My Favourite Game
Duncan Beiny on helping to turn turntablism into a game, using videogame samples in his sets, and cruising across California
Revered turntablist DJ Yoda on gaming’s hip-hop connection
Duncan Beiny, better known as DJ Yoda, is an award-winning DJ who has pioneered his own unique style. He combines apparently disparate elements of pop culture to create his worldrenowned mixes and stunning audiovisual shows, and has also released three fulllength albums of original music. Beiny also took on an advisory role in the creation of DJ Hero, and is now working with events promoter GamerDisco on a History Of Gaming audiovisual show as part of the London Film Festival – a creation which he plans to tour next year.
How did your involvement with History Of Gaming come about? I really like theming my shows, and a lot of my mixes are themed. I’ve done an ’80s one, a ’30s one and a country-andwestern one. A theme helps me focus the music and gives me a bit of direction. Swanny from GamerDisco is someone I’ve been in touch with about shows I’ve done in the past and at some point he said, “Why haven’t you done a full gaming show?” It was one of those things that was so obvious I can’t believe it hadn’t occurred to me before. When I’ve done audiovisual shows I’ve always included gaming stuff and a lot of the time it’s been the best part of the show.
Which gaming samples get a reaction? It’s the stuff that most people know: Tetris, Super Mario, Angry Birds. With my AV shows they’re kind of bits and pieces; the sample sources can be anything – movies, TV shows, cartoons – and it’s just nice to have bits from games too. The reaction’s always been really big. Given games’ rise in mainstream popularity, the timing works well. The interesting thing to me coming from a hip-hop background is that you can really equate what’s happened with gaming to what’s happened with hip-hop. They were kind of born at the same time, they were both underground at the same time, and they’ve become pop culture at the same time. Is that a link you’ve explored in depth? I always research the shows I do, and right now I’m researching the connection between hip-hop and videogames. From the very start there was a Sugarhill Gang record about going to the arcades – it’s a really shit record, but that’s beside the point [laughs]. They go hand in hand even today. There are people who’ve sampled from the start of computer game music and from the very start of hip-hop, and I think there are strong parallels between the two.
When did games come into your life? I had a Commodre 64 and then an Atari ST, so I go back, man! Elite really sticks in my memory, and the music is really ingrained in me too. But aside from Elite, the games I’ve loved the most are ones that don’t require a big time commitment. Street Fighter, Mario… My years at university were all Super Mario Kart – that was like three years of my life! Recently, [I’ve been playing] games on my phone: Arkanoid- type games, Tetris and Snake. Stuff that you can pick up and play. Longer stories and more immersive games are less my thing.
What was it like to be so closely involved in the creation of DJ Hero? That was awesome. My whole thing with DJ-ing is when you get to take it out of its stereotypical environment. Any kind of DJ-ing that isn’t just 1am in the club, I’m interested in. When they approached me and explained what they were doing, I was immediately interested. We were trying to make a computer game out of DJ-ing and trying to break down all the different scratches that you do, the way you make mashups, etc, while still making it playable and fun for people. I worked with those guys throughout the development of the whole game, and it was amazing to get my own level. It was really satisfying, taking these two separate worlds I’m interested in and finding a way to merge them.
“You can really equate what’s happened with gaming to what’s happened with hip-hop”
So what’s your favourite game? I’m pretty old, so I’ve got a very strong emotional attachment to OutRun. I have really specific memories of playing the arcade machine as a kid – it was really glamorous, being set in California and driving a sports car with a hot blonde girlfriend! And OutRun still has my favourite game music of all time. I remember getting a cassette on the cover of a computer game magazine that had the soundtrack on it, and then I even found a version on vinyl too.