MR. THING INTERVIEW

The UK’s Mr.Thing is a world class DJ capable of rocking any party in any town. He is also a multiple DJ title winner which includes the World Team DMC title in 1999 when he was a member of the Scratch Perverts. Mr. Thing has performed/toured with the likes of DJ Jazzy Jeff, J Live, Marley Marl, Beastie Boys, DJ Premier, DJ Vadim, Run DMC, Slum Village, Mark B & Blade, KRS One and Jehst.

On the eve of his upcoming tour through Australia we caught up with the renowned DJ, Producer and record collector to talk about his influences, the state of UK Hip Hop, his record buying habits and much more

Describe your earliest memories of music?
My earliest memories of music is being in the car with my Mum & Dad, my Mum always used to play a lot of Stevie Wonder and things like that so was exposed to it quite early on, my Dad is into Pink Floyd and all sorts so i think that’s where that comes from as well. I do remember being little and hearing “Living For The City” and not understanding why there was the skit in the street at the end until much later on!

Who were your musical influences growing up?
Hip Hop wise it was Run-DMC, hands down. I was aware of tunes like White Lines and things like that and loved them but when i heard Sucker MCs for the first time everything changed for me really. Then again when i heard Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince Live At Union Square with the Dance To The Drummers Beat routine i was completely sold! Later on it was DJ Alladin, Gang Starr/Premier, Pete Rock, Large Pro, Tribe and then when the X-Men/Beat Junkies/Skratch Piklz came out it was very exciting!

What first drew you to the turntables were you ever into any other musical instrument?
I was just fascinated with them as soon as i saw scratching rather than just hearing it i was totally drawn to it, trying to figure how DJs made the sounds off the records with what they had was amazing to me.

How did you come up with the name Mr. Thing?
I came up with Mr Thing after the hand from the Adamms Family that does everything, then realised there was also Thing from Fantastic Four as well, and also, John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my favourite films so it all ties together nicely! It was originally just DJ Thing but First Rate started calling me Mr Thing at shows and it stuck!

What was your first big break as a DJ?
I think the very first big gig i did was just before Scratch Perverts really started to take off, First Rate had got a slot doing a showcase AFTER The Roots at Kentish Town Forum, so he dragged me along and i did the show with him, i was so nervous tho, didn’t speak to anyone all night really! Except for Shortee Blitz, i just met him that night for the first time! Also i think the showcase we did in the Poland Street Mr Bongos store with Pogo, Biznizz, Swift and everybody also gave me a good boost up too, nobody had heard of me in town and it was great to play in front of those guys who i grew up on!

You were once a member of Scratch Perverts winning numerous DJ titles including the World DMC title in 1999. How was it being part of the crew during that time and what were some of your most memorable experiences?
It was an amazing time, really good. We put in a lot of hours to get those routines absolutely right and it was exciting times. My favourite memory is the marathon drive we did from London to Hamburg to do the ITF Finals where we had to go up against The Beat Junkies, i’d never even driven in Europe before and it was crazy, we got there and everyone was just in the hotel, then we set all the gear up in the hotel to practice some more!

The group spilt up in 2000 and then reformed as a 3 man crew what was the reason behind that and was it disappointing considering all the successes you had up to that point?
Ultimately it fell apart with different directions, and i always wanted to keep things more Hip Hop based and it was definitely heading in a more dance based direction. It was a bit crushing just after we’d won the world champs and all but i think it worked out ok really, i’m still cool with Prime Cuts and Plus One is now doing very well with the Jack Beats thing, but i’m not mad!

Why do you think the turntablist scene has lost most of the interest it once had?
It might be because i’m from a different generation of DJs but i miss the hip hop element of it these days, it’s not funky enough for me …

You are now a member of The Extended Players which includes DJ’s Shortee Blitz, MK & Harry Love do you enjoy playing a solo set or DJing as part of a crew?
I enjoy both equally but DJing with the others i enjoy the back and forth with tunes, always have done right from when i started playing out with First Rate, it’s a lot of fun! We don’t get to play out altogether that often but it’s always good when we do.

You have released a number of mix CD’s through the label BBE which has seen you work alongside DJ’s Premier & Spinna. How did that deal come about and do you have any other releases coming out through them soon?
I know Pete from BBE just through DJing and i sold him some records over the years too, the Premier comp was mad they literally rang me and asked if i wanted to do it and then they told me who was doing the other CD … so you don’t turn that down haha! and it was the same with the Spinna comp as well, they gave me a list of tunes to pick from and then i found out Spinna was doing the other CD, so turned out good! I’m working on Strange Breaks & Mr Thing Vol. 3 for them now which has been brewing for a while … hoping to find some new pieces for that when i come to Australia.

Having worked with the likes of Taskforce, Mark B, Vadim and more what are your views on the current state of UK Hip Hop given the rise of Grime?
I think things are pretty good at the moment, there’s obviously the poppier stuff in the charts but it’s made people step it up and there seems to be support on both sides, which is good. As for the grime guys, i really rate Durrty Goodz, Wiley etc, serious MCs!

What do you think UK Hip Hop is missing nowadays?
In London at least the presence of Mr Bongos is very missed, as in a place where artists would meet up and bring their records in and that’s how the connections were made and nights like Kung Fu, which was just amazing, that’s what i miss anyway! There’s still amazing music coming out here but it’s just difficult to find sometimes!

Production is something else you are heavily involved in what inspires you to make music?
Could be anything at all, i’ve spent the whole weekend just gone making new beats as i’m trying to get some music together for my own LP but i just finished up a couple of tracks for Mystro’s LP and the Jehst track for his LP too so i’ve been going through records and listening to what’s out now that i like and getting inspired that way, but there’s definitely no set way other than that it starts with records!

You have worked heavily with Yungun and released the album “Grown Man Business” how was it working with one MC on a project and are there any plans for another release from you both?
We’ve finally finished our “Jack The World” mixtape where we took the idea of doing over other instrumentals a step further as in we took the breaks and re-did a few in our own way and put them with the actual tunes, and then blended the whole thing together like a mixtape, it’s pretty slick! But we didn’t just stick to Hip Hop beats on there it’s got some Reggae, Broken Beat, Jazz, all sorts, my favourite one we did is a remake of Organised Konfusion’s “Open Your Eyes” using all the records that used that sample and an IG Culture remake of it as well. We’ve got a good working relationship i feel as we’re very good friends as well outside of the music so we know what we both like and don’t like pretty much straight away, YGs working on his “Middle Man” LP at the moment so when he’s done we can get back on it putting a show together for that and hopefully we can get some new music done after that!

What other MC’s would you most like to hear over a beat from yourself?
I would really really like to have Sean Price or Roc Marciano on a beat at the moment, Kyza, YG, would love to do another tune with Jehst and i loved Skyzoo’s last mixtape so when i’ve figured out what i’m doing with my LP i’m gonna see if i can make that happen as well, there’s a bunch of people but they’re the ones at the moment!

You are internationally renowned as a serious record collector what makes you go into a store and still keep digging through the crates?
I definitely haven’t slowed down on the records at all, i’ve gone a bit crazy buying 45s at the moment and i’m finding a lot where i live in London now so it’s good. I think it’s the feeling of finding something new or something you’ve been looking for and at the moment with a lot of DJs selling their music in this digital age … it’s good for buying at the moment! So Oz dealers please shout me!

Name the most prized record in your collection and why?
One of the rarest records i have is “Gentle Rain” by Moody, it’s prized because i tried to find it for maybe 15 years, never got close, then out of the blue a dealer offered it to me for a reasonable price so it was a treat, but that LP is hard as hell to find. At one point though i had 2 copies because DJ Format found a copy with no sleeve in a market somewhere and he gave it to me before this other guy got me a super mint one. There’s others that i love but that one took me the longest to get!

What is the one elusive record you wish you owned and have you ever been close to owning it?
I really want the Placebo LP “Ball Of Eyes” … it’s started going for a LOT of money now but i’ve been trying for years to get one, i couldn’t afford the one i saw at Eutrecht record fair (500 Euros) but i’m in negotiations for a copy at the moment … it’s absolutely incredible.

What are the future plans for Mr. Thing?
I’m just getting a good stash of new beats together at the moment for my LP (no idea what it will be called or anything like that yet), and i’m also doing a Strange Breaks 3 for BBE, just done some cuts for Jehst, The Last Skeptik & Rewd Adams LP which is gonna be crazy and randomly Aquasky as well for a track they’ve done with The Ragga Twins, that was a tough one to do – 140bpm!! And still DJing a lot at home too with Yungun so i’m keeping busy!

What’s your definition of Grindin’?
I would say being on with what you’re doing and trying to do and being focused!

Check out Mr. Thing in Australia during September at the following venues:
Thu 11th August – The Espy, Melbourne
Fri 12th August – Transit Bar, Canberra
Sat 13th August – Tonic, Sydney
Thu 18th August – Bondi Beach Road Hotel, Sydney
Fri 19th August – The Manor, Perth

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