March 30, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 94  

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

DJ Discover masters the art of scratching

By Amanda Aitken
Gazette Writer

Gazette file photo
THESE TURNTABLES ARE JUST ASKING TO BE SCRATCHED. And DJ Discover is just the guy to do it — he’s been going “wikka wikka” since his early high school days.

“You want to hear something funny? A while back, Dr. Disc downtown had a sign up that said ‘Incubus tribute band looking for scratcher’. And all the DJs who went down there were like, “What the hell’s a scratcher?’”

Rob Gombas laughs at the absurdity of the story, which brings to mind the strange phenomenon of people who like to say “wikka wikka” while fingering an imaginary record in the air.

Thankfully, Gombas is not so elitist that he doesn’t have a sense of humour about this sort of thing. As Western’s only competitor in this year’s London Elimination for the infamous DMC Turntablism Competition, Gombas — or DJ Discover, as he is also known — is one of the few in London who would find the second part of the above joke funnier, and overlook the fact someone created an Incubus tribute band in the first place.

A first-year psychology student, Gombas has been involved in turntablism — the art of using records, two turntables and a mixer to manipulate and create new sounds — since his early high school days.
After a solid performance at last year’s DMC, Gombas stepped it up a notch for 2004, when he went up against 11 other London title hopefuls at London’s The Arts Project.

“You gotta start at least two months in advance,” Gombas stresses. “It’s kind of like an essay. You have your intro, you have your body and you have to do the conclusion. But every contestant’s thesis is ‘I’m the best,’ and that’s what you’re trying to prove.”

So just what is a turntablist? And more importantly, what does a turntablist do that a DJ doesn’t? “Turntablists are musicians,” Gombas says. “They can literally do anything a drummer can do. They can even do things that guitarists do. DJs just play records.”

Gombas can say things like this, because of his experience. He’s played such London mainstays as Barney’s, The Wave and DV8, paying his dues to as a club DJ before reverting to turntablism, his first love.

Appreciation of the art form is not all that widespread, though. “Especially in London. I’ve done things at high schools and people are like, ‘I don’t think he’s supposed to be doing that to the record’. The culture in London is so different from the culture in bigger cities like Toronto right now.”

However, not all is lost. The hip-hop community in London, is definitely growing, Gombas says.. “These days there are a lot of London artists featured on 106.9 [6X-FM], for example. Me and my buddies have produced some tracks that they air. And ever since the John Labatt Centre opened, we’ve been getting a lot of good stuff,” he explains.

Gombas’ set this past Saturday featured such body tricks as playing backwards (facing away from the turntables), using his chin to work the crossfader and beat-juggling Missy Elliot’s “Wake Up” with the decks turned off. For the turntablist, the challenge is to be relentlessly innovative.

“You gotta be original. The main focus the judges are looking for is entertainment value. If you can sway the crowd, the judges are going to like you, but you have to have solid skills, too.”

In addition to his turntablism ventures, Gombas says he plans to do some serious production work. In a few months, he and his partner, Crate Raider, will be releasing a compilation of hip-hop tracks, “both club stuff and lesser-known,” tweaking them with their own beats and featuring London talent on the choruses. The duo also has designs to begin a show called Milkcrate Bandits on CHRW 94.9 FM this summer.

Will Gombas be keeping his “DJ Discover” moniker for a long time to come? Probably. But he may be trying his luck in New York City or Toronto. “Toronto has something like DMC run by a local guy every weekend,” Gombas explains. Imagine the possibilities for skill-honing there.

The results of the 2004 London DMC Elimination, as well as other competition information, can be found at www.djhq.biz/DMC/.

 

 

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