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In Character with Kirk Kirkpatrick

A conversation with an interesting Portlander
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT You can call him Kirk Kirkpatrick. You can call him DJ Wicked (that's his stage name). But don't call this “DJ At Home” this week, because he's competing in a national competition. First place is $250,000, and you might be surprised what plans this underground artist has for the loot.

Kirk Kirkpatrick graduated from Benson High School in 1992, took a job at a print shop, and used his first paycheck to buy two turntables. Not long after that, Northwest Portland resident Kirkpatrick became DJ Wicked, a Portland DJ artist who, next week, will be one of eleven contestants on a nationally televised competition called Master of the Mix.

Portland Tribune: What exactly is hip hop anyway? Does it have anything to do with how you move your feet?

Kirk Kirkpatrick: Hip hop breaks down into four elements: break dancing, rapping, DJing and graffiti art. Moving your feet? You could apply that to break dancing.

Tribune: And the graffiti, too. Got to move before the authorities show up.

Kirkpatrick: I have some experience in that department.

Tribune: But mostly you DJ. When did that become a verb, anyway?

Kirkpatrick: The late '70s.

Tribune: And where did this whole idea of making funny sounds by manipulating the turntable come from?

Kirkpatrick: That's called scratching. Grandmaster Flash started it by accident. He was in his room playing music and his mother knocked on the door, and he takes his headphones off. He still had his hand on the record and while he's talking to his mom he's hearing these noises. And it's, 'Wow, I'm on to something here.'

Tribune: But what I don't get is, who decided that scratching was a good sound? Up until that moment, if a mother heard her kid doing that, she would have yelled, 'Stop scratching that record!'

Kirkpatrick: It's an easy misconception when you hear scratching. A lot of people think you're moving the needle across the grain. It's not. It's literally the needle moving along the groove. And there are so many different sounds you can make.

Tribune: So it doesn't ruin the record?

Kirkpatrick: No, not at all. The guy who brought scratching to the public was Grand Wizard Theodore.

Tribune: Did he live with his mother, too?

Kirkpatrick: Probably. He was probably a teenager.

Tribune: So you're about to compete on national TV. What's that about?

Kirkpatrick: It's a competitive reality show. I'm an underground hip hop DJ.

Tribune: Well, you won't be once you're on a national TV. What's first prize?

Kirkpatrick: $250,000.

Tribune: That's a lot to keep underground.

Kirkpatrick: It would look great on my resume and great in my bank account, but it's not going to change my outlook on DJ culture. It may enlighten me to new things.

Tribune: Usually you DJ in nightclubs. Anything unusual there?

Kirkpatrick: People come up and offer you everything from drugs to girls that are topless. One person came up and offered me a quarter pound of marijuana.

Tribune: How did they get a quarter pound of pot into a nightclub?

Kirkpatrick: It was in Humboldt County, California. It's kind of like what they do there. People give you money for songs. A guy gave me a $100 tip for playing a song.

Tribune: What song?

Kirkpatrick: 'Sweet Dreams' by the Eurythmics. It was a rooftop party in the Pearl.

Tribune: So if you win the TV competition, what's your first impulse buy?

Kirkpatrick: A down payment on a house.

Tribune: That's not very underground.

Kirkpatrick: Yeah, but it makes a lot of sense. I'm 37.