Skratch Bastid is, perhaps, the quintessential Canadian DJ. Since reaching international fame as a must-see act, you’ll find this down-to-earth redhead from Nova Scotia playing sets in Toronto, Sydney, Sao Paulo and everywhere in between. With so much touring on his plate and so many sights seen, I wanted to hear about the fast-paced lifestyle and the experiences that come along with being Skratch Bastid.
Following a hectic week of touring for Frosh events in Sudbury, Halifax, Kingston, Montreal and London, we sat down together.
BALLnROLL: Through your job, you get to experience international night life at its best. What’s Skratch Bastid’s version of the ultimate or most unique night life experience?
Skratch Bastid: For me, traveling is one of the greatest gifts that this job has given me. I like to take a little something from everywhere I go. In a way, it’s kind of hard to pick one because I like everything – little pieces from different places that I’ve seen, cultures that I’ve experienced and people that I’ve met – but, without shaming the other experiences, I’d have to say that bringing a little piece of Canada and my style to places like Taipei and Seoul is a really unique experience.
In particular, in Vietnam I played inside a container. They presented me as though I was shipped in from Canada [Laughs] . It was this crazy variety show with b-boys, motorcycles, screamo bands, emo bands and TRON dancers and then I was the secret surprise. I was in this box and they suddenly just opened it and lit pyro and I started playing.
It was quite an interesting way to open a show and I don’t know if it’ll ever be topped. I’ve never really been a surprise like that before [Laughs] .
When you’re traveling – sometimes with last minute notice – you need to pack smart. Aside from your equipment, what are your travel essentials when touring?
Granola bars, because I get cranky when I’m hungry and you can’t always find time to eat [Laughs] .
A good set of headphones.
Ginger chews. I really like ginger chews… [Laughs] .
A pair of athletic shoes, in case a game of basketball pops off.
Two pairs of sunglasses, because I always lose one.
So, you’re a basketball enthusiast. Despite your hectic touring schedule, have you had a chance to play any games this summer?
For a month or two there, I had a good run going with Shad – my good buddy [and fellow musician] – on Thursdays.
Everywhere I go, I always try to let my friends know that I’m looking for a game and if it’s possible, we play. I was fortunate enough to play in both Vancouver and Toronto throughout the summer this year.
Tell me a bit about playing for Juno Hoops. Is it true that you played with Donovan Bailey?
When the Junos were in Toronto, I played for the team. Donovan was injured at the time, so he became the de facto coach. I was humbled by his respect for me as a player. Unfortunately, my free throws were a little off because I hadn’t played an official basketball game in about a year and a half [Laughs] .
So, I hadn’t shot a free throw in very long, but my drives to the hoop were strong and we were victorious by 10 points.
It was also a lot of fun to play with players from the Ryerson University team – both men and women. Also, [it was fun] to see the basketball games of some R&B rappers like Ray Robinson, who has a great game.
Your sets are known for mixing the old with the new. It’s a lazy Tuesday night. Are you listening to your favourite old school record or are you looking for new music?
As a DJ, I’m always looking for music on the internet. I definitely wouldn’t call it a nine-to-five, but I’m kind of always looking for new stuff online. So, if it’s an easy night at home, I try to get off the internet.
A great thing about records is you don’t need to be online to listen to them. So, I usually pick out older records or records to listen to around the house, just to get away from the connectivity of everything. I might enjoy a record while I’m with my lady or, you know, cleaning the house. It’s nice to space out and not have anyone try to contact you while you’re listening to music because music, for me, is a really important part of my life and that can be an emotional thing. With records, I can connect in a more physical, analog way.
Any favourites for winding down?
I’m a big Al Green fan. His album, I’m Still in Love with You, is a great album. Also, anything from Bill Withers’ collection.
[I’m a fan of] jazz records – anything from a couple of guys called the Mizell Brothers. They’re producers. They actually wrote “ABC” by Jackson Five but then went on to make a bunch of cool jazz records. Something about the sound of their records makes me feel good on a Sunday night.
You have an incredible record collection. What’s some advice for a rookie record collector who doesn’t know where to start looking?
With the change in the music business and the big box stores closing, it seems like a lot of the smaller stores have survived and vinyl sales have risen over the last few years. Vinyl has become a purchasable item. If you like [an album], you like to have something physical and a CD doesn’t really hold up to a nice, twelve inch record. A lot of these mom and pop stores have great selections of new and old and some great re-issues, too.
Walk into your local record store and tell the clerk some of your interests. See where you can go from there. Start with the new [records] because you might get some good, clean stuff. But, also go for the dollar bin and see what they’ve got. You can take risks with the dollar bin, because at a dollar of fifty cents a record, you can take that risk and maybe discover some new music or learn what you don’t like.