DJ Dossier

The Southwest's Best Turntablists Are Facing Off This Saturday — Here's Why

DJ Les in action on the turntables.
DJ Les in action on the turntables. Courtesy of Les Sias
If you’ve ever seen local mixmaster Les Sias in action, it’s pretty apparent he knows his way around a set of record decks. Performing as DJ Les, his longtime stage name, the dude’s on point when it comes to cutting, scratching, beat-juggling, and executing other trickery during his highly creative and highly entertaining sets.

This weekend, Sias will use all these skills while weaponizing his wax and facing off against several other turntablists of equal skill during the DMC Phoenix DJ Battle on Saturday, May 13, at The Rebel Lounge.

More than a dozen different scratch kings and turntable pros from around Arizona and throughout the Southwest, including several local DJs, will compete in the event, which is part of the long-running DMC World Championships.

And it’s more than just another battle between platter jocks.

Widely considered to be one of the world’s premier DJ competitions, the DMC World Championships have been taking place since 1986 and feature an emphasis on turntablism, the subgenre of DJing and hip-hop where performers manipulate records, decks, and mixers to create a dizzying array of scratching and sounds.

“The DMC is, I feel, the purest of the DJ battles. It’s for the legit DJ fans that admire scratching, beat juggling, body tricks, and wordplay,” Sias says. “It’s the most respected competition out there because it’s so raw, pure, and has been around for a long time.”

Previous DMC world champs include such legendary names as A-Trak of Fool’s Gold fame, as well as DJ Craze, Roc Raida of The X-Ecutioners, and Cash Money.

The road to DJ immortality, however, starts out at one of the regional qualifying battles that are held in cities across the world, including Phoenix, where the winner moves on to the U.S. finals later this year.

According to organizers of the DMC Phoenix DJ Battle, turntablists from LA, Las Vegas, and other cities around the Southwest will participate in Saturday’s event.

“There's always DJs from other states that travel to Phoenix to compete,” Sias says. “The DMC allows you to enter as many times as you want in different states.”

And those DJs who show up at The Rebel Lounge on Saturday will have to show their stuff in short order.

Competitors will have only two minutes each during their respective sets to impress a panel of six judges – which at Saturday’s battle will include renowned turntablists Roli Rho and DJ Swamp, as well as locals like David “Fact135” Dimmick – with both their technical abilities and overall performance behind the decks.

And, as Dimmick told New Times in 2013, the judges aren't gonna be easily impressed. "Everything comes into play," he said. "Stage presence, confidence, creativity, showmanship, scratching, technical ability, beat-juggling, and you have to own that shit onstage."

There’s definitely a lot of pressure, to say the least, but Sias is confident he can triumph over the competition. After all, he’s done it before.

Back in 2013, Sias conquered the competition at a DMC regional battle that was held at Monarch Theatre. And while he wound up placing seventh at the U.S. finals that year, Sias says he gained some knowledge from the experience.

“I learned that no matter how many times you get in front crowds and perform, your nerves don't go away. I still get super nervous but I think I've learned to control it a bit,” he says. “I also learned a few new ways to build a routine that I'm using this time around.”

Good luck, and may the best DJ win.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.