Charles Tuason saw a DMC event when he was younger and it introduced him to the musical movement that is DJing. Also a DJ he now works for the DMC, an organization that stages DJ battles, while promoting the beautiful music created on turntables. Charles spoke with me about the skills necessary to be an events coordinator, his favorite battle routines throughout the years, and what the future holds for himself and the DMC.
*This interview contains explicit language.*
CCB: When did you realize you wanted to work with DJs?
CT: Well, I’m a DJ myself and have been DJing for over fifteen years. When I was younger I went to a DMC competition. I think it was ’92 or ’93 where I saw Qbert and the Rock Steady DJs. I saw their routine and thought this is the way for me to go.
CCB: Why work in this field, specifically with DMC?
CT: I always wanted to battle. I tried it but I wasn’t really that good. But I wanted to be on the scene. I did some research and a friend hooked it up and I became an intern here. That’s how I started working at this company.
CCB: Once you were an intern you were able to get your foot in the door.
CT: My foot in the door and learn the ropes. Things progressed, good things happened. Some people left and I moved up and I’m here.
CCB: How long have you been with DMC?
CT: Since ’99.
CCB: What is a typical day on the job as an events coordinator?
CT: First of all you DJ the night before, so you are kind of groggy at 9 o’clock in the morning. You come in and hustle all day like every other job. I try to look for good promoters to take our events for the year, screen them out, and see if they are able to handle the DMC criteria. Basically I handle all the DJs. So DJs call here asking for information. I’ll also book some flights for the DJs, make sure the equipment is right, I talk to the people from Technics. I’m an all around guy.
CCB: You’ve been there since ’99 and moved up in the ranks. What have you learned along the way?
CT: I learned a whole lot. I learned a lot of marketing skills. I learned a lot about people in general, how sometimes people can become very shady when it comes to money. I learned a lot about promoters. Some promoters don’t care about the DJ industry, they care about money, which is normal but some people claim they know what’s going on but they really don’t. I learned a lot from some DJs. For me I noticed that the people that talk the most shit on the web sites, the message boards, are the ones that lose. I learned that you can’t get what you want but if you keep hustling, keep banging on doors someone will open your door and you can make a good night.
CCB: Is there a typical day when the competitions are happening? They are year round?
CT: They start from April all the way up to July, early August.
CCB: So, you are doing the regular stuff at the office and then setting up the competitions as well?
CT: My calendar goes like this. After the World Finals which are September 26th we work from September all the way up to November to look for promoters to see what they are doing for next year’s event. Then we prepare. We get the dates pretty much locked down, the US Finals locked down as early as we can. We then take those dates and write our proposals for the bigger sponsors. When we get those down our tour is ready to go. That is the calendar in a nutshell.
CCB: Does DMC stand for Dance Music Community?
CT: It used to be called Disco Mix Club and then it became Dance Music Community. But we said no one really listens to dance. It’s still Dance Music Community but we started to bring back the retro name so we just call it Disco Mix Club because a lot of people know it like that. A lot of people call it DJ Music Community but we like Disco Mix Club.
CCB: That actually started overseas?
CT: It started by our founder Tony Prince, the president of DMC, around 1984. It was like a record label. They made records for the dance DJs and one day said I want to have a showcase. It was all house music and dance music. Then DJ Cheese came in ’86 and started scratching and that just changed the whole world.
CCB: What is the main purpose of the DMC? Is it to help DJs get recognition?
CT: The main goal of the DMC is not to get DJs recognition but to show the world out there that it’s not just about playing two records. We’re trying to show that we can make music. The battle scene as you saw in the US Finals, they took two records and wanted to make their own beats, their own sounds, and just manipulate the records into their own words.
CCB: So that the turntables are like another musical instrument, another type of music.
CT: That’s why we have the other battles like the team routine battles and the supremacy battles. The team routine is four DJs, but it’s a band.
CCB: Is it always four DJs?
CT: It can be two to four DJs.
CCB: What kind of role does the DMC play in teaching younger generations about the history of DJing?
CT: Thank God for technology today we have the DVDs where we can slow-mo and change the angles. These little kids can mimic their idols, the Roc Raidas, the Qberts, and then make it their own. It’s great. It molds all the younger generations to practice. One day they can be the best DJ in the world.
CCB: Why do you think the Americans haven’t won the team competition in recent years at the DMC World championships? They seem to have highly skilled individual DJs.
CT: Because they aren’t focusing on music. The team routine like I said earlier is about making music. If you saw Birdy Nam Nam (French World Champion DJs), all music. When DJs from the United States come on they have the mentality of a battle where I have to dis you and we have to make beat juggles. I keep telling them that it’s not about that in the team routine, it’s about making music. They haven’t understood that yet.
CCB: So, it’s a different mentality.
CT: The last team that actually won the team routine was The Allies back in 2001 if I’m not mistaken and that’s a long time ago already. I always tell myself I’m not going to stop until we win the team or supremacy competition.
CCB: Can you talk about the most memorable performances you’ve witnessed over the years?
CT: The first time I saw DJ Craze in ’99 in the World Finals routine, that’s the most amazing set I’ve heard in my life to this date. Another thing that really amazed me was Roc Raida back in ’94.
CCB: What separates those performances from other ones?
CT: To me it’s the creativity and the beat juggles. That was what really amazed me with Craze. He was doing routines behind his back, but it wasn’t supposed to be funky, it wasn’t supposed to be technical. But it looked good on camera and it looked nice to the audience and that’s what he was trying to do. He was trying to fool the audience as well as the judges. Roc Raida, his speed. To see his body tricks going that fast you can’t believe it. Then of course the Invisibl Skratch Picklz routine or the Rock Steady DJs back in the day. That routine started everything for me. That’s what really sticks out in my mind.
CCB: Have you ever heard anything quite like Birdy Nam Nam? It sounds like they are a live band with instruments, creating this amazing sound with turntables.
CT: No. (Laughs) Maybe the closest thing was the Invisibl Skratch Piklz . They’re on some level I wish we could be on. I know we can do it. If you heard my speech at the US Finals, that’s the reason they’re there. I want people to see what’s going on, on the other side of the world. That it’s not all about dissing or beat juggles, it’s about making music as well. They are World Champions so I brought them down. They are one of the best teams I’ve heard in my life.
CCB: Is DJing received differently in other countries? It appears to have a universal appeal.
CT: Of course, yes. Depending on what type of DJ you are talking about. Turntablism is big in Japan, big here, big in Europe or countries like India or Australia. In the smaller countries they perceive DJing as mixing records. Turntablism is totally different than mixing records. When you talk about DJing in clubs, it’s big all over the world.
CCB: As far as turntablism.
CT: We’re still in the growing stages of it. We haven’t reached our peak yet. We’re still learning new things as you can see with Birdy Nam Nam, with Qbert. His scratching from ’92 to all the way now is totally different. We are trying to find other things to do and other sounds to use to make some crazy beats.
CCB: Where do you see DJing going in the future?
CT: Now with the new technology, the Pioneer CD DJ or the Final Scratch or the Serato it’s going to take it to a different level. It’s not I need to find this vinyl anymore or I need to look for this sound. Now you can just get the sound instantly and use it on any record. Hopefully one day we’ll have that kind of battle where now sky is the limit. It’s all about how creative you can get.
CCB: How do you feel about vinyl versus CDs?
CT: I personally still use vinyl and I use the Serato. It’s basically vinyl. I haven’t seen anything different about it except that you are downloading the song or copying it from a CD and putting in vinyl. Some people like the feel of vinyl. I personally do. I have a CD DJ, a Pioneer one, and it’s weird to me because I’m not used to looking at a moving dial. Not even a dial, it’s a moving light. I need the platter to spin, I need to touch the record. I embrace technology. I love it. Some DJs say it’s cheating. Some of them say vinyl will die. It’s not going to die. It’s up to you if you want to support it. If you want to keep buying records and I know a lot of people who are still buying old school records for beats of course, that won’t die. I was just hanging out with Jazzy Jay a couple of days ago in San Francisco and he was telling me that he has a vinyl collection the size of like four houses. (Laughs) And he’s using Serato. He copies his vinyl into Serato. And it’s good for him because he doesn’t have to bring his gems and risk them getting lost on an airplane or getting scratched.
CCB: How does DMC Worldwide differ from the US chapter?
CT: Worldwide basically handle the franchises. They handle all the smaller countries, Europe, and Asia. The US chapter is owned by them. We’re not a franchise, were a part of the U.K. branch.
CCB: How did you learn about being an events coordinator?
CT: The person who had this job before me was Christie Z-Pabon from VINYL KOMBAT. I was so jealous because she would fly all over the United States and watch these DJs and come back with these crazy promos and pictures. Oh and I met Qbert yesterday or I was hanging out with Roc Raida in the hotel room and we were drinking. Stuff like that and I was like this is what I want to do. I would just watch her while I was folding clothes or getting coffee or whatever I was doing. I just followed it and followed it. When she left the company I wanted to move up and I said I think I can do this job. They gave me the basic training of it and let me go. Knock on wood it turned out pretty well.
CCB: What qualities make a great events coordinator?
CT: You need patience, a lot of patience. You need to know how to handle bullshit. You have to understand if people are bullshitting you and what’s going on. You have to be able to express your mind. If you want this set up like this you have to say how you want it. You also have to put your mentality down as a DJ. Not just a promoter because you have to think of both worlds. If you have to have a regular table that doesn’t wobble, some people don’t care about that. To these DJs a wobbly table means a bad routine. You have to make sure that shit happens. You need a lot of patience, soda, and coffee. (Laughs)
CCB: You have to be really organized.
CT: If something goes wrong you have to pinpoint what exactly went wrong and then you have to fight that or change that problem.
CCB: Do you have any advice for people interested in working for the DMC or becoming an events coordinator?
CT: For the DMC you have to know your history. I always bring out trivia questions from 1989, 1990. People have no idea who DJ Cheese is or have no clue when Cash Money won DMC, but they know what year IE.Merg broke the record or how many years Craze won the World Championships. If you are going to be in DMC you have to know everything about DMC in and out. You have to know what promoter to pick and what cities are going to be really marketable. That’s my advice for people who’d like to work here. Honestly at DMC it’s not all about seriousness, we want to have fun. We do our work, but we want to have fun as well. We want to branch out to do more than just battles. We want to showcase DJs. We want to have battle records. Those are in the works and hopefully we’ll come out. I guess you’ll be the first to know that. There will be DMC parties and battle records from DMC. We want DMC to be a household name to the DJs.
CCB: Anything else they need to know to become an events coordinator?
CT: Be organized. Focus. If you are really serious about what you are doing you can’t slack and be a bullshit artist. “Yeah, I know what I am doing.” And go in there and you’re fucked. Be very organized and cover your ass as much as you can.
CCB: How did it feel the first time you organized an event?
CT: I was scared shitless, dude. When I first went on in 2001 I sort of had a general idea of what was going on, but I really learned that you have to have full control of your show. If you have somebody else taking over like the promoter or the DJs you are going to get lost. Then all of a sudden there are 150 people on the stage area and you don’t know what’s going on. You have to delegate what people have to do. It’s like a machine. If one part is broken the whole show is going to take forever and it’s all going to fall apart.
CCB: You said when you first started DJing there were people like Qbert and Rock Steady that influenced you. Were there any others?
CT: From the 5th Platoon Roli Rho was a big influence to me in NYC in the mixing category. He ruled the Filipino party scene in ’92 or ’93. I was just up and coming and didn’t really know what was going on. I would go to his parties and I would see him do these crazy routines. He really influenced me to practice and practice and practice until your eyes fall out. But it’s good because practice makes perfect. In the battle scene other than Qbert it’s always going to be Roc Raida and Craze.
CCB: Is there a big influx of Filipino DJs? It seems that way.
CT: There’s a ton. (Laughs)
CCB: Do you know why that is?
CT: I heard a comment from somebody, I forget who, in a movie or an interview. Where he said Filipinos aren’t just DJs we also race cars. (Laughs) There’s no reason why we’re all DJs it just happened to be that way.
CCB: Do you think DJs are considered musicians more now so than in the past?
CT: Definitely now since the birth of Qbert’s teams and Birdy Nam Nam. People are seeing if you close your eyes you can hear like an orchestra. When you open them it’s just a bunch of turntables. It’s dope.
CCB: What is the most difficult part of your job?
CT: The most difficult part of my job is finding the right promoters to take the DMC job. I want people to come in and see what the DMC is about. To bring in people who want to know about the DMC.
CCB: What has been the most rewarding thing about the job so far?
CT: Meeting a lot of people across the Unites States who love this art. I’ve seen a lot of people, like the Supremacy Champion I-Dee who just won in San Francisco. I saw him when he first started out and he got demolished. Three, four years later he’s a champion. Kico, the US Champion, last year got jerked in Texas because of bad judging. He said to a lot of people that he was thinking of retiring and that he didn’t want to battle anymore because of bad judgment. Look he’s the US Champion the year after. That’s big.
CCB: People would be surprised to learn what about your job?
CT: They are surprised that I’m a DJ. They probably think that I am some suit guy who doesn’t know anything about turntablism and just knows how to throw a battle. I like to tell people that I know what’s going on. I know how to mix records. I know how to scratch.
CCB: What surprised you the most about DMC, event coordinating?
CT: How relaxed we are. We have this rule that we can’t go crazy or lose our minds in here. No matter how stressful it is we have to keep a cool head and relax and we’ll always find a solution for things.
CCB: What do you have coming up? The World Championships are at the end of the month?
CT: The 25th, 26th of September. Defending the World Championship is IE.Merg. I have a lot of confidence that we will take back the world again.
(Since this interview took place IE.Merg won the World Championships again.)
CCB: What would you like to do with your career from this point on?
CT: When I’m done with this luckily I have enough contacts where I can start moving to other things. Not just being a battle events coordinator. I’d like to work for bigger companies like Technics or Rane or Shure and do their events. Not just battles, real big events. I also want people to know I make beats as well. Hopefully people will use my beats to make battle records or whatever.
Check out what Charles and the DMC are up to nationwide and worldwide: dmcworld.com