For the past 20-plus years, Paul Murphy aka Skratch Bastid has been rocking parties and wowing crowds all over the world, becoming one of the most accomplished and revered DJs on the planet.
Known for his remarkable charisma, technical prowess and selections that span the complete musical spectrum, Murphy has an uncanny ability to create magical moments with music.
In advance of his show at the Pink Garter in Jackson as part of the recent Natural Selection x Stay Wild Festival, DJ Skratch Bastid joined us recently in the KHOL studios.
The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. This conversation was recorded live on Wednesday, Jan. 26.
JACK CATLIN/KHOL: So, with your assorted Twitch videos, the Red Bull freestyle events and your great ‘Bastid’s BBQ’ parties featuring, and I quote, “choice beats and grilled meats,” you’ve always seemed to aspire to create a strong sense of community with whatever it is you’re doing. Can you speak on the significance of joining and building a supportive community?
PAUL MURPHY: Well, I can almost bring that back to Scribble Jam. It’s in Cincinnati, Ohio, which is a city that doesn’t have a whole lot to brag about really, geographically. I think a lot of people around there felt that way in the Midwest at that time. In hip-hop, so much was East and West and things being so geographical. And again, no internet media, that sort of isolation or that gathering within that proximity. And what I felt when I was there, I was like, ‘Wow, it’s amazing to see all these people from all these different cities come together and showcase what they can do and build on stuff.’ Overall, just the experience, I loved it as a fan of the music and the culture. I could take in everything. Like, hip-hop often gets talked about [in terms of] the four elements: Breakdancing, DJ-ing, graffiti and emceeing, and they were heavy on all that. So, I knew from that experience that that was something I always wanted to do was like, celebrate it like that. And then, of course, locally playing DJ shows and stuff like that. And I would always connect with the dancers, break dancers and otherwise, emcees and really realize that community is such a valuable way that we can all connect to relate and just get by. Do you know what I mean? Like, it’s much more than just me performing or something like that. It’s more about building this community where we can meet other like-minded people and just bounce ideas or whatever off one another or connect on that level because, I mean, as we keep going in life, we feel so connected. But at the same time, we have so little common ground to really like, connect with people and meet people in real life. And I’ve gotten so much out of that over the years, and it’s just natural for me to want to continue to create that.
KHOL: Can you walk us through what goes into a performance set of yours as far as song selection and strategy?
MURPHY: Well, first of all, there’s always an element of DJ-ing where reading the crowd and keeping your head up is very important in my mind. I’ve been DJ-ing for 25 years or something like that and I have a large repertoire of stuff I could do. At any given moment, there’s stuff that I’m feeling or that I’m liking, like a certain personal interest or musical interest. So, there’s certain stuff that I like but also I have a lot to pull from too. So, when I get going on tour, I’ll usually narrow it down to a few sort of power moments that I can lean on that define my style, especially when it’s the first time I’ve been to a city. I have some routines that I feel define me, whether it’s the Star Wars one or whether it’s something that I feel gets my message across with something. But as a DJ, I don’t like to stay fixed to like a performance like a band might sometimes or where a DJ might sometimes just decide to just, ‘This is what I’m going to do as my showcase set,’ which is like an hour and a half long. I more break it down into little mini-sets or I call them ‘clumps.’ That’s probably not the most appealing word to describe your art, but like little sections that work.
And then even sometimes you’ll be playing music and you test out something and then you’ll kind of get a read whether the crowd is into that sound or style or not. And if they are, you can go deeper into that section. If it doesn’t go off as good as you really wanted to, you can make the appropriate adjustments, and that flexibility is something that I feel is really important to party rock. And because, you know, we’ve all been at a party where someone puts on the wrong thing and it’s a total buzzkill or whatever. But at the same time, if you’re observing that stuff, you never know if you’d stay fixed to one set, you might have something in the set that’s a total buzzkill or that doesn’t go well and you don’t want to get stuck in that. So, I have a lot of different things I can do. So, a lot of times generally I’ll build a frame, especially with a tour. Sometimes you get some momentum that translates city to city. But playing a new city for the first time, it’s pretty much a clean slate. So, I would just say that I don’t have a specific, singular preparation method or approach to gigs. But that idea of keeping your head up and sort of like understanding the situation, the time, who you’re playing after, what venue it is, what’s going on, what the crowd might be. There are many, many factors you’ve got to consider. And so the most important thing for me is being observant.
Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with DJ Skratch Bastid.