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DJ History: Tony Prince and the DMC

Tony Prince is a legend in turntablism. Founder of the DMC [organization / DJ competition], he has been instrumental in driving forward the art form, providing a platform for countless DJ innovators to amaze audiences by masterly manipulating records in real-time. Not only that, the videos of the competition have inspired countless others to become DJs themselves. Indeed, ArtistWorks might not even have a Qbert Skratch University if it wasn’t for the DMC competitions which inspired so many to first get hold of turntables and start skratching.

As the build-up to the 2014 DMC World Finals in London in October heats up, a video documenting the history of the competition has been released by the DMC to celebrate 30 years of supporting DJing excellence. It's just Part 1 so far, which provides excellent context into the history of the organization as well as commentary from the man who started it all, Tony Prince. 

tony prince on the radioTony started out in the 60s as the singer in a band until the Musicians Union in the UK expelled him for playing records during interludes - they feared that DJs were going to put all musicians out of work. He soon became a DJ pirate, in a very literal sense, when he took to the seas to broadcast from Radio Caroline on a ship in the Irish sea. A successful career with Radio Luxembourg followed and then in 1983 he founded the DMC with his wife Christine.

Things got interesting a few years later when DJ Cheese introduced skratching to the competition for the first time in 1986 - and won! This unprecedented performance prompted the runner-up Orlando Voorn of Holland to grab the mic off from Tony and shout: "What is this, a mixing competition or a scratching competition?!?!"

 

This question of what kind of competition the DMC actually is, is now being re-visited due to the very open-ended rules of the DMC Online DJ Championship - which states anything goes as long as it isn't miming. The hope is that this extra allowence for creativity will promote the spirit of invention that's been inherent in turntablism culture since the beginning and inspire new developments in the years ahead. After all, over the years contestants have scratched with bicycles, kitchen sinks, billiard cues, and even sat on the turntable itself! 

While, for now at least, most online entries are of a traditional turntablist nature, Tony is gamely attempting to strike a balance between matching new developments in technology, so as to stay relevant, and staying true to the origins and ideals of the artform: “The Battle for World Supremacy continues to fly the turntablist flag and remains loyal to the pure art of scratching and track selection."

All this reminiscing prompted us to wonder how the DJ contestants have changed since the DMC began. Having witnessed 30 years of competitions Tony is uniquely positioned to answer:

“They don’t do too many tricks these days, it’s more music production dominated.  I loved the tricks - who would ever forget Germany’s DJ David and his turntable body spin?"

"This made the event more visual and film-friendly. You still see the odd arm behind the back, under the leg, etc. but there was a snobbery surrounding DJ tricks versus pure scratching. I always maintained that the idea of a trick was to show you could maintain the flow under duress.”

And so to the question we had to ask then - who was the most impressive DJ Tony has witnessed over the years?

“They were all ‘the best’ when their moment came. Each new DMC Champion is standing on the shoulders of giants.  You can see the development in each successive year."

 
"From Cheese introducing the scratch, to [Cutmaster] Swift juggling, Cash Money’s method of manipulation within the scratch and to show how important a personality could be to win over the audience, Qbert's flares, crabs and new techniques took DJs to a new level, Craze with the personality and dexterity, Shiftee’s juggling, the intellectual who exuded confidence and personality, Kentaro’s speed and funkiness emulated more recently with an aggressive, energetic set by Izoh also from Japan etc. etc..."
 

“Then you had Netik [France] the first DMC World Champion [2006] to use the LeJad pre-programmed records also very controversial at the time but inspiring a whole generation of DJs.”

After a lifetime spent running the DMC, there must have been some mistakes along the way, some turns that could have been taken. Did Tony ever wish he had done something differently? “No," he replies, "I think we have been loving parents.” 

Stay tuned for the next part of the documentary and find out more about the history of the DMC at www.dmcdjchamps.com

30 years of DMC

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