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Swamp grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, and began his forays into D.J.-dom at age 15, when he bought his first turntable. With the acquisition of a second a few months later, Swamp began making mix tapes for college radio stations, creating his own remixes, as well as producing and performing on several recording projects with rap groups throughout the Cleveland area.
He spent the majority of the late 1980s and ’90s in his home studio, crafting new mixes and brushing up on his scratching skills, and playing small club dates with dozens of groups. In those days, Swamp sometimes signed contracts for gigs as a dancer since the term “turntablist” was not officially recognized by the musicians union at that time.
The turntablist took his first steps into the spotlight when he entered the DMC National D.J. Championship “just to be on the videotape,” and because he was confident he “wouldnt be the worst guy out there.” In the end, Swamp scratched his way to first prize in the competition, earning the right to participate in the DMC World Competition in Italy.
The video of Swamps performance at the World Championships eventually found its way into the hands of Grammy-award-winning recording artist Beck, who later invited Swamp to join him on his world tour. It was a rise to fame that occurred almost overnight. “One month I was driving a street sweeper, then next month I was on TV with Beck at the Grammys,” says Swamp. “I quit the street sweeper job after that.”
Although his new high-profile gig pushed Swamp into a higher tax bracket, he didnt allow himself to become complacent. Between tour dates with Beck, he has produced a large number of remixes and new tracks and loaned his scratching skills to several recordings, including projects by Crystal Method, Cool Keith, Chris Rock, Save Ferris, and Hanson. Traveling with a Pro-Tools-equipped PowerBook, Swamp is able to sample, scratch, mix, and edit from anywhere in the world, the ramifications of which he says have “changed [his] life.”
In the coming months, D.J. Swamp will continue touring the world with Beck, visiting Germany, Spain, Italy, and elsewhere before returning to the U.S. in the late summer. He also plans to complete his first solo record by the end of the year. After giving Berklee students a sneak-peak of one of the albums yet-unfinished tracks, Swamp reminded them of the importance of perseverance in their burgeoning careers: “Youve gotta work, its not just going to come to you, it doesnt really work that way. Youve gotta do the work.”