Turntable Talk with Summer Altice: Dj C-Minus

By Summer Altice

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Unbridled creativity and a relentlessly progressive thought process are not common qualities in your average DJ but this week's DJ C-Minus possesses both.


C-Minus (Chris Rivas) is and always has been ahead of his time.  He is what some would consider an important DJ. Unbridled creativity and a relentlessly progressive thought process are not common qualities in your average DJ, but he has them. He has toured with some of the biggest bands around including Korn, Foo Fighters, Wu-Tang Clan, Rage Against the Machine, The Roots, Weezer and Blink-182, all the while staying true to himself as an artist and has the respect to back it up. He is part of the famed DJ group The Fantastik 4our from Power 106 radio station so as a southern Cali native, I grew up listening to them rock the airwaves. Now, I’d like you all to get to know a DJ hero of mine, C-Minus.

Altice: You've been deejaying for over 20 years. What are your thoughts on these new DJs playing prerecorded mixes and using programs that blend for you?

C-Minus: Everything has its own evolution. So for this sort of thing to happen and the advancement of technology to be aiding it, it’s really kind of a trip. Now there is a difference between producers, such as Deadmau5 or Flying Lotus, who do entire sets of their own music to large groups of people, and DJs. It may look like they’re deejaying, ’cause they have a setup similar to a DJ: electronics, equipment and headphones attached to their head. But they really aren’t deejaying per se; they’re putting together different patches of their own tunes and making it consistent to a set list. Like a one-man band. They’re not claiming to be DJs. I’m sure they have some knowledge of how it works or may even know how to deejay, but there is no DJ title in front of their name. They’re performing their own music through these computers and programs. Now, with that being said, I really don’t respect anyone who says they are a DJ or deejaying but plays prerecorded sets and stands behind the tables like, “Yeah!! I’m FUCKING RULING RIGHT NOW!!” Nah, homeboy or girl, prove you can do what you say you can do. Live! Twisting knobs and shit to make it look like you’re doing something when it’s already running behind you on a premade track is a bad look. A real DJ has time to make some crowd interaction but should mostly spend time working on your next blend or transition while in the set. The crowd likes to see you work. Playing pretend is for actors, and we don’t need any more actors in our profession. We need real motherfuckers that want to help advance as well as uphold this DJ culture. There are rules to this. A code, if you will.

Altice: Your thoughts on Swedish House Mafia and so on?

C-Minus: As far as the dude from Swedish House Mafia who played a premixed set within their set because of lighting and pyro cues and said it couldn’t have been done any other way…BULLSHIT! You could stack whatever tracks you need to on many different tracks to accomplish what you need to do for all of that. It would take a little more work, but it’s very doable. I’m definitely not dissing the music they make, but that technique was weak. They could do better.

I also find that Paris Hilton nonsense hilarious. Someone should have really schooled her before that fiasco. I didn’t see the whole set, but the clips I saw were bad. Only touching the knobs of the mixer and not the CDJs, talking in the middle of a transition, which no real DJ does because that is when we’re working the hardest, concentrating to make sure this blend goes smoothly. Not her. She thinks she’s above that, I guess. My favorite is when she intros her new song with Afrojack and goes into a Rihanna vocal! That shit had me on the floor! It was almost cute. But we all know cute don’t get you respect in this shit. Hard work does.

Altice: How important is it to keep vinyl in the mix? I feel it’s a dying art that needs to be preserved.

C-Minus: Vinyl still plays an important part. The cats I hang with, we all still buy vinyl. And since a lot of DJs sold their collections to go straight digital, a lot of great and sometimes rare records are popping up in the used bins all over the world again. I’m finding records that I need to fill gaps in my collection. It’s awesome! And some of the newer DJs that I’ve met are telling me they’re starting out on vinyl, then plan on making the jump to digital. If you can afford it, I feel everyone should learn to deejay on vinyl. It trains you for things you couldn’t learn from a digital form that you can apply later in the game: dirty needles skipping across the whole vinyl at a live party, learning about needle weights, how to deal with feedback from your turntables while in a big room or more importantly, how to select your whole set for the night and make it fit into two to three crates so you wouldn’t have to carry four or five crates to the gig. This new generation has it easy. Which I’m not mad at. Not one bit. I’m really blessed to have been a part of the generation that I’m in. It took hard work and dedication to get to where I’m at and I’m grateful for the whole experience.

Altice: What would you say to the new DJs if you had them in a room?

C-Minus: Show unity to fellow DJs. Help each other out when you can. I know that not everybody has the capability to get along, but you can get a lot farther in the game with honor, respect and teamwork with your fellow DJ. Undercutting is a bitch move. Be above that. If you work really hard, everything you can imagine and more will happen for you in your career. But you have to put in the effort and time into your business and craft, otherwise it doesn’t happen. Practice with your crew or friends as much as you can. Even when you make it up the ranks, it always helps you stay prepared and sharp. And it’s fun! And please respect your elder statesmen in the DJ game. Showing respect for those who have opened doors for the culture, as well as the business, is always a good look. I know my generation is big on respecting our elders, so I would like to see that happen eternally in this game as it moves forward.

Altice: What are you currently working on?

C-Minus: I just finished a remix for one of my favorite bands, Minus the Bear, for their song “Steel And Blood’ off their new album Infinity Overhead, which is my favorite rock album right now. It comes out at the end of August. Definitely worth a purchase. As well, I’m finishing an all–Led Zeppelin mix, which basically is me taking all my favorite Zep songs and treating them as hip-hop records. It will clock in at around two hours or so. Right now I’m 50 percent done. I also have an all–Cypress Hill mix I did with Lenny Ducano, who I DJ and host frequently with on B-Real’s 420 Show on breal.tv, that will see the light of day very soon. And my instrumental solo record, which is nearing completion, at least in my head. [laughs]

Altice: What is it that you love about deejaying?

C-Minus: I love that I can tell a story musically with several different elements and styles of music. That’s always my goal: to do a set where there’s dips and dives, but keep it interesting. Playing classics that may have been almost forgotten but still get great reactions. Also playing new artists, groups or MCs whose music I feel should be heard. It’s our job as tastemakers to introduce the masses to hot new music! If we don’t, who will? The radio stations? Nope. It all starts in the streets for me. The internet kind of does, but there’s no setup, musically, it’s more of a cold approach. It’s better for a DJ to do it tastefully, ’cause then there is some sort of association.

At the end of the day, I look to C-Minus the way an actor looks to Denzel Washington: he’s a pioneer of his craft, someone who stands out from the crowd for just being great at what he does. He has been in the DJ world for a long time and every DJ I know knows him and respects him. Thank god the world of deejaying has C-Minus.

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