Chris Esquivel, under his alias DJ Tums, is one of the special few among DJs who still loves the art of playing vinyl and is adept at the turntable. He's skilled enough in his craft that he won the DMC regional battle this past July. He has been behind the decks just over 20 years filling all the DJ roles from blue-collar mobile DJ to being deeply involved with b-boy culture.
DJ Tums is a rare beast in this neck of the woods, and he definitely lives up to the hype. For this week's mixtape, he cuts, scratches, backspins and grabs select deep cuts and b-boy classics from the likes of Can, Banbarra, Candido and even funky post-punk stalwarts A Certain Ratio into a masterful mix of next-level DJing.
How long have you been in the DJ game and what drew you in? Where did you get started?
I started DJing at the age of 15 in 1997. My first setup was a Sanyo Direct Drive turntable, a Technics belt drive turntable and a Radio Shack Optimus DJ Mixer. Later I moved up to a pair of Gemini XL 500s and a 626 Gemini mixer, then finally a pair of Technics 1200s, one from Mars music, the other from a pawn shop. I was inspired as a b-boy to spin the music I wanted to dance [to], but along the way, I got into doing mobile gigs. My grandfather wanted me to stop breaking and instead become a DJ since he saw my uncle's success in the late '70s. My uncle gave me my first records and gig. Those records were all old-school electro and disco tracks. I eventually received more of my family's old vinyl collections and started digging at both ATPT & Illmatic to get breakbeats, battle breaks, house, hip-hop and dance records during 98-05. Scratching was my top priority when I would practice, then mixing.
What crews have you run with over the years?
I been down with Kutthroat since 2013. We're a crew of DJs that focus on turntablism, DJ battles and scratching. We also rock parties, but turntablism is where it's at for us. In 2015 I was asked to join Mighty Zulu Kingz, and I proudly joined. MZK is a crew of b-boys, b-girls, writers, DJs and emcees. MZK is known worldwide for winning battles in each element. I'm also part of Empire DJs, which is a mobile DJ crew and I also joined them to help build up their skills. Every member now practices more turntablism since I encourage them. As far as b-boying goes, I was down with Furious Breaking Crew 98-01 and later became a DJ for Jive Turkeys in 2013.
What drew you into battle-style DJing? How did you get involved with competition DJ battles?
Battling in breaking got me into DJ battles. My first DJ battle was in 1998 against DJ Solo (he spins Wednesdays on KNON 89.3). I lost and practiced hard ever since. Battling was how you earned your stripes and respect. Watching b-boy videos that had DJ battles also sparked my interest in battling. Once I learned about the DMC DJ battles, I wanted to learn more and more techniques to better my routines.
What DJs have been a big influence on your technique?
ISP, Xecutioners, Beat Junkies, Dj RIP ONE, DJ Laz, Rectangle, Klever, and Presyce are DJs I was heavily influenced by in turntablism and battling. Before I learned about the greats I mentioned, DJs like DJ Dave, Spiderman, Baby G, Nemeses, Spin Kidd, Boogie B, FeedBack all these Dallas legends inspired me to compete. I mention these names only since I would see them at house parties and local DJ battles on a regular.
What was the theme of the mix and how was it made?
The theme for my mix was strictly for the b-boys and b-girls and funk lovers. I mixed and scratched, even beat juggled a few songs because that's what you can expect hearing my sets. I made it live, just pushed record, grabbed a few Coronas and got busy.
Where do you like to dig for tracks?
I dig for tracks at local record stores, like Josey Records, Half Price and the homie DJ Bryan C. I also use digital record pools, like Beat Junkies, BPM Supreme and a few others. CDs are also great for hard-to-find tracks.
What drew you to b-boy culture?
A childhood friend got into breakdancing and eventually started showing me how to dance. Graff writer Optek introduced me to hip-hop culture and what it really was about. It wasn't about dancing to electro; it was about dancing to drum breaks and funk. Videos like PRO AM, Radiotron, Battle Of The Year and Scribble Jam contributed to my interest in b-boying. Old-school Dallas crews, like United Bboys, Down 2 Rock, Jive Turkeys, all those late '90s crews got my respect since I was a part of that era.
What has been your most significant musical experience of the past year?
Winning the 2018 Dallas Regional DMC DJ Battle was my most significant musical experience this year. All that practice over the years helped, but I need more practice. The reason I say it was a great experience is during the U.S. Finals in Denver, I took a scratch workshop hosted by Babu of The Beat Junkies and it inspired me even more. The knowledge I gained was essential, and I got to have a scratch session with Babu, which was awesome being able to vibe with one of the DJs that I looked up to. I didn't win, but I got fired up so I started working on my 2019 set.
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What is your process for choosing and creating edits for your set?
I only use Acid to make my battle edits for routines. I like it and it hasn't failed me yet. It works great for me, but I'd like to try Logic Pro X. I also use a Akai APC40 when I experiment with turntablism tracks. I'm able to drum scratch the beat, scratch the bass line and scratch in my vocals with the APC40.
Do you have production ambitions beyond what you make for your sets?
Hopefully in the future I'd like to produce battle breaks and beats. I think that would help me out a lot with battle sets and showcases.
What gigs do you have coming up?
I have mobile gigs weekly and some showcases coming up in October. Every month I host a Scratch Session called Scratch Session Sundays at Blue N Silver Studios. The session is open for anyone wanting to expand their skills and have a good time vibing out with like-minded DJs.
1. Heavy! - Dj Flow
2. Theme from Skiddo - Bobby Hughes Experience
3. Green Day(Alister Johnson Remix) - Mo Horizons
4. Hot Wheels The Chase - Badder Than Evil
5. Still Jivin - Hawkeye
6. Scraper - Liquid Liquid
7. Woman - Barrabas
8. Soul Foundation - Sound Foundation
9. Transcend Me ft, Alice Russell - The Bamboos
10. Melting Pot - Booker T. & The M.G.'s
11. Dance to the Drummer's beat - Herman Kelly & Life
12. I got so much trouble in my mind - Sir Joe Quarterman
13. Budos Rising - The Budos Band
14. Vitamin C - Can
15. Apache - Incredible Bongo Band
16. Marvelous Three & The Younger Generation - Rappin' All Over
17. Kind Of Latin Rhythm(Smoove Remix) - The JuJu Orchestra
18. The Traveller Part One - The Haggis Horns
19. Blow Your Head (Undubbed Version) - Fred Wesley & The J.B.'s
20. Jingo - Candido
21. Ride Sally Ride - Dennis Coffey
22. Do the Du - A Certain Ratio