Rob Swift Stays Classic on The Architect

Rob Swift has influenced a generation of DJ’s with an impressive solo career and as a member of the X-Men/X-Ecutioners. His latest solo project, entitled The Architect incorporates elements of classical music in new and exciting ways…

Rob Swift has influenced a generation of DJ’s with an impressive solo career and as a member of the X-Men/X-Ecutioners. His latest solo project, entitled The Architect, incorporates elements of classical music in new and exciting ways…

He was generous enough to share his thoughts with me on classical music, the evolution of the DJ and the decline of arts education in the US. Read on & be sure to cop The Architect on Amazon.

The Architect fuses classical music elements with turntablism – has classical music always interested you?

RS:  Classical music never really made an impression on me until just before I started working on The Architect.  I’d hear classical music in movies, commercials, etc., but it never really moved me until one day in June of 2008.  I was shaving in my bathroom and in walks in my girlfriend with her ipod and speakers.  She set everything up for me and before she left the bathroom she says, “listen to this!”  It was a composition by Frederic Chopin.  I don’t remember the exact title but whatever it was for the first time I got it.  I understood why classical music is historically the most celebrated music in the world.
Classical music has survived the centuries, in part, through printed sheet music. Do you see scratch notation serving a similar role in the preservation of turntablism?

RS:  Honestly no.  Although there have been attempts to create ways of notating scratches, for the most part, true scratching is an improvised skill.  Scratch notation can serve it’s purpose but I created The Architect strictly from feeling and musical instinct.  I didn’t need a sheet to tell me how to play or scratch a specific sound.
Students of classical music spend a considerable amount of time practicing and performing the works of others – do you envision a future where young DJ’s are judged on their ability to recreate a classic routine? Has the culture of hyper-originality in Hip-Hop relaxed enough for this to transpire?
RS:  In the realm of “Turntablism” yes, I do envision a time when DJs, young and old, judged by their ability of recreating a classic routine from the likes of a Q-bert, D Styles, Roc Raida (R.I.P.) or myself.  As a young up and coming DJ, I myself would challenge my knowledge of working the turntables by finding out if I could recreate routines by the DJs I looked up to.  As a result, I truly feel I grasped the art form that much more.  Back in October of 2010, DJs from all over the nation came together to pay homage to our falling comrade Roc Raida.  We celebrated his contributions as a DJ by performing all of his classic routines.
The feeling I got from performing Raida’s well known “Peter Piper” routine was awesome and while I practiced his routine at home, I felt like I was in Raida’s mind in a way.  It helped realize little things that he did in his routines that helped me grow as a DJ.  The important thing is for all DJs to remember is that if that time comes, when it’s OK for a DJ to perform his/her interpretation of another DJs work, that they give credit so that audiences know where  that specific routine came from.  Similar to how young students of classical music do now!
Who are your favorite classical composers? Is there a piece that particularly moves or inspires you?
RS:  I’m still learning about the genre of classical so I don’t know many composers.  But Chopin definitely jumps out as one of my favorites.  His “Prelude #4 In E Minor” is simply beautiful.  Actually that might of been the piece my girlfriend played for me that day.  Mozart and Beethoven are pretty cool as well.
Throughout your career, you’ve stressed the importance for a DJ to be well rounded (party rocking, scratches, programming). Would you consider DJ’s today to be more or less well-rounded than when you started, as a whole?
RS:  I feel DJs today are less well rounded.  Most of them specialize in one skill.  Either they’re really good scratchers but they don’t party rock or keep up with the latest music.  Others are amazing at DJing a party and getting people to dance but if you put them in a room filled with battle DJs, they get intimidated and won’t get on the turntables.  I’ve always said, regardless of what environment I’m in, I wanna be ready to entertain and make an impression.
Your father was a DJ, as was your brother and you’ve attributed having access to records and equipment as pivotal in your development as a DJ. With the decline of arts education in America, what can society do to continue to nurture the creativity of the youth?

RS:  We have to encourage America’s kids to try new things.  To experiment.  That’s how you grow as a person.  With regards to my field of DJing, there’s schools like NYC’s Scratch DJ Academy where accomplished DJs such as myself teach people from all walks of life and ages how to DJ.  It always makes me proud to see students walk into the school knowing nothing, then understanding and building an appreciation for the art with each class.  If it weren’t for DJing, I’d probably be behind a desk pushing pencils.



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