DJ Yoda on old school selections and career-defining collaborations

DJ Yoda is a household name when it comes to turntablism, scooping awards, headlining festivals and working with the likes of Dr Dre, Banksy and Mark Ronson to name a few. It’s with hip-hop that the London-born DJ first found his way in to music in the 1990s, and he’s now bringing one of his comprehensive ‘old school hip hop sets’ to Band on the Wall this month, a venue where he has made many memories and that’s where we start our interview with Yoda.

It was just over three years ago that you led an artistic residency at Band on the Wall, creating work for the Breakfast of Champions LP alongside some talented MCs and young creatives. Do you have fond memories of the residency and have you had the opportunity to work with any of the individuals involved since?

It was such an incredible experience. We all met for the first time at Band on the Wall – one year later we had an album, three videos and had done a full UK tour! The most memorable and amazing parts of my career have always been collaborations, and that one was particularly special. Yes, I’m in touch with everyone from the band. In fact two of them met through the band, moved in together and have now had a baby girl! So I’m pretty proud of that!

When you’re assembling an old school set, do you have a cut-off year or any specific musical criteria for your selections, or does anything go providing it has a certain sound and style?

Definitely the latter. I mean anything goes is pretty much a rule for me when DJ’ing anyway. But for something like this event – if I’m calling it an Old School Hip-Hop set, then I’ll try my hardest to stick to 80s and 90s rap. I probably won’t be very good at sticking to that though, hahaha.

What are your live kit preferences at present? Are you using Serato or any similar software and incorporating any fun bits of tech, or does an old school set require old school wax and consoles?

I use Serato. And for something like this it’s perfect – it means I just have two turntables and a mixer in front of me – which is the way I feel most comfortable DJing. I’m not against new technology – in fact I’m really for it – but that basic skill of the ability two rock two turntables underpins all of it for me.

You spent time in Soweto earlier this month, what were you up to while you were there and what were the biggest take aways from your trip?

It was something I will remember for the rest of my life. Not unlike the Breakfast of Champions/Band on the Wall experience. I spent a week in Soweto recording local artists – many of whom weren’t even professional musicians, and yet were more talented than plenty of people I see headlining main stages at festivals! It was a genuinely humbling and inspiring week, and I’m currently preparing a LOT of music to release as a result of it.

Is travelling and visiting countries like South Africa one of your favourite aspects of your career? Is there anyway DJ’ing has yet to take you that you’re desperate to visit?

Yes absolutely. The ability to travel (and eat!) in so many global places is my favourite thing about my work. I feel so lucky to get to do that, and I really appreciate it. There are still a few major gaps in my travels – notably Russia and Mexico!

Collaboration being of big importance to your work, have you any collaborative projects in the pipeline, and looking ahead to 2018, what’s already in the diary?

Yep, well the Soweto project is a big part of that. But separate to that, I’m finishing up a new artist album – which like all of my albums is a great big melting pot of collaborations, and there’s some really interesting stuff in there, where I’ve gone in a bit of a new direction. Not giving anything away at this point – but keep your eyes peeled for it!

Pick up your advance tickets for DJ Yoda’s old school hip hop set on 24th November here.

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Friday | 24.11.17

DJ Yoda (Old School Hip Hop Set) + Joey B (Swing Ting)

Band on the Wall, Manchester