Womad Q&A: DJ Yoda

By Lydia Jenkin

British turntablist DJ Yoda has been spinning records for more than 15 years, and has made a name for himself as a particularly eclectic and entertaining live act, with a full AV set, samples that include TV shows and films, and a cartoony style.

What can the audience expect from your set? Will it involve a lot of material from Chop Suey or from across your work?

I tend to play a bit of everything - especially with my AV shows. It can be parts from movies, TV shows, YouTube, cartoons, just anything that I think is cool. So although I mix some of my own material in, there'll also be hip-hop, reggae, drum 'n' bass, country and western, trap, moombahton, Brazilian folk, speed metal, whatever.

How would you describe your DJ philosophy or approach?

I guess I play all kinds of music but in the style of a hip-hop DJ. So I scratch, do quick mixing, but not necessarily always with rap music.

When did you first become interested in mixing other media elements into your set, like clips from film, television and Youtube?

Film has always been my other passion aside from music and when I first started making mixtapes, I would always include small audio samples from my favourite films - Star Wars or Scarface or whatever. So when the technology developed to allow me to mix the actual movies themselves, then it just seemed to make sense.

You collaborate with a wide range of people - Scroobius Pip, the Trans-Siberian March Band, Michael Winslow - how do those collaborations come about?

When it comes to making albums, I tend to make a list of all the vocalists that I think would sound right on the project, and then just approach them with the beat - whether it's someone I previously knew or not. Someone like Scroobius Pip, I've known him for years, so that was easier; Trans-Siberian are a 13-piece brass band who I've been collaborating with for live shows, so I wanted to find a way to make a track with them. Each track has a different story of how it came together.

You like to throw all sorts of musical genres into your work - 30s swing, country and western - what is the key to blending different musical forms together?

I think my background as a hip-hop DJ helps. Your average dance music DJ only really knows how to mix one tempo, but hip-hop DJs need the skills to be able to jump from tempo to tempo quickly.

You've been described as seminal and you're on plenty of top DJ lists. Who are your own musical heroes?

I'm inspired by all DJs I see - even the bad ones, because they inspire me not to be that bad! But I even made a list of my top 100 DJs recently, to challenge the annual DJ Magazine one, which I thought was pretty bad. [QBert and Biz Markie are at the top of Yoda's list, which includes everyone from Zane Lowe and DJ Shadow to Jazzy Jeff, A-Track, Mark Ronson, Norman Jay and Diplo.]

Who: DJ Yoda
Where and when: Performing at Womad in New Plymouth on March 14-16.
Essential listening: Chop Suey (2012), How To Cut & Paste series (2001-2009)

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