|Interview conducted by Will Hernandez of WHOMAGTV.com/whomag.net
WHO?MAG TV: Tell me how did you get into DJing?
TERMINATOR X: I always loved music growing up. When I was very young, long before “boomboxes” came about, I had a little blue AM radio I would carry around and listen to artists like Dionne Warwick and Elton John which was the popular music at the time on the stations I could get. When cassette players came around, I would use pause button recording to make I guess what you would now call mixtapes. Songs like “Good Times” by CHIC I remember making it sound like a DJ “juggling” the break. By the way we called that “Flashing” at the time because that is what Grandmaster Flash did. Tapes would trickle into my neighborhood of DJ’s and MC’s like Kool Herc and the Herculoids, DJ Hollywood, Grandmaster Flash, Force MC’s, Busy Bee, Kool Moe Dee and even some local DJ‘s. This was a time when the DJ ruled the set. The MC would have to ask for the DJ’s permission to get on the mic. There was no “Rap Music” just DJ’s and MC’s. I loved the tapes. One day a guy by the name of Rudy Lovell who had moved into my neighborhood from Brooklyn I think let us try “spinning records” on his turntables. I was hooked forever!
WHO?MAG TV: Who are some of your influences as a DJ?
TERMINATOR X: Some of DJ’s who influenced me the most would be Grandmaster Flash and DJ Jazzy Jeff. There are others, which I am forgetting, but these two are the top two I would say. Grandmaster Flash in the early days was in my opinion the best DJ around. I remember he had a tape come around with him playing what was called the “beat box” and the Furious Five rapping to it. It later came to be “Flash it to the Beat”. Those days represent the birth of Rap Music. That was the origin. GMF was the DJ king.
DJ Jazzy Jeff in my opinion was the first “high skilled” DJ. “The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff” was to me the best DJ record since “Adventures of GMF on the Wheels of Steel”. When I heard the transformer scratch, I lost my mind!“How did he do that!!” is what I said. I remember it like it was yesterday.
WHO?MAG TV: You developed the transformer scratch in a different way than DJ Jazzy Jeff & Cash Money on “Rebel Without a Pause”. How did it come about?
TERMINATOR X: My transformer style scratch on “Rebel”… Hank Shocklee gave me the track to come up with some scratches if I remember correctly. I was going through a bunch of records looking for something good to scratch as you would look for a good sample. I got to the record “Rock and Roll Dude” by Chubb Rock and started playing around with it. I remember saying to myself, “yo, that sounds kinda like I’m playing a guitar!” I said, “This is it! This is it!” I went into the studio and started doing the scratch. Chuck D and Hank Shocklee had a puzzled look on their faces like…wtf is that? Chuck absolutely hated it. Hank said, I think I get it. Hank took the low-end frequencies out of it so you could just hear the guitar and then he loved it. Chuck still hated it. If Hank hadn’t stuck up for me, it would have never seen the light of day. It ended up being my most famous moment on wax.
WHO?MAG TV: How was it working with the Bomb Squad on Public Enemy albums?
TERMINATOR X: The Bomb Squad was a great group of guys, most of which I knew for a long time. I did not work with The Bomb Squad on production for the most part. My input was limited mostly to scratches. In the early PE days, I didn’t do music production. It wasn’t until the second album that I started getting into production.
WHO?MAG TV: How was the production process behind “Leave This Off Your F*ckin’ Charts”?
TERMINATOR X: “Leave This Off Your F*ckin’ Charts”… To be honest, I don’t remember making that record well enough to talk about it. I think a college radio station DJ Jeff Foss helped put that together.
WHO?MAG TV: How did you transition to producing music?
TERMINATOR X: I started the transition into music production because I felt I would be good at it. I think you’ll find a lot of music producers were or are DJ’s. DJ’s have a good feel for music.
WHO?MAG TV: How did “Terminator X to the Edge of Panic” come about and the production process behind the song?
TERMINATOR X: “Terminator X to the Edge of Panic” was my first music production to make it to wax. The main part of the track is “Rebel Without a Pause” played backwards. This idea came from DJ Bobcat who was at the time part of the “LA POSSE” production team that was producing for LL Cool J. Bobcat went on tour with LL as one of his DJ’s along side Cut Creator. One day at sound check he was playing “Rebel Without a Pause” backwards and I liked the way it sounded. He said “you should make a song out of it”. I agreed. By right, he should have gotten some writers credit because it was his idea that stemmed the track. I put some drums behind it, added scratches and Chuck wrote the lyrics. The intro to me is the most interesting part of the story. I am a fan of Queen’s music and I used their soundtrack to “Flash Gordon” as the intro to the song. I think “Bohemian Rhapsody” is one of the greatest songs ever recorded. Well, it turned out that Freddie Mercury hated rap or Public Enemy or both. My understanding is that he had a fit when he found out. He immediately started a lawsuit.
WHO?MAG TV: How did you go about choosing what records to cut and scratch for Public Enemy?
TERMINATOR X: Most of the time I just look for something that sounds good. Other times I look for something that matches the song or artist.
WHO?MAG TV: How did the idea of making your own album “Valley of the Jeep Beats” come about?
TERMINATOR X: I originally was going to do my first album on Epic Records. Ron Skolar had got Epic to agree to do a Terminator X album with established artists such as Method Man and others that were hot at the time, which was unheard of at the time. A DJ with an album…to my knowledge, I was the first. At the same time, Chuck D had started a label with Rush Associated Labels called Pro Division. He asked me to sign to his label instead. I signed to Chuck’s label.
WHO?MAG TV: How did “Buck Whylin” and “Juvenile Delinquintz” come about and production process?
TERMINATOR X: “Buck Whylin” was Chuck D’s creation. I only did the scratching on that song.
“Juvenile Delinquintz” I would have to say was one of my favorite productions. By the way, that was the first rap group with kids so young. They were before Kris Kross. They didn’t have the success, but the were the first. I was disappointed they didn’t pursue a music career. That song has some great things going on in it. I also enjoyed making the video as well. The lyrics were written by Celo, who was the rapper on “Wanna Be Dancing”. I did the track and scratches. Celo and Juvenile Delinquintz were managed by a friend Todd Hardy who lived on the same street as me growing up.
WHO?MAG TV: How was the production process behind “Tap the Bottle” for Young Black Teenagers?
TERMINATOR X: “Tap the Bottle”… Young Black Teenagers asked me to hear some tracks and they chose that track out of what I gave them to listen to. It turned out to be the biggest song on their album. I think the Bomb Squad produced most of the album. I remember Hank Shocklee saying “Terminator kicked our ass with three tracks”(out of 24 studio tracks). The music was basically three tracks, the drum track, the baseline, and the keyboard sample. Most of the Bomb Squads production consisted of multiple tracks. DJ Skribble did the scratching.
WHO?MAG TV: How was creating the song “Sticka” feat. Chuck D, MC Lyte, Ice T, and Ice Cube and the production process behind it?
TERMINATOR X: “Sticka” was Chuck D’s Idea. I did the track and he shipped the tape around for everybody to put their lyrics on. It was an honor to have all of them on my album. Only thing I was upset about was Chuck sped the track up because he thought it was too slow. I felt it took the “feel” out of the track when he sped it up.
WHO?MAG TV: How did “It All Comes Down to the Money” feat. Whodini come about and the production process behind it?
TERMINATOR X: “It All Comes Down To The Money”… Chuck asked me if I wanted to do a song with Whodini one day. I said “hell yeah! I am a big Whodini fan”. It was a group effort consisting of Carl (Wow, can’t remember his last name… sorry Carl), Larry Smith (original producer for Whodini), and myself. I did the drum track. Together we picked the baseline and sax sample. Kadijah Bass sang the chorus. Carl wrote the lyrics. I think it’s a great song and so does Whodini. I think it was a song that simply “missed the bus”.
WHO?MAG TV: How was it working with Jam Master Jay on “Under the Sun” and any fond memories of Jam Master Jay?
TERMINATOR X: “Under the Sun” I had nothing to do with that song.LOL. Russell Simons put it on the album. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it.I only appeared in the video. I never met Joe Sinister until the video shoot. Jam Master Jay was a great DJ and a great person as well. I was honored to tour with Run DMC and JMJ. I had some fun times with all of them on tour. Jay and I would always argue (in fun) about whether or not Queens (NY) was on Long Island. He would never admit that it was.
WHO?MAG TV: What are your thoughts on Serato and the new DJ technology?
TERMINATOR X: Serato… When I left the music business, Serato did not exist. I think they had started fooling around with CD DJing. I wanted no part of DJing with CD’s. Still don’t ‘til this day. I didn’t find out about Serato until 2013. I was so far removed, not wanting anything to do with the music business, I didn’t even know about Serato. Sad as that is, it’s true. In preparing for The RRHOF induction is when I found out about Serato. NOW let me tell you what I think about Serato… I think Serato is the best thing to happen to DJ’s since the turntable! I don’t understand how any DJ would miss playing real records compared to using Serato. Serato, besides coming just in time to replace the fast disappearing vinyl discs, solved every annoying thing there ever was to a DJ, turntable rumble, trying to find a decent needle to scratch with, record skipping when someone jumps, the list goes on. Now, lets talk new DJ tech. I have taken a step even further. I have gone to a Numark NS7 controller. A lot of DJ’s frown on this and say they will never do it. That is their choice. The NS7 has platters just like real turntables. The only difference is they are the size of a 45 disc. The NS7 has no needle to be bothered with. Why do you need a needle? If you are a DJ using Serato, your needle is doing nothing other than sending a signal to the Serato program. I see these same turntable diehards using devices for cue points and other things. Here’s a news flash for those who are using Serato, the minute you started using Serato, you were no longer a true turntable DJ. I DO understand the nostalgia side of not wanting to give up a real turntable. If that is why a DJ says he won’t use a controller, I completely understand, but for them to look down on anyone who uses a controller as not being a real DJ, I disagree. DJing is all about talent and creativity. Without those, no controller is going to make you a better DJ. Serato and other new tech also played a big part in my decision to come back to the business. I am intrigued by it and look forward to experimenting with it. I think for some DJ’s, the problem is they simply can’t deal with change. One last thing to say on this matter, I have been DJing for the better part of 35 years and a member of a rap group that is in the RRHOF and I will NOT let anybody tell me what I can and cannot use to DJ with, period.
WHO?MAG TV: What are your thoughts on getting inducted in the Rock & Roll hall of fame?
TERMINATOR X: The RRHOF… was I surprised, of course! Not because I don’t think PE deserves to be there, but because things have never gone that way for PE. As big as PE was, we never got a single Grammy. Nominated, yes, but no Grammy. It didn’t help that Chuck said “ Who gives a &^% about a @%$ $#@! Grammy” LOL. It was absolutely an Honor to be inducted. I came very close to not attending the induction. I have so much bitterness in me towards the music business that it almost kept me away. I will not go into that story because I don’t want to talk about it and I doubt anybody cares or would understand anyway. It took a lot of talks with family and friends and finally a letter from Joel Peresman (President of the RRHOF) to sway me to attend. I thank all of them because it would have been a huge mistake not to go.
WHO?MAG TV: Why did you decide to leave the music business in the late 1990’s?
TERMINATOR X: The music business is like the worst street in the worst neighborhood you can think of. You can be robbed, pimped, hustled, misled and everything else if you don’t realize where you are. Someone said to me “The music business can break your heart”. They couldn’t have said it any better. I didn’t want anything to do with it. I didn’t know where I was then. Now I know. I return now, prepared…
WHO?MAG TV: Can you tell me about your ostrich farm in North Carolina that you started when you left the music business?
TERMINATOR X: The Ostrich farm was a family business. I didn’t agree on the way things were being done, so I stepped out. For some of the same reasons, I was trying to tell them about, it failed. Now they are raising goats. That is doing much better for them.
WHO?MAG TV: You are now making a comeback. What are you working on now?
TERMINATOR X: Comeback?… I am pleased to say that while at the RRHOF induction ceremony, listening to stories from Quincy Jones and others about their love of music , has made me realize that I shouldn’t let the music BUSINESS keep me away from my love of music. So yes, I am coming back to the business with a new attitude, vision and guidelines. My main focus will be on live performance (DJing) and a secondary focus on music production. I am putting together a DJ group, which a name has been decided on, but will have to be legally protected before we release the name.
WHO?MAG TV: Any last comments?
TERMINATOR X: Thank you very much Mr. Hernandez for your interest and I apologize for the long wait in returning your answers.
For more info on DJ Terminator X go to his website: http://djterminatorx.com/ , Facebook pg:https://www.facebook.com/DjTerminatorX& Twitter: https://twitter.com/DJTerminatorX
DJ Terminator X – “Buck Whylin”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHBwwdegvSc
“Buck Whylin” live: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM3OJNsEG40
DJ Terminator X feat. Whodini “It All Comes Down to Money”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6MLLSArEz4
Young Black Teenagers – “Tap The Bottle”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80HrR1OvLTo
DJ Terminator X “Juvenile Delinquintz”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyoIAb79_ug