Never interrupt a man while he's shopping for hot wax. The entourage is arriving and gathering in the shop's aisles while cell phones, BlackBerrys and Sidekicks are competing for equal attention. But all will have to wait: DJ Skribble is taking a trip down memory lane. It's an emotional detour that brings him back in time, deep into the grimy bowels of a Brooklyn shop, where a young Scott Ialacci is sifting through dusty mountains of records to find inspiration and education. “We would come out filthy, but we would just dig and dig for up to eight hours. It was a treasure hunt.”
And treasure though it may be, inspirational albums are not to be found only in Brooklyn and in Skribble's home-borough of Queens. Since early December '05, the newest resident at the Hard Rock Las Vegas' nightclub Body English is also one of the city's newest residents; Skribble has just purchased a house and is beginning to settle in.
“I've bought a lot here,” Skribble says of Vegas' Big B's CDs & Records, a fluorescent-lit, no-frills music shop offering its hipster, college-student following a choice of both recording media. “I was turned onto it by Eddie.” In fact, DJ Eddie McDonald is also on his way over to the shop to trail Skribble as he winds his way through the racks.
“I have, like, four of these,” Skribble says, admiring and then picking up the soundtrack to the film Shaft. “I may already have a record, but if I like it, I'll buy it again and again.” Skribble uses both CDs and records to fortify his music library — a diverse collection methodically organized by genre — which includes old school, rock, jazz, soul, hip-hop, freestyle, disco and more. Any country? “Yeah, I've probably got some Conway Twitty in there somewhere,” he adds with a smile that is both mischievous and honest.
He adds solemnly, holding up an album for emphasis, “I will never sell my vinyl collection.” Fifty thousand records would be tough to box up anyway.
Store owner Brian Snyder sees that Skribble is struggling after a few passes through the electronica and house sections and motions for Skribble to follow him into his office, which is stacked to the ceiling, along with McDonald's french-fry boxes. Snyder purchased a portion of the unorganized collection in the office from an estate sale. Skribble dives in, and it's like Brooklyn all over again.
It isn't long before the “yes” pile begins to grow, his face flush with the effort. It's a labor of love for the man who spent his adolescence in much the same way, hunting for either the root of an ingenious sample or just the next hot track. To Skribble, DJ history is written in vinyl, and places like Big B's CDs & Records are the museums.
Skribble finds a few rare gems among Snyder's back-room inventory, including a copy of Grand Funk Railroad's “We're an American Band,” pressed in a sunny, transparent yellow. But although Skribble's happy to find some great vinyl, there's a battle raging within him. “As technology grows, vinyl is going to dwindle even more,” he says. “It's unfortunate, but we all want to move faster, to do things quicker. Lugging around boxes of records sucks. But there's nothing like the feel of that vinyl… cutting on it, doin' your thing.”
Before switching over to Rane's Serato Scratch Live, Skribble would tote with him 12 boxes — six hip-hop and six house — to every gig. Now, he travels light with just a 500GB hard drive and his laptop. “With Scratch Live, I can play anything from Elton John to Tim McGraw.” Although the software helps him save $50,000 per year in shipping costs, Skribble has found a way to again experience the thrill of spinning vinyl with his new project, DJs Are Alive (along with producer/DJs The Scumfrog, Static Revenger, D:Fuse and dance-music diva Kristine W).
“With the DJs Are Alive project, we're preserving the essence of what DJs are and where we came from. If it weren't for the pioneers of DJing, we wouldn't have jobs today. I come from a time when DJing wasn't the cool thing to do. It was a lot of hard work. We weren't celebrities; we did it to make people shake their asses.”
GRAND FUNK RAILROAD
“We're an American Band” (Capitol)
A classic rock song. I don't have this particular album with the colored vinyl. It's a collector's item. Z-Trip is the guy who pretty much started [mash-ups]. I've been DJing with rock bands since back when I was doing Public Enemy, and then I was DJing for Primus and doing stuff for Anthrax. It's cool, all the rock and mash-up stuff nowadays, but a lot of kids are just jumping on the bandwagon because that's what's hot right now. They don't give respect to where it came from.
I have it on CD but didn't have the original vinyl. This album is one of the best. This is for my own listening pleasure. The other mash-up I use is the one of “Billie Jean” and “Don't Stop Believin'” that Sizzahandz did. I play that a lot; it's pretty dope.
Computer World (Warner Bros.)
This is very old school. A lot of people sampled off this one back in the day. It was one of the first electric boogie records. A lot of the “boogie boys” used to pop 'n' lock to “Numbers.”
“Whole Lotta Love,” that's the one right there! Drop that in the club at just the right place. I love that. Good record right there.
Ultimate Ultimate Battle Weapon Vol. 2, 3 & 4 (Sincenter)
For DJs Are Alive, we're not using Serato or any computers, and so all the scratching I'm doing is on vinyl. It gets back to the basics of actually doing what DJs do, which I think a lot of people have gotten away from. This album is all scratches and different sound effects to add to the show.
FATHER GUIDO SARDUCCI
Live at St. Douglas Convent (Warner Bros.)
Any of these old comedy albums, you can definitely take parts and scratch them, put them into samples or do an intro for yourself. I don't even know how good this is going to be; I've never even seen a comedy album from Father Guido Sarducci. It's just having it to have it. Back in the late '70s and early '80s, he was, like, the king on Saturday Night Live.
The Skip-Proof Scratch Tool Vol. 3 & 4 (Decadent)
I first saw DJ Swamp at the Disco Mixing Championships. His style is just so bizarre and crazy. He breaks records on the turntables, and he's just a great turntablist. He made these battle records. DJs will use them for scratches, loops, breakbeats. At the end of the record, it will skip always on this one spot and run continuously, and you can just sit there all day and learn to skip that way.
“I'll Be All You Ever Need” (Jam Packed)
This is an old freestyle record from back in 1986. Very, very big in New York. Veeery big in New York. I'll play that! If you've got the right crowd and you're in Brooklyn somewhere, you throw that on, and they'll go nuts!
WORLD CLASS WRECKIN' CRU
“Turn Off the Lights” (Kru-Cut)
This is Dr. Dre; it's one of his first. The World Class Wreckin' Cru was before NWA. That's definitely a collector's item. You could play this as the last record of the night, but you gotta play it to an older crowd — older meaning 30-something. A lot of the younger kids wouldn't even know what the hell it is. They wouldn't understand it. But you could play this out here in Vegas.
Big B's CDs & Records; 4761 S. Maryland Pkwy, Las Vegas, NV, 89119-6315; (702) 732-4433;www.myspace.com/bigbrecords