ACE OF SPADES
Many are called but few are chosen. This often heard and repeated phrase definitely applies to DJing in the digital age. While many good DJs, simply keeping up with the times updated their systems. Nothing wrong with that,right? Technology has allowed us to carry more music than we could ever hope to play at any one party or event. The advancement in the technology; cds,mp3s, Serato, etc has led however to a how shall we say "glut" in the DJ world where the reliance is on the technology not talent. Refreshingly, we recently had the opportunity to speak someone who has been in the game a great many years and has seen much come and go and has a unique perspective on it all. Below we discuss this issue and much more with well known New York City veteran DJ Ace of Spades.
E.H.M.P.: How long have you been DJing and what inspired you to get started?
Ace of Spades: I've been playing records for over 35 years. I always loved music and my mother would buy me 45's. Also, my grandmother would let me take old 45's from her house every time I visited. My family would do house parties for whatever occasion and I'd play music. When I got older, I invested in professional equipment and started promoting myself as the go to guy to rock any and all parties.
E.H.M.P.: What DJs did you listen to coming up?
Ace of Spades: I came up in the 1970's so it was a lot of disco, soul, doo-wop, Motown and very early Hip-Hop. Being the age I am gives me an edge over older and younger DJ's. The younger DJ's might know a few old joints but they lack the knowledge to play them correctly. The older DJ's stick with your usual classics but they're out of touch with today's music. I'm the most well-rounded DJ on the planet. I can rock any genre of music from any era.
E.H.M.P.: Being in the business as long as you have what changes have you seen?
Ace of Spades: I've seen it all. I started out with 7 inch records and then 12 inch records. I've seen DJ's set up a reel to reel machine and just let it play while they was off trying to mack some chick or off DJing another party. That method left no room for requests. Some DJ's would let a cassette tape play during the beginning of the party. Those are the kind of jocks who felt they needed a crowd to get open. Me, I set it off from the moment the first person walks through the door. If there's only 3 people at the jam, those 3 are going to know that I'm the man. Now of course I've seen DJ's switch from wax to CD's and then go all digital using either Virtual DJ, Final Scratch, Scratch Live, Traktor Scratch or some other method of playing and mixing mp3 files. I resisted the change and stuck with vinyl as long as I could but I finally made the switch to Scratch Live which is pretty much the industry standard for mixing mp3's.
E.H.M.P.: Any predictions for the future of DJing?
Ace of Spades: More and more people are going to get into DJing and less and less of them will take the time out to really learn the craft and grasp the true meaning of what it is to be a DJ. They have mixers where you can plug in your iPod and DJ parties. DJing is so easy a caveman could do it. But very few do it well. Most of these DJ's suck. I can't tell you how many times I get invited to an event and people would either beg me to teach the DJ how to do his or her job or tell the DJ to move over and let me rock the party. I had promoters ask me to take their DJ under my wing and show them the ropes. If a DJ thinks they're nice, no one could tell them otherwise.
E.H.M.P.: What type of DJ setup do you prefer?
Ace of Spades: I prefer spinning on Technics 1200 mk2 turntables. I'm not a fan of the Technics 1210's. The torque is different. I'm not really feeling the other 1200 models either. The mk2's are the best turntables in the world. I love the Pioneer CDJ 1000 CD turntables. Pioneer's 400 and 800 models are cool too. Rane and Numark make good mixers. I like rockin' on something with 4 channels in case a lot of things need to be hooked up. As far as speakers, I prefer JBL's at the very least. EAW's are the best speakers I ever worked with, period. There are other speakers that are good with a piece here or there but I'm not spending money on anything less than JBL. If a club has a really dope sound system, they have either JBL's or EAW's. EV, Mackie and Berringher make decent starter stuff but you can't trust the whole line and I've worked with all of the brands. I would never recommend anyone buy any DJ products from any company that starts with the letter G. I don't care if it's Gemini, GLI or Gem Sound, they all suck. If you want to be the best, you need to invest in the best.
E.H.M.P.: What makes a good DJ?
Ace of Spades: A good DJ is someone who can keep a majority of the crowd interested in the party. You can't please everybody and there's always somebody at the party who thinks they know what songs would be better to play. A great DJ is someone who can rock different types of music for different crowds. It sucks to turn down paying gigs because you don't play techno or house music.
E.H.M.P.: What separates you from other DJs?
Ace of Spades: Back in the days, I used to spend a fortune buying records. I eventually got put on to a record pool where I could just pay $30 a week in dues and get mad joints and I stopped buying records from retail stores. . However, the pool I was in didn't get music from Interscope and a couple other labels. I reached out to labels but had trouble getting serviced with product. So I had to rock parties with whatever I had. I don't care what the hottest songs are, I can rock parties without them. I also made a name for myself by rockin parties with songs other DJ's either don't have or won't play. Most other DJs all sound the same and they play the same exact songs you can hear up and down the FM dial all day long. Otis is one of the hottest songs out right now and I haven't played it at a gig in weeks. They even play the same old school records. While they're all playing Rob Base's It Takes Two, I'm playing Rob's Joy And Pain record. Besides all of that, my whole playing style is so different from other DJs. Most, especially in the underground scene stick to Hip-Hop and maybe some R&B. I can play anything.
E.H.M.P.: Your Also a promoter, how long have you been involved in that area of the business and what made you go in that direction?
Ace of Spades: I've been promoting parties, showcases and other events since 1988. I started promoting as a way to expose myself as a DJ. I'd put an event together, invite a ton of other promoters and they'd see how nice I was and hire me to spin at their events. Right now I'm only promoting showcases but I'm going to get back into the parties heavy in 2012. I did a successful 80's party on 8/8/08 and I'll be doing specialty parties using a lot of different gimmicks like the 80's party.
E.H.M.P.: Do you produce or "make beats"?
Ace of Spades: I call myself a reproducer. My motto is I don't make beats, I take beats. In the 90s, a lot of producers simply rocked an instrumental and put their name in the production credits. I could do that but I'm not going to call myself a producer after that. I believe in calling a spade a spade so I'm a track jacker and proud of it. Sampling and rhyming over well known tracks is what Hip-Hop was based on. One day I'll learn how to use production software and take it to another level. Some of my favorite producers are DJs. Marley Marl and Premier are 2 legends in the game who did both.
E.H.M.P.: What do you think of the rise of the Internet and the use social media in the music business?
Ace of Spades: The Internet is good for some things and bad for others. When it comes to technology, you have to take the good with the bad. Take FaceBook for example. People added me to over 300 groups and all they do in these groups is post their song, post their video, post their epk, post their flyers and no one interacts with anyone else in the group. The group has 1000 people who just post their crap all day long and these people think they're doing smart marketing. If you're an artist and you're pushing your music in a group with 1000 other artists who are just looking to push their music, nothing gets accomplished. Now on the flip side, if this artist would take the time to create a fan page and promote fan page properly, they can just promote all that crap there and the fans would rock with it. I could go on and on about this for days but that's a topic for another discussion.
E.H.M.P.: What do you think of the mixtape game and some of the legal action that has been taken againt some mixtape DJs?
Ace of Spades: The mixtape game is crazy right now. I'm an innovator in the mixtape game as well. I was the first DJ to play unsigned and independent artists on mixtapes along with major artists. I was also the first DJ to do totally unsigned mixtapes with the artist's contact info and web page links on the playlist. I'm also one of the few DJ's who still does real mixing on a mixtape. It seems anyone who can make a playlist on iTunes can be a mixtape DJ. Too many artists are making mixtapes instead of making and selling music. As far as the RIAA or labels going after DJs, this song has been played before. We know how the game is and that's just how it is. DJs are putting out music that belongs to someone and some labels are cool with it and some are not. Some labels used to have a guy whose job it was to get new music to mixtape DJs. I think it's a sucker move to then take legal action against DJs for promoting the labels music.
E.H.M.P.: Tell us about Team Spade, any new projects coming up?
Ace of Spades: Team Spade is a crew of emcees, singer/songwriters, DJs, producers and promoters. We work together and push towards a common goal which is fame through exposure. I present them all with stage time, access to media, opportunities to make money and the ability to network with people that will help them reach their goals. The FaceBook page is coming soon but you can follow @teamspade on Twitter.
E.H.M.P.: Any last words for your fans?
Ace of Spades: Yes. Nothing worth having comes easy. If you have a legitimate passion for something and you're actually good at it, find people who can help you and leave the people who can't help you behind. It's always better to run with one than drag twenty. Building a proper network will increase your net worth.
WRITTEN BY: DJ SINCERE
COURTESY OF ELEGANT HOODNESS MUSICAL PROGRAM 2012'