[Interview] Wick-It the Instigator Talks Scratch DJs and Rock Roots
Nashville based DJ, Wick-It the Instigator, is well-known for blending genres and energizing crowds. He is quickly outgrowing his title as “Nashville’s Best Kept Secret” and his newest SoundCloud single release “Run the Jewels vs. Tool – Oh My Sober Darling” (also referred to as “Run the Tools”) is another in a long list of successful cross-genre mashups. Wick-It was luckily able to find time to talk with us on the phone while preparing for his upcoming show at Terminal West
Are you originally from Nashville? If not, what brought you there?
I grew up in Owensboro, Kentucky and moved to Nashville in 1998. I’ve been in Nashville for a very long time; I lived here for a few years before I even got into the DJ thing. My brother was already moving there and was in a band based out of Nashville. I really just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after I graduated and I had played in bands throughout high school so I just wanted to move to a music city and feel it out.
Tell me a little about those early bands? What were those like?
Well, when I was 13 my first band was trying to do some punk-hardcore kind of stuff. At about 14 or 15 I got into learning old, classic rock songs, so I had this band of dudes and we learned a bunch of Beatles and Doors and Credence. At 16 I got back into wanting to be hardcore, and that even switched back at 18 or 19 when I kinda got into the jam band thing. I was really into both and kind of popping back and forth because I just always liked the music. I always felt a little musically schizophrenic which made DJing really appealing. I felt like I could apply a lot of different music without it seeming hokey and all. Like, if you see some cover band in a bar playing “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” it sounds so cheesy, but if a DJ pulls it out in the middle of a hip-hop set it’s really dope. I wanted to apply all the classic rock I know in a lot cooler and fresher ways than just being in a band that covers those songs.
So, when you’re doing mashups, how do you decide what songs you’re going to use? What’s that process like?
It kind of changes. Sometimes it’ll start with the hip-hop song, sometimes I might just be out somewhere. Like I was out playing pool one night and I heard the theme song to Grease come on and I thought “This song’s kind of the shit!” Some songs just kinda have that magic to em, you know? Then I just try to find other songs that are in that key and pretty close to that tempo. I don’t like to stretch or change things too much. I want to make it where if you’re already a fan of either of the songs, I don’t want to ruin it for you either. I feel like sometimes remix producers will take a song they don’t know very well or really love and they’ll tweak the shit out of it and it doesn’t bother them because they weren’t super familiar with or into it in the first place.
With the large variety of increasingly specific subgenres in electronic music, do you have a certain way of labeling yourself or categorizing your sound?
No, I think the short, simple answer is that I do a hip-hop and electronic hybrid. Short of that, I would have to just ramble for an hour.
When did you begin to form your identity as Wick-It the Instigator and shape your current sound?
I went to the second Bonnaroo because there were a bunch of scratch DJs that I wanted to see, and they were pretty much just up there scratching their whole sets. But I had never seen Z-Trip live before and he put on an actual show. It was the first time I had really heard mashups before. He was mashing up with The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Led Zeppelin and stuff that got the whole Bonnaroo crowd excited. That set really opened me up to the full picture of what could be done with turntables and DJing. Now I look at scratching as like the guitar solo of the song. Rather than just soloing through the whole song, you have a guitar solo at the proper spot for one; so now instead of just being all-scratch-everything, I started seeing DJing as this whole musical spectrum and scratching being a part of that spectrum rather than being the whole thing. And Z-Trip mashing up all those old rock songs kinda made me realize that all the old rock songs I grew up with were still applicable. It was like one of those moments where you’re like, “Woah... we can do that!?” It was like finding out you could read Cliff Notes for a test. So I was like, "Oh we can still be hip hop and drop The Beatles?" I love hip-hop and I love The Beatles, so that was perfect for me.
I guess it’s safe to say that Z-Trip is a huge influence on your current sound; who are some of your other musical influences?
To put it simply, Mix Master Mike made me want to learn how to scratch, Z-Trip made me want to perform and get crowds going, and DJ Shadow made me want to make beats and dig for samples and records and that whole side of it.
What’s the latest Wick-It tour news?
In this month I’m only doing about four or five shows, and I won’t have a bigger tour until the spring. December is kind of just a chill month with a little bit less. I’ll be fresh and bushy tailed coming down for the Terminal West show, which means I’m gonna bring it extra fuckin' hard.
Are you doing this run or your spring tour in support of anything in particular?
Well, the thing I’ve got out now is the "Run the Tools" mashup, and there’s an original album that we’re working on putting out at the turn of the year, but I put out music kind of sporadically. I’m not usually into that formula of “put out an album and tour in support of that album.” I like to put out new stuff all the time. I’m making it for my live set, so it’s catered to live DJ shows and a lot of the people who are following and downloading my tracks are other DJs themselves that are performing. DJs are always looking for something new and hot that nobody’s heard yet for their set which is why I like to keep putting out a bunch of singles fairly often. Because electronic music is different, people love that brand new hot freshness.
Wick-It the Instigator is set to perform at Terminal West in Atlanta, GA on December 23. Event info and tickets can be located HERE.