have done a lot of teaching, including currently directing the DJ program at Dubspot and instructing at New York University as an adjunct professor”, Shiftee continued. “Teaching is the “’da bomb, yo”, Shiftee continued. “As you can see, I don’t teach grammer”, he joked.
As for getting more in detail about DJ Shiftee’s musical career, agreed to answer some questions about his experience and current as well as upcoming plans. Read further for what Shiftee has to share about his career:
Spinr: You have won countless DMC championship titles ranging from 2003 all the way up to 2009 DMC World Championship. Many DJs now have never touched a vinyl record or a turntable. Coming up and starting on vinyl and turntables describe the feel and sound of a vinyl record on a turntable.
DJ Shiftee: There’s nothing like it! You can actually feel the sounds in the grooves. It’s like a living thing. If you scratch the same part of record over and over it starts to get worn out, but in a pleasing, grainy, white noise kind of way. Ahhhhhh, vinyl!
Spinr: We read somewhere that you keep a battle record close at hand. Are you prepared at all times to battle someone?
Spinr: What goes into your process for production and remixing?
DJ Shiftee: I’ve been concentrating on production for only a couple years, so my process is largely trial and error. I fiddle with things until cool sounds emerge and then shape the track over the course of many days.
Spinr: Can you tell us about Dubspot and your role as an instructor there…
DJ Shiftee: Dubspot is a DJ & production school in NYC and online. It’s truly a fantastic community of people that has been growing year after year. I’m going to brag here. I believe we are on the forefront of music education, music technology, and straight up music. My role at Dubspot is as an instructor and also as the director of the DJ program. I oversee the curriculum design for many of our programs, but also spend a lot of time in the classroom.
Spinr: Your sponsored by Native Instruments and in your most recent video for the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol F1 done with hiphop icon Greg Nice of Nice and Smooth. What went into making a video like this?
DJ Shiftee: Step 1 was learning how to use the F1 controller. I got the device and the software very early in its development, so half the battle was just figuring it out and wrapping my head around routine construction in this medium. The main difference is using samples and loops rather than whole songs. My plan of attack was taking the stems of one of my own tracks (PLS DNT STP – Raise The Temperature (Shiftee Remix)), and then figuring out different ways to perform its various sections. I tried to show a nice range of the possibilities introduced by this crazy new controller. Then with Greg, he just came over one day and we kicked it. Otherwise, many cameras + cameramen, lots of flashy editing and after effects, and shirts with the letters N & S for Nice & Shiftee.
Spinr: On the flip side to this video you have a bit of a comedy side. You did a funny skit with a play by play as Bob Barkley and Jim Albert for this video. What was that like?
DJ Shiftee: Very, very fun. I’m pretty much happy so long as a project requires wig shopping. Since I play all the parts, my homie Rx sat in during each take to give the fake conversation more of a rhythm. Also shout out to John Carluccio who oversaw both the NI video and the tutorial.
DJ Shiftee: Once again, I’m going to brag here. I own the greatest coffee table in the world. After I won DMC and the golden decks, my parents got me a custom glass coffee table not only to showcase the decks, but also to provide the functionality necessary in a studio apartment.
Spinr: You just recently dropped a remix you did for PLS DNT STP ft. LAZERLIBBY- Raise the Temperature… Talk about the release along with some of your other most recent releases…
DJ Shiftee: PLS DNT STP are my homies, so when they hit me up via the internets I was hype to do it. It’s one of my tracks I’m most proud of, and it also provided the basis for my F1 routine. Otherwise, I had my debut EP come out in October, a collaboration with Rx called “Space Ace” on Rad Summer. It actually hit top 10 on Beatport’s Dubstep charts. Everything else I have out currently is a free download (http://soundcloud.com/shifteemusic). One of these tunes, my remix of Xcuse ft. Ayarcana – All Right on Deepsession, was actually just featured on Rustie’s BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix!
Spinr: And what is in store for Shiftee…
DJ Shiftee: Lots of new originals, collabos (w/ Rx and also Badman Shark), and remixes coming out on labels like Seclusiasis, Dutty Artz, & Hot Mom USA. I’ve got an exciting mixtape coming in May with the amazing singer Carrie Wilds on Mishka Records. Shooting for a solo EP for summer. And as always, lots of shows, tons of goofy videos, way more tour footage, mixtapes, scratches, and teaching. I’d also like to discover the secret to 4 minute abs, so I can corner the market and retire to a condo on Boca Raton.
Article: Amanda Cowan - Photo: Brett Rowland pics 1 and 2
Download an Exclusive Spinr Mix from DJ Shiftee
1. Siyoung – M.T.1.I.L. [Seclusiasis] // Spinr Intro
2. Stinkahbell & Psy:am – Don’t Tell Mum About Ibiza [Terrorrhtyhm]
3. Ewalk & Mite – Iron Gaiden
4. Hatcha & Lost – Why So Serious [One Gun Salute]
5. Soloman – Crunkin
6. DS1 – Red Rain (Starkey Remix) [Slit Jockey]
7. Xcuse ft. Ayarcana – All Right (Shiftee Remix) [Deepsession]
8. DJ Muggs ft. Dizzee Rascal & Bambu – Snap Ya Neck Back [Ultra]
9. Faze Miyake – Boom
10. Kozzie – I’m Famous [No Hats No Hoods]
11. Preditah – Overdose [Earth616]
12. Deset – Crisis [Ghost House] vs. Trillville ft. Lil Jon – Neva Eva
13. Royal-T – Inside The Ride [Rinse]
14. Shiftee & Badman Shark – EKG Riddim
15. Shiftee & Badman Shark – Thulsa Doom
16. Goth-Trad – Itinerant Priest [Deep Medi]
17. Farkas – Harmless [Biscuit Factory]
18. Roska – 480bc [Tectonic] vs. Trina ft. Ludacris – BR Right
19. Rx & Shiftee – Space Ace [Rad Summer]
20. DNAEBeats – Death Comes Young [Seclusiasis]
21. Kirko Bangz – What Yo Name Iz? (Shackles Remix)
22. Edgewoode – See You Again [Deceast]