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Social Encore: Four Color Zack talks ‘Thre3style’
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Honolulu hosted a world champion earlier this month, as 2012 Red Bull “Thre3style” DJ competition winner Zack Prucha, better known as DJ Four Color Zack, headlined at M Nightclub on Feb. 8.
An invite-only affair, “Thre3style” gathers some of the world’s best DJs and gives them 15 minutes to rock a crowd while being judged on their technicality in mixing three different genres of music. Each DJ gets two turntables (or CDJs), a mixer, two dicers and a MIDI controller of their choice.
Prucha is no stranger to Hawaii, as his father lives on Maui. He said he loves the islands because of the positive environment, the scenery and being able to order a chili frank plate from Zippy’s.
Once at the M, Prucha got the crowd hyped as soon as he started spinning; his musical presence was undeniable. But the champ was also able to share with me how his love affair with turntables started and how he won the “Thre3style” title on his first try.
Growing up in rural Oregon, Prucha said as a child he kept himself occupied by immersing in art and music. To help pass the time, he taught himself how to play instruments like the guitar, bass and drums. When he and his childhood friends would get together, they started to create hip-hop beats.
“We’d play around with our stuff and even played instruments to make beats,” he said. “That is what set us apart, we played our own instruments to make our beats.”
Around the age of 15, he got interested in turntables and worked at it for the next three years.
“It was a natural progression and it was a new concept to me,” said Prucha. “But I understood the concept well enough.”
Prucha has a wide range of taste when it comes to music, from hip-hop to rock, metal and the classics. Learning how to perfect his craft, he looked up to DJs like the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, DJ Premier and QBert. His love for the turntables also got him to start a collection of records.
“I’d listen to my parents records and you’d see me steal it from them piece by piece,” Prucha said with a laugh. “I’d go to the stores buying vinyl instead of CDs because back then, I was looking at it as more of it as an investment and keep it in good condition to preserve it.”
When Prucha moved to Seattle to attend Cornish College of the Arts, he “messed around” with DJ battles but never really took them too seriously. After talking to 2011 “Thre3style” winner DJ Headspin of Vancouver, his interest in the competition grew. Prucha told his wife that if the contest ever came to Seattle, he’d compete.
Last year, his wish came true when a Seattle sub-qualifier was announced. After winning that round, he had to fly to San Francisco and compete with other DJs for a chance to compete against the Los Angeles sub-qualifier winner. Whoever came out on top would represent the west coast at the U.S. west regional final.
Once he reached the regionals, Prucha went head-to-head with the other regional champions to determine the USA qualifier. From there, he faced off against DJs from different countries such as Canada, Brazil, and Jamaica on the way to being named world champion.
“The great thing about the Red Bull competition is that there is a missing link between the DJ and the crowd,” he said. “That missing link is the music and that is your way of connecting with them. Majority of the competition, you are judged at how well you rock the crowd.”
Last year, the world championships were held in Chicago. The competition was a week long and Prucha had to battle multiple times. He even lost in one of his semifinal rounds on the final night to Chile’s DJ Drummer.
“Nobody was slacking and I got lucky to get picked for the wild card,” he said. Prucha worked for three days on his final wild card battle and literally turned in his set one hour before it was due — without even running through it live.
Zack’s confidence on the final night was personified during his turn to get back into the running for the world championship. Although he was nervous, he knew the final stretch of the competition relied on his performance and he had nothing to lose because he had already come so far.
“I just had to assume how it was going to sound even though I haven’t heard it out before,” Prucha said. His instincts helped him win $10,000 and bragging rights as Red Bull’s world champion.
Zack said that paying a lot of attention to what is being done with the freestyle format is helpful and turning that into something influential will help you become that much more multifaceted as a DJ. He said competitions like these are what help DJs redefine their sound and rediscover what it takes to keep up with the demands of different crowds while staying true to their own personal style.
“When you enter the competition, you build yourself and if you are doing it right, you are re-teaching yourself,” Prucha said. “The deal of this competition is to present new ideas or music to people because just when you think you have a crazy idea, you can start breaking it down only to realize that there is so much more out there.”
HERE IN HAWAII, Red Bull hosted a sub-qualifier for five local DJs. For the second straight year, Jay “DJ Compose” Ablan won the Hawaii sub-qualifier; this year, however, he won’t have to win another round of competition in order to advance to the west coast regionals. He’ll go up against six other DJs in Seattle on Monday, Feb. 25, with a shot a the U.S. national qualifier in April up for grabs. Judges that night will be DJs Jazzy Jeff, A-Trak and Z-Trip.
Another change this year was Red Bull’s decision to post audio of each winning DJs set online. This gives all the DJs advancing in the competition a chance to hear the different styles being brought to the turntables.
“I heard everyone’s set already,” said Ablan. “It’s like they gave us the playbook for the Super Bowl the night before the game.”
After winning $700 for his win in 2012, Ablan pocketed $5,000 for winning the 2013 Hawaii sub-qualifier at Ginza Nightclub on Jan. 25. If he wins the U.S. west regional final, he’ll get $10,000. The U.S. national qualifier will win $20,000.
“This just goes to show (Red Bull’s) emphasis on the quality of people they are inviting to the point where being invited is already an honor itself,” he said. “I believe in my ability and I think that I put up a pretty solid set this year to hang and do some damage out there.”
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.