We had a chance to talk to two time DMC world champion DJ and turntablist, math-addict, and sandwich enthusiast Shiftee. Samuel Morris "Shiftee" Zornow gives us insight on how he got his start, one of his most memorable gigs, and how he jumped on the FaceBook bandwagon during his days at Harvard University. Read more to learn more about the one and only Shiftee!LOLLI:
So... how (and when) did you first get into turntablism? SHIFTEE: I was fascinated by hip hop. Like any other sensible young Jewish teenager, and I spent my Bar Mitzvah money on my first set of turntables. When I copped the decks, I also bought a DMC Champions and tape. After I saw that and turntablism for the first time, I was on a mission.LOLLI:
And how did you get the name?SHIFTEE: I picked it for myself at the age of 13. I'm very shiftee. LOLLI:
You have placed multiple times since 2003 in the DMC Championship, which is one of the world's largest DJ competitions. It has been held annually since 1985 and hosted by Disco Mix Club. In 2003 you were the regional NYC champion, in 2007 you were the USA and world DJ supremacy champion, in 2009 you were the east coast champion, USA champion, and WORLD champion. (Did I miss anything?) Can you tell us a little bit about the progression of those achievements? What was it like to place regionally for the first time? What was it like when you took home the world championships?SHIFTEE: DMC used to be the preeminent focus for my whole life. I'd work all year hours upon hours just to do well and progress through the competition. Every milestone was very rewarding: my first regional final, regional title, national title, and eventually world title. Really I had been working and hoping for the DMC World Title for 10 years, so to get it after many ups and downs was quite surreal. I still don't believe it! LOLLI:
How do you prepare yourself for a competition? SHIFTEE: Practice forever. Practice even when it's not fun. Pretty much try to be like Rocky after he loses the first bout and then seeks redemption. LOLLI:
How have you changed since your first DMC championship to now?SHIFTEE: Now I'm way more focused on more general DJ sets & music production. Turntablism is very specialized and the battles don't translate well to a party crowd. I spend most of my time figuring out ways to incorporate my skills into dance sets and new technology. Also I used to rock throwback jerseys and sideways caps. Now I wear sweaters and things like that. LOLLI:
Was there ever a time when your family and friends were resistant to you pursuing DJ'ing as a career?SHIFTEE: Not really, both have been very supportive throughout. LOLLI:
Aside from your achievements at the DMC championships, what has been one of your most memorable moments from a gig, touring, etc.? (For the best reason... or worst reason!)SHIFTEE: I played a festival in Cave-In-Rock Illinois (a real place) where my hotel was 4 hours from the festival grounds. The place was so remote, my driver got lost and we ran out of gas really in the middle of nowhere. No cell phone service, no lights, nothing and he's totally freaking out, not keeping it cool at all. Luckily some festival goers eventually drove by us, and got me to the spot, but by then it was 2 hours after my intended start time. When we arrived, the stage had been broken down and there was no music. It was the most fed up at a gig I've ever been.
BUT - The promoters ended up rebuilding a stage for me, reassembling the crowd, and I played for 3 hours and it ended up being one of my most fun sets of the year. Lemons into Lemonade. LOLLI:
You are living a life that a lot of DJ's starting out can only dream of. What would be your best piece of advice you could give to someone starting out, or still establishing themselves?SHIFTEE: Getting good isn't easy. If it was, everyone would be good. Be patient and be willing to put in years of hard, tedious work. That means working on your craft when it sucks and it's the last thing you want to do and your friends are out partying and having lots of fun. Be the tortoise, not the hair. LOLLI:
I was reading your bio and got a good laugh at the many references to sandwiches. Can you elaborate on this a bit? Do you have a favorite sandwich?SHIFTEE: Sophie's Choice. I can't pick a favorite sandwich, because it's like choosing between my children. I love them all so tenderly. I'm a big fan though of the Reuben Combo at Katz's Deli in NYC. LOLLI:
When you're not on the road, or prepping for a competition, what are you doing? How do you like to spend your "free" time?SHIFTEE: Either working on my own music or staying up to date with new tracks. For free free time, I like watching the NBA and generally spending time with my girlfriend. LOLLI:
Do you have a bucket list?
Yes, but it only has 1 item: Make bucket list. LOLLI:
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Do you think your child-self would approve of what you've become?
I didn't know what I wanted to be, just something creative and a bit new. My child-self and I have a weird bromance going on. LOLLI:
So you attended Harvard, and you are 26, so (assuming you went to Harvard after high school) that would have placed you there right around 2004... the year that FaceBook launched. What was is like to be on campus during the creation? Did you think it would explode to the craze it is now? How do you feel about FaceBook being such a huge part of everyday life?SHIFTEE: My first reaction was, why would I want to this? However, Facebook's reach is unavoidable and I soon became hooked like everyone else. In those days, it was only for certain colleges, so when it opened to even high schoolers, we were all like "sheesh there goes the neighborhood. Now it's going to be like myspace." I don't mind it being such a big part of life. Itreally helps keep in touch with people all over the world. It does pull at my brain and won't let me escape. Actually excuse me, I should check my page right now. LOLLI:
Just a few more questions! What can we expect from you this year? Anything you're particularly excited about?SHIFTEE: I'm releasing a lot of music this year. Stay tuned for releases on Dutty Artz, LU10, Seclusias, Hot Mom USA, and more. The Rx & Shiftee Space Ace Remixes EP just dropped on Rad Summer. Also expect some major routine videos (one is already shot and looks great!) and silly tutorials.
I'm also doing a lot of curriculum design and teaching for Dubspot DJ/Production school (http://dubspot.com). The school has really taken off, so I can't wait to see how it continues to progress
And then of course shows & shows & shows. Already got 3 dates for SXSW and confirmed Sonar Barcelona among others. Whooop!! LOLLI:
Give me the answer to a question you've always wanted to be asked.SHIFTEE: Socks.
Anything else you'd like to add?SHIFTEE: Yeah: 1 and 1, when we add them together we get 2, nice! Also, check out my various websites below for the most intimate look into the inner workings of my soul & digestive system. LOLLI:
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions!
Want to listen to and learn more about Shiftee? Click the links below!http://facebook.com/djshiftee
- free music coming soonhttp://twitter.com/djshiftee
- free commentary alwayshttp://soundcloud.com/shifteemusic
- free listening experiences alwayshttp://djshiftee.com
- incredibly expensive, everything is made of diamonds.
Want an interview or article written to promote your event? Email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org