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Starting from Scratch: Literally, Figuratively, and Iconically

Starting from Scratch: Literally, Figuratively, and Iconically

Dr. Pamela Gurley

Many are called, but few are gifted. At least this is how it seems when it comes to music and hearing it. To the average person, music is beats and lyrics. To DJs, it is beats, lyrics, instruments, mixing, and scratching…all for the reaction of a crowd. Believe it or not, music has a way of controlling a crowd and this is precisely is what has kept Canadian DJ, Starting from Scratch in the game for over 31 years.

I had the privilege to sit and chat with DJ Starting from Scratch about his 31-year reign, international presence across the globe, and his sought-after DJing skills that keep him in demand. It is always amazing to hear the humble beginnings of those who have lasted in industries that are not always easy to stay on top of. For this DJ, it is his talent and humbleness that is the reason for his longevity.

Dr. G:  You have been in the game for 30-31 years, so I’m going to let you introduce yourself and share what made you start DJing?

Starting from Scratch: Well, I’ve been doing this for about thirty-one and a half years now. I was originally born in Montreal and I moved to Toronto when I was about 14 (a long, long time ago). I’ve always been my music. My family has always been in music. My mom used to work for record labels, my dad was a singer, and my stepdad was a drummer. So, growing up, there was always had music in the house, and I was always surrounded by music. And then coming from Montreal to Toronto and with the diversity of music in Toronto just opened my eyes to a whole new world.

When I was in Montreal as a kid, on a Saturday night they used to have a radio station and they used to have mix shows at night (like dance music and so forth and old school and all that). Well, that time it was new school, but it’s all old school now. I used to just sit on my bed and listen in headphones [off the radio] and I was just taken by what I was hearing. I had no clue what was happening, no clue it was a “mix” show, and no clue a DJ was doing it. I just liked the way music was seamlessly and continuously for hours. I just loved everything about it. Song after song and I was like, how is this all happening?

So, I was always taken by the concept of it without knowing what it was and when I got to Toronto and went to my first high school dance, that’s when I first saw a physical DJ and I was just gone from there. I was just so taken by that and how one person can literally control that many people with music. I’d never seen that before in person. So, from that moment on I was just caught by the concept of it.

And then I had some friends that were doing it in high school, and it was just kind of a really slow build to it. I’d go to their house and they’d play records. I had nothing. I had a bit of records from my mom from the record label, but I had no equipment. Eventually, they were like you want to try, and I was like, okay cool. And then I just got into it from the first time I tried it.

Dr. G: So, what was your first real time where you got to try it out? Professionally, so to speak.

Starting from Scratch: Professionally would be a high school dance. I came to Toronto in grade 10, so I would say I picked it up probably like the end of grade 11. I had a super cool principal. They used to just play their own music at their tables at lunchtime and I went to the principal and said, “well instead of that, at lunchtime why don’t you let me play music for everybody? I’ll play music for everybody and that way it’s not so noisy. It’s just one direction of music. And we will just do it like that.” He’s like, “okay, we’ll try it out”, and he let me do it and it was really fun. He let me do it a few times, and then from that just became high school dances.

Dr. G.: You’ve been in the industry for 31 and a half years, what would you say has been the biggest change for you?

Starting from Scratch: Technology for sure. Adapting to the technology. I come from the old school vinyl days, then we went through the CD phase, and now it’s all digital (which I have no problem with at all). I was a little wary at first because I’m not super techie. It was definitely intimidating until somebody sat me down and broke down all of the benefits. And I don’t have to lug these crates of records (which was the easiest way for me to transition to that). But yeah, I would definitely say technology. For someone like me, it’s been a beautiful thing. I embrace it.

Dr. G: What has been your biggest achievement?

Starting from Scratch: Being at a top level for thirty-one point five years. I think is my biggest achievement, to be honest. I’ve had a few amazing milestones along the way for sure, but I would say my biggest achievement is that I’ve been at the top of my game for a very long time. And that’s not to say it in a cocky way at all. That’s just reality. I started in the early ‘90s. I was successful not in a rich way, but successful in the way that I was always working. I was the hot guy to go to for the clubs and I’ve maintained that either through radio or through touring with artists or comedians.

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I think even now, we had to adapt with the COVID stuff. And twitch became a thing for DJs, and I had to jump into that and learn it. And even though I’m super uncomfortable, I had to learn and force myself to do it and now it’s become another thing that I’m super proud of because I’ve been able to transfer that into more relationships and having a bigger fan base across the world. It’s been a really great thing.

Dr. G: You talked about COVID and it’s just been a heck of a time. I’m also of the belief that even though something’s bad. Something good has to come out of it. So, what would you say you learned personally about yourself during this COVID time?

Starting from Scratch: Ideally that I’m a fighter and I will always make things happen on how always make sure my family is fed. So, for that, I would say I’m a fighter which I think everybody is and I don’t think people realize that. I’m a refuse to lose kind of person. I’ve worked way too hard over my years to let something like this. It definitely hurt financially but I’m also in a good position because I have my radio gig. I’m full-time salary with benefits through my radio gig and my family is protected.

I say that on my on my streams a lot. I tell people you may not think it but everybody that’s here and watching and partying are all survivors.

Dr. G: I have a friend that lives in Toronto and he posted recently about giving people flowers before giving people reefs. And I am definitely giving you your flowers because you are more known than you actually think or probably want to give yourself credit for. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Being humble and staying humble is what’s kept you around for 31 years.

If you want to hear good music, DJ Starting from Scratch can be found on Twitch (http://twitch.tv/djstartingfromscratch) on Tuesday nights at 8 pm EST, Wednesdays at 8 pm EST, Fridays ‘80s show that starts at 8 pm EST, and he rotates on Saturday for Toronto parties now brought to Twitch that start at 7 pm EST. Wednesday nights there is a new R&B show coming that he is doing starting at 8 pm EST. You can also catch him six days a week on Virgin iHeart. You can also connect with him on Instagram: @startingfromscratch.

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