DJ Shame – Worcester, MA
This one goes back a few months. I had contacted Gino (DJ Sorce 1) , who is running this crate digging blog http://heavyinthestreets.blogspot.com for quite some time.
I thought it would be a good idea to collaborate with him on a mutual post. so we set up the interview with DJ Shame, who was in Gino’s interview list of vinyl collectors.
I came out to visit him in Deerfield, MA and we hit the road early in the morning towards Worcester, MA, to visit Shame. We drove for a few hours passing thru old Deerfield, and stopped by Millers river off route 2 near Erving, MA.
we stopped to have a healthy all american breakfast in Annie Clark’s Diner. it was tasty and all ,but I still feel like I am carrying that excess fat in my thighs, and yes, it’s been a while since that breakfast.
we arrived to Shame’s house, all smiley and high on fat. shame was waiting for us in the balcony. it was a nice and sunny Sunday afternoon. perfect time to talk about music and records.
so here it is, enjoy.
DJ Sorce-1: What is your most memorable digging experience?
DJ Shame: It was at a Jamaican record store. I was with my boy Sean from the Vinyl Re-Animators. He found this place in New York where you had to know the people to get inside. In the back, they had a special door that you’d lift up to go to the basement. You had to climb down a ladder to get to the basement and it was full of 45’s that had been there for years. There were little dust mites everywhere. After our first time digging there, we were blowing black snot at the end of the day. Every other time we went down there we put face masks on and we’d dig all day. We got some good shit out of that place.
DJ Sorce-1: What kind of prices were they charging you guys
DJ Shame: Three dollars for each 45.
DJ Sorce-1: So it was just a giant cache in their basement?
DJ Shame: Yeah, just stacked up 45’s. They also had a shitload of different 12’s from Grand Groove records, with stuff like T Ski Valley. They had all the titles sealed, just boxes of them. The only title they didn’t have was T Ski Valley’s “Catch the Beat”, which was one of his big songs. Apparently, before we discovered this spot, it used to be called Derrick’s Records. The guy that owned Derrick’s owned Grand Groove records. Grand Groove was putting out hip hop records in the late 70’s and early 80’s, so there were tons of extras in the basement. We’d buy a shitload of those, take them down to the Sound Library, and sell them for twice as much as we paid for them. We’d flip money real quick.
DJ Sorce-1: I love that story. I’ve talked to different diggers who have put up with records caked with kitty litter and all different kinds of nasty stuff.
DJ Shame: Yeah (Laughs). The 45’s stunk. Even after getting them home, they still had an odor for quite some time.
DJ Sorce-1: But it was worth it?
DJ Shame: Oh, fuck yeah. I pulled out “Substitution” out of there and the Dynamic Corvettes. (Shame starts to pull out a record) This is another record I pulled out from that spot. It’s by Tony Gregory and the Family Child and the song is called “Gimme Gimme”. This was one of the more memorable finds.
DJ Sorce-1: I remember reading that “Rapper’s Delight” was the first rap record that you ever heard.
DJ Shame: Yeah, that’s what got me into the rap shit.
DJ Sorce-1: Do you remember the first record you bought?
DJ Shame: Yup. I didn’t buy it; my mom was the person who actually bought it. The record was the Original Cast of Zoom. You had to send out through the mail to get it. I don’t remember what ended up happening to it, but somehow it broke. For years I didn’t have it. I found another copy in upstate New York later and ended up grabbing it.
DJ Sorce-1: For sentimental purposes?
DJ Shame: Yeah. I mean, it’s got a funky track on there too.
DJ Sorce-1: What do your parents think of the amount of records you have?
DJ Shame: I don’t know. I don’t think they ever imagined the scratching stuff would amount to anything. When I got into the New Music Seminar Battle in ’89, where they only picked 16 DJ’s from all over the world, they kind of realized that I was actually pretty good. At first, I know they were like, “Jesus”. I was set up in the basement, and when you’re in a DJ battle, you’re just spending hours perfecting little parts of your routines. For someone who doesn’t really understand DJing, I can see them saying “Why are you doing that? What is that going to amount to?”
DJ Sorce-1: You started DJing in ’84, right?
DJ Shame: Yeah, I started DJing in ’84. I first heard “Rapper’s Delight” in ’80. As soon as I heard it, I was immediately drawn to it. I knew the music was from Chic’s “Good Times”, but there was no singing. Instead, they were doing something new.
DJ Sorce-1: Did you have a mentor when you started digging, or did you learn the ropes on your own?
DJ Shame: All on my own. It was early, before the whole “cool” digging thing started. I understood what hip hop was about and the importance of digging for samples. I was already into records; just from hearing some of the early hip-hop records and recognizing that the beats often came from a different song. From that point on I went nuts and started digging everywhere I could.
DJ Sorce-1: Did you start digging in Worcester or in another part of Massachusetts?
DJ Shame: It started here in Worcester with Al-Bums, which had three different locations before it moved next to Tortilla Sams.
DJ Sorce-1: They had an Al-Bums in Amherst, MA in the 90’s.
DJ Shame: Yeah. I ended up getting out to Amherst and hitting up that other place, Mystery Train. I got some good stuff out of there. I started going there regularly when I moved to Southbridge, MA. There was a kid I met, a younger dude in Southbridge named Xavier. He got into digging real deep so we would go on missions and shit.
DJ Sorce-1: Eilon and I watched a documentary called Vinyl last night, and they talk about the point where collecting records becomes all consuming. Have you ever had it become all consuming?
DJ Shame: When I was younger and we were doing a lot of producing, it was an every weekend thing. Sean, who was one of the other Vinyl Re-Animators, was living in Boston. I’d go out to Boston and we’d do a road trip every weekend. Whether it was to New Hampshire, Vermont, or Maine, we’d go out looking for flea markets and stores. Every weekend we were hitting the streets.
DJ Sorce-1: It’s interesting to hear about people in smaller places in New England being really legendary diggers. Sometimes it seems like people think hip hop existed or exists in a vortex that only includes New York and California. Did you find that digging in New England you would find as much good stuff as if you went to a place like New York?
DJ Shame: Yeah, I think we had a bit of an advantage because we started way before the whole Internet thing. I would imagine that in New York all of the stores were much more picked over than they were here. Nobody was really digging like that, even in Boston. People weren’t looking for what we were looking for. We were kind of way ahead. I did a radio show at Northeastern from about 90 to 95. Even before that, here in Worcester at WCUW, I knew a kid who was doing radio shows. He let me go into the station and I’d go through records, pulling things out and playing them.
I started doing that with jazz. Tribe’s first record, which came out in ’89, got me into digging through jazz. It had “Bonita Applebum” on it as one of the singles. I found the Ramp and the Billy Brooks record that they sampled on that album. There were a lot of really deep samples that people weren’t looking for at the time. Tribe was digging way into jazz and finding really dope shit.
DJ Sorce-1: Were more people looking for funk and James Brown?
DJ Shame: People were going crazy for James Brown and Funkadelic. The stores in Boston were charging a lot more for those records. I was past that. That was some of the early stuff in digging. You’d go through all the James Brown shit and ask, “Well, what else is out there?” I started digging to find Ebony Rhythm Funk Campaign and deep shit that people didn’t really know about. What helped me out was having access to radio station libraries. I’ve learned a lot by doing that. To this day there are tons of records that you almost never come across in a record store, like the Billy Brooks record that I have that Tribe sampled. I don’t think I’ve seen the Ramp record in a store either.
DJ Sorce-1: Have you ever had a digging trip where you scored several impossible to find records at once?
DJ Shame: I was probably the first person to get to go though the basement part of Al-Bums in Worcester. The kid running the place was named Justin, and he took the store over from his uncle. He used to tell me about all the stuff they had in the basement. One day I was like, “Fuck, let me go through it dude.” Whenever someone would bring him records or he’d get someone’s collection he would call me and let me go through it first.
Somebody dumped off an insane private collection at Al-Bums about four years ago that I got to go through. There were mint copies of things I’d been searching out for years, like the Hells Bells OST, Naked Angels OST, Dorothy Ashby’s Afroharping, and an Ike Turner and The Kings of Rhythm album. It was all there. Towards the end of Al-Bums’ existence, Justin was starting to charge more money for records than he did when I first started going there. I think he was charging me $10-15 bucks for these records, but they were $200 records, and they were all mint. It was stuff that I didn’t think I’d ever come across; stuff that you’re only going to get at the Sound Library in New York, and it’s up on the wall for $150. I still look back and am bugged out by that collection.
The thing is, with digging, it was hard for me to even pay $10 for a record. Especially during the time when we were younger, we had bills to pay, and didn’t have much money to play with. When I was on a digging mission I’d say to myself, “I don’t want to pay $15 for that record.” We were always down with paying up to $5, but after that we would hesitate. We were used to hitting up all the flea markets and used record stores and getting all the cheap shit. I remember at Looney Tunes records in Boston, just months after Pete Rock’s “T.R.O.Y” record came out, I found the Tom Scott record that they sampled in the .99 cent bin. I was happy about that one. Nobody knew what it was at the time.
DJ Sorce-1: Is it more satisfying as a digger to find something while going through piles of records instead of just grabbing it off a record store wall?
DJ Shame: Oh yeah, no doubt.
DJ Sorce-1: Is there a best place to go digging? I was expecting the diggers that I’ve interviewed to say NYC, but a lot of people threw out the names of small towns and surprising places.
DJ Shame: Oh yeah. I used to find a lot of really good stuff in New Hampshire.
DJ Sorce-1: Where in New Hampshire?
DJ Shame: We would go to Nashua. They used to have a really big indoor flea market. It was in some plaza. A guy there had an area where he sold records, and then he had an upstairs. He let us go up there. We got a lot of good records out there, a lot of good soul records. It was weird that they were all up in New Hampshire, but it was a spot man.
DJ Sorce-1: In one interview I did with Brian Coleman, he said, “You need to troll the out-of-the-way spots to really hit the jackpot.” Do you find that to be true?
DJ Shame: Yeah. Anywhere that had records, that’s where we were heading. Sometimes a record store would know a private collector who would end up selling stuff to us. To get a hookup like that was always a big deal. It’s definitely not at the regular stores that you find the best stuff.
DJ Sorce-1: You were in a crew called The Vinyl Re-Animators that did some very well known remixes. Can we talk a little bit about how The Vinyl Re-Animators came to be?
DJ Shame: I met Sean in ’91 at the CMJ convention. Any time I’d go to New York I would stay with my buddy Jamieson, who grew up in Amherst and went to school in Boston. I met Jamieson in ’90, while he was doing the radio show at WRBB at Northeastern. He was going to school there at the time and invited me to come up and spin at his show. I did, and it ended up becoming a five year weekly gig.
Jamieson eventually moved to New York and I’d stay with him when I was out there. Jamieson and Sean knew each other through radio. I met Sean and we clicked. At the time, Sean wasn’t really producing. He was just starting to get into it. I went down to the Cape, where Sean was from originally, and hung out with him for a weekend. From that point on, he really started getting into digging and making beats. He got really good at it really quickly. I knew Joe, the other member, through Ed O.G. and The Bulldogs, because Joe had basically produced Ed’s first album. I’d link with Joe and talk records with him all the time, so the three of us ended up forming the Vinyl Re-Animators.
DJ Sorce-1: Are those guys still involved with digging?
DJ Shame: Well, they got into Traffic Records, which used to be Landspeed records. Joe clicked with the dude from Landspeed and started working there. Sean got down with them as well when he was still living in NYC. When Sean moved back to Massachusetts, he was in the office working all the time. They kind of got out of the digging aspect of it all. I know they still were buying some stuff on EBay and filling out their collections, but I don’t think they go out to dig. They don’t produce or make beats anymore, but they’re both really into music.
DJ Sorce-1: Are you guys still friends?
DJ Shame: Yeah, we’re still cool. I talk to Sean all the time. They’re putting out a compilation of Brazilian stuff with Egon from Stones Throw. Sean emailed me one of the tracks that has a really nice b-boy break on it. I told him to find out what it is and he still hasn’t. I need to get Egon’s number because I did some trades a while back with him and got some good stuff.
DJ Sorce-1: Before the Internet was big I used to always hear about the “Fast Life” remix that you did. When I finally heard it years later on a mix tape, I was blown away by how you completely transformed the whole mood of the song. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about the record you sampled for the remix.
DJ Shame: Well, I didn’t put that beat together specifically for remixing “Fast Life”. It was just one of those beats that I had come up with that was dope. When we decided to remix “Fast Life” I said, “I know it will fit that, I have the perfect track.” I put the beat together on a 4-Track cassette and we mixed it onto a DAT. At the time DATs were big and everyone was using them.
DJ Sorce-1: That remix was close to getting pressed up officially, wasn’t it?
DJ Shame: Well, we gave copies to Bobbito and Stretch, Riz and Mayhem, and Marley and Pete Rock. They all started playing the shit out of it, which is what we intended. As a result of that, we were hoping Epic would pick up our remix. There were people calling up Epic and looking for our remix, but the A & R chic at Epic went with the Salaam Remi remix instead, which wasn’t close to anything we did. It kind of showed us the politics of the whole music game. After that, we went with a few different people that made bootleg records.
DJ Sorce-1: Did you guys see any money from that?
DJ Shame: Yeah, they’d pay us a certain amount up front, a few thousand dollars or whatever. It was worth doing it like that just to get it out.
DJ Sorce-1: Would you be able to pull out the original record that you sampled and show it to us?
DJ Shame: Sure. (Shame takes out the original record, changes the record speed to 45 and slows down the pitch.) Right here the song turns into some fucked up shit.
DJ Sorce-1: Is there any story behind that record or does it have any special significance beyond the sample?
DJ Shame: Not really. It was just digging through records and finding some shit that I liked when I stumbled across it.
DJ Sorce-1: Your remix of Tim Dog’s “Bronx Nigga” is another significant remix that deserved more shine than it got. Is that remix one of your most prized records because of what it meant for your career?
DJ Shame: Yeah, being the first record I produced that got pressed up, it means a bit to me. I did the remix in ’91 and I think it ended up being pressed in the beginning of ’92. It was a promo only record. I don’t know whether they pressed up 500 copies or 1000. I know it’s hard to come across and people pay money for it. My boy Jared, who runs Big City Records, had me sign a copy he had in the store, which was really cool.
DJ Sorce-1: Do you have any other records that have special importance to you?
DJ Shame: Yeah, I have a bunch of early rap records that mean a lot to me. I also like my copy of L Da Head Toucha’s “Too Complex”, which I produced. Just the feedback from everybody after doing that was kind of overwhelming. The Don Blackman sample that I used for that immediately became a sought after record. The price went up real quick and everybody wanted it. When we gave the DAT of “Too Complex” to Marley Marl and Pete Rock before it was pressed, the same way we did with “The Fast Life” Remix, they were just killing it. It caught on quick. People all across the country were killing it.
I’ve had people recently tell me that it’s one of their favorite records of all time. When someone gives you a compliment like that, all you can say is, “Holy shit, thanks.” It’s great when people say stuff like that. All we were trying to do was make dope shit. I think with the best hip hop, it was about creating stuff just to make it as good as you could without the intent of trying to sell the most copies. I think that’s another big part of what changed in the game. People started trying to make stuff that would sell and stopped making true music.
DJ Sorce-1: You’ve been dropping names like Pete Rock and Premier. Did you ever go digging with any of those guys, or was it mostly with the Vinyl Re-Animators?
DJ Shame: I think it was in ’93, I went to New Orleans for a convention down there. We went with Buckwild and we were pulling out stuff to trade. I found a Bo Diddly “Another Dimension” album and he was bugging me to trade it to him. I was like, “No, I’ve been looking for this record (Laughs).”
DJ Sorce-1: So not even when Buckwild asks you for a record do you make a trade?
DJ Shame: Nah. I was looking for that record for a long time. He was trying to trade me for a Leaves album. It’s a rock album that has a cover of “Get out of My Life Woman”.
DJ Sorce-1: Do you have collecting stories about any other big names?
DJ Shame: Jamieson was working at PWL Records, which eventually turned into Chemistry. I went up to the Hit Factory with Jamieson when Diamond’s first album was about to come out and he was mastering it. We were hanging out with Diamond, just talking records. I remember hearing his album for the first time and being like, “Holy shit, that’s dope. What the fuck is that sample?” He told me it was a group called Flaming Ember and “Gotta Get Away” was the track that he ended up using. Diamond knew a ton of dope records, so I was picking his brain, asking him, “What’s that? What’s this sample?” I also sold some records to Q-Tip at a New York show before. I sold him a Rupert Cobbet jazz record.
DJ Sorce-1: Do you know what track they ended up using it for?
DJ Shame: They never used it, as far as I know. I remember hearing that one of the guys from the Sound Library was going through Q’s collection and trying to put value to it for insurance purposes, and then his house burned down. I think most of his vinyl was destroyed. This wasn’t long after I sold him that record.
Eilon: What’s the story behind this record?
DJ Shame: I got this out of a radio station. This is just a really good soul record that got put out on GFS Records by Joe Quarterman and Free Soul. It’s a really hard record to get. GFS Records also put out Skull Snaps
DJ Sorce-1: Do you own a copy of Skull Snaps?
DJ Shame: No, I don’t have a copy of that. I’ve seen it at The Sound Library and places like that. I don’t like paying much money for records. That’s not my thing. One time I paid $120 bucks for a Cold Crush Brothers 12” off of EBay. It was just something I really wanted. That’s the most I’ve ever paid. It was funny, after I won; Peanut Butter Wolf sent me an email saying, “Hey, I guess you really wanted that record.” (Laughs)
DJ Sorce-1: Is there a particular reason that you wanted that record?
DJ Shame: My hip hop collection is pretty good. My old school collection is really good for someone who grew up in this area. There were a lot of records that were only released in the New York area, like the Paul Winley records. He was responsible for “Super Disco Breaks”, “Zulu Nation Throw Down”, and “Live Convention 1 and 2”. They were never around here. They weren’t private press; they just weren’t really distributed up here. I have some of his records that I’ve come across, but if something like “Zulu Nation Throw Down” pops up in the Sound Library, it will sell for something like $200.
There’s a dude named Peter Brown who had a bunch of different labels like Heavenly Star and P and P records that I have come across. Brass Recordings was a label that put out Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five’s first single. I own that record. There’s another record that’s even rarer that I have as well by The Marvelous Three. Busy Bee was in that group. Rob from the Sound Library was bugging out that I had an original copy because it’s super hard to get. I remember him telling me that he saw a really beat up copy go for something like $250. Yeah, Marvelous Three’s “Rappin’ All Over”. That’s a record they eventually re-issued, but I have the original one.
DJ Sorce-1: Do those records sound dated at all to you?
DJ Shame: Yeah, definitely. The early rap stuff has its sound. I still love it, but some people can’t really get into it. It was fun doing the old school hip hop show on XM Radio. I could play stuff like “Rappin’ All Over”. It was cool to be able to play that for an audience in the entire US and Canada.
DJ Sorce-1: Does that record have a face value to it, or would it be hard to get you to part with it no matter what someone offered?
DJ Shame: If there was a record I knew I could get a copy of somewhere else, I wouldn’t have a problem selling it. You’re not going to find “Rappin’ All Over”, so I don’t care what I’m offered.
DJ Sorce-1: So if someone comes in and offers you $750, you’re going to say, “No way.”
DJ Shame: Yeah, I’m going to say no (Laughs).
Eilon: Why is it so hard for you to let records go?
DJ Shame: It’s…I…I need it. (Laughs) I need it. I find a record, I like it, and I need it. Even records that aren’t really that great; there may be something on it that I like. I need one copy of it. I’ve always been up for trading doubles of something, but I need one copy.
Eilon: Could it be any record that you need? Or do you only need vinyl where you know you’ll find breaks?
DJ Shame: I’m mostly into breaks and samples; I’ve always been into those kinds of records. I also dig for basic, good records that I’ll enjoy listening to. I need one copy of everything…that’s my sickness. (Laughs) I can’t let it go. My digging buddy Xavier will ask to trade me stuff sometimes, and I’ll say “No, that’s my only copy. If I find another one, I’ll trade you that one.”
Eilon: You have four copies of a Styx record here.
DJ Shame: (Laughs) A lot of times people will hook you up with records that their getting rid of…but Styx records? That’s just stupid shit. I don’t need four copies of a Styx record. I’ve never gone out and bought a fucking Styx album (Laughs). It’s just something that people hook you up with.
Eilon: Do you need this record?
DJ Shame: Do I need it? I don’t know. Yeah. Yeah I need it, just to have it. I don’t know why, but I need one copy of it.
DJ Sorce-1: Okay, so let’s talk numbers. How many records total?
DJ Shame: Oh man, I’d say somewhere between 25 and 30,000.
DJ Sorce-1: Is there an order to these records?
DJ Shame: Yeah, alphabetical. I organized them years ago, and it actually didn’t take that long. Now, whenever I pull something off the shelf and go to put it back later, it has to be alphabetical.
DJ Sorce-1: You told me earlier that you’re trimming your collection by getting rid of a lot of the doubles you have.
DJ Shame: Yeah. At first it was a weird feeling. I’ve spent years hunting and searching to get doubles of everything, but realistically I don’t need doubles. There’s a lot of stuff I have triples of as well.
Eilon: You’ve come to your senses as a record collector. That’s…odd.
DJ Shame: Yeah. I’m making a rational decision…what the fuck (Laughs)? I guess it doesn’t bother me to cut it down to one copy of everything, because that’s all I need. When I’m pulling out records for selling, if one of them is in better condition, obviously I’m keeping that one. I have to give some of them a listen to see which copy sounds cleaner. A lot of them, though, it’s just a quick visual check. Almost every day, I’d say a good four or five days a week, I’m just pulling out and sorting. I have a lot of rap shit, like Lord Shafiq’s “My Mic is On Fire”; I have an extra of that.
DJ Sorce-1: What are you looking for that record?
DJ Shame: I don’t know what my friend who owns a record store would give me. I don’t know if he would give me $25 or $30, because I’m sure he’s going to sell it for a lot more at his store. I don’t have a problem selling certain people stuff for a decent amount. Those are records that you’re just not going to come across in a used record store though.
DJ Sorce-1: I’ve been reading about that record since I was 15. And back then that was the case, so I can’t imagine how rare it is now.
Eilon: Do you have any records that you’re ashamed of owning?
DJ Shame: Some rap records that I’ve gotten for free. When I did a radio show from 90-95, I was on all of the record company mailing lists. Everything came in the mail to me for free. That’s where I’d get extra, extra, extra copies. I’d get shit like MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice. Those records came in free and I’ve always kept them in a couple of boxes. I even have the word “wack” written on the box some of them are in. I didn’t give a fuck about MC Hammer, Eazy-E, or Too Short.
DJ Sorce-1: Eazy-E and Too Short fall in the same category as MC Hammer for you?
DJ Shame: It’s stuff that I wouldn’t be playing. I have no event to play them for.
DJ Sorce-1: Some people would call Eazy and Short classic.
DJ Shame: To some people, they’re a certain type of classic. I don’t think I’ve ever spun a Too Short or Eazy-E record, so they went in my wack box, but they still have a certain value.
DJ Sorce-1: Earlier you talked about spending time with Buckwild, Diamond, and Q-Tip. Were those guys open about sharing information or were they more secretive about giving away breaks and sample secrets?
DJ Shame: You’re always going to be secretive to a certain point. You aren’t going to tell everyone everything. Before the Internet put all the information out there for everybody, it was more of a closed community. You would talk beats with other diggers and producers that would have information. You’d know someone wasn’t bullshiting when they would drop a certain name or a particular record. Then you could trade off and say, “Hey we should trade” or “Keep an eye out for this break on this record.” In my opinion, the Internet kind of ruined digging for records. Anybody and everybody started knowing the names of what records to look for. It made it a lot more difficult to find certain things.
DJ Sorce-1: So you look at the internet as kind of a negative?
DJ Shame: Overall, yeah. It has its good points as well, but I would have liked for there to be no Internet (Laughs).
DJ Sorce-1: What do you think about guys like us, doing this project where people are giving up names and covers…?
Eilon: But we won’t give up any digging spots.
DJ Shame: It’s alright; I don’t fault stuff like that. It’s just…sites like The Breaks.com. They have everything…all the info is there.
DJ Sorce-1: You guys had to work a lot harder for it?
DJ Shame: You paid dues to find out stuff. You actually dug and played music you didn’t know to find out certain things. It’s funny, because when I first looked at sites like The Breaks, I would hear people talk about being Internet diggers. It’s weird to me. It’s kind of funny, like what is an “Internet digger”? Digging lost what it was about, for me anyway. Going out, getting dusty, digging, trying out things, and taking a chance on stuff you don’t know. You get a rush. Playing a certain record for the first time and not knowing anything on there, and all of a sudden you come across an ill drum break; there’s a great feeling to that. Taking that and playing it out for people that don’t know it, it’s satisfying, for me anyway.
DJ Sorce-1: And you’re saying that after all these years of digging, that rush hasn’t diminished with time?
DJ Shame: No. I kind of stopped playing out for a while because of what happened to rap music and where it ended up going. It turned to pop and got really wack. I couldn’t do clubs anymore, but after I stopped playing out, something happened. Friends of mine here in Worcester that b-boy brought me out to Boston for a jam. Seeing kids who are 16 and 17 years old know all of the words to old Big Daddy Kane and Rakim records was amazing. It made me ask myself, “Ok, why didn’t I know that this was going on?” I immediately jumped into that world.
DJ Sorce-1: Do beats sound overproduced to you today? For someone like you who grew up listening to stuff that was sampled, often times from old, beat up vinyl, it must be weird to hear really sterile production.
DJ Shame: Yeah. Records gave the music that feel and that sound. You’re not always going to have a nice, clean copy of something to sample. Sometimes you find that dope sample and there are some pops and clicks in it. Today’s stuff is so clean. The sampling has changed and they aren’t sampling the way we used to do. Hip hop came from DJ’s spinning breaks. That turned into people using samplers instead of spinning two copies of the same record. If you’re creating music without that, for me, it kind of strays off of the path.
DJ Sorce-1: You say that people aren’t sampling the way you used to. What was the way you used to sample?
DJ Shame: I have an MPC 60 II, and I’ve always used that. Before that I had the Numark. First they had a four second, and then an 8 second sampler with a round pad. They had one version of it on a mixer and one in a rack mount. I ended up getting the rack mount with eight second sample length. The Tim Dog remix, which is the first record I did, was done on the eight second Numark sampler. I recorded the final version on my friend’s Tascam 688.
DJ Sorce-1: Will you ever buy something that has a cool cover based on the look of the cover alone?
DJ Shame: It’s more about the music.
DJ Sorce-1: So the cover is secondary?
DJ Shame: In early years of digging, covers would help me decide if something looked really good. Years ago record stores didn’t have a turntable set up for you to check something out. You would grab something based on stuff like if there were a bunch of black dudes with afros on the cover.
Eilon: What other kind of signs did you look for?
DJ Shame: Hmm. Well, in early years of digging, things like that could help, but after really getting into listening to music, you’d find records that would have the corniest looking white dude on the cover, but would also have a really dope drum break. You realize you can’t really go by what’s on the cover. Like the David McCallum records. He’s a goofy looking white dude, but you can’t judge his music by what’s on the cover.
DJ Sorce-1: Do you have a favorite album cover or covers.
DJ Shame: A lot of the CTI covers are really dope. Wax poetics had an article on those covers. CTI was a jazz label that had people like Bob James, Hubert Laws, and Freddie Hubbard. A lot of the CTI stuff had great artwork. I know they had one guy who did the artwork for a lot of the album covers. Most of them had a shiny finish to them, which made them stand out.
One record cover I really like is a Jazz record by Jack McDuff. The cover is an image of a woman with a key combination lock on a certain area of her body. It’s up on my wall. I’ve always thought that cover was pretty cool.
DJ Sorce-1: Say you’re 65 years old. Are you still going to hit up the flea market on the weekend looking for stuff? Is there always going to be a record that you’re looking for that you don’t have?
DJ Shame: Probably. It never ends. With drum breaks and samples, I have so much of that shit. It started all over again when I started getting into the b-boy scene and b-boy breaks. A lot of these samples are breaks that I’d come across years ago but didn’t consciously remember because I couldn’t use them in the hip hop production we were doing back then. We wanted dry, open snares and stuff like that. We weren’t really looking for fast, up-tempo bongo breaks, which are great for b-boys. When I first started going to b-boy events, the DJ would play shit and I’d ask what it was. When they told me I’d say, “Oh, I have that record.” I started going through huge chunks of my collection, just playing and listening for new dope breaks.
DJ Sorce-1: How do you catalog them?
DJ Shame: When I find something, I’ll almost always instantly burn it to CD. I think I’ve got about 35 or 36 CD’s full of b-boy tracks. There’s just so much. It kind of sparked a new fire for me with digging.
DJ Sorce-1: Are you still making beats these days or is it more about just cutting up b-boy breaks?
DJ Shame: I’ve been about b-boy breaks for a while. With rap music, what happened to it, and where it went, it took me away from making beats. There is rap project I’m working on with a kid named Lyrical. He’s from around the Lowell area and I did a track with him two summers ago that came out really fucking good. We just did it to do it. We had someone from China who wanted to press it, but I told them to give us some time to come up with something for the B Side. We talked again and right now we’re in the middle of putting the whole album together. Besides that, I don’t really have the itch to make beats like I used to. One of the beats that I did with Lyrical I ended up using on a mega mix of mine for a blend of Big Daddy Kane and Rakim.
DJ Sorce-1: Can you tell us about that mix?
DJ Shame: Back in 87 and 88 I did these four track mega mixes. What got me into wanting to do those kinds of mixes were the old Latin Rascals radio tapes. The cut and paste work they put into their mixes blew me away. I was really inspired by them and a Grandmaster Flash record called “Grandmaster Flash on The Wheels of Steel”. That Grandmaster Flash record is actually why I started DJing. The way he took a whole bunch of records and made a college out of it that worked as one song; I was blown away by that.
A kid named Matt who works at Landspeed heard my old mixes through Sean. He called me up one day and said, “Hey, why don’t you put together a new mega mix.” After thinking about it I decided to put one together. Before this most recent one, I had four or five mega mixes that were between six and 15 minutes long. The recent one I made was about an hour long. I had unused ideas from years ago that I remembered and decided to put into this mix. There is a slow song section, rock, AC/DC, The Police, old soul records, and an electro section. It’s all over the fucking place, put I’m super happy with how it came out.
Traffic was supposed to put it out, but that fell through. I was going to have Jamieson put it out because he’s down with Redline Music Distribution, and that didn’t end up happening. As a result, it’s just been sitting for the last couple of years. Jared at the record store in New York might put it out. I just don’t have the time to go through all of the trouble of having it pressed. I’d like to see if be released. I played it on my radio show and got a lot of good feedback.
DJ Sorce-1: Are you classically trained in music?
DJ Shame: I can play the keyboard a little bit, but it’s mostly by ear. I used to play with a band named Giraffe. There was a drummer, a keyboard player, a guy on trumpet, and me.
DJ Sorce-1: I used to watch you guys play at Clark!
DJ Shame: Yeah. I could apply my ear for samples really quickly to what the band was doing. They would start playing a grove and I would immediately start getting an idea of something that was in key that I could cut in. Sometimes I would start with a groove and they would build around me. That band was a really cool thing to be a part of. Doing that helped me get better at mixing things in key as well as on beat. That definitely helped with making the mega mix.
DJ Sorce-1: What do you think about the future of digging now that guys like you are becoming more of a rarity?
DJ Shame: I don’t think it will ever stop. I think it will keep going. There’s a younger kid named Lean Rock, who is part of the Floor Lords, a b-boy crew from Boston. His dad, who is my age, has been dancing since back in the day and has never stopped. Lean Rock and his cousin, who’s maybe a year younger, grew up around true hip hop and have been dancing their whole lives. Lean Rock DJs and spins b-boy breaks. That type of kid is part of a select group of people I can see actively digging and looking for breaks. There are some hip hop producers who are the same way. But, other than that, I don’t know. Digging is always going to have its place with people who respect it and are into it, but one of the main groups I see staying true to it are the DJ’s who are into breaks.