The name Kentaro Okamotoz has been on the lips of DJ enthusiasts for years, likely well before he took the 2002 DMC World Championship title with the competition's first perfect score ever. But with his entrée into production, the aptly titled Enter (Ninja Tune), Okamoto is poised to gain a new level of notoriety (and an enlarged fan base). Enter features not only his scratch talents (and styles from drum & bass to hip-hop), but also those of MCs Spank Rock, Hifana, Fat Jon, and The Pharcyde. Committing chirps and flares to disc challenges even the most veteran DJs, so we tapped Kentaro for his five most important scratch-recording tips.
1. Maintain The Live Feel
Try to record scratches that are one-of-a-kind, which you won't be able to re-do again. While precious scratches are cool, sometimes imperfect ones have a better live feel. It's not always necessary that the cuts are on the beats, either–it's all about the groove.
2. Balance Your Volume
Sometimes you want to record scratches at higher volume, but to use scratches as a sound effect or spice in the song, you might want to keep the volume low. And once you record scratches, it's always good to chop out some low frequencies. With lows, the sound usually ends up really "round," and takes away from the sharpness of the cut.
3. Select Your Samples Carefully
It's really up to you, but generally try to match your samples to the song's concept (ie. If the lyrics are about good old days, then have some samples related to that era). Using known '90s samples will date your sound to the '90s, and so on. I usually pick lots of instrumental samples to scratch, so I can be one of the instrumental players in the band.
4. Be Unique
Your scratch style is really important, so don't copy someone else's. If you're scratching in a song, then you need to see the whole song's story and think about the placement of the cuts as well. Prevent them from overlapping with the vocals or other good, recognizable instrumentals.
5. Know Your Gear
I use Ortofon's Concorde Scratch cartridge, which is really good, fat, and thick, and a Technics SH-EX1200 mixer. I'm actually creating original needles for Ortofon specially made for club- and scratch use–real dope tools for all DJs!