French born DJ Cosmo from Halifax was the winner of the Red Bull Thre3Style finals in Toronto, Canada for 2009 at club CiRCA. We spoke to the 29 year old about the event, about the essence of Red Bull Thre3Style and got him to give us some inside tips into his style of playing.
What is your history as a DJ?
I grew up in the school of turntablism, just scratching and doing beat-juggles and tricks. I lived in Montreal for a bit so I got to see DJ Craze and A Trak and that whole scene. It must have been about 2000, the scene was huge then.
Then I moved back to Halifax and linked up with Skratch Bastid and we would practice together and he taught me how to play for parties. I then did a lot of practicing, some promotion and a lot of DJ battles. I also got into music production.
Red Bull Thre3Style is an amazing opportunity to put everything together, the skills, the party rocking and the production. Its perfect.
And your history with Red Bull Thre3Style?
Initially I was going to be a promoter for Red Bull Thre3Style but then when I realised it was going to be a national competition I thought well I should just enter it.
One of the core principles of Red Bull Thre3Style is party rocking. Can you talk about your approach to turning the party out?
The basic element of party rocking is get the girls on the dancefloor and then everything works out from there. It’s about bringing people into your world. People might not want to hear scratching but if you get them onto your side, then you can show them some of your talents. There has to be a certain amount of spoon-feeding if you’re going to show off. Just bring people into your world.
Can you speak a little about your approach to putting together a set for a Red Bull Thre3Style event?
Well because I’m into hip-hop I can trace the history of the music. We call it “source” DJing: So you start off with the funk-soul track that was sampled on a big hip-hop record and then play the actual hip-hop version. And then the history is that from the funk everything got very electronic, so stuff like the roller-boogie is a good bridge to full on electro. That’s a basic example.
The sets are like a story, you just start slow, you can’t give it all up too early, which is why I keep the electro to the end. What happened at the Halifax set is I held back a lot. There were a lot of techniques I didn’t show off because the venue was a pop venue so I custom made my set to win over that venue. But then talking to the judges I think they could tell I was holding back and they encouraged me to be a bit flashier for the nationals. They basically encouraged me to show off more.
Also it’s very much a psychology battle. I encourage anyone entering Red Bull Thre3Style to really think of who their audience is where you’re paying. These days you can do anything as a DJ, so you have to think about what the boundaries are, what the framework is. If I was playing at the final in Paris I would study what Paris is about, what the venue where the final is taking place at is about. You don’t have to abandon your style but you have to know what to expect.
Can you give us an example of one of your mixes that really worked?
You take two songs that people really know and bridge them in just a different approach and it makes connections in people’s brains and it makes them go crazy. For instance I mixed the Champ Is Here by Eminem and I took the instrumental and mixed it with an accappella of a Reggae song called Champion. To the crowd it suddenly made total sense but its just a different approach, its not really a mixing approach its more of a psychological approach.
What have you taken out of winning the national finals for Red Bull Thre3Style Canada 2009?
I have a lot more confidence. I always knew I had skill but it’s helped my showmanship a lot. It’s made me DJ in a different way. People can say in a negative context, “You’re a fifteen minute DJ”. But it takes a certain skill and approach to play a set in 15 minutes, and I’ve taken that negative connotation and turned it into a positive. I’m proud that I can build sets that are kind of shock and awe. Can you impress someone in 15 minutes? It takes a lot of skill.
I’ve played in every province in Canada, which is a big place, played everywhere from the West Coast to East Coast and that’s always been a dream of mine. I think Red Bull Thre3Style really helped with that.
And extra tips for competing Red Bull Thre3Style DJs?
From a mental approach just really have fun. Competitions can get really serious and negative but the crowd is just a party-rocking crowd, they really gonna look at who can make it look fun. Who can pull off those skills and make it look easy.
From a technical perspective you should test your set out with a lot of different people. Like I test it out with girls who know nothing about what I’m doing because your boys might be sympathetic to skill but women will be very upfront and it’s a very good way to assess whether your set will work. Learn to entertain people who know nothing about technicality.
For more info about Dj Cosmo check out his Myspace page at www.myspace.com/djcosmohalifax