Perfecting The Art Of Turntablism
By Kathleen Cahill
In a music scene dominated by masculinity and aggressive sounds, Ruckus Roboticus brings new meaning to turntablism. When thinking about turntablism, the first thing to come to most people’s minds is crude scratching of records over top of hip-hop beats. Not often can a musician break outside of the norms so much that it defies the genre itself. Ruckus, also known as Dan Haug, branches so far outside of the idea of scratching that he, in turn, creates easy listening music with groovy hooks.
Haug, who is known around town simply as Ruckus, is personable and extremely humble not only about the fame he has gained over the last couple of years but the notoriety from a tour through England playing a total of six shows over a two week stay. In addition, one of his big breakthroughs stemmed from having National Public Radio play a few of his songs on their midday show titled The World Cafe. Yet with much exposure, Ruckus Roboticus is still not a recognizable name for people outside of the Dayton hip-hop music scene.
Haug’s last album, titled Playing with Scratches, is a concept album about childhood. The album takes you from the birth of the child, who is a gifted musician, to the time in his life where he must decide to keep playing music or get a real job to appease his parents. When asked about why a concept album, and especially why the childhood topic, Haug responded, “It’s natural, I can’t make something without meaning. I can’t just make music. It has to tell a story.” The album is able to walk you through the child’s life by sound clips that Haug sampled from old-time records of children and adults’ dialogue. At first listen, the samples seem to overpower the music, but after adjusting to the style of the album, the music begins to show its quality and character. The samples of dialogue act as the songs’ narrator, keeping the listener aware of the different stages of childhood. Along with the retro dialog, he splices up jazz with funk music from the 1950s and 60s. Atop the music, Ruckus delivers his very polished form of turntablism. Surprisingly, the scratches do not detract from the music but add an extra top layer to the already dense beats, vocals and music. When all of the elements of his songs come together, they process a certain pop quality that makes the album accessible to all ages.
It is hard to imagine the music just described being played at a hip-hop show. But in fact, Ruckus plays a majority of hip-hop shows. When asked about how people react to his music at such shows, Haug responded, “It’s usually positive. I’m definitely shy, and I get nervous about what people think. One thing I can take comfort in is that people appreciate honesty. I would probably get worse feedback if I was trying to be something I’m not.”
Haug, a Kettering native, started to take an interest in music when he was an adolescent. One of his first experiences in producing music was by using a crude music program called Windows Wave Maker. The program allowed Haug to import CDs and then edit them. As a high school student, he purchased his first set of turntables. Haug described wanting to learn how to play an instrument, but after getting his turntables he began to think of them as his method of music. At that time, the Internet was not full of tutorials on how to scratch or mix on turntables. Haug turned to his friend Scott Perrin for help. Perrin, known among the music scene as NoNekNed, began to show Haug how to use his turntables. From there, Haug started to DJ, and used to hold a regular gig at Therapy Cafe.
Currently Ruckus is moving away from the style that is the trademark of Playing with Scratches, and heading toward a more dance-oriented sound. One of Haug’s influences is the eltro-pop group Daft Punk. Like Ruckus Roboticus, they use many samples as added layers in their music. Commenting on Daft Punk’s style, Haug said, “They use samples that are so far forgotten that no one has an idea of where they came from. When the audience has no idea where the samples come from, that raises the bar to the next level.”
Ruckus Roboticus will be among several musicians performing Sunday, August 29 at the WYSO Summer Concert at Carillon Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd. Music begins at 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call (937) 767-6420 or visit www.WYSO.org
Reach DCP freelance writer Kathleen Cahill at firstname.lastname@example.org