Grandmaster Flash is a pioneer in many aspects of DJing and production, with techniques that he invented leading to scratching and modern day sampling – his Quick Mix Theory alone provided a bedrock of beats for rappers. But all of his pioneering work, he recently claims, comes from nothing – "you could make it from nowhere, and have everything".
Grandmaster Flash been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, received a couple of honorary doctorates and even had August the 4th named 'Grandmaster Flash Day' by the city of New York. That's how important Flash a.k.a. Joseph Robert Saddler is in the world of DJing and music production.
In a recent interview with Music News he explains that his passion for turntablism came not only from his father's love of buying records, but also from experimenting with discarded technology at a nearby junkyard when he was growing up.
"People threw away stereos, people threw away stuff, and I jury-rigged until I put my sound system together," he says. "You can come from nothing. You could make it from nowhere, and have everything. When I invented this DJ technology, I did this with nothing."
Grandmaster Flash would go on to perfect the Quick Mix Theory that would extend drum breaks by mixing them from multiple turntables, providing a perfect backing for rapping. He also developed Clock Theory, where sound effects like horn stabs could be punched in and out of a mix, and was at the forefront of scratching. Many of his techniques would be adopted and updated when sampling technology became popular.
Then there was the three-deck mixing used on his infamous Wheels of Steel mixes. In the interview, Flash reveals how this came from necessity after he discovered he could use a reel-to-reel tapes to iron out mistakes in mixing from turntables, but realised that he would have to perform the mixing live.
"I have to be able to do this live, so no studio magic allowed," he recalls. "So at this time, three turntables had to be used because some tracks overlaid others while I needed other turntable in waiting to throw the next record. So pretty much I did that [in] three takes."
In the interview, Flash also revealed bow he met Blondie for the first time and how she was such a fan that she promised to write a song featuring him in it which turned out to be Rapture.
"When I heard about it, I was like, 'Ah, whatever'. Six month later people are saying 'there's this record out and she's talking about 'Flash is fast or Flash is cool.' I went to go listen to the record, [and] I said, 'Oh shit. She kept her word'.”