After over 40 years at the decks, Andrea Yu chats with Grandmaster Flash as he looks back at his DJ career
After moving to The Bronx in New York from his native Barbados, Joseph Saddler became Grandmaster Flash and pioneered DJ techniques in the late 70s and early 80s that are still being used by DJs across the globe today. Despite celebrating his 54th birthday this year, Saddler keeps up an amazingly hectic touring schedule. Oh, and he’s back in Hong Kong for his third show in just as many years. And we’re excited. We sit down with the ‘grandfather of hip-hop’ for a quickfire chat about what music means to him today.
On New York in the 70s
I grew up in the Bronx, where hip-hop was born. It was a time when lots of musical and lyrical things were tried for the first time. To cut a long story short, it ended up being one of the [best]music cultures on the planet. As a DJ it was wonderful to be able to play pop, jazz, rock, R&B, punk, blues and disco records. To take these sections of music and make people dance. It’s a wonderful thing.
On New York today
It’s a multicultural scene, I would say. Hip-hop, dance, R&B, funk, rock – all these things. It’s a melting pot, depending on where you want to go in the city.
On his job as a DJ
My obligation is to bring joy to people. As a DJ, I play it all. That’s the way I invented the turntable science. My obligation is to bring joy... through my turntables and my mixer.
On keeping up with the music scene
I think it’s a joy that things change. I do keep up. I think it’s important to keep up. I look at myself as a servant. I play lots of new music these days.
On his memoir
I was exposing my skeletons (in The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats). It’s never easy to do. I could probably say it was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do.
On how he felt when his memoir came out
A sigh of relief…
On becoming a video game character in DJ Hero
I’ve played it. I’m not super-big on video games. My kids are bigger on it than I was. I did play it.
On contributions to DJ Hero
I was actually one of the consultants that helped put it together. We got two awards for the game, being one of the most innovated games of that year (2009). People really enjoyed it.
On his touring schedule
It’s probably become tougher in the past 10 years or so. It’s tough for me touring – especially for my younger one. I have a 12-year-old and a 22-year-old.
On working on the road
The wonderfulness of modern technology allows me to bring a portable recording studio on the plane with me, so it’s actually great.
On his experience in Hong Kong
They’re very open-minded. It means I can play some new music, some electronic music and some vintage music. I can go across the whole gambit. It goes down pretty well.
On when he’ll hang up his headphones for good
I don’t know... I can’t really answer that question.
On new material
I’m in the beginning stages of working on a project in the present moment. It’s a multicultural project. It’s still early. It’s going to be a new album but I can’t put a time frame on it.
Grandmaster Flash spins a DJ set at Hyde on Saturday April 21. For tickets: www.rnrasia.com