Reconstructing DJ P’s Hell On Wheels

07.23.08 9 years ago 12 Comments

Words By DJ Sorce-1

Horror movies and rap music have always seemed to have a loosely formed bond. From The Geto Boys “My Minds Playin’ Tricks on Me” to The Gravediggaz conceptual 6 Feet Deep album, there has been no shortage of inspiration drawn from scary cinema in the world of rap. Even RA the Rugged Man and 8 Off the Assassin used an image from the grind house classic Basket Case for the cover of their “Til’ My Heart Stops” single.

With all the source material out there to choose from it was only a matter of time before a savvy DJ decided to make a horror-themed mix tape. Leave it up to DJ P, the same man responsible for Uneasy Listening Vol. 1 and the gangsta rap-themed Gangsta Mix, to take the honors for tackling such a project. P’s initial Halloween themed mix tape Hell On Wheels (originally titled 10/31/98) combined old sound effects records, dark rap songs and horror movie samples to create an unforgettable listening experience.

Due to critical acclaim and some deep roots in the world of fright flicks, P decided to release a sequel in 2003. Since the release of both Hell On Wheels mixes, P has taken the next logical step. P, along with the help of some talented video editors, is in the early stages of making a video mix to go with the entire Hell On Wheels 2 CD. From The Shining playing over an Eagles remix to The Evil Dead flowing into a Queen blend, viewers are in for a memorable experience when the DVD drops.

Find out more about the roots of these spooky mixes and P’s personal horror movie preferences in the newest edition to our Reconstruction series.

TSS: Around what age did you start to get into horror?

DJ P: I was nine or ten. It was around the time Movie Channel came out. Cable TV was introduced to the Midwest and I started seeing trailers for scary movies. It was intriguing to me. I’d never really seen anything like it before, and as a kid it caught my interest.

TSS: Was there one particular movie that kick started your love of horror?

DJ P: The two movies that were big for me that were popular on Movie Channel at the time were My Bloody Valentine and The Funhouse. The Funhouse was directed by Tobe Hooper. He’s the same guy who directed Texas Chainsaw Massacre. My Bloody Valentine was a Canadian horror flick.

But if I really think back on it, I’d say my first horror influence was Halloween. It came on regular TV and it still scared me to death. I wasn’t able to finish the whole thing. I think I was intrigued by it because it scared me that badly. I liked it. I ended up growing into horror and I became a fan of the Halloweens, Friday the 13ths, Funhouse, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. All the old stuff is what I really love because it’s what I grew up on.

Friday the 13th is another one that I shut off in the middle of the day. Kevin Bacon’s death was brutal. It happened while he was lying in bed. A hand comes up and pins his head down, and then a spear actually goes up through the bed and through his body. That freaked me out. That scene freaked a lot of people out. It looked like he really died. It wasn’t an illusion of a knife going in; you could actually see a spear coming out. That was done by the makeup artist Tom Savini. If you ask me, he’s the god of slasher and horror movies. He did Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, and the original Friday the 13th.

TSS: Pretty much every great horror movie had make-up done by Savini.

DJ P: Yeah he’s just a great make up artist. Dick Smith, who was another great make up artist, was a big influence for Savini. I’ve read books on Tom Savini. I’ve got the illusion books that show how they did all those effects. It’s like an art form to make it look like someone’s head is coming off. I know it’s not the most positive thing, but I have an appreciation for how they make things look real in movies.

I’m not a fan of watching violence in real life. I don’t like the Faces of Death stuff. I’ll never watch that crap. I’m not into the realistic stuff, but I really like scary movies and suspense. These days it’s not so much about the gore. That was cool in the beginning, but now it’s about how good the story is. Back in the day of course, it was how many pounds of blood were going to be in a movie.

TSS: When you did the Hell On Wheels 1 mix tape in 1998, what made you want to take the leap from just watching horror films to putting together a cohesive musical project based around them?

DJ P: The idea came from me trying to think of the most creative tape I could make. One day I just had the idea to do a Halloween themed mix. I was thinking about songs like “My Mind’s Playing Tricks on Me” by The Geto Boys, “Nightmares” by Dana Dane, and “A Nightmare on My Street” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. I just went to town on it.

That’s the mixtape I made without a sampler. All the samples came from the VCR. I had to time the samples by pausing the movie at a certain place and hitting play at the right time to make it fall in place. It was crazy. That tape has a lot of scratching too. I’ve never cared for my scratching too much, but it came out decent. It was more technical than the second Hell on Wheels. It took me a while but I finally finished it.

TSS: Hell on Wheels 2 came out in 2003. Did you do the sample movie dialogue in the same fashion with a DVD player or did you use a sampler?

DJ P: No. By then I had a CDJ. I was recording the samples form the DVD’s on to CD so I could load the sample onto the CDJ. Hell on Wheels 2 wasn’t as technical with all the samples, but that’s how I added them.

TSS: That must have been a lot more manageable.

DJ P: Oh yeah (Laughs). I had a sampler for the first one. Every sample you hear from a movie on Hell on Wheels 1 was from a VCR. I was using a 64 digital 8-track to make the tape. It was an 8 track digital recorder, but each track had 8 virtual tracks. I only used the top 8 though, and I’d just got back and forth. Hell on Wheels 1, if you have it on CD, has been edited down. It was originally a 90 minute mix tape I had to edit down to 74 minutes.

TSS: Really? I didn’t realize it was on cassette before CD.

DJ P: Yeah. The original title was 10/31/98. I still have the original cassette cover. I’m standing around the turntables with these flares coming out of my eyes. When it came out on CD the cover was a goblin sitting at an organ with some ghosts floating up from it. A buddy of mine did the goblin cover. That was for the first 1000 CD pressings. Then I redid the cover again and had it done with a bunch of horror villains. I had someone different do it, just to give it a different feel. I liked the other cover a lot; I just wanted to repackage it.

TSS: Do you have a preference between number 1 and 2?

DJ P: When I listen to the first one I kind of bug out because of all of the effort I put into the samples. I like the first one, but the second one was more of a challenge. When I did the second one, I was like “How the hell am I going to come up with enough new music to do this?” I used a lot of the Halloween-themed music that I like on the first one, so I had to dig deep. I had to really think.

Part 1 was more scratching, samples, and slower samples. It didn’t move as fast. Part 2 had more of an Uneasy Listening feel to it. I would do mixes like “The Terrorist” by DJ Vadim over “We Will Rock You” by Queen. For it’s time Part 1 was cool, but Part Two was more digestible. A lot of people tell me they like Part 1 better, which is cool. I’m going to start doing more mixes like that again. I miss doing those kinds of tapes with fast scratching and weird samples from oddball records.

TSS: Lately I’ve been listening to a bunch of tapes like the old 1200 Hobos stuff. Nobody makes tapes like that anymore. It’s rare to hear a hip hop tape with lots of DJ tricks.

DJ P: You’re right. Nobody makes mixes like that anymore. One of my favorite ones was Mr. Dibbs Turntable Scientifics. That tape is nasty. I have all these records and I want to start digging in the crates and coming up with some creative shit. I want to combine hip hop shit from the 90’s with newer underground stuff and add in samples from Disney and Halloween records, but have it make sense. It takes forever. Hell on Wheels 1 took forever, but I worked on it every day and I had a lot more time on my hands. Part 2 took me over a year because I was traveling and touring. I had to work on it when I was home on break.

It would have been nice if those CD’s had blown up more. I should have marketed them differently. Only a certain crowd is going to really be into a Halloween-based mix. I’m actually thinking of repressing both of them and releasing it around Halloween. I’m even thinking of doing it as a double CD and re-releasing them together. Right now I have a guy helping me edit a video for Hell on Wheels 2. I’m collecting all the video clips that I used and songs that I mixed. Eventually we’ll have a video for the entire mix tape.

TSS: What, that sounds like a monster project.

DJ P: Yeah man, I’m really stoked about that.

TSS: The thing that amazes me about Hell On Wheels 2 is that the blending is so clean. It’s definitely one of the cleaner mixes I’ve ever heard, and its all vinyl. With so many beat on beat blends, it’s a very musical feat to have everything work so well.

DJ P: That’s the thing; it was all done on vinyl. I don’t know if people will really appreciate the fact that it’s all vinyl now, but that’s life.

TSS: There is a sample of a phone conversation between you and some girl flipping out on you. You keep fucking with her and its pretty hilarious. What’s the story behind that? Is it real?

DJ P: Those are real phone calls man. I used to record some of my phone conversations, especially if it was some cheesy girl that was using me for money or something. That phone call was me just messing with a girl that was trying to gold dig and use me for money. The conversation didn’t really go in that order; I just chopped it up to fit the CD. I also recorded myself calling two girls I used to live with that kept a Michael Myers hoodie I’d ordered. It came to the house after I moved out and they tried to keep it.

TSS: How mapped out are these mixes when you start making them?

DJ P: There really is no plan at the beginning besides the basic concept. When I start a mix, I don’t have it planned out to the point where I know how it’s going to end. I just start it. I never have my tapes mapped out front to back.

TSS: Was there significance behind each movie that you sampled?

DJ P: Not really. I just did what made sense for the music. I loved “Cry Little Sister” by Gerard McMann. That’s the theme song to The Lost Boys, so I had to add some samples over the beginning of the blend. I figured that mix out a long time ago, and I just did it for Hell On Wheels 2.

TSS: I love that blend. It’s my favorite one on the CD.

DJ P: Thanks man, it’s one of my favorites too. I had to chop the beat up by hand to make it match on the breakdown. Sometimes it’s better to do this stuff by hand. I can just lay it down in one take and boom, it’s done. Everyone has their own thing, I just like being hands on.

TSS: Is there anything about Hell On Wheels 2 that you would do differently if you were to do the CD again.

DJ P: Yeah. There were some samples I would have changed. I didn’t really have a choice though. Right at the end of making that CD, I wiped out my hard drive. The only samples I had were the ones that I burned to CD and saved. I had to just bite the bullet and work with what I had. Looking back on it today, I wouldn’t change too much besides a few samples.

For more on DJ P’s favorite horror flicks, read “Famous People Love Horror: The DJ P Edition” over @ Heavy In The Streets.

Previously Posted — TSS Presents Smoking Sessions With DJ P

Selected DJ P Tracks

Tears For Fears – “Women In Chains” (DJ P Blend) from Uneasy Listening Volume 1

“Hell on Wheels” (Intro) from Hell On Wheels 1

Hall & Oates – “I Can’t Go For That (DJ P Blend) from Hell On Wheels 2

Gerard McMann – “Cry Little Sister” (DJ P Blend) from Hell On Wheels 2

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