Yo, DJ, listen up! | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

THE FINALISTS First runner-up Supreme Fist, winner Carlo Atendido and second runner-up Aryan flanked by Shortkut and Hedspin. Atendido will represent the country in the world finals in Baku, Azerbaijan, later this year. INQSnap this page to watch the DJs share notes and display their skills. PHOTOS COURTESY OF RED BULL
THE FINALISTS First runner-up Supreme Fist, winner Carlo Atendido and second runner-up Aryan flanked by Shortkut and Hedspin. Atendido will represent the country in the world finals in Baku, Azerbaijan, later this year. INQSnap this page to watch the DJs share notes and display their skills. PHOTOS COURTESY OF RED BULL






A panel full of knobs, screws and swatches of bright colors? A station that sees mortals darting across the floor, banging their heads to the beat?


That all-seeing spot may appear overly complicated for those who listen, but for those who negotiate the tempos, weave eras-apart songs and orchestrate bass drops, it’s a workstation that bears witness to science.


The science of DJing, that is.


For proof, six club DJs from Manila and Cebu showcased the scientific method of spinning records at an event dubbed “Red Bull Thre3style,” held at Republiq in Resorts World Manila last June 28.


The DJs, as well as the world-renowned judges present that night, gamely walked Inquirer Super through the fascinating process.




“You really gotta feel the environment, the room. You think about the sound system, what’s gonna translate well,” DJ K Groove (Kristian Hernandez) said.


CHEMISTRY Nix Damn P! establishes rapport with the crowd.

Noting that it’s much more than a flick of a switch and a turn of a knob, K Groove added that a DJ makes decisions with an educated guess. “You throw a curve ball and you see how [the audience] reacts. It’s a real interaction between the DJ and the crowd.”


The event’s two Canadian judges— Hedly “Hedspin” Tuscano and Jon “Shortkut” Cruz, both of Filipino descent—were quick to point out the importance of basics.


“Foundation is always first,” said Hedspin, adding that just like everyone else, a DJ needs a fundamental skill—newbies should start playing with the music they are passionate about. “I was into New Jack Swing, Run-DMC, Bobby Brown, Paula Abdul … stuff like that.”


Hedspin’s first exposure to DJing was at age 13. “My cousins, friends and peers were buying records and playing different mixes I don’t hear from cassettes,” he recalled. “Hearing songs mixed seamlessly from the radio caught my interest. I then asked my parents to buy me a small mixing board. By Grade 10, I saw Shortkut perform in a DJ battle and realized this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Now I’m here.”


He added that he originally wanted to be a dancer, and  DJing “was the second best thing—making people dance to music. And my foundation was the stuff older Filipinos danced to, made routines from.”


Headspin’s parents are from the northern province of Abra.




Cebu-based finalist DJ Nikita (Niki del Rosario) said that he had gotten bored of the limitations of playing in a band and decided to become a DJ when he saw a friend doing it. “It was the freedom to just change things on the spot,” Nikita noted.


His experience of being in a band helped him with song selection, but the difference between a progressive metal act’s niche crowd and the varied personalities in a club—distant as Earth to Saturn, he said—made adapting difficult.


Nikita explained that being a DJ is a learning process. After buying the pricey equipment, it took him “months just to do the same stuff that I see… I learned to do my thing eventually; but it varies from person to person, and you have to take it one step at a time.”


Even as it all began as a hobby, DJing, he added, became a serious preoccupation “when friends encouraged me to join amateur competitions.”


Reverse engineering


Fellow finalist and second runner-up DJ Aryan (Aryan Magat), on the other hand, had everything in reverse: DJing was his gateway to music.


TRIAL AND ERROR Atendido puts his “mix” to the test.

“I started when I was in Grade 5. I was into DJing, GI Joe and basketball. I moved to playing drums and the guitar only when I was in high school,” he said.


Though the two processes of music-making may seem worlds apart, Aryan stressed that there were more similarities than differences. “For a scratch DJ, one hand is on the turntable and the other is on the crossfader [node]; as for a guitar player, the left hand is for the chords while the other is used for plucking,” he said.


“The difference is just whenever we play [a musical instrument] or sing, our body automatically adjusts [to the tempo],” he added. “But in DJing, you have to do it manually. The beat’s ready. And you have to keep up with it.”


Big risks


For DJ Supreme Fist (Paul Macapagal), the “curve ball” came in the inclusion of OPM classics in his 15-minute set. In the finals, he played “Yugyugan Na,” originally a 1977 disco track, aware that the young crowd would hardly be familiar with it.


In fact, his whole playlist was a hit, despite his limitations. “I keep myself real and don’t pretend to play EDM (electronic dance music) or tones or something,” he said. “I just play normal turntables.” And the risk came with trying to work with a unique selection instead.


He was among those whom Shortkut said took big risks: “That’s what we look forward to.”


Finalist Nix Damn P! (Nix Pernia), the other half of Manila’s standout DJ duo Motherbass, had a cheekily recorded phone chat with Internet sensation Ramon Bautista for his set’s takeaway. He also rocked the venue with an equally bold set, curating Tagalog tunes draped with laid-back beats.


“Now we’re in an era when everything’s so MP3 and there’s not that much classics,” Shortkut said. “Before it was about breaking new songs … and now I think what’s even bigger, actually our job as DJs, is to preserve and break classics to the younger generation.”


‘Be different’


Carlo Atendido lorded it over the finals with his sonic boom of a set. The youngest finalist mounted a 15-minute showcase of groovy tunes, playfully bouncing from classic urban music to modern ones.


His set ranged from “The Apprentice’s” opening score to “Star Wars’” “Imperial March”  to the old Batman theme. Among notable mixes were by Jay-Z (“Izzo”), Usher (“Yeah”), Missy Elliot (“Work It”), The Chemical Brothers (“Block Rockin’ Beats”) and Paul Johnson’s house classic, “Get Get Down,” contrasted by later picks from Jay-Z and Kanye West (“N*ggas in Paris”), Kesha (“Timber”), Daft Punk (“Robot Rock”), Flo Rida (“Right Round”) and even a polarizing dash of Blur (“Song 2”).


Asked whether there was a change of approach between the finals and the preliminaries, Atendido revealed that putting up a set for the two levels was a “balancing act.”


“I basically gave the Cebu qualifier a medium setting since I didn’t know what the competition would put on the table. My approach was very different for both competitions. I saved the best and did all my best tricks for last,” he said.


Atendido gave a simple advice for those eager to mix tunes and spin records: “Be different. Anybody can play ‘Clarity’ and David Guetta music. Don’t limit yourself to one genre.”


For his part, Hedspin said: “Filipinos are the funkiest people, you know. We’re used to being in the spotlight.” Put those two together and, we therefore conclude, Atendido will not have a hard time standing out in Baku, Azerbaijan, when he faces the best DJs of the rest of the world.


Six pointers for the budding DJ


1. Know your crowd


K Groove: “You break it down. You look at the audience, you see the demographics—you see you’ve got some Europeans, you’ve got some Asians and what-not, and you take an educated guess.”


2. Be ready with plan B or C


Nix Damn P!: “We always have plan Bs and plan Cs. We make some sort of calculated risks and have tricks up our sleeves.”


3. Keep it real


Hedspin: “[Some people premix] a little too much. Some of them are just overdone to the point that they’re not DJing anymore.”


4. Get your groove on


Shortkut: “You gotta act like you got the sh*t. You move and groove to  [your set] like you’re feeling it … and people will think this might be dope. It’s infectious.”


5. Scratch off fear


Nikita: “Most DJs tend not to join anymore because they know that a winner from the previous competition is joining. What’s the sense in that? How are you gonna improve if you’re not trying to defeat someone who’s better than you?”


6. Be bold, be dope


Carlo: “Play the songs your fellow DJs are [hesitant] to play, take risks, and practice and practice and practice!”



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