Frenzie chats with DJ Katch

Frenzie chats with DJ Katch

This is an interview I've wanted to do for a long time, and honestly I'm not sure how I can introduce who I consider one of the hardest working men in the industry, Brisbane's DJ Katch. The central figure behind Australia's most successful Hip Hop band Resin Dogs, owner of Hydrofunk records (who at one stage or another has housed legendary Australian acts such as Def Wish Cast and Koolism), Radio presenter, Event promoter - He's been in the game for as long as I can remember. Infact, even when I was first getting into deejaying in the mid eighties, in a city almost two thousand kilometers away Katch's name was already synonymous with the Brisbane Hip Hop scene.

By the time the mid nineties rolled around I had the honor of being partnered up with Katch for the four years I lived in Brisbane. We did so many club nights, radio shows, and turntable showcases together that it is really hard to remember them all.

FRENZIE: One of the fabled old school Brisbane destinations was the coffee shop. I think it was in the mid 80's, but it was certainly before my time in Brisbane. Why was it was so important for Brisbane Hip Hop?

KATCH: The coffee shop was a hall that was situated in the the city across from King George square, next to a church and was part of the Wesley Mission, an Elderly couple (who we called Mum & Dad) set up this hall as a safe space for kids to get off the city streets of an evening. An old school B-Boy by the name of Captain Kidd actually found the space and told us that this spot was cool and had a mad floor for breaking, so we went along and that was it. It basically was the place for all like minded heads to hook up and meet, especially for the graff scene, but was a huge place for the BBoys and Girls for breaking. Mum and Dad always welcomed people with open arms they never new that they would be creating such a legendary space.

Was the coffee shop the first location that brought everyone in the early Brisbane Hip Hop scene together, Or where there places before that?

Basically the only place to meet was the coffee shop. Rocking Horse records eventually became the spot a bit later, and before the coffee shop people were at the Post Office Square - that’s were the seriousness of it all was. You could have up to 150 kids hanging out there - mostly breakers and graffers. That was the spot, but cops always hassled us so the coffee shop became the spot. I think it started around the end of 1985 or 86, and ended in 88 or 89 as by then we were all old enough to be able to go to night clubs.

You're known to have done Brisbane's first train panel. What year was it? Can you talk about how it was in the Brisbane graff scene back then?

1986 Allegedly - and it was also alleged that I was in the vicinity of the area. The graff scene was great. A lot of the trains cops were not looking for graff kids as they really hadn't experienced that level of killing the yards at the time. You practically could go the the yards with paint and a carton and have a party - But that soon changed.

Was there any Brisbane writers in those mid 80s years that you looked up to? Or were you all discovering it together?

I was on a "graffiti is for people who cant break" trip. Hams, Trafik and a few others were killing it! We were all hanging out around that time and we thought we were the kings of it all. Madhouse was there to, and so was Nicer. A heap of younger cats were starting to make themselves known around the early nineties.

Nightmare by Katch  Nice South Brisbane 1988

Nightmare by Katch & Nice, South Brisbane 1988
photo courtesy of 7 Tate

So, in the mid eighties you no doubt grew up watching Beatstreet, Wildstyle, probably owned a copy of Subway art, and a dubbed copy of Style Wars - A path well tread for so many of us in the era. Did you already have an interest in deejaying back then?

For me it was the movie Breaking - But Beat Street definitely got me into deejaying. It just blew me away, especially when Double K was mixing in the bedroom. The Streetsounds Electro compilations that came out of the UK were also a huge influence, as they were totally mixed. That really got me interested too. They were a big factor for a few of us that got into djing. I also have to give a nod to Grandmixer DXT who cuts up on the Herbie Hancock's Rock-It.

Yeah, that scene in Beat Street where Double K is in his bedroom showing his girl his DJ skills was also a highlight for me. I always loved that Phony Four MC's track with that tropical beat he plays in that scene. It was probably around that time that I started getting some equipment myself and experimenting with deejaying. What was your first set up like? I've seen your record collection. You were obviously buying records from an early age.

I started buying records from the age of 12, and after watching Breaking we used to buy a lot of the classic electro records - and then it started developing into the rap as well, but mainly the uptempo and the classic NYC stuff. Brisbane always held the torch for Philly music as well. As for my first DJ set up, It was these two portable turntable systems. One from my Grandmothers place and one from home. I managed to wire them both together through my boombox that had a fader for left and right panning, which gave me input for two decks: one on the left and one on the right. 

So after a while you figure you have the chops to try deejaying. What were some of your first gigs?

I was deejaying from 16 years old, and did this club called China China weekly where I would play early hip hop and related stuff. There was a weird law for alcohol licenses back then thanks to the Joe Bjelke Petersen era [The Queensland state premier at the time] where if you served food you could get a cheaper alcohol license - So most venues sold chips & hot-dogs and that was it. The hospitality law back then would also allow you to work in the industry if you were under the age of 18 as long as you didn't touch any Alcohol - So deejaying was a loop hole for me.

What about some of the other key old school Brisbane venues such as Transformers and Discotek? Where these places accepting of the new B Boy culture, Or was it hard to get work at these places?

Transformers was sort of a boys club to play at, but that was cool. We still practiced our skills and waited. From time to time they would book us to break there. At Discotek we did our own night there which was cool. We did ok, and a few things came out of the Discotek era too. Both Hydrofunk and Butter Beats were both Ideas were kicked off from those events all those years ago. 

Discotek Nightclub, Brisbane 1988
Photo courtesy of DJ Fib

Were there any oldschool Brisbane deejays from the eighties that you really respected back then? 

Stephen (Betty) Whitman was on point and crazy as hell too! He ran the shop Dance Music Records, and mentored me from the age of fifteen. He showed me the proper club records and deejays, while other deejays were still playing Duran Duran records and styling their hair with two cans of hairspray. Stephen put me onto the label Fresh Records and all those mega mixes: Latin Rascals, Shep Pettibone - that style of edit music.

Paul "Flex" Taylor also looked out for me before he moved to Sydney. Also Remo, Nunk & Milton who were the old School R&B deejays who worked at the shop. Mark Koschker also took me under his wing and schooled be on mainstream club deejaying too.

So you start playing the club circuit towards the end of the eighties and even took out some titles in DMC state competitions around that time. I'm guessing you must have gone up against Angus at some stage. What was the level of deejaying like, and what kind of routines were you doing in those days?

We definitely had gone up against each other in battles, but we were also from the same crew KGB which contained 4 DJs and 2 graff writers. Angus and myself also were B-Boys from the beginning so we battled bac then too. We were doing a lot of doubles and beat juggling stuff, a lot of copying the DMC stuff such as cutting up Al Naafysh [By Hashim on Cutting Records]. We use to have parties on the weekends at my place a lot, and would do follow the leader beat juggle styles with up to 4 people at a time - in a small bed room full with 8 people hanging out, and gear in a room that could only really fit 1 person.

DMC Competition 1988, Transformers Night Club Brisbane
Photo courtesy of Teresa Muir

KGB was kind of like Brisbane's AKA brothers, in that it was one of the first Australian crews that represented all elements of Hip Hop and not just graffiti. Who else was in the crew?

Yeah I guess it was kind of like that. Now that you look at it we all hung out for the love of hip hop, and for records. The core of the crew consisted of DJ Fib, Angus aka DJ Bribe (Rest in peace), Michael Jordan (Rest in peace), Hams, Trafik, and myself. That would have been the main people of the group.

You used to host the Phat Tape Hip Hop show on 4ZZZ, something that you did for a number of years. It's since become Australia's longest running Hip Hop radio show, although you have since handed over the reins.

Jigsaw Geoff aka Blunted Stylus did a show at 4ZZZ called Just 2 Def for a bit prior to Phat Tape. There was a gap for a little while and I jumped on it around 1989. I met Peter (Pistol Pete) & Ann who were a part of the 4ZZZ collective. They had reached out to me one night at this club and asked me to come along. They trained me up on how to use the panel and the rest is History. After doing the show for several years I eventually left in 2005 to commit more time to The Resin Dogs, and handed the show over to people that were committed to the legacy - and you can see that by how dope the show has been these last few years, just from having new blood and passing the torch on to the next generation. Unfortunately the show has now stopped as everyone involved needed to move on, and we couldn't find a suitable candidate who could commit to doing the show on the regular. A lot of nights have been sacrificed for that radio show - But 25 years is a great time on air and we didn't want the legacy to be washed down so we told the station not to use the name.

You helped me get a start at 4ZZZ, after I became a regular fixture on your show, and then eventually got my own show on tuesday nights. 4ZZZ was real integral to Brisbane in those days with yourself on Sundays, Peter Mogg on Saturdays. I think NO-MC did Fridays from memory.

4ZZZ educated the city by playing new releases, supporting some of the cities best gigs, and providing Independent News. There was no social media or internet so you had to do your own research if you wanted to find music and music culture. The station took a stand for music that people take for granted these days. 4ZZZ actually invented the Hot 100, it was where you heard the latest music, informed you about what was going on in this town, broke so many artists as we both know, and gave me a platform to do my thing - and supported the Resin Dogs as well many other well known deejays from Brisbane.

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The first I heard of you was from reading the very early issues of Hype magazine around 1988 to 1990, and seeing you, DJ Fib, and Hams names all through it. It really launched in my mind that you guys were the kings of Brisbane Hip Hop - Which was also totally true.

I guess we were. We were just crazy kids - and some with big egos. Although what we did was for the love of Hip Hop. Nobody told us there was money in it. We had to invent, practice our skills and master the craft all without an instruction manual. Well, apart from IGT times, Subway Art, Beat Street, Wild Style, Breakdance, US etc - but we did ok. Brisbane has a good legacy for hip hop when it come down to it all.

And then of course, around that time there was that video clip that got played on Rage, which had DJ Angus scratching over some crazy old school electro track and awesome footage of you and the B Boy all stars all acting crazy in Rocking Horse Records.. I remember video taping that when I was living in Melbourne, long before I had even met you.

Yeah that was crazy. I never thought it would get that much play. It was an art college project that I think Hams and Jigsaw Geoff were involved with. Yeah, Angus did the cuts over a JJ Fad Supersonic instrumental.

Your Hand Picked Bud mixtapes were some of the first mass duplicated mixtapes that I remember seeing. A lot of people, including myself were just doing one off tapes and handing them around letting people duplicate them - But you had the dope photocopied cover with the crazy buds all on it. I think I bought mine through Hype magazine. Kids need find those tapes somehow. That was a real lesson on "Do it yourself" culture.

Man those were some learning times. I decided not to dub them myself so it would save the heads on my tape deck, because it would wear out the recording heads on the regular. Getting them done professionally made them look and sound like ones you would buy from the record Store. I learnt how to budget, do art work, package, distribute, promote, and chase up the money - but mostly that you needed to have a good product in the end.

I'm not even certain if we had met, but not long after I moved to Brisbane you took a punt on me and booked me for the first Hydrofunk Party, which I still have fond memories of - So, thanks for that.
I guess something clicked between the both of us, as we ended up doing 2 more whilst I was in Brisbane, and a bunch of other club nights and parties.
Hydrofunk was clearly a brand name you had been thinking about for a long time.

Im pretty sure we met around the time when Raise released Tha Essence on tape, because you rolled with the homie and so did Seany B - So you had a good reference, plus you're mad on the decks and I needed to peep that style.

The Hydrofunk Parties started because we just wanted to start building something to push the local Hip Hop and beats scene, and have a night were we could hear the good shit and not have to worry - and when we started hosting hip hop groups and doing launch parties it would always be a dope turn out. So after I had a run at promoting those parties it sort of opened us up to start the record label. It was pretty much the same thing except there was product for sale and the artists was were able to perform - plus we also had the radio shows too, so it worked well for us.

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We did a lot of shows together, and the duo of our names became synonymous with not only Brisbane Hip Hop for a little while, but also for a certain style of Hip Hop infused club deejaying that no one else was really doing in the clubs at the time. I know for me that was the time I started getting deadly serious about earning a living from DJing.

Man, those were dope times but they were also hard times. If it wasn't for a few other like minded people who came and supported, or even gave us a chance to do what we did I think it would of sucked bad. We did a lot of our own parties back then. Getting a place to play, hip hop, instrumental beats, funk, and acid jazz really had its moments here in Brisbane.

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I remember one of my first Brisbane deejay residencies was at the Empire Hotel with Johnny Griffen for a night called All Souled Out, which was a hugely successful night in Brisbane for the 2 years that it ran. After a few months we got you on board, as well with Mark Dufty and Yvette. I remember doing those nights, and then heading around the corner to 4ZZZ to do my graveyard shift radio show, and be up until 6am playing Jazzy drum & bass on air as the sun came up.

Those nights at All souled Out were a great thing for Brisbane to have in a venue like that. The renovation of the venue brought a very broad selection of people to the night. I think the funniest memory I have is when we were told we both had the deejay support for the Coolio / Naughty By Nature / House Of Pain concert in the mid nineties - and Rodney O was trying to Rap over Stevie Wonders Pastime Paradise.

Ha! Yeah I was always mad on the promoters for not putting our two names on the posters for that party - Although it was an incredible opportunity for the both of us. I remember our deejay set up was in the middle of the room in this big raised deejay sound booth. I'm pretty sure we did a four deck show that night, and a lot of people were digging it. I have these crazy memories of Coolio backstage being a goofball with a didgeridoo and a hoard of 15 year old girls following him around - But the highlight was when House of Pain bought out Divine Styler on stage. We didn't know that he was in the country. That was dope!

Fuck that’s right, yeah! Seeing Divine Styler live was mad back then. Do you remember the 2 second sound delay as well? We would be deejaying, cutting up, stop and look up and you would hear the sound bounce back from the end of the hall - Mad! Getting names left off the bill still happens today with promoters - Haha!

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I don't remember why we decided to do this, but at some stage around 95 we started what was to become Australia's first DJ team "Big Rigs" with DJ Damage. I'm not sure where we got the idea of doing a six turntable show from because I don't remember ever knowing about the Invisible Scratch Pikls back then.

Yeah I don't know why we did, but we did and it was mad. I'm pretty sure we put together our solo routines from club mixes and got DJ Damage on board. We did some big rehearsal and taping sessions to get those sets together - all from wax too! We would go through hundreds of records all up for a single show: Tricks, cuts, juggles, blends, even mash ups all live! 

We put in a lot of rehearsal time, and did 5 or so shows around Brisbane over the next few years - Most notably at a couple of the Vibes On A Summers Day festivals, where the international guests (Herbaliser / London Funk All-stars, and The Wiseguys the following year) had their jaws dropping on the ground from disbelief. It was pretty amazing.

Remembering it all now, that was as taxing as putting shows together for the Resin Dogs. When we did the DMC showcase and killed it - and the show with Quromystics at the Empire Hotel. I heard we sold out the room too, which was unheard of then for such a thing like that. The Show at Grand Orbit for Vibes On A Summers Day was dope. We smashed that room too, the photos proved it! I ended up meeting Jason from London Funk All-stars that day, who I became good friends with.

The Big Rigs (DJs Katch, Damage, & Frenzie) - Vibes On A Summers Day, Brisbane 1996
Photo courtesy of Geoff Boardman

Somewhere around 95 or 96, we both started experimenting with local musicians. I was working with Des Reid from Step It up which was a fairly straight up Acid Jazz styled show - and you started working with Dave Atkins on some early Rock/Hip Hop hybrid styles, which was the start of a really long musical relationship.

I met Dave at this party at a house I was living in, which I shared with a bunch of people that went to a music college. They had an end of year party at the house. I was playing music as my room was under the house, and it was also the designated bong room. I was rocking some doubles/beat juggling and it blew him away. So we chatted for ages and turned out that I use to break battle against his older Brother back in the day. A year later he was looking for a DJ to join his fusion band, and found me as I was doing that same course at the music college the following year.

How did that relationship eventually become the Resin Dogs?

The band that I joined was called Elevation. While we were on tour and driving between cities I would play beats that I had made myself, some stuff from Blunted stylus. Through the love of early hip hop and breaking we formed this music bond that eventually became the Resin Dogs. I introduced him and Chris to Blunted Stylus & Seany B (who became an OG member of the dogs back then).

Brisbane 1996

The Resin Dogs really was a super group, with yourself and Dave at the helm. Blunted Stylus doing a lot of great productions, and 2 of Brisbane's best MC's: Lazy Grey and DNO. Can you speak on the bands line ups over the years?

There has been many incarnations of this band from having 5 people to 24 people playing on stage. We've done it as dex and drums, and also with just DJ turntables and rappers. Over the years we have had rappers and singers from UK, USA, Jamaica, Australia and New Zealand. We have had string sections, horn sections, done shows with 2 drummers, 2 guitarists, 2 bass players, 2 horn sections, and 2 keyboards. Its been like a musical fraternity where we have had a lot of the best players from Brisbane and a few from Sydney and Melbourne come play for us as well.

I remember when you first started getting serious into production. I was around at your place on the north side, and you loaded up the Akai S950 and played me a very early sketch of what was to become the massive Resin Dogs anthem "Freak The Funk" years later. It must have been amazing those years later playing that song to festival crowds and people crowd surfing to it.

The band has been great, it took me around the world, got me a record deal & allowed me to meet some amazing people and friends. Its made us some money, and lost us money. We've played on stages with 60,000 people in-front of us, and we've played with and supported so many international and local artists. Overall, It's given me some awesome times with an amazing friend and musical genius: Dave Atkins. Thinking back on the stuff we did and have done, in and for the music & record business - It's amazing and I cant believe we did what we did.

It's amazing how fast the years have flown by, and all the things so many of us have done.

I think that some people forget the impact of what a lot of us old school heads in each state did so that people can have the Hip Hop concerts & club nights, dance classes, legal walls, graffiti magazines, and hip hop workshops that go down today!

Lastly, big ups to you for Holding down twelve years of Groove Therapy. We need more radio shows like that to showcase the true elements of this deejaying - and to show that it is an artform and culture to itself.

2 Dogs (Dave Atkins & Katch)
Photo courtesy of Joshua Morton



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Shan Frenzie

Shan Frenzie

Australian based deejay, radio presenter for 2SER FM, record collector, and chief rocker of Hip Hop, Soul, Funk, Disco and everything inbetween.

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