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Rob Swift As the technics spin When I decided to break out of my bedroom and expose myself to the DJ community I had one main goal: to give back to the art form.' Ever since the early 90's Rob Swift, né Robert Aguilar, is on a mission to accomplish that goal. 'I've never stopped pushing myself', Swift states in this interview, 'you have to stay sharp to have the longevity I've had'. Rob Swift has been featuring on albums from Akinyele to Fat Joe, he's been a member of one of hip-hop's most influential DJ collectives, the X-Ecutioners, he founded a new collective called Ill Insanity, performed with the likes of Bob James and Herbie Hancock, appeared on Jay Leno and Sesame Street, he's involved with DJ Scratch Academy NYC, he released solo albums ànd a DVD entitled 'As The Tables Turn', of which the follow-up 'As The Techics Spin' will be issued March 10...

Wassup Rob, on this DVD you examine what it took to create a unique style of DJ-ing, could you describe in a few words what exactly characterizes your style of DJ-ing?

I consider myself 'style-less'. My style is not to have a specific style and instead, embrace all of the influences around me from the past and the present. I incorporate Bruce Lee's passion, Miles Davis' coolness, James Brown's funk and a multitude of other things to help me gain the inspiration I need to create or develop myself as a DJ.

So at what point at your career did you think 'this is the way I want to expose myself to the crowd, this is the approach of DJ-ing I want to be known for, this is my style and no one else's'?

I would say from the time I started to prepare for my first battle which was between the months of July 1990 through March of 1991. That entire period was spent studying the most effective ways I can combine a bunch of different styles into one.

Are you as much prepared for a gig nowadays as you were for your first DMC-contest?

Hell yeah, I've never stopped pushing myself. You have to stay sharp to have the longevity I've had.

To what extent could you develop your own style within the X-Ecutioners collective, so was leaving the group a result of wanting to pursue your own style?

While I was a member of the X-Ecutioners I managed to to maintain my own style to the extent that when we performed, I expressed myself on the turntables in an honest way. I was definitely true to myself. But when it came down to recording and creating the music that would appear on albums like 'Built From Scratch' and 'Revolutions', there were times were I did feel stifled. Not so much by the group but by a record label that boxed us into a 'rock/rap' category. That definitely played a major role in me deciding to leave the X.

So would you ever release a solo album on a bigger label?

For me to ever release an album on a 'bigger label' I would have to have complete freedom. Releasing an album on a major has its advantages and I wouldn't just turn an opportunity like that down. For now, I'm happy putting stuff out myself though!

How did you get with Domination Rec?

I got hooked up with Domination through my mentor, Dr. Butcher. He mentioned to me they were a new independent hip-hop label and coincidentally they worked with a good friend of mine, M.F. Grimm! Domination Records is a dope underground company for hip-hop!

After the X-Ecutioners, you formed another collective called 'Ill Insanity', so opposite to the individual style, what is it that draws you towards collectives?

That's a really good question. Although I have 100% belief in my abilities as a solo artist, I also believe strength comes in numbers. Forming Ill Insanity was an attempt on my part to try and save an art form I felt was on the verge of dying. Sometimes you can't do it all yourself and I knew joining forces with Precision and Total Eclipse was a way to prevent that from happening. I feel we've definitely done our share to help save the 'Turntablism'.

These days, producers and emcees get a lot more shine than the DJ (it seems), it's like everybody wants to be a producer but not much people want to be a DJ anymore, whereas the DJ actually is the backbone of this culture, why do you think it has lost its popularity?

I would disagree with that. Although you're right, many people get involved in hip-hop with intentions of rapping or being a high profile producer, there are also people like Q-Tip, and Biz Markie who initially made there mark on the music as rappers/producers but now DJ. I don't think DJ-ing has lost it's popularity at all.

To what extent do you think that the disappearance of vinyl has contributed to that evolution?

Vinyl hasn't disappeared. I just got back from Brazil and found some vinyl gems. There are record spots here in NY where you'll find a lot of good stuff. I just think technology like Serato Scratch Live has made a huge impression on DJ-s to the point where laptops and MP3s are being viewed as important tools of the trade. In my opinion, it's all about being able to incorporate the new technology that companies like RANE put out with the old technology we've grown accustomed to use.

Serato or the actual records?

Money, in it of itself is not evil. It's the mindset behind the money that makes it evil. I incorporate all types of technology with what I do on stage and in the studio. I incorporate Serato and records in pretty much all I do because technology always opens the door for more experimentation. It keeps things interesting for me whether it's in the studio or live on stage.

And will Serato further decline the vinyl record sales?

Serato isn't the decline of record sales, people are. I personally still buy records.

Grandmaster Flash is making his comeback..how do you look forward to that and do you expect a renewed interest in the origins of DJ-ing?

Any time you have the pioneers of the culture continuing to contribute to hip-hop, the culture will continue to have strong roots! I do feel like there's already been a renewed interest in the origins of DJ-ing. You have people wanting to take classes in DJing at schools like Scratch DJ Academy and that's a good sign!

What's your fav Bomb Squad track/record?

Wow, there's so many. 'Rebel Without A Pause', 'Welcome to the Terrodome', 'Night of the Living Baseheads', 'Brother's Gonna Work it Out', I can go on and on for days.

'Soulful Fruit': how do you look back on that release and how did the deal with Stones Throw come together?

'Soulful Fruit' helped establish my love of Jazz music. Initially, I released 'Soulful Fruit' as a mixtape. I would sell it at local record shops in NYC and at shows. I stepped to Peanut Butter Wolf and asked him if he would be interested in distributing 'Soulful Fruit' worldwide since his label Stones Throw was on the rise at the time. He said 'yes' and the rest is history.

You've worked with greats such as Bob James and Herbie Hancock, first of all what insights did those performances give you, and what other legends do you wanna work with in the future?

Working with the likes of Bob James and Herbie Hancock has helped learn more about approaching music in a way that everyone can enjoy. Their music spans all ages, races and creeds. That should be the goal of all artists. It doesn't matter what kind of music you make. In the future, I would like to work with people like Rick Rubin, Pete Rock, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chuck D... to name a few.

In the DVD, you talk about the Missy Elliott piece, A-Trak was doing that too when he toured with the X-Ecutionerz, so he borrowed that idea from you?

A -Trak's Missy Elliot routine was completely different than mine. There's no comparison. It's common for multiple DJ's to create routines from the same record. The important thing is not to sound the same.

How do you remember working with Fat Joe on the 'Represent' record and Akinyele on the 'Vagina Diner', that's the records we first saw your name on…how did those connections came together?

I met Akinyele through my mentor Dr. Butcher. This was back in 1992. Akinyele just signed a record deal with Interscope Records. He didn't have a DJ and was looking for someone that would compliment his lyrical intensity in the studio and on stage. He came out to see me compete in the 1992 East Coast DMC battle and I actually won so I guess I made a good impression on him. By the end of the night he asked me to be his DJ and I accepted. Working with Ak was great for my career. I grew a lot as a DJ and businessman through my experiences with Ak. I met Fat Joe through an old manager of the X-Ecutioners, Peter Kang. At the time, Peter was an A&R at Relativity Records which was the label Fat Joe had signed with for his first album. Being I made a name for myself for the scratches on Akinyele's album Peter thought I would be a perfect fit for Fat Joe's album.

No future collabos coming up with Akinyele, what's he up to nowadays?

Nothing in the works at this point. I've been just focusing on my next solo album which I'm currently working on. I haven't spoke to Ak in a while. But I'm sure he's chillin whatever he's doing!

You still collaborate with Dr Butcher?

I haven't worked with Drew Daddy aka Dr. Butcher in a while. He moved from NY and currently resides in Dallas, Texas. We speak over the phone all the time though. Dr. Butcher helped me with albums like 'The Ablist', 'Sound Event' and 'Built From Scratch'. He's played a major role with my development as an artist. I owe I a lot to him!

What was the first rap record you had/bought?

The first rap record I ever bought was 'Roxanne Roxanne' by UTFO. (laughs)

What was the last rap album(s) you uploaded unto your iPod?

'Return of the Mac' by Prodigy.

What Latin music records are you listening to at the moment?

Actually, I haven't been listening to much Latin music. I've been listening to more classical. Beethoven, Mozart...etc.

What's your advice for someone who wants to become a DJ?

Be well-rounded. Study all types of music. Be original. Never limit yourself. Think outside of the box. If you do these things you will not only stand out, you'll help the art grow!

What's next for Rob Swift?

Look out for an album within the next 12 months!!! I'm currently working on it now.

Shout-outs?

To all of those that have supported me throughout the years. Make sure you cop my new project 'As the Technics Spin'. To view excerpts of the DVD, just log on to www.djrobswift.com.

Thanks a lot Rob!

Thank you!!

 

POSTED 02|01|2009
conducted by cpf

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