An Interview with DJ Yoda

By April 5, 2015

Music. Leeds.


DJ Yoda (Duncan Beiny) was once a padawan scratch-DJ. With patience and diligence, he applied his craft. In the past decade, he’s channelled superhuman energy, producing mix-tapes, compilations, two solo projects – The Amazing Adventures of DJ Yoda and Chop Suey – and a feature-length, audio-visual, movie ephemera odyssey, DJ Yoda Goes to the Movies, alongside touring world-wide with the likes of Goldie and Scratch Perverts. Without delay, the Jedi masters of the UK music-critical establishment placed his bust in the glittering corridor of ‘top ten DJs to see before you die’.

Now the world-wizened hip-hop supremo has turned his attention to a collaborative project with a host of up-and-coming UK musicians, including vocalists Sparks and Truthos Mufasa from Manchester, 8-piece collective Mouse Outfit, beatboxer and producer Shlomo, and breakthrough rapper Rex Domino. This is Breakfast of Champions. It’s a tantalizing prospect; his preview gigs are going down like Champaign and cornflakes. You can catch a glimpse here:

Ahead of his UK-wide tour, we caught up with the man behind the breakfast bar to discuss sampling with humans, Dim Sum, dubstep, and Star Wars without Jar Jar Binks.

TSOTA: How did Breakfast of Champions come about?
DY: There’s a venue in Manchester called Band on the Wall that holds government-funded artistic residencies – they asked me to get involved and if I had any cool ideas. I wanted to put a band together from scratch, because it’s something I’d never done. We put out adverts asking who wanted to be in a band with DJ Yoda, sifted through all the responses, and I came up with Breakfast of Champions!

TSOTA: What were you looking for in potential collaborators?

DY: I almost treated the selection process like putting together a DJ set – I wanted hip-hop drums, someone who could play country on banjo, someone who could play jazz on double-bass, great MCs – criteria like that. Almost like sampling, but with humans!

TSOTA: Have they taken your music in a new direction?
DY:100%. I wanted to work with real instruments as a focus, instead of samples, for a change – and that was really satisfying.

TSOTA:Have you dished out some guiding principles, Yoda-style?

DY: Haha – kind of. I can’t even write music technically, so I’ve been useless when people are asking me whether a certain part is in G Sharp or whatever. But I definitely had ideas in my head about how I wanted everything to sound overall.

TSOTA: Do you value artists that express themselves politically?
DY: I think there’s an important place for that, especially in hip-hop, but it’s not always necessary. Music can be anything – sexy, angry, bland, and yes, political too.

TSOTA: What’s the North got to offer that you can’t find elsewhere?
DY: Manchester was an ideal place to put Breakfast of Champions together. It’s vibrant and cool, but not difficult or overwhelming like London can be. I’ve got a strong connection with that place, family included, and I wanted Mancunian MCs with Manc accents, which I think is great in hip-hop.

TSOTA: You’re named in numerous lists of ‘top 10 DJs to see before you die’ – who’s top of yours?
DY: Wow – I love so many DJs for different reasons. To name two randomly: Q-Bert and David Rodigan!

TSOTA: You served up your last solo-album album, Chop Suey, outside a Chinese restaurant in London’s Chinatown. Do you see a special relationship between music and food?
DY: For me, absolutely. Food and music are my two big motivators. The things that make me wanna get out of bed every day. And I love combinations of the two. You know how you sometimes get pizza/jazz restaurants? I always thought it would be cool to get more things like that – waffles and techno; Dim Sum and dubstep; salad and bluegrass…

TSOTA: Are you cooking up another solo-project?
DY: I’m currently working on my R&B side-project Sparkle Motion. After that release I’ll return to the next DJ Yoda thing, whatever that ends up being.

TSOTA: Any predictions for Star Wars: Episode VII?
DY: I have high hopes, but trying not to over-hype it like I did the last time round. Whatever happens, it can’t be worse than Jar Jar Binks and crew.

DJ Yoda is playing at 13 venues UK-wide in 2015, including the Belgrave Music Hall on May 3rd. Tickets can be bought here.


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