If you think you can tap into the mind and soul of a DJ strictly by the songs they spin, you couldn’t be more wrong. Thats like saying you can judge a book by its cover, and we all know the rap about that. You need to find out the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’ before you can really know the deal…..you gotta dig in those crates before the precious reward can be mined.

Now, some of you may be asking, “Why do I need to tap into the mind of a DJ?” , and thinking ” seriously, just let them spin, let me listen and all will be fine.” Maybe. However, to do so leaves the aforementioned gems unmined. The soul, the feeling, the heart and the long hours and hard work of the DJ bear fruit….delicious, delicious fruit. You wanna know what you’re eating right? So tap in! It’s good for you and you’ll be better for having done so. Taking that logic to the streets I recently met up with a man known for his massive talent and ability to do major damage to Technics 1200’s. He’s known throughout Boston and well beyond as one of the best to get behind the wheels of steel. I give you Axel Foley.

Hi Axel, how’s it going? Welcome to Popblerd!

Doin good b, thx. The blog is nice, I dig it.

Thanks! Right off the bat I want to go way, way back to the early days like Just-Ice. What is your very first music memory?

Umm hmm I guess it would be my mum singing “band on the rug” instead of “band on the run”, my cousin thought they were saying “rug” on the hook.. Either that or staring at my dads copy of electric ladyland lp that had all the nude women on the cover haa. Man I dunno, I’m old! Memory ain’t what it used to be.

That’s awesome. Staying in that lane, early on in your childhood/young adulthood what genre and artists did you listen to most?

When I was real young it was the stuff my dad played around the crib, mainly blues and white boy blues/rock stuff.. When I was actually able to interpret and somewhat understand music it was RAP 24/7, I went berserk for the stuff.. Something about the beats/loops really hit me hard.. Of course when your a kid hearing some dude spittin vulgar curse words over beats is appealing too haha.

(more interview after the jump…)

When did you realize that you wanted or needed to be on the 1’s & 2’s?

I can tell you the exact moment, I was in the 6th grade, my man Adam came over with Eric B and Rakims “Paid In Full” cassette.. The cuts on that song blew me away, it was like magic to me.. I needed to figure out how Eric B, Marley Marl or whoever actually did those scratches made those sounds.. The transformer scratch had me geeked for years after that!

What DJ’s had the biggest impact on you as you were coming up?

Yikes the list is soooo long but off the top, Jazzy Jeff-Cash Money-Code Money-Kid Capri & the Lords Of Funk-Pete Rock-Preemo-Terminator X/Johnny Juice-Scratch-Skillz-Daddy Rich, that’s not even getting into the “turntablist” realm, just the dudes I admired when I was a teenager..the list is looooong!

As far as production goes, what are the tools of the trade for you?

Aw man my setup is crazy minimal,  lots of records, an akai mpc 2000xl and emu sp-1200 sampling drum machines,Korg kaos pad for effects and a digital 8 track recorder.. Oh and way too many floppy and zip disks.. I’ve never used a computer to make music, which isn’t a good thing haha..

Quick answer: Best Hip Hop Producer all time……..

I’ll just say Extra P off the top, if u ask me the same question tomorrow it’ll prolly be Q-Tip then the next day 45 King, then Diamond blah blah

How about overall musical influences? Who has had a great impact on how you hear and create music?

From the get go its my dad, he’s been heavily into playing blues guitar and collecting records my entire life so being around music so much it seemed natural to me.. My parents were really supportive of me getting into music, Im really fortunate to have such a good family, I’m eternally grateful for that.I’m a lucky dude in that aspect. As far as other people, I didn’t know any other dj’s growing up so I SUCKED for years. I met this dude Hollingsworth when I moved to South Boston in maybe 97? He was an ex hip hop DJ that played mainly soca and dance hall at that time, he showed me how to actually mix/blend two records together instead of just throwing or scratching it in.. I’d have to say my man Mister Rourke was a big influence, he taught me a lot of stuff musically but also taught me how to be a professional when it comes to this ish.. He also introduced me to a ton of musicians who are now many years later my friends. Rourke is like the best dude ever, for real.. My boy Kevin Killiea taught me a lot about making beats and put me up on a lot of beats/breaks. He was the first dude I met that had these ill European library records everyone was sweating 10 or so years ago, Kev knew a lot of beats it made me step my game up. Nate Edgar, he’s an amazing bass player and an amazing person. Nate was the first musician to really sit down with me and try to make music using turntables and samplers. I have no formal training so I know it was tough for him at first but we click and make some heavy stuff whenever we hang.

Good stuff. It’s a known reality that many DJ’s can be reclusive in nature, spending hours and hours on the solo tip just practicing, and working on perfecting their skills. Do you find this to be true?

Most def, when I was 21 I got dumped by this girl, I was crushed.. Looking back it was the best thing that coulda happened..I took all that energy and time I spent on chasing woman and put it into making music. I spent YEARS coming home from work everyday and literally scratching records for 6-10 hrs a day, driving my roommates crazy haha, they knew how much I loved it and let me be. I think I’m a bit of a slow learner but once I got it I got it.. I really enjoyed experimenting and trying to figure how a particular scratch was done, kept me motivated.

How much time do you figure you spend daily on your decks in some form?

Hmm nowadays I’ll go a couple days without touching the decks, it’s different now, I play out at least twice a week so it feels a bit like a job .. I’ll still spend several hours a week cutting it up or digitizing records to play out though.

How do you view today’s hip-hop, as opposed to the 80’s & 90’s?

Yikes, I was with my boy today and he had the car radio on, I told him I can’t remember the last time I listened to the radio.. I’ve been in my own bubble for the past 10 years.. I can’t really speak on contemporary “rap” too much…once every couple months something new sounds good to me.. Honestly once sampling started to disappear from rap it f’d it up, IMO. Oh and I can’t deal with dudes speeding and  looping up a soul record then sum bum rhymes over it.. wack. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s done tastefully it works. like that kmd/mf grimm joint where they use that Gil Scott Heron loop.. That’s incredible.

What do you see for the future of hip hop, and specifically for the DJ?

I dunno about hip hop, I have faith that there’s always gonna be young people that really love the music and study the history, preserve and pass on the integrity/passion the past masters had… Djing?!? Pfffff it’s outta control! Technology is just incredible now.. Everyone wants to be a dj and can pretty much be one..I sometimes get embarrassed when people ask what I do and I say I dj.. It’s so corny now, I can’t blame the average Joe for thinking dj’s are douche bags. Have you seen some of these people?! There’s always gonna be cornballs and theres always gonna be the real deals ,ya know?!

I know Serato and programs like that have historically been a hot topic, both positively and negatively within the craft….what are your feelings?

These programs obviously make it easier to dj and take away alot of the mystique surrounding djing but if you were a good dj before the digi stuff you’re even better now.. If I had a 4 hour gig I’d have to bring 4 crates of records before serato came out.. It was a project! Picking out records before the gig then lugging them around, it was a process.. Now I show up with a backpack haha.. No more worrying if I packed the right records for the people, I got thousands upon thousands of songs from every genre(no polka,sorry chuck) on my hd..it’s a different game.

Damn, no Lawrence Welk? Pffft. haha

What are some of the projects you have worked on and people you have worked with that you have especially enjoyed?

The stuff I’ve enjoyed most are the projects that were either recorded properly, meaning the turntable stuff was mixed by someone that actually knew how it should sound and working with the right people..people that you bond with and make you bring your “a” game.. My favorites are guvna dub sessions 1 and 2 and prolly rourkes “terrorvision”.. We worked hard on that stuff and I think it shows. I have a ton of beats that I really haven’t done anything with that I really love.. I think about getting them to rappers but sometimes the beats are too busy and I just don’t really like any mc’s nowadays hahaha

Terrorvision is pretty insane man, definite props to you guys on that. Ok, let’s get personal……how many records do you own?

Hmm well at the moment I’d guess around 18,000, I sold/traded a lot over the last couple years. Selling records and working at a shop have been great as far as meeting other dealers and nerds plus making money doesn’t hurt either..

If you were to get stranded on an island, one that had a power source….somehow…. and you could only bring 2 records with you, what would they be?

Damn that’s another one that the answer would change daily, I’ll go with Marvin Gaye “Here My Dear” and Little Beaver “Party Down”.

What is the digging experience like for you?

Nowadays it’s basically trying to find something I’ve never heard before, which is hard to do.. I still get hyped when I find some drums or nice loops but I really like finding a 45 or 12 I can either play out or just bump at home. Good, soulful or just bugged out songs..

Where do you find a majority of your records?

Stereo Jacks, working at a record shop is a record junkies fix.. All the guys I work with are extremely knowledgeable and generous, we all have different tastes which is good. I’ve learned so much from those guys, especially Matt Starr, who has hooked me up with so many great records over the years it’s insane.

man, I mean SPECIFICALLY, where is your secret spot!?

Honestly my secret spot is wack now.. They changed there pricing system a few years ago, and lost me as a customer.. The place was a goldmine for years, they put out at least a thousand records every friday morning for a buck a piece. Me and my ex used to clean up every week, dudes were salty cuz we were a lil team and honestly knew records better then all of them hahaha! It was a good run but eventually ended.

Ehhh I tried. ha. What or who are you listening to most these days?

I’m all over the place, pretty much whatever records I find that week.. I’m really into 45s nowadays. For years I avoided them for a few reasons… First off I was kinda shook to start collecting them, there’s so many odd ball 45s it’s incredible.. Also I know so many hardcore 45 collectors it was intimidating at first, sh*t I still am.. Secondly I had a tough time remembering what/who to look out for. For some reason I can remember an lp’s cover art from the first time I see it.. I got some sort of photographic memory when it comes to that, wish it worked in school but nope! Haha..

Where can we come and check you out?

I’m at Grafton St pub in Harvard Sq every Friday and Saturday night, be three years(?) next month.. It’s pretty chill, I get to play music I like for the most part which is kinda rare these days.. Seems like most people want u to be there personal playlist and expect you to have every song ever made hence my favorite line ” it’s on YouTube you can download it there” hahaha

How about social media-wise? Can we find you on facebook, twitter, etc?

Yup I’m on Facebook, myspace, soundcloud and misterrourke.com

Cool. OK last few, please just answer quick with the first thing that pops in your head.

-Greatest Turntablist ever-

DJ quest, Mr Dibbs or Mixmaster Mike

-Greatrakest Emcee-

Rakim

-Greatest Album-

It Takes A Nation of Millions

-We on staff at Popblerd have this running joke/discussion so I need to get your input. Better Tribe Album….Low End Theory or Midnight Marauders?

I gotta go with midnight at the moment, that record’s incredible!

Thanks for spending some time with us Axel, it’s been awesome really appreciate it!

Thank you, it’s been fun. Peace!

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