Back in 2009 when ArtistWorks first launched Qbert Skratch University, Dj Claim was one of the first to sign up. I was always impressed by the quality and style of the videos he submitted - they were original, thoughtfully composed, and musically inspiring. After quickly gaining popularity amongst the skratch community, Dj Claim quietly disappeared from the digital world. Only recently has he resurfaced, refreshed and inspired to make music again. He’s been releasing a series of videos which feature him creating skratch compositions in real time using his QFO turntable and a loop pedal, and he also put out an EP of music called Under Jumper - which I came to learn he made back in 2005. I reached out to him to learn more about his story.
What got you into skratching?
Dj Claim: I started scratching in the year 2000, it was September. I was almost 16 years old and had been listening to this mix CD for a couple years, Cut Killer Show, but I didn't know what were these strange sounds all over the album. Same thing with Supreme NTM and MC Solaar. What is this? Then one day in school, I saw a picture of a DJ with his hand on a record and BOOM - something clicked, like ah yeah! He make that sound like I had heard, Ok! It's funny because in the picture it was not a scratch DJ, but just a guy in a club, pushing the record... but anyway. I took my mom's turntable to my room, and I never gave it back before I bought my own - it was a Tecnics SL Q2. Then by chance, I found a really old turntable on the street, and then bought a used Gemini mixer for like 1000 francs.
Then I was in a new school, with new friends, and there was another guy starting to learn like me. He was a house and hip hop DJ, and I was learning scratching - so it was perfect to learn together. And I had a video tape called "Flare Pitch Project" with Crazy B and DJ Need - this gave me all the basics.
And one day I just decided not to go to school anymore. I was watching Wave Twisters all day and was practicing a lot, like 8 hours a day sometimes. I was also always at the DJ shop next to my house... always, everyday. At this time there were many turntables and mixers, no controllers back then - it was a paradise for me. I knew each product by heart, and would do free demos for the customers. They were more likely to buy the equipment when I did the demos, so I quickly became friends with the sellers.
So it was these three great DJs: DJ Quartz, K20, and Stephen R. They would set up all the equipment I wanted, so I can practice on PDX2000 and the last mixers like Q and D-styles - it was a dream come true. And soon they introduced me to some people at Gemini who gave me my first turntable built for scratching, so I could do a demo in the "Salon du Siel" in 2002. I also did demons on CDJ1000 for Pioneer for a couple years... but I was too young and all this came too fast for me, I didn't care about it much, and I eventually stopped going the professional DJ direction. I started working at regular jobs - but I didn’t stop scratching!
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Dj Claim: I can't give you all my musical influences precisely, I have too many and the list will be too long. And it depends of the moment in my life. But I will give you three names who changed my way of listening when I was a child. Stevie Wonder was the first guy who made me dance nonstop to his songs since I was born. Then William Sheller was the first person I saw on stage who made me cry. I was ten years old... It was powerful. Bob Marley was the first guy who really hypnotized me when I was 13 years old. As an adult, I will say maybe... Bobby Mc Ferrin, all his stuff is amazing!
What other instruments do you play?
Dj Claim: I play guitar, some percussion, and I also sing a little bit. I used to play saxophone when I was younger.
What did you use to make the music on your EP, Under Jumper?
Dj Claim: This EP is new for you, but old for me, because I made it in 2005 and nobody except my close friends heard about it. Ten years ago I didn't use Serato, so I was scratching only vinyl records and playing guitar, and also used some sound recordings I made (like the street noise in "Alone In The Dark"). I was working in Cubase, and... I don't remember all the details, but it was wild!
Under Jumper is the symbol of a dark moment of my life. Dark but not hopeless. I can jump from the underground and be under the light again! The cover picture was taken when I was working at my town Post service, early in the morning - haha never again!
Why didn't you release this before now?
Dj Claim: Oh I did make some physical homemade CDs, but I only sold like five. I gave the others away as a business card. I didn't really care about it much, I just did it and was ok like this. During that time I was starting to learn guitar seriously, writing songs, play saxophone - I was already in another direction than just selling my scratch songs. Today we have more tools for this, and I’m ready to come out the dark.
Are there more songs you didn't include on this EP?
Dj Claim: Yes, but I need to make something new now.
What was it like when Qbert called you a “blackbelt” after you submitted your first video at ArtistWorks?
Dj Claim: I've watched Qbert's response a hundred times, and was laughing like a idiot the whole week after I first saw it. He said, "Your video should be in the Louvre Museum..."You know what Q? In that case we should make a video in the Louvre Museum together!
Tell us how your experience with Qbert and ArtistWorks has been?
Dj Claim: First of all, I want to say, yes, Qbert is there and always responds to the videos you send, but no, your level doesn't depend on him. It depends on you, always you. Qbert can show you something, but he can't scratch for you! It's the same with all the teachers at ArtistWorks or anywhere else. When you know that, you can really appreciate what ArtistWorks has to offer.
In QSU, I love the fact that you can download thousands of beats, and everybody can upload beats for the community - it's great. With the Video Exchange system, you meet Qbert, but you meet also all the students all around the world - and sometimes it can become big. And of course, all the lessons are great. The quality is perfect - it's like a library, "ok, I took this book today" and you have something to work on for weeks!
I repeat, once you realize that progression takes work that can only be made by you, ArtistWorks is a great tool! I just signed up for the percussion school with Luis Conte!
How did the idea for the Norah video come about? Did you expect it to become so popular?
Dj Claim: I was scratching on that sample for a while. I love Norah Jones. And my friends always says "how can you scratch with this? There is no beat" and I say "yeah there is a beat, listen." And one day I decided to make a song of it. Then one night, after a big love deception, I decided to record it. So there are terrible rhythm mistakes on that take, but I love it because I remember that night well. I didn't expect it to become popular... if I knew, I would have posted a better take! By the way, please everyone stop going on my old channel youtube.com/djclaim, I can't access that account anymore, you will miss all the new things! You have my new YouTube channel link on my website www.djclaim.com.
What do you think about turntable music, is it on the rise or decline?
Dj Claim: I think there is no decline because the techniques keep going up and up and up, and this is a good thing. But for me the goal is to make forget people that it's scratching, and to make them say "that’s music" - it's a big challenge. Since the last ten years, there have been some great things going on, but it’s not really a "rise" yet. But I do think it's coming!
Are there any upcoming projects you can tell us about? What’s next for DJ Claim?
Dj Claim: I want to post a weekly video, a song, a Q&A, a freestyle, or a joke - but something new each week. I make loopers, for fun or for training, like with unusual time signatures, stuff like that, I would like to release my own break record, with a big fat mix and mastering. It would have beats and skipless samples. And of course, I'm working on a live show with scratching, percussions, and guests. Give me one year!
Where can people go to follow your work?
Dj Claim: My website, www.djclaim.com, all the links are there.
Any other words for the people out there reading this?
Dj Claim: Don't listen to me too close... it's all about you! And special thanks to ADA for reaching out.