ArtistWorks Blog

Interview with Mr Cerdan: 2013 QSU Valedictorian

mr cerdan - 2013 qsu valedictorianVery excited to present our exclusive interview with the 2013 Valedictorian for Qbert Skratch University, Mr Cerdan. He's been a long time student of QSU and also was the winner of both the Stab and Boomerang battles we had last year. A humble guy with a regular day job to pay the bills, Mr Cerdan is a great example of someone continuing to follow his passion while balancing real life responsibilities. He gave us a great interview and we know we haven't seen the last of this guy, keep watching! 

_The Questions_

QSU: How's that feel to be the new QSU Valedictorian?

Mr Cerdan: I’m very excited to be this year’s QSU Valedictorian. To be chosen by DJ Qbert is any skratchers dream come true!

QSU: How did you first get into skratching? 

Mr Cerdan: I started to get into it sometime in August of 1998, I was 17 at the time. I didn’t know the differences between mixers and turntables and bought one of those “DJ in a box” setups which basically was a waste of money.

QSU: Who are your biggest influences, early teachers, etc?

mr cerdan - skratch lounge nwMr Cerdan: DJ Qbert would be my biggest influence. I always looked up to him when it came to anything that had to do with skratching. The Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Beat Junkies and the X-Men were my top three favorite crews back when I was starting out. My early teachers would be the Turntable TV VHS tapes, Vestax Turntable Mechanic Workshop VHS and Skratch Piklz skratch practice cassette tapes. I watched and listened to those over and over trying to dissect and learn what they were doing.

As far as people I knew personally, a big influence to me would be my friend DJ Shmix. I learned a lot from him as far as patterns, combos and melodies.

QSU: When did you experience that sort of "breakthrough" where you come out the other side as a full fledged beast on the cut? How long had you been practicing before seeing major progress?

Mr Cerdan: Cutting to an electro beat without my fader hand cramping up and not getting tired and learning how to crab. I practiced every day after school. It probably was about 3 months of practicing before I thought I sounded decent. Wasn’t doing too much as far as different techniques, mostly doing transforms. I hardly even knew what the Flare skratch was at the time either!

QSU: How much did you practice when you were first learning? How about now?

Mr Cerdan: Usually 1-2 hours after coming home from school. Now I’m usually super tired after work but I try to cut to at least one instrumental when I’m at home. When I’m off I usually practice as soon as I wake up, it helps a lot that I’m well rested.

QSU: How disciplined are you in your practice? How long does it take you to master a new combo?

Mr Cerdan: I just cut to whatever instrumental I’m feeling at the moment and don’t focus all my attention to techniques. As long as it sounds good then I’m pretty content. Don’t get me wrong though, to have a good arsenal of techniques opens up endless possibilities when skratching. You can be basic with your cuts and still sound dope. When I first joined QSU I was excited to see a lot of the skratches I saw on the Scratchlopedia Breaktannica DVD. One specifically would be the Aquaman. I spent about 2 hours straight trying to get it down, watching the online tutorial video over and over.

As far as trying to learn new skratches, I focus all my attention on that one technique before moving on to something else I’m trying to work on. I took my learning experience from when I used to take piano lessons when I was younger where my teacher always told me that practice makes perfect.

QSU: You're very technical in your flow, what do you think about when you're skratching? Do you think in terms of combos and techniques, or is it more about the end result sound?

Mr Cerdan: I’m thinking more of the end result sound. I think about skratching where the listener is able to just zone out and enjoy what you are doing without the need for visuals. If I can keep the attention of somebody who has no idea what I am doing and they are enjoying it, then I feel I have accomplished something.

 

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QSU: How did you find out about Qbert Skratch University? Has it helped your development? I know Qbert's been real impressed by everything you've sent in, is there something he's taught you that stands out?

Mr Cerdan: I knew about it since it first launched, but was a broke college graduate so I didn’t have any money to join until I got a stable job. It has helped me a lot in my development. There were skratches that I heard of but never knew how to do and a bunch of techniques I never even heard of. Qbert is a fantastic teacher and is really great at breaking it down nice and slow.

The biggest thing that would stand out to me is breaking down skratch techniques as “notes”. I can relate to that greatly because I do have some formal experience with the piano. When I talk to other DJs about techniques I try to explain using the same concept. The great thing about Qbert being a teacher is that he takes the time to get back to every student.

QSU: What would you tell someone who has no idea what QSU is all about?

Mr Cerdan: If somebody is interested and serious about getting into skratching then QSU is something to look into joining. It’s an online school dedicated to skratching and taught by the one and only DJ Qbert. If you wanna learn then there is no better way then being taught by the best.

QSU: What's the Seattle skratch scene like? Are there people you regular cut with? Are you affiliated with any crews?

Mr Cerdan: There is an open turntable event called Skratch Lounge held at Seattle’s Trinity Nightclub every 1st Thursday of the month where skratchers come together, hang out and cut. I never knew there was a skratch scene or even other people who were into skratching near me until I heard about it when it started back in 2010. I live an hour away from Seattle so I don’t really cut it up regularly with anybody.

I usually have to plan out a session ahead of time with some of my friends that I’ve met through Skratch Lounge. I think the skratch community is starting to notice the skratch scene up here. DJ Bamboo and DJ Spinja are the two guys who put together Skratch Lounge. They were able to get some amazing and talented tablists to perform for the monthly showcase that I never imagined being able to see in person. Rayted R, Virusss and Cwitch from BattleStar Massive came up recently and performed an amazing routine they did for the DMCs this year. I don’t currently identify myself with any specific crew.

mr cerdan - seattle skratch lounge

QSU: Do you have plans to enter more battles? How important are battles to you?

Mr Cerdan: Battles aren’t really my thing. I’m more focused on vibing with other people on the cut. But if I have time for it I would like to try out some skratch only battles and see how I do.

QSU: You're at such a high skill level for skratching, I'd like to ask how important are traditional DJ skills to you? Do you also mix, beat juggle, dig in the crates, etc?

Mr Cerdan: Traditional DJ skills are always important. In order to stay on beat while you are cutting, it helps to know how to mix. I haven’t really focused on beat juggling, but I am able to do very basic juggles - nothing special. There’s just something about skratching that always pulls me away from doing anything else on the tables. Every now and then I frequent used record shops and see if there’s anything interesting I want to add to my record collection.

QSU: What kind of music do you listen to?

Mr Cerdan: Hip-Hop and a lot of instrumental music, but also anything that sounds dope regardless of genre.

beau cerdan - skratch lounge nw

QSU: Are you a professional DJ as well? How do you make a living?

Mr Cerdan: No, I’m a bedroom DJ who focuses mainly on skratching. I’m a service technician for a durable medical equipment company.

QSU: Do you identify more with being a DJ or being a musician? 

Mr Cerdan: I identify myself as a skratch DJ. There can be a similarities and differences between a DJ and musician depending on how you look at it. A musician is defined as a person who plays a musical instrument, or is musically talented. There are DJs out there who are amazing at playing music and do it very well. There are also DJs who take their time and create their own blends or remixes of songs and incorporate that into their sets.

QSU: Philosophical question: What is a DJ if he can't skratch? What is a skratch musician if he can't DJ?

Mr Cerdan: Like many things, you need an understanding of the basics and what something consists of if you want to get into it. Most people I run into when talking about DJing always do that “wicky-wicky” sound at some point of the conversation, so to me I think skratching already is associated with the DJ. I was criticized for just skratching when I first started out since nobody really heard me mix records and thought I didn’t know how to. I didn’t see why that was a big issue because I thought skratching was supposed to be on beat anyways and I viewed that as a way of mixing. Matching skratches to the beat of the song.

There was this one time where my friend was just getting into DJing and was using Serato. I only knew how drag and drop songs at the time and proceeded to mix without looking at the laptop. My friend was amazed that I didn’t have to look at the laptop screen and asked me “how did you do that without looking?”

QSU: Do you have plans to create music? Is there any music from you out there we can check out?

Mr Cerdan: I bought a MPC 2000 years ago but it’s just sitting in a corner at the moment. I only know how to do the basics with it as far as making beats and chopping samples. I’m really into instrumental music and have been thinking about doing some sort of project having beats and skratches but not necessarily a skratch album. But for now, I just upload skratch videos to my youtube every now and then.

QSU: Are you Hamster or regular - and why?

Mr Cerdan: Hamster. When I was first learning I tried skratching regular but struggled crabbing smooth and consistently. It was much easier for me to crab Hamster style. I am always amazed by anybody who can cut it up regular.

QSU: Serato, Traktor, or vinyl?

Mr Cerdan: I prefer vinyl mainly because I skratch, but I do own a Z2 and use Traktor at home when I feel like messing around mixing, or the rare occasion where try to beat juggle. I have a copy of the J Dilla Donut Shop Stones Throw Serato control record but don’t even have Serato. I bought it as a collectors item.

QSU: Preferred BPM to skratch to?

Mr Cerdan: 130 BPM. It’s kind of like a mental workout which helps me to improve my flow because the speed doesn’t give me too much time to think about what to do next.

QSU: Favorite sounds to skratch (besides the Freshhh and Ahhh)

Mr Cerdan: Slick Rick’s “As we go a little something like this” and any vocal phrase that is long enough to manipulate with my record hand.

QSU: Who are your all-time favorite skratch artists, and why?

Mr Cerdan: Gotta start with DJ Qbert, he was the one that got me interested in skratching in the first place. I pretty much bought any project he put out and there isn’t anything that he’s put out so far that I did not like. D-Styles would also be on the top of the list. The one word that I always hear when D-Styles is mentioned is “funky”, and I totally agree with that. You can always bob your head to what he does. What’s amazing is he has a signature sound and you can easily tell it's D-Styles but still doesn’t sound the same or predictable. Not sure if that makes sense. I would also have to mention DJ Flare. I wish he had more releases but I consider him the ultimate in flow. I was lucky enough to catch him skratch live in Seattle at the West Coast Turntable TV tour and all I can say is my mind was blown.

QSU: Who are some of your favorite producers?

Mr Cerdan: Damu the Fudgemunk, Jazz Spastiks, Klaus Layer, Madlib, Dilla and Thes One are some that come to mind at the moment.

QSU: What's one thing you would tell someone who's new to skratching?

Mr Cerdan: Practice everyday, even for just 5 mins.

QSU: How do you feel about the current scene? Is turntablism on the rise, decline, stagnant, or does it even matter?

Mr Cerdan: I think it’s starting to rise. The hard part is making it accessible to those who get exposed and are interested in learning. Events such as Skratch Pad, Skratch Lounge in Seattle and Skratcher in Canada are great ways for people to see what it’s all about. Also having QSU is a huge step in making turntablism accessible to everybody. I see new people join all the time so there is definite proof that it's on the rise.

QSU: Where do you stand in the debate over "pre-produced sets" in DJ routines? What you think about the use of dicers and other controllers for skratching?

Mr Cerdan: I think every DJ has their strengths and weaknesses and don’t think it should be too big of a deal for having a pre-produced set. Sometimes people could care less what happens when a DJ performs, I think what matters in the end is the DJ and their audience enjoy themselves and have a good time. I think dicers and controllers are pretty cool as far as technology goes. It gives more flexibility as far as putting a set together. They should be used to accompany and not to replace.

QSU: What do you think the future holds for skratching? What direction would you like to see it go in? More fragmented or more united? How can the scene become more united?

Mr Cerdan: What’s cool nowadays is that some commercials on tv you can hear skratching in the background. I think pure skratching is still under the radar. For someone who does not know what it is, even if you explain how it works they still don’t quite understand it. I don’t expect everybody I encounter to become interested in skratching. It’s a genre of music and we all have our personal tastes. I don’t think it’s going to go away anytime soon. The internet has opened doors to expose skratching to the world. It would be good to have it more united, I think it's that way right now anyways. If you are involved with skratching in someway, then you pretty much are in the know of what is and who is out there.

QSU: Anything else you'd like to say? Where should we follow you?

Mr Cerdan: Just wanna give a big thank you again for choosing me for this year’s QSU Valedictorian, and come through and check out Skratch Lounge if you’re in the Seattle area. I’m always up to meet and vibe with other skratchers. My YouTube channel, and you can find me on Twitter, Instagram and Vine. My username is "mrcerdan."

mr cerdan - skratch lounge nw

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 *Photos courtesy of SkratchLoungeNW.com 

Check out more QSU Interviews:

 

 

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