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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

[whitespace] X-Ecutioners
Martin Schoeller

The Tables Have Turned: The X-Ecutioners
do more than just scratch.

Needle Thrashers:
X-Ecutioners bring turntables
to the masses

O N THE TURNTABLIST SCENE, the X-Ecutioners (formerly the X-Men) are considered the East Coast's high priests. Both acclaimed soloists and an able quartet, the X-Ecutioners (Rob Swift, Roc Raida, Total Eclipse and Mista Sinista) open for Common and Rahzel at Palookaville in Santa Cruz on Sunday (Feb. 1). "We all started in our early teens, basically with the love of the turntable and love of the music," says Swift. "We wanted to battle the Supermen [then the DJ kings] in the late '80s and early '90s, so we called ourselves the X-Men. X stands for the unknown number--so we were unknown kids."

When it turned out that the X-Ecutioners were getting a bigger rep than the comic-strip heroes, DC Comics made the DJs change their name. The X-Ecutioners were born. "I'm kind of happy with the name change," says Swift. "It symbolizes we've grown. When you think X-Men, you think DJ competitions. When you think X-Ecutioners, you think recording artists."

Primarily known for their beat-juggling (making a new beat out of two old ones) skills and an eye-catching visual presentation, the X-Ecutioners have also made the leap to experimental sonic collage, a form pioneered by the Invizibl Skratch Piklz. "The Skratch Piklz put a strong emphasis on scratching and sound," Swift explains. "We put an emphasis on everything. In one routine, you'll see us scratch, do body tricks and juggle. We want to appeal to the ears and the eyes."

At their live shows, the X-Ecutioners position themselves directly in front of the footlights. Eight hands on four turntables and four mixers blast out a feast for eyes and ears. One scratches a bass, another manipulates samples, a third handles the trumpet, the fourth hits effects. Their signature routine is "Mad Flava," a track from the group's new CD on Asphodel, X-Pressions. Swift confirms that X-Pressions, with its multiple moods and textures, is meant to expose turntablism to a wide audience.

The tracks on X-Pressions are full of the interplay practiced by jazz artists, and I ask Swift, a huge jazz fan, to compare his crew to his jazz heroes. "Sinista is like Miles Davis; he's really funky and soulful and can be real delicate one time and energetic another," says Swift. "Me? I'm Ahmad Jamal. Ahmad was never that flashy in the presentation of the music, but he was real potent and effective with what he did. Roc Raida would be Dizzy Gillespie--just for his facial expression. Raida's faces are the funniest. Total Eclipse? I'm still trying to figure him out."

Smack My Back Up

Congratulations to Backlash, which celebrates its second anniversary Thursday (Jan. 29) at the Cactus in San Jose. Who thought a goth club could survive that long in the South Bay? Details are on its Web site. ... Legendary goth band the Sisters of Mercy can be heard Feb. 5-6 at the Maritime Hall in San Francisco.

Age of Consent

Two all-age shows geared toward South Bay teens are happening this weekend. Red #9, Krupted Peasant Farmers, Caustic Notions and Pigzenspace hit the Los Gatos Teen Center (6pm doors/7pm show) on Friday (Jan. 30). The second one happens at the Camden Teen Center (3369 Camden Ave., San Jose) on Saturday (Jan. 31) with KPF, Pigzenspace, the Curbs and Cathy Ames--7pm start.

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From the January 29-February 4, 1998 issue of Metro.

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