It was the night of a thousand stars. As Cypress Hill, M.O.P. and the hierarchy of the Hip Hop world did their thang around Boomtown’s main stages – Technics and DMC came back with a BANG with their UK Final in the Pirate Stage arena. 8 DJs from across the British isles all seeking glory and that ticket to the World Finals in November. And who should pop up and snatch victory from Mike L and Revert at the winning post? A DJ that DMC knows and love from back in the day. A DJ who has had the title in his grasp on more than one occasion. A DJ who loves the turntablist game with all his Welsh heart….
Photography by Rob Farrell
Miaer – a huge welcome to DMCWORLD. How does it feel waking up crowned DMC UK Champion 2023?
Hi Dan! Firstly I’d like to say thanks to DMC and Technics for coming back with an incredible event at the amazing Boomtown Festival. ‘Surreal’ – is the first thought I had this morning, although I haven’t actually slept yet!
Ha! So, born and bred in Wales…?
Yes Dan, I was brought up in Cwmbran in Wales and formed bonds in breakin’ and DJ crews as soon as Hip Hop hit our towns and cities.
At what age did music first start to seep into your veins, what is your earliest memory of music?
My dad was a tenor vocalist – think Mario Lanza, Pavaroti. Not the standard style that would push someone into turntablism, but it shaped my musical tastes and surrounded me with many genres… before Hip Hop ever existed
How did DJing enter this equation?
The DJ Cheese ’86 World Final performance on tape. That was it! I was a breaker and graff artist before that, but the sounds and energy in that mix was the catalyst. My Dad was a miner and was made redundant in the 80’s, and bought me my first set of Technics 1210’s. I used to pay him back £15 a month. Took for ever to pay off but was worth the sacrifice and love to my Dad for looking out for me, recognising my passion.
The whole turntablist / scratching side of DJing is still very niche – 40 years on! What was it about this side of DJing you fell in love in, how important was DMC in this journey?
DMC gave us a platform to be creative, something everyone could do if committed enough. Once you got your set up it was all down to you and how much you wanted it. The yearly countdown to the DMC heats was instrumental in helping us as young kids to focus and work hard to attain a skill that, though niche, was highly regarded. Pretty powerful feelings as a young adult growing up.
So a lot of people don’t know that you have been here before – you entered under your alter ego DJ Excel. What is the DMC history of Excel?
I’ve had more name changes that Jason Borne recently, but Excel was born in 1987 at the DMC Swansea heat at Martha’s Vineyard. Our first outing into competition and though mostly a mixing competition at the time, we learned from more advanced DJs at the time. Our first taste of battling and it hooked us. I went on to compete in 5 UK finals, 2nd placing 3 times, 1998 before my final resting place… or so I thought.
Why the name change for this year’s comp?
My actual DJ name is Bad Meaning Good, and it’s also my company name. I teach Hip Hop Culutre Classes along with breaker, Tommy Boost, to primary and High Schools in South Wales, so I needed something consistent…
Huw Wakman was a smoke screen to hide my true identity from people in the know. I like being an underdog and that I was no threat. Urban tactics! LOL. I’ll be Huw for the duration of this championship, but Huw knows, I may get itchy feet again! Change is good right?
Mr Switch clocked your style in the Final immediately, he knew he had seen your artistry before. What was it like performing in front of 5 World Champions last night – Craze, Cutmaster Swift, Switch, JFB, Mr Switch and Prime Cuts – daunting?
I was one of the original turntablists who was afforded some recognition for originality and inventiveness with my sets. Known as a showman, I enjoyed the theatrical moments and ran with it. I’ve never been the best scratcher or juggler, but I can read a crowd and that became my style I guess.
I’ve actually battled Joel (Prime Cuts) in the 1998 DMC UK Final so it was fitting that he was a judge – I added a little flashback from that years set to jog peoples memories if they were there. Also, I was part of the Enforcers with Swifty, DJ Pogo and Billy for a brief period. Was an honour to be invited to join them, as growing up they were idols of mine.
Now be honest with me – you only decided to enter at the last minute. Why?
I didn’t have turntables or a mixer. I’ve been teaching on A RANE One controller with 7” platers and didn’t need my 12’s, so I let them go (painful). I got to spend some time on my mates decks, Jamie Winchester, also an amazing DMC contender from the 90, and did a small set that I though could be liked. I was just dipping my toe in the water and thankful, that I made the Final.
How long did it take you to perfect your winning set?
I only had three weeks from the time I was given the go ahead that I was in the Final. So I bought a mixer (Pioneer S7), borrowed decks and bought needles. I had a week to come up with ideas, a week to practice and refine, and about four days on lock-down to perfect it the best I could. I think the boot-camp style worked as previously, when practice is spread over a year, it’s easy to procrastinate. This time, I didn’t have that luxury.
How did you think your set went?
I’m on the plane to the World Finals in the U.S. so my devious plan worked! In all seriousness I think I struck a chord with the crowd and DJs alike. A flashback to a more relaxed, fun period in DMC battles, where tricks, disses and ideas were more risky… and relatable.
Did you think you had won? Who did you think may have beaten you?
I never watch the other competitors during a comp, never have. I just do my thing and leave it the experts to make the right choice. Unfortunately everyone this year was straight blasting it, so it was a close call.
People outside of the scene don’t realize what a close knit family the turntable world is. It’s not like the house and techno club scene -there is a really bond between you brothers and sisters. Why is that?
I’m a fan and lover of house genres myself, but I do find that the stress levels can get high when becoming a turntablist over the more traditional beat matching style sets. I think it’s a mutual respect of knowing that you’ve all been to the same place to get to such a high level, and no matter the outcome you had/have to respect the grind and sacrifice made by your fellow scratch heads.
So, the World Final is the United States of America is next on your agenda in November. Thoughts on this challenge? We hear Japan and the U.S. really fancy their chances this year…
I want to wallow for a few weeks before I talk battle plans with our talented rivals across the ocean. As I showed last night, I do it differently. Old skills versus new breed. May the best Welshman win!
And finally – please give a shout out to Technics and DMC… the two partners who make dreams come true…
Technics are the holy grail – even now with the multitudes of equipment available. I just worked my 1210s hard this UK Final and they never failed me once.
And where would turntablists be without the incredible opportunities afforded to us by DMC. Our very own street fighter, mortal combat and occasional Pacman. I’m glad to say that DMC are back with a BOOM! Well one Dan and your new team. Total respect.
And finally thanks to all the incredible DJs and judges that took part in the 2023 DMC UK Championships.
It was a night I will never forget.
The Technics DMC World Finals will take place on Friday November 3rd… full announcement this week!