ArtistWorks Blog

Interview with DJ Antriks of Battle Ave

battle ave logoThese guys are the real deal.  They're the ones who put together the Dirtstyle Cut 2 Cut Challenge at the Beat Swap Meet last year which I also wrote about, but it wasn't until recently that I learned the full story behind Battle Ave and the people behind it.  After meeting up with DJ Antriks at the last Beat Swap Meet, we both agreed that an interview was in order.  I wanted to know the whole story about Battle Ave: what it is, who's behind it, how/when they started, and why.  These guys have been building a solid foundation for a while now but I have a feeling that they're only just getting started.  Personally, I think these guys are exactly what the scene needs right now: a passionate team of individuals dedicated to documenting and discussing turntablism, throwing events, having fun, and doing it for all the right reasons.  Big thanks to DJ Antriks for answering all my questions, be sure to check out their website for more info at thebattleave.com!

QSU: So what is Battle Ave? 

Battle Ave: It’s a concept we came up with to represent Battle DJs. We’re primarily from the Bay Area and back in the early 2000s when battles were hot, they used to happen at small record shops like Zebra Records [SF] and Twelves Wax [Sac]. These shops were typically on a small “street” or “avenue”. It was sort of nostalgic being at one of these events. They weren’t always big crowds and they were really up close and personal. You were able to dig for records and chop it up with some buddies before each battle. For a DJ it was nerve-wracking facing DJs from other parts of town. You were there to make a bold statement in front of everyone who appreciates this culture. “I AM THE BEST. F-CK THE REST and THIS IS WHY.”

Because Battle Ave [BA] is a traveling event, we like to think we’re bringing that environment straight from our streets and into yours. We’ll bring the “Ave” to your city.

QSU: How did it get formed, what motivated you guys, where did it start, who was involved, are they still involved?

Battle Ave: It formed in a garage with a group of high school buddies. We used to sit in our garage thinking of ways to “change the game” (haha!). We were young. We played video games, mixed records for hours and did whatever any group of friends do in a garage til 2am. After a couple late night chats, we decided to start an event production group called The Flat Kids [FK]. We were from Fairfield ,Ca and Fairfield’s nickname is “The Flats”.

We started like any other crew and organized showcases, club parties and collaborative events with other crews. I [Antriks] was a battle DJ at the time so it was only natural for me to propose throwing hip-hop battles. We were all and still are huge fans of hip-hop battles like: Scribble Jam, Mighty 4, DMC, ITF, Freestyle Session and Battle Of The Year. After a couple months of late night chats in the “Garaje” (what we used to call FK HQ) we decided to throw our first tour in 2002 with absolutely no idea of how it would turn out. Our first tour started at La Pena in Berkeley and traveled to San Jose, Santa Cruz, San Diego and ended in Fairfield.

flatkids battle ave original crew

The original crew under the FK banner at the last stop of the Battle Avenue 2002-03 tour.  Zion I, DJ Onedr Love and Bay Area hip hop mc crew Elemnop were some of the performing acts pictured in this photo along with the crew. DJ Antriks in the brown hat. DJ Flow crouched down, grey shirt, glasses (3rd from left).

As for the new staff, our original tour DJ, DJ Flow and I coincidentally started to working together as an online marketing team for a company in SF. We traveled and filmed a lot of Youtube interviews for the company and one night discussed the idea of catching up with all of the old homies from the scene. Everytime we would link for a business trip, we would build on how we could bring the old crew back... Finally we settled and felt it was only right that we bring everyone “back to the Ave”.

QSU: How has Battle Ave changed over the year and where is it going now?

Battle Ave:  We used to be an all around battle that featured DJ, MC, B-Boy and Beatbox battles. When we re-launched in 2011 it was all about DJs. All around battles died out and it seemed like every culture except Battle DJing had a growing grass-root style of event that seemed to hit it big with the new generation. Our only intention when DJ Flow and I started to plan for our re-launch event [Battle Ave 9] was to throw a well-produced battle and re-connect with some old friends. We knew the scene needed some kind of incentive so we decided to take a UFC / King Of The Dot approach.

Our interviews, “fight night” promotion strategy and a strong emphasis on using video and social media have become our main focus. Times have changed and as much as we love how it used to be, we’re not dumb. You either grow and evolve with the generations or sit and be the old grumpy Hip Hop purist.

As a brand, we’re beginning to follow in the footsteps of our mentors. Thud Rumble and Stokyo, two companies we hold in high regard, are the perfect blueprint for where we plan to take BA in the next 5 – 10 years.

QSU: How long have you guys been skratching?

Battle Ave: I started in 99 and DJ Flow started in in the early 2000’s. I was more of the battle style scratcher whereas DJ Flow, who is primarily a producer/DJ has a musically-funky-DJ-Premier type of style.

QSU:  How did you first get into turntablism culture?

BattleAve: I personally first found turntablism while practicing slow song/acapella mash-ups one summer in a buddy's garage. Haha. He went in to grab us a drink and came running out back into the garage saying, “YO! Come check out this video of these DJs, they’re hella good…..and Filipino!”  It was an old instructional tape that featured Invisbl Skratch Piklz and The Beat Junkies. haha...

After watching that video, I threw away the mash-ups and only cared about the military and crab scratch. My buddies hated practicing with me after that.

QSU: Who are you biggest influences?

Battle Ave:  My family. My whole family is young and grew up in the 80s. I used to watch my uncles and aunts spin in the garage. I was always curious about it. One of my uncles used to also organize battles [Destiny Prod.] in the Bay Area in the 80s. So it’s kind of in the blood. Haha.

As for turntablism: The originals: ISP and Turntable TV, Beat Junkies, X Men, 5th Platoon, Top Rawmen, The Bangerz, Allies, 89 Scratch Gangstaz... this list is never-ending.

QSU: Who are your favorite battle DJs?

Battle Ave:  DJ Babu – an overall well-rounded and pure battle DJ. He’s like the Lebron James of this haha. Was naturally made for it. Perfect cuts, juggles and composition.

DJ Craze – A MENACE. Revolutionized how a battle DJ should compose his set and always took it to the next level.

DJ Dummy – His diss routine in 98 is still a very, VERY big influence on how we format our battles and promote our brand.

 
DJ Illtraxx – I was competing in a Guitar Center Regional Final battle that had some local vets like: Mista B [4onefunk] , Onedr Love, Costik [Nocturnal Sound Krew], Illtraxx [Evolution DJs] and Ejay [Evolution DJs]. At the end of Illtraxx’s set he dropped Jay Z’s 99 Problems “and a bitch ain’t one”, took the record off of the turntable and smashed it with something in the air.

I was speechless because 1) that was nuts and 2) I was next. Haha.

QSU: That DJ Dummy routine is so good with all the disses! What are some of your other favorite battle routines?

Battle Ave: I can probably spit out a lot of the old favs, but to be honest there are a few newer DJs that are quickly becoming favorites.

DJ Chris Karns [Vajra] – his world winning set re-sparked the US to get back into it.

DJ Manwell – He brought familiarity and soulful beat juggling back with his LA DMC regional routine.

DJ Vekked – It’s crazy how much that guy is rulin’ shit this and last year. We really can’t wait to visit CAN to link with him. His 2012 and 2013 IDA routines were nuts!

DJ FlipFlop – His routine at our first Dirtstyle Vinyl Challenge in LA kinda floored us. We randomly picked these records and said, “Here. Do something with this even though you have touched vinyl and these classics for that matter in YEARS.” Homie came with a routine that had all of us in awe.

QSU:  What's the mark of a good routine?

Battle Ave:  If the DJ looks comfortable, you’re in trouble. Cleanliness, composition, difficulty etc all are a huge factor…but when a battle dj steps up there and isn’t fiddling with the fader silently and just waits for you to count down, you know he’s going to drop something nice. It’s even better if he’s able to look up every once in a while to look at the audience or the other DJ dead in their eyes. Just by that you can tell they’ve put in some work.

QSU:  What makes a bad routine?

Battle Ave:  Bad transitions in between sets are annoying. Some battle DJs will do a set and just scratch into the next. Which is ok, but it’s the little things that help your set sound linear that really shows you’re a GOOD DJ. Matching bpms and keeping the crowd’s attention is a fundamental. Abruptly stopping and going from set to set is just sloppy.

Oh, and of course biting.

QSU: Do you guys also battle?

Battle Ave:  I used to a lot from 2001 - 2009. DMC, car shows, record shops, Guitar Center etc. Won a few and lost a bunch, but not anymore. We play around with the idea every once in while when the season comes around, but we like to stick to what we do best. Documenting it.

QSU:  I like how you guys aren't afraid to call it like you see it.  How do you feel about the battle scene going on right now?

Battle Ave: Last year, when we decided to throw the Dirtstyle Vinyl Challenge we thought that since no one else is throwing small independent battles anymore, f-ck it. Let’s give a try. The point was just to show that we [BA] throw them and this is how they should be done.

DJ Jawa, Cut 2 Cut at Beat Swap Meet

DJ Jawa (host of the Cut Session at BSM and Cut 2 Cut) - BSM LA was the beginning of Battle Ave's new business model to "document EVERYTHING".

Now, it’s growing fast. There are a few out there that really put some effort into contributing something to the culture, but there are definitely more carbon-copied-for-the-sake-of-throwing battles out there.

Despite all the negatives, they’re all needed for this culture to thrive. DJs are finally having to either prove or re-state their worth no matter the experience or seniority; turntablist or club; vinyl or DVS; wins or losses. There is always someone training to be better and no one can run a scene with out being tested a few times.

QSU:  How do you feel about DJs who only focus on skratching without learning how to mix or juggle?

Battle Ave:  We [Tablists] all worked hard to promote the turntable as a true instrument.
For us to judge someone and say they are any less of a DJ because they chose to hone a specific skill would be defeat the purpose, right?

However, if you’re going to start a career in battling or in the clubs..that’s a different story. Haha.

QSU:  How do you feel about the whole DVS revolution, dicers, MIDI controllers, etc.?

Battle Ave:  We actually love it. It’s opened doors to creativity, originality and most importantly was created because we all still prefer the turntable.

The industry is completely driven by us. If we hate something, it simply goes away and ceases to exist (like feedback scratching haha). Most of these new gadgets make using the turntable fun again. We’re not gonna NOT like that. Haha.

Also as cool as you look carrying 10 crates of vinyl to your gigs, it’s time consuming and too much work.

QSU:  With resources like Qbert Skratch University, it's easier than ever to find quality instruction - so what does that mean in our current celebrity DJ culture?  Do turntable skills still matter?

Battle Ave: I think the key thing to remember is “celebrity”. Unfortunately, turntable skills are not needed to make a lot of money as a professional “celebrity” DJ. Paris Hilton and that guy from Jersey Shore are good examples. However, there are plenty of skilled celebrity DJs who are making it such as: Jazzy Jeff, Quest Love, A Trak, Z Trip and Qbert to name a few. They may not be on the Top 10 Richest DJs list, but they are all celebrities in the DJ community.

QSU:  In a time where EDM DJs are treated like rockstars, why is turntablism still such an underground art?

BattleAve: It’s too intelligent. For as long as we have been fans of turntablism we understand that it doesn’t have the power or energy to keep thousands of people hypnotized for more than 2 minutes. There are some DMC routines we watch and within 1 minute we’re immediately thinking, “let’s go get a drink.” Haha.

Turntablism is like good jazz or soul music. It’s niche. In it’s element, it works perfectly. At a record shop in the city or at a Beat Swap Meet battle or in your homie’s garage. On the big stage, you only get flashes of scratching or juggling and sometimes that’s enough, ya know?The X-Ecutioneers ALMOST took pure turntablism to the big stage when they debuted their album with Linkin Park. Rock would seem the best partner for turntablism on the big stage. However, it feels like pure ROCK music has died too.

QSU:  Is turntablism on the rise or the decline?

Battle Ave: The rise. Look at how many small and big battles are out within this past year! Battling is an important element to turntablism. Now that DJs are making good sizeable dollars from spinning at a club, touring the world and becoming their own brand..the competition to become a career DJ has gotten harder.

battle ave at beat swap meet

QSU:  How do you feel about the current state of skratch music? Who out there do you feel is pushing the form?

Battle Ave:  It’s great! To be honest, we love the looper community. All of those guys are really taking scratch music to a new level. They really challenge scratchers to get better with their music. Doc Jeezy, Scratch Science, ThatKidNamedCee, Gold Voltron etc are all names that we feel are starting to make an impact on the community. They’re slowly becoming the DJ Premier and Dr. Dre’s of our little culture.

QSU:  What's up with the Battle Ave break record, "At The Ave", is it coming soon? What's on it?

Battle Ave:  It’s our first official break record and we’re excited about it! Back in the day, coming out with a break record was something all djs were doing to get to the next level. The Allies, Bangerz, Roc Raida... everyone was doing it and we loved the different styles that were coming out.

Battle Ave: As a brand we wanted to take a step back from the current culture and re-introduce different elements of the past to the masses. The break record is just one of those elements that we feel is good for the culture. If it motivates others to produce their own, even better!

We focused a majority of the record on the lost art of beat juggling. We know there is a ton of instructions available, but it really feels like it hasn’t evolved as much as scratching has. All of the producers we used have a good sense of the art and we filled the record with tons of drum breaks, juggling sentences and patterns that support good practice of doubling up, strobing, etc. As beat juggle friendly as our record is, we do have our scratch sentences and tracks to make sure the cypher keeps going without changing the record!

QSU:  How did you link up with the Beat Swap Meet?  Do you always travel with them?

Battle Ave:  DJ Flow has actually been one of the main northern California coordinators of this event for a few years now. We first heard about it about 3 years ago when one of our close buddies, B-Boy Donovan of the Rock Force Crew started organizing it in Sacramento with Flow.

When Battle Ave started to become active again, we really wanted a venue or setting that fit our style of battle. We [Flow and I] were traveling a lot at the time and met with the main organizer, B-Boy Utmos [Battle Monkees] at a bar in Long Beach. We shared a few drinks, proposed some ideas and finally agreed to try it at Los Angeles' BSM in 2011. After our first run with BSM it was clear that this was a good idea. We did the Dirtstyle Vinyl Challenge and now run the Cut 2 Cut there as well. It just makes sense that we keep it there. Wherever they go, we go. It’s a great working relationship for all aspects of the events. They had a great following with the diggers and we had a good history with the tablists. Combining the two companies under one roof is great for the event and the people who attend.

QSU:  Tell us about the "Cut 2 Cut" Battles, how did that come about, when's the next one, etc?

Battle Ave:  We really loved ITF’s categorized battles. That was really the inspiration for the format of the Cut 2 Cut. However, we didn’t like the amount of time it took to get through every DJ. There were a lot of scratch DJs that we knew were going to sign up so we wanted to make sure we got through them quickly. We tried to think of a format that keeps the DJs rotating and Skratchpad was the first one came to mind. The cypher format was the best fit for the Cut 2 Cut.

dirtstyle challenge - battle ave

The 1st Dirtstyle Vinyl Challenge (Beat Swap Meet LA) - unveiling of the Traveling Octagon

We needed it to be quick and easy because we were going to debut it at Beat Swap Meet in LA. Hundreds of people pass through the area we were placed in. We were lucky to have been sponsored by Thud Rumble so we payed homage to them by building our own Octagon. This allowed us to rotate 4 DJs per round rather than just 2. The Cut 2 Cut format was our “A-HA” moment. Haha.

The next round of Beat Swap Meets and our record release tour will be the next time you see the Cut 2 Cut! Fall 2013.

QSU:  Let's talk about the "Legendary Faders" by Antriks -  How long you been painting and when did the idea to paint mixers come about? Where can people check out your art?

Battle Ave: I’ve been an artist for a while. I thought I was going to grow up and become an official artist for the Ninja Turtles cartoon. Haha.
I went to college for it. I practiced with a lot of mediums and really loved acrylic. The idea for the collection came from all of the DJ art works that were becoming popular. They all featured the turntables and the DJ but never really featured the mixers. It also felt like customizing and collecting mixers were becoming just as popular as collecting shoes. So I just sat down one night and decided to paint again. 
The collection will only release via thebattleave.com. My personal artwork you’ll probably see time to time on my instagram @antriks.

antriks mixer art battle ave

Antriks gave the first print to the ones who inspired the design of the mixers and paintings. Yogafrog & Thud Rumble hold #1 of 25 pieces that were sent out.

QSU:  Where can we keep track of you guys, what's the best way to follow you guys to find out about events and stuff?

Battle Ave: Our Facebook and Instagram is a good start: facebook.com/thebattleave; @battleave

The absolute best way is to come to the events. See what we’re about. Understand what it feels like to be “At The Ave”. From there I’m sure you can figure out whether or not you like us. Haha.

QSU:  What is The Flat Kids, and what's the connection to Battle Ave?

Battle Ave:  Flat Kids [FK] was the original production group of Battle Avenue. We were just a group of friends who loved all aspects of Hip Hop and wanted to build a rep by throwing events. We met almost every Friday in my old garage and would scratch, play video games, drink and share ideas till 4am in the morning!

battle ave flat kids antriks

The original garage where we first started. Horrible graffiti. This was after moving out. We had to paint the FK over. You can also see "Antriks" under the white paint.

Today, FK is still a big part of the production of Battle Ave, but is primarily a screen-printing business. FK focuses more on working with the local community of Solano County by doing events, sponsoring local artists and sports and just being active with the people. All of us at Battle Avenue have day jobs. Until we can function like Stokyo or Thud Rumble, we need to make sure we understand all of the responsibilities and requirements of running a business. FK is one of those steps needed to grow and mature BA.

QSU:  What are some words of wisdom for an aspiring battle DJ?

Battle Ave:  Don’t watch too much YouTube. A million views on Youtube doesn’t always translate to what a live crowd or judges will like.

Freestyle. Figure out your flavor. What are you bringing different to the culture other than being a highly skilled scratcher?

Go to battles. See what you and the crowd like. See what you and the crowd dislike. Be a part of the culture and don’t worry about your rep. Just go up there and be a menace like Craze, Q and Kentaro was. If you really, really want to be an overnight celebrity, you better be able to beat the best in the world or you’ll be the Justin Bieber of DJs.

QSU:  Any final words for all the people out there?

Battle Ave:  Step up if you wanna get hurt.

first battle ave flyer

The very first Battle Ave flyer for our Berkeley stop. You can see the original FK logo on the bottom right.

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