July 3, 2011

DJ Eclipse Interview

DJ Eclipse...
Fat Beats, Rock Steady Crew, Halftime Radio, Rap is Outta Control, Wild Pitch Records, Non-Phixion, Heavy Metal Kings need I say more??

Few DJ's can match Eclipse's dedication to the music and longevity in the game. His work at Fat Beats (the go-to source for underground NY hip hop since 1994), and his work on numerous radio shows, has brought him world-wide recognition, but has kept him down to earth and in touch with his fans. I took the opportunity to interview DJ Eclipse about his work over the years. For those of you who aren't familiar with DJ Eclipse, this track should explain his steez...

Non Phixion - DJ Eclipse Promo

DW: What year did you start DJing, and who influenced you as a DJ?

DJ Eclipse: 1984 is when I first started getting pieces of equipment and practicing on what I had. As far as who inspired me, aside from the big artists and legends like Grandmaster Flash and DJ Easy Lee, it was a local thing. In Providence, Rhode Island, there was a guy by the name of Scratchmaster Bucket who was doing college radio and also DJ'd for some of the local groups like the Magical Four. Seeing him in action, DJing at places like USA Skating Rink, really inspired me to start DJing myself.

DW: The Dirty Waters blog is largely focused on old school hip hop radio, can you tell us some of the radio shows you used to listen to in the early days?

DJ Eclipse: In Providence stations like WRIU, WDOM and WBRU were probably the main stations I would listen to catch all the new stuff. From there I would go to the record stores to try to find what I was hearing. I got exposed to NY radio a little bit later. I left Providence in 1985, stayed in South Carolina until around 1991, and during those years I was taken out of the loop a bit. I made some friends from up north, and they would help us to get NY radio shows by sending us tapes. We would hear Mr Magic, Marley Marl, Red Alert, Hank Love and DNA, etc. From 1988-1991 I was taking a lot of trips to New York, before I moved there in 1991. 1990 or 1991 is around when I first heard the Stretch Armstrong Show hosted by Bobbito. At first, I wasn't aware of who it was, I found out later. I just caught it flipping through the dial. When I moved to New York in 1991, I became in tune with all the radio shows here, pretty much everything... WNWK, DJ Riz and Wildman Steve on WBAU... lots of shows.

DW: If you had to pick a favorite year for hip hop?

DJ Eclipse: Probably 1987-1988, maybe combine those years. That time was most important to me because they were such original and creative years, with sampling and everything. We had been listening to hip hop from 7 years earlier, but around 1987-1988 it just took a turn. Everything that was coming out blew your mind, Rakim, BDP, etc., it grabbed you so much. You also had the videos come in. Everything about those years left such a mark on our youth.

DW: What can you remember about working with T-Ray in South Carolina before a lot of people knew about him?

DJ Eclipse: In South Carolina I was making a name for myself DJing at all the jams, clubs, school functions, stuff like that. I was pretty much the go-to guy. My name started traveling outside my circle of friends and I ended up working at a record store there called 'Sounds Familiar'. While at the record store there was a guy Mike from the House Rockers that came in that told me about T-Ray, saying he's heard a lot about me and wants to meet. I was already familiar with his group The White Boys. He was in Kershaw which is about 45 minutes from Columbia where I was. Kershaw is pretty country, dirt roads, not much to do. T-Ray would pick me up and we would make beats at his place all day. 99% of the beats we made came from records in his collection. He had an incredible collection back then, but it was mostly just breaks. We would sit there in his small ass room sweating to death, no air conditioner, making beats and beat tapes.

After that, he started itching to get back up north. He was an MC in the White Boys, and at that point he was still trying to make it as an MC. We made a 3 song demo with him rhyming and the both of us doing the beats. We got it to where we wanted it to be, and he went on his way to try and get a deal. He got the attention of Big Beat records with the demos, but they were more interested in his production. They gave T-Ray a production deal and set him up to do a few remixes and stuff like that.

Somehow he got the attention of Serch, and that's when he started doing production for Serch's solo album. I actually linked up with Serch by name dropping T-Ray when Serch came through South Carolina on a promo tour. From there I linked up with Serch, and T-Ray again, and saw potential for staying in NY long term.

DW: How did you link up with MC Serch and DJ Riz?

DJ Eclipse: When Serch and I first connected he told me he already had a DJ in pocket that he wanted to use, and that was DJ Riz. Serch told me he wanted the two of us to DJ for him on tour and wanted me to produce some stuff for him too. He kept telling me Riz was mad nice. It was funny because I had been down south for so long, I had no one to really look up to or compare myself to. I started hanging out with Riz at the radio station he was doing with Wildman Steve, and I was just like 'this kid is incredible.' Where I thought I was up to par on everything, Riz made me have to re-think myself. He was definitely a big influence for me when I came to New York, because he was a perfectionist. I think it was Riz that brought me up to Stretch & Bobbito's show for the first time too, because Riz was always cool with Stretch.

DW: How were the tours with Serch, and what kind of stuff were you doing for his second album?

We immediately started doing shows with Serch before we started producing anything, because Serch's album had just dropped. We did a lot of spot dates and club dates, some shows with Pete Rock and CL Smooth and Pharcyde. We also did a lot of radio shows, Summer Fest, stuff like that. It was Riz, Serch and I, and Serch had a couple of dancers.

After the tour we started working on the 2nd LP, which I pretty much produced entirely. DJ Riz did all the cuts. I think Serch released that LP digitally on his website a few years back, but I think what he released might have been mixed with some of the stuff he was working on for the 3rd Bass reunion they were planning. Serch also came up to the Halftime Show and I played some of the unreleased stuff we did. We had a lot of demos. Serch eventually had a fall out with Def Jam, so we never had the opportunity to give them a final mix down. There were no guest spots on that second album, but we did do a different version of Daze in a Week that featured Sabac.

DW: Working at Fat Beats for many years has probably provided you with lots of records no one else has, can you think of any records off the top that you know you are probably one of the few to own?

DJ Eclipse: I'm sure there are a lot, but off the top of my head- a test pressing with an alternate version of Natural Elements '2 Tons'. It sounds exactly the same as the released version, except I did the scratches for this version. Natural Elements were having issues with Tommy Boy, and it looked like they might not be putting anything out under their label. They came to Fat Beats and we pressed up, or were about to press up, that '2 Tons' single, except the B-Side for the one we wanted to put out was different. I can't remember the name of the song, but it sampled Doug E Fresh's 'the Show'. Things started moving ahead with Tommy Boy and they decided to go with the version of '2 Tons' that you hear released, so the only copies of that version I did the scratches on are the few test pressings that I have.

DW: What kind of equipment were you using to produce the remixes on the Remix LP 'Circa 94' you released? Is there any production you did that didn't get released?

DJ Eclipse: I used the S-950 for all the beats and the S-1000 to sample in all the vocals/acapellas. I was working with Prodigal Sunn from Sunz of Man when he was living down south, way before Sunz of Man was out. We did some demos. As far as unreleased, I did a remix for a song by the Coup, which gave it more of an East Coast flavor. I also did a remix for the Bushwackas that I can't find.

DW: With some of your counterparts retiring from radio (Stretch/Bobbito/DJ Riz), do you feel the obligation to step up and keep it going? What keeps you interested in radio and how do you feel about the music these days?

DJ Eclipse: It's a combination, definitely part of it is feeling an obligation. I can't say I listen to a lot of shows that are doing that great of a job. Based on what I've listened to coming up, I try to combine all of those elements. How I enjoy listening to radio, is how I try to put it back into the show so that hopefully other people can get the same feeling out of it. When people play all exclusives only and no Djing in the show, that is automatically a fail for me. There has to be some chemistry to the show and cohesiveness. I approach every one of my shows as if it's a mixtape. I try to make it as perfect as possible with the blending, cutting, talking, interviews. I try to make everything as interesting as possible. I want each show to stand on it's on, so you can listen to it like a mixtape that you would have bought. I hold everyone up to that standard.

I also do it because I honestly still love it. That's not to say that I didn't feel there were times the music sucked. Right when Riz quit the Halftime Show, it was really bad. You really had to reach to find enough music to play during the show. It was still pre-serato and pre-digital, so we were only playing vinyl and exclusive stuff we had on dat. Riz got fed up with it, wasn't really feeling it anymore. I think it was a similar thing with Stretch and Bob. I kind of stuck it out and things got better. I love the music, and I love playing new stuff that people aren't familiar with. Nowadays it's kind of the opposite. There's way too much to choose from and that's bad as well. I had DJ JS-1 up at the show last week, and he was saying that no one's song lasts anymore. Of course he wants his song to get spins and have longevity, but we're getting 50+ new songs to play weekly. Music is getting knocked out of the box weekly, I want to create awareness by giving them rotation, but I don't want to get left behind by not playing something new. I want to be ahead of the game and on top of my job. I just try to play what I feel is the best of what I've gotten for that week.

DW: How was the recent tour with the Heavy Metal Kings?

DJ Eclipse: It was great. It's cool because over the years a lot of people compared Non-Phixion to Jedi Mind Tricks before we started working together. It's kind of like the heads of two families going out on tour, you have our fans and his fans and it makes a more powerful show. The shows were back to back bangers and the turnouts were incredible. Me and Ill Bill already have an established rapport, and a way that we approach tours, and it was cool to see Vinnie has the same work ethic. He's easy to work with and we enjoy going on tour together. After a couple of weeks of touring, we all agreed that we would make this a priority in our future. We don't want it to be a one-off, we want it to be something that we continue to do.

DW: Plans for the future?

DJ Eclipse: Everything for me is pretty much on repeat. I plan on continuing to do radio, help out with Fat Beats in any way I can, help out with Rock Steady planning those anniversaries. I've also recently started my own management company. I'm gonna keep DJing and stuff, but I've gotten wiser to the game and I'm using that knowledge to give other artists a hand. I manage La Coka Nostra, Ill Bill, Q-Unique, and co-manage Heavy Metal Kings.

Thanks to DJ Eclipse for taking the time out to do this interview, and for his many contributions to hip hop. Everyone at Philaflava and I would also like to thank Eclipse for sharing rips from his vast tape collection. Speaking of which, check this DJ Eclipse guest spot on the Stretch Armstrong Show hosted by Bobbito from May, 1997. This one is the 'Righteous Show' one of my favorite mixes, enjoy!

Stretch & Bobbito 5-22-1997 (w/ DJ Eclipse)

Tape 1
Tape 2

Be sure and check Eclipse @
Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Fat Beats

Pay To Winn Management
Heavy Metal Kings (in stores now) • DJ MUGGS vs ILL BILL • Q-Unique • La Coka Nostra

"The Halftime Show" • 89.1 FM WNYU • Wednesday Nights • 10:30 PM - 1:00 AM (EST)

"Rap Is Outta Control" • Sirius XM Radio • Hip Hop Nation Channel • Sunday Nights • 10:00 PM - 12:00 AM (EST)


  1. Yo whattup Nes. That was a dope interview... I didn't know of some of that shit. I just took a few tokes and threw on the 5/22/1997 mix from The Stretch Armstrong Show. Lovin it! Eclipse is the man and I love what he said about approaching every radio show he does like a Mixtape. That's my way of thinking as well. Keep up the good work homie! peace

  2. Eclipse is that dude!

  3. what up Eric been a minute homie

  4. Eclipse is the Best