Turntablism has shared a close relationship with avant-garde jazz, classical and experimental music, as deejays have tweaked decks to create expansive compositions that are far from the instrument's hip-hop battle roots. Artists continue to expand the repertoire, from DJ Quest's Live Human band to DJ Radar transcribing scratch notation for orchestras, to turntable experimentalists like Janek Schaefer and Christian Marclay. Add to this continuum four funky weirdos from France: Crazy B, DJ Pone, DJ Need and Little Mike are champion battle deejays who flip the script as Birdy Nam Nam. BNN's compositions draw on France's long history of 20th century classical music, from the work of Claude Debussy and Erik Satie straight through to modern electronic mischief-maker Pierre Henry. The quartet reconfigures beautiful, pastoral music snippets into the realm of turntablism, yet they're still awesome beat jugglers, and their shows balance creativity with rock-the-party antics. With their self-titled debut album (on Kif) finally released and about to do major damage, the foursome sat down to share their live and studio methodologies.
XLR8R: What role does each member play when you perform? Is one DJ a "bass" and another just scratches?
Birdy Nam Nam: We usually switch off different roles, but Mike is doing the drums most of the time. Mike and Need are maybe playing more solos but there are no established rules.
What brand of turntables do you use?
We use Numark TTX. We need this model because of the pitch (+/-50) and it's perfect to play short notes as we do. Even if Technics MK2 is the preference for many DJs, we cannot play BNN's tracks with it because of those technical aspects.
Do you use CD turntables as well?
We use the Numark CDX but we don't manipulate it like vinyl. We just use it because we can only play four channels at the same time, so we have to play sequences on CD.
Do you use it for live shows?
We just use four turntables and a CD player to play sequences that we can't play live. For the moment, we don't use any machines but we don't know what will happen in the future. We started composing tracks with some musicians, then did a few live shows with them and it was really exciting.
What is the craziest thing that has happened at a Birdy Nam Nam show?
Nothing really crazy. In Miami, we played in really bad conditions. We thought that Americans were professional in everything they do but we never played in worse conditions than in Miami. Mike threw his record into the crowd because he was really mad.
Where does your name come from?
We were part of another crew of DJs called Scratch Aktion Hiro. We won the ITF World Team championship in 2000. Then the crew split but the four of us wanted to keep working together. We had to find a name [for ourselves] when representing France in the DMC World Final in 2002. While watching The Party by Blake Edwards, we loved this name and simply decided to perform as Birdy Nam Nam.
What other types of French art inspire you? Duchamp, Ravel, Gainsbourg?
We all love Gainsbourg, he did so many different things, he never had any restriction or limit. We all have very different influences. Some of us like French singers or composers but they are not really an inspiration in what we do.
Who is the most stylish member of BNN?
Little Mike is the most fashionable because he is young and he's still looking for his own style. He looks like a Nirvana fan with long hair and a rock & roll attitude.
Do you have groupies at your shows?
We recently realized that there are many girls at our shows. It's true that some of them act like groupies after the show. But we want to be [as big as] The Beatles, so we'll have to wait a little bit!