DJ Abilities on Summer Set, album with Jel and new mixes
Legendary Twin Cities turntablist DJ Abilities has been spinning heads with innovations behind the wheels of steel for over a decade. A two time DMC regional champion, as well as one half of Eyedea and Abilities and Semi.Official with I Self Devine, his accolades are as celebrated as his body of work. His discography is going through a particular growth spurt with both a new mix in NOW That's What I Call Fuck Off as well as and upcoming full-length album with current tourmate Jel.
Gimmie Noise had a chance to discuss these new projects with Abilities, as well as his busy 2012 and upcoming sets this weekend at First Avenue and the Summer Set Festival.
You've spent the bulk of the summer touring with Jel, who you worked alongside years ago on the Deep Puddle Dynamics releases. What inspired you two to hit the road together this summer?
We've talked about doing something for years and finally this spring we did. Then, later in the summer, he talked to his booking agent about us touring and he really liked the idea, and now here we are.
You mentioned in recent interviews that you're also currently working on an album with Jel. Are the plans now for it to be an MC-Producer album with vocals or purely instrumental?
Yes, and this tour has been so helpful in figuring out how we are going to make that record. We are going to make a live instrumental album. When we record, there will be no sequencing, short of a loop here or there, and it will be us at the same time just like a traditional band. I've always loved the sound of electronic sample based music and was disappointed when I'd go see an artist and they'd have a band. But on the flip side, when I'd go see a producer play, a lot of it was boring. So, all live production with another person for the communication and interaction and humanity of it, but with the sound I love.
Earlier this year, you released the NOW That's What I Call Fuck Off mix. Do you find the processes of putting together an album and putting together a mix very different?
It's not that different. I come up with beats and then put them in the right order. With mixes, I come up with mix chunks and then figure out how to string them together. Albums are more meticulous. Mixes are more chunky.
Speaking of which, when putting together mixes like NOW or your quintessential ...For Persons with DJ Abilities mix, do you try to capture the feeling of your live performances or are your aims entire different?
When I made For Persons, I really never played solo often so that was more just make a mix. NOW is the basis of my solo performance but not as quick or as much scratching, it's more chill.
What do you think makes for a great mix? Or a great live set?
It's all feeling. I just try to feel the best as possible. That could come from it being fun, clever, fast, slow, anything. I just trust what feels best.
Do you change your approach when performing at an outdoor festival like Summer Set, as opposed to your indoor shows?
No, not really. I might change some stuff here and there, but that could be for any show anytime.
This summer, you also contributed your talents to the El-P produced Killer Mike track "Go." What do you feel is it about El's production that allows your styles to mesh so well?
Well, thanks first. I think it just matches. Like certain colors compliment each other. They just do. Or, maybe because we're both sci-fi freaks.
You've developed a reputation as an incredible live DJ. Have you ever considered releasing a live album?
Yes, absolutely. My live show and my mixes aren't that far off, but the goal is to get them the same. As in, I'll make a new mix and that will be what I go perform, with some of my favorite old stuff of course, or I'll go perform it and record it and that's what I'll put out. One in the same. I'm close, that's the goal for the next mix.
DJ Abilities performs Saturday at 7th Street Entry (18+,
$12, 8 p.m.) and Sunday at the Summer Set Festival in Somerset,
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.