‘The problem with DJing now is it’s a nixer for a lot of people’ – Dublin's DJ Flip
DJ Flip is playing Casa Bacardi at Electric Picnic on Sunday September 2
The scene has changed for DJs over the course of the last 20 years and while Dublin's DJ Flip has been to the forefront for much of that time he admits it takes extra smarts and skills to maintain a full-time career as a DJ in Ireland these days.
In a world where the 'DJ' label is dispensed somewhat liberally, he's one of the few talents with authentic skills. Back in 2003 he was awarded the coveted title of ITF World Scratch Champion (beating 40 DJs from around the world) and the following year he became Thre3style Vice World Champion.
However, staying true to his hip hop roots and getting regular gigs is tougher than you might expect for someone of his calibre.
"It’s extremely tough, especially nowadays with the younger kids – it has changed from when I was starting out," he tells Independent.ie. "Younger DJs are getting really big gigs and residencies in nightclubs whereas when I was young you didn’t get a look in.
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More footage of my epic show at @granatoslive 2018 in #Lithuania. Thank you for the footage. Tag yourself if you were there to witness the holy matrimony between a topless #Irish #DJ and thousands of beautiful Lithuanians 😂 Let #GranatosLive know you want #DJFlip back next year! Main stage 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻 I love you all, and can't wait for my triumphant return. ALL THE MUSIC IN THIS VIDEO IS AVAILABLE FOR FREE DOWNLOAD AT WWW.DJFLIP.BANDCAMP.COM (in Trap Edits) 🇮🇪❤️🇱🇹 . . . . . . . . #granatos #granatos2018 #music #festival #kaunus #vilnius #rumsiskes #rumšiškės #djflip #dublin #ireland #reloop #reloopdj #lucan #redbull #redbull3style @redbullmusic3style @redbull @redbullire #love @pioneerdjglobal @pioneerdjusa @pioneer_djing #pioneerdj
"The difference is the pay cheques - these days these lads are doing it for free, for drinks, to be able to say, ‘I have a residency in this club’ and I can’t blame them. They’re young lads playing music they love to their friends and you can’t begrudge them that."
He says he has "to be smart" in order to maintain his career when DJing is simply a hobby for so many others.
"The problem with DJing now as a whole is that it’s kind of a nixer for a lot of people. There are a lot of people with 9-5 jobs who play Friday, Saturday night at their local bar and it has become bastardised to a certain extent," he says.
That said, he's impressed by the support younger talent receives from each other and from their audiences.
"What I do love at the moment is the younger groups like Versatile just selling out venues. Versatile have sold out The Olympia," he says.
"These are two young guys and the support that young Irish people are showing for each other is phenomenal. It’s amazing that two young guys who have never done a live show are selling out their first show. The young Irish crowd are really backing each other at the moment and it’s amazing."
He's not doing too badly himself. He plays Casa Bacardi, the beating heart of Electric Picnic, on the Sunday (September 2), sharing a bill will the likes of Melé, Joey Negro, Felix Da Housecat, A-Skills, and Krafty Kuts. He played on the Saturday last year so has some idea of what's ahead.
"I was on Saturday 4pm-6pm last year and now I'm Sunday 6pm-8pm so it's a bit of a promotion, or so they tell me," he laughs.
"I’ve always been a bit apprehensive about [festivals] to be honest," he adds, "There are so many options for people [line-up wise]. There’s always the chance people will just come and sit in the tent for an hour to regroup! I’m lucky that Casa Bacardi has such a great following though. And it has a bar which is a massive plus!"
While he's traditionally a hip hop DJ he'll be expanding his repertoire to cater for a wider range of tastes. He says, "I know that just classic hip hop doesn’t really work incredibly well in a big music festival so I’ll be catering to everyone with as wide and open format set as I can, with a party vibe if you will – as party as I can.
"I can’t really be playing a couple of B sides I’m enjoying right now. You have to think of everyone so I’ll have everything from AC/DC to Tupac to Calvin Harris."
EP is something of a homecoming after several European festivals. Most recently he played Granatos Live in Lithuania which he says "might just be the best show I've ever done, definitely in my top three, absolutely insane". Prior to that he played in Switzerland and Finland.
Musically he's gearing up for his first official vinyl release in almost ten years. It's a Boom Bap Hip Hop meets Burt Bacharach EP titled Burt Bangarach; "I'm hoping people will think WTF at the title, and then be pleasantly surprised when they press play," he laughs, adding, "He's my favourite composer of all time."
Almost a decade is quite a lull, but he's coming back on his own terms.
"Because of the style that it is it’s not necessarily what’s trendy anymore. I’m just kind of doing it for me, for my own soul," he says. "I don’t care if it sells 1000 copies or none. I’m doing it for my soul. I want to do it and put it out there and if it goes down well, great, if it doesn’t, whatever. I’m busy and I’m happy."
He adds, "You have to make art for yourself. If you’re doing something you don’t truly love your heart is never going to be in it."
This is something he feels keenly - three years ago he took a break from shows in Ireland because he was starting to feel that disconnect.
"I took a break just to re-evaluate what I was doing," he says. "I started doing exactly what I didn’t want to do – taking shows I didn’t want to be doing and finding myself in rooms playing the wrong music to the wrong crowd.
"At some stage you start thinking, is it me or them? I realised it was me. I was playing music I didn’t love, taking gigs for the sake of taking gigs. Now I try to pick and choose and do gigs I want to do."
And he will continue to do those gigs "until people get sick of me," he says, referencing Jazzy Jeff (53) and Grandmaster Flash (60) who are still going strong on the back of their hits. He may not quite have hit the starry heights of 'Summertime' just yet, but Burt Bangarach might just do the trick.