Some kids are really good at sport, others are a shit-hot at maths, some like to draw and some are into music. A few really annoying ones are good at all of them, while the more unfortunate ones are pretty crap everything. When Dizz1 (AKA Dave Norris) first stared playing drums aged just 8 years old, it was pretty obvious where his skill set lay. “I had tried a few different instruments and wasn’t really into it,” recalls the Sydney local. “ Then I got drum lessons and just thought ‘That’s what I want to do!’”
Those early years were spent thrashing away at the skins, honing his ear for a pattern and probably annoying the fuck out his neighbours. But having taken part in school concerts and formed numerous bands with his mates playing everything from rock through to jazz – something else caught his attention. “I started hearing hip hop back in about ’88. I got my first tape and I was like ‘OK, that’s what I want to do now’. It all just made sense. I guess I always knew it was going to be something to do with music but it was just about finding that sound, and hip hop was the one.”
It was out with the drum sticks and in with the cross fader as mixing, scratching and turntablism became the new found love for a young and eager Norris. However, despite the obvious differences, apparently a background in drums lends well to future in scratching as Norris took the workings of one art form and applied it to another. “I just wanted to copy all of the rudiments and all of the stickings that you’d learn with drumming and use them in scratching. I came up with my own turntable notation system. I had such a shit memory, so to learn the combos I kind of came up with a waveform with a left/right as opposed to forwards/backwards.” For years, Norris immersed himself in hip hop, although gradually he began to look beyond the limits of the genre and had a ‘eureka’ moment when he was struck by the euphony of Witness the Fitness by UK hip hop rapper Roots Manuva. “That was for me, one of the baddest beats,” he says sincerely, “and I just thought ‘That is the epitome of where the future of this music is going to go’. Just the big dub kind of reggae based sounds and snappy drums and all the rest of it. I always wondered why there wasn’t more of that kind of grimy hip hop, without it sounding too ridged. It definitely comes down to that kind of feel.”
Using ‘that feel’ as a base Norris now finds himself amongst a group artists who remain elusive in terms of defining the music they make. Whether we call it ‘Beat Music’, ‘Aquacrunk’ or even ‘Wonky’, the instrumental hip hop sound that probably started with J Dilla has risen in Glasgow with the likes of Rustie and Hudson Mohawk, in Amsterdam with Jay Scarlet, Cinnaman and the Rush Hour record label, in the US with Flying Lotus, Samiyam and the Gaslamp Killer and through artists including Mark Pritchard, Stereotip and even techno producer Ricardo Villalobos, continues to take us further into previously uncharted territories.
These days the rules as to the arrangement of hip hop have been well and truly flung out the window as Norris and others happily reconstruct the deconstructed with no interest in naming the results. “I guess the best explanation for it, was future music,” he concludes. “Just future beats – making it brand new and as different as possible and not trying to conform to a certain style or genre because in the end, that’s what the problem is with most music; it gets stale and done and that’s the end of it. Fuck that!”