YOU WANTED TO KNOW
One of the best things about writing for happygrrls is that I get to meet really interesting people. If I want to know more about someone or something, I contact them and I do an interview. This is the case with the Scratch Lab DJ Institute.
I heard about a new school that taught inspiring DJs about the art and science of DJing called Scratch Lab, but that’s all I knew. I Googled Scratch Lab and found some information that piqued my interest, and came to the conclusion that I loved the concept and I really wanted to talk to someone. I e-mailed the school and got the friendliest e-mail from Jordan Fisher, the Director of Marketing and Sponsorship. I told him that I was curious about the school and he invited me to come down to see it for myself. I gladly accepted.
I visited the school on probably one of the coldest days of the year, but I was given the warmest welcome from Jordan. Once I warmed up from leaving the blistery cold weather, he took me around and gave me a tour of the very professional looking school. I’m sure that I scared him with all my ooohhing and aahhhing!
The main classroom is spacious, with ample room to house the many turntable workstations that are set up. The instructor stands on an elevated platform while a projector screen behind him catches all of his moves. This allows the students to see everything that he is doing. Very impressive! The school also boasts two practice rooms for those who want to get in some extra study time.
About five minutes before the class started, I asked a couple of students why they signed up for classes. One student who looked to be in his mid-teens said, “Because of Starting from Scratch” (pssst…he’s a legendary DJ. I too am a HUGE fan of his skillz!), and another student who looked to be in his late 20s answered, “I was always curious about DJing, so I went on the net – did some research and decided to take the class.”
Before I conducted the interview, I was given the opportunity to sit in on the Beginner’s class that was instructed by DJ Grouch and Dave Campbell. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my hands on the turntables, but I quietly watched from the sidelines. I enjoyed the way they taught. Their teaching style was laid back, but they balanced it by being very hands-on and thorough. I liked how they used humour along with their DJ expertise to motivate their students.
After observing the class for close to an hour and being completely taken with what I witnessed, I felt ready to sit down with Jordan and learn more about his very lucrative business.
How did the concept of the Scratch Lab come about?
My partners and I had the idea a few years ago and we thought that there was a need for people who didn’t have hours and hours on end to try and figure out how to DJ. I actually don’t DJ myself – my partners do. We looked around to see if the idea existed anywhere, and it didn’t in Canada.
Who are your partners?
DJ Baba Kahn and Abby Tobias. Baba is one of the top club DJs in the city and Abby owns a mobile DJ company. He DJs at weddings and parties.
How were the DJs selected?
We all envisioned getting the best guys to be a part of the school. We know that not all good DJs necessarily make good teachers. We want guys that are approachable, knowledgeable, willing to chat with students; basically we want them to check their egos at the door.
Who are the Scratch Lab DJs?
Baba Kahn, Starting from Scratch, DJ Grouch, Dave Campbell and Jr. Flo.
How are the classes set up?
Students can do private classes or group classes. The group classes run on a semester basis. A semester is ten classes, once a week, and they run for 70 minutes. We provide all of the equipment and the records. We also give all the students free time in the private practice studio, so that if they don’t have their own equipment, we encourage them to come and use our facilities to practice what they’ve learned in class. It is just like any other instrument, you gotta practice if you want to excel.
We have Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced classes. Each of those levels consists of two semesters. In the Beginner classes you are taught all the fundamentals of Djing – equipment knowledge, set up, tear down, beat matching, blending, mixing, basic scratching. The Intermediate deals with the business aspect of things and getting into the digital side as well. I wouldn’t recommend taking the Intermediate for someone looking to do this as a hobby. It’s really geared to those who have the fundamentals down and are interested in DJing professionally. The Advanced class is for DJs that are already working in the field and want to expand their skills.
Do you only use vinyl?
All vinyl. We teach everything on vinyl. Students in the Intermediate program use the program Serato, which allows you to hook up your computer to your turntable and utilize MP3s. It comes with time-coded vinyl, so you still need to have the skills to be a DJ, but the vinyl that comes with the program allows you to pickup the sounds from the computer.
Did you assign specific DJs to certain classes?
When we were coming up with the curriculum, it was a joint effort in a sense that we sat down and figured out what we were going to accomplish, and getting the right guys that specialize in one thing, and getting their input. DJ Grouch and Jr. Flo are turntablists, so they are able to oversee the Advanced classes.
How many students are currently enrolled?
Since January we’ve had 250 students.
Are all the students around the same age?
No, our youngest is 10 and our oldest is 51. We have a kid’s class for kids 13 and younger.
What are the demographics of the students?
Our demographics are so varied. Being in Toronto, there are so many people with their own background and ethnicities that they bring their own flavour to DJing.
More and more women are coming to the school, which is great. There is such a great market for female DJs. You know guys, we’re not hard to figure out! Get a good female DJ, and guys will run!
How has the school changed since you opened it?
For one thing, more people are becoming aware of us. Also, we recently had our curriculum approved by the Ontario Ministry of Education. So now it’s in line with the requirements for a grade 10 half music credit. So kids can come here – and once they’ve completed 60 hours of course material, which is going through the program from Beginner to Advanced – they are able to go into high school and receive credit.
What do you want your students to accomplish at the end of their semester?
I want them to learn, expand their minds. Come in and leave knowing more than when they came in. Whether it’s expanding their musical tastes or learning how to beat match. Everyone is different. I want them to leave with the skills that they’re taught, and I want them to learn more and take what they’ve learned and go out on their own.
Would you like to open the Scratch lab in other cities?
Eventually, but not yet. It’s pretty amazing, just by advertising online we’ve gotten franchise inquires from everywhere from Singapore to India. There’s definitely potential, but you need a solid foundation before you branch out.
Anything next for the Scratch Lab?
We are doing a summer camp this summer. We are going to run one-week programs for kids 10-13 years old and a program for kids 14 years old and older.
I know that you are “The Business Man,” but have you ever tried to DJ?
I have….and I am a true testament to the fact that it is an art form. I think I’ll stick to writing business plans! ¤ Michelle