Dj Advice: Smasherelly
Written by: Kofi Oteng
Young Fire, Old Flame, the collaborative mixtape released at the end of 2015 by the legendary Wretch 32 and the emerging talent Avelino, was widely considered a success by critics and fans alike. On the tape was the track Nothing Will, a smooth, upbeat piece with prominent piano keys making up the chorus; the architect of this masterpiece being DJ Smasherelly.
DJ Smasherelly aka Smash aka Ninja (“everyone calls me a ninja because I’m quiet and keep myself to myself, but when I attack, you’re gonna know about it”) is a London based DJ and Producer. With an initial interest in writing lyrics and rapping, he attributes his move to DJing, and then production, to the Public Enemy hit Rebel Without a pause; “I think when I heard Terminator X scratching on Public Enemy’s Rebel Without a Pause, that kind of, like got my ear to DJing”. Having learnt to DJ on vinyl at the age of 14, he remains an advocate for the ‘art’, “I still use turn tables, whenever I can… the art form of it, that’s what drew me towards it”.
Smasherelly has supported Kid Ink and Estelle as a DJ, the latter for over ten years, and largely credits this impressive résumé to his ability to DJ on turntables, “his (Kid Ink’s) road manager really liked what I was doing… because I was on turntables and scratching. It just adds to what I can do.” Furthermore, his time spent working with Estelle and her live band has contributed to his musicality, “Playing with a band made me a bit more musical… In that situation, I have to think about things in a different way. When we are planning a live show, I’m not just thinking ‘play the track and finish’, let me create a show and not just the version you hear on the radio.” Regardless of his success as both a Producer and DJ, Smash still considers himself to be learning, “In a way, I’m still up- and-coming”. The award winning artist met with us to impart some of the knowledge he has acquired over a twenty year career to fellow ‘up-and-coming’ DJs and Producers – take note!
Focus on a particular genre
“I would say maybe start focusing on a specific genre. I grew up mainly just focusing on hip hop, but nowadays, because of the technology, people expect you to have everything. But sometimes it can be difficult to stay on top of all of the music. So sometimes it’s good to focus on one style of music, learn that really well, and then move on and start building. It’s just a case of knowing your music inside out, go out to as many events as possible and see what other DJs are doing – see how they control a crowd. Know what you have in your music vocabulary to work a crowd.”
Develop your sound
“Put in the hours, develop your sound. There’s a lot of music out there which sounds the same. So if you can develop your own sound, that’s definitely going to help you stand out. Collaborate with other producers and other artists, and just get in the studio - It will help you become more rounded.”
Keep it musical
“Some DJs maybe get a little bit too carried away, with certain skills and techniques. It’s like look; people really just want to dance. You can showcase a little but again, for me, it has to be musical. I’m not gonna keep pulling back a track too many times, just do it 4 times – make it musical, like it would be a part of a track. That’s me.”
Become a storyteller
“Sometimes they talk about DJs being story tellers; you have to have a good intro to hook the crowd, and then take them on a journey, and you’ve got to have a good finish. If you learn the art of doing that, you can become a good DJ.”
Learn where you fit in
“Becoming a well-rounded DJ and learning the different skills definitely helps. But at the same time it’s about leaning where you fit in, you’ve got to know what you are capable of. I’m still learning. There are certain scratches I can’t do properly or need to learn. For DJs, if you can become well rounded in the different skills, it’s going to help you get more gigs, more work, more variety of work. So it definitely helps.”