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Tried and True

One third of the Beat*Shot Collective, DJ TruMastr makes his rounds on the wheels of steel

by KC Orcutt on August 17, 2011

The home team: DJ TruMastr and Lo-Fi LoBo. Photo by Joe Putrock.

 

The average DJ will show up on time, power through a pre-determined playlist, privately grimace at requests but honor them, pack up when the bar closes and be on his way once he’s paid. One mustn’t ever confuse DJ TruMastr with an average DJ.

“Some people are DJing because it’s their living; it’s their way of life,” Truemaster Trimingham (AKA DJ TruMastr) says. “They are responding to their job. I have a job. It is not to DJ. I have a passion, a hobby and a craft. And that is to DJ.”

Since 2006, Trimingham has been DJing every nook and cranny of the Capital Region from Albany to Glens Falls, touring globally with Atlanta-based emcee J-Live, and rallying the local hip-hop scene as a member of Beat*Shot Productions. This year, for his 39th birthday, Trimingham hosted an event at Quintessence, aptly titled The Music That Made Me, then flew out to Portland, Ore., to play with J-Live the very next day.

To the average DJ, this kind of schedule might sound like work, but TruMastr is a DJ’s DJ. With an understanding of all elements of the music industry, from promotion to touring, turntable techniques to an awareness of both the freshest beats and the classics of every genre, Trimingham is redefining what it means to be a hobbyist. His reputation among the community and beyond is built on the ground that he is simply a hardworking DJ who will put the music at the forefront of every event.

 

When he’s not working a dance floor, Trimingham makes his living as a teacher at the New York State Museum. For his students, grades 4-6, he incorporates his passion for music into his career by teaching the art of DJing and beat production as part of an afterschool program. His approach is to simplify the techniques, breaking it down each day with a different theme.

“One day, I’ll talk about sampling, the origins of music, and the next will be about mixing or scratching—that kind of thing,” Trimingham says. “Sometimes I’ll just have the kids sit down, think about a song they like right now. . . . I’ll let the song play and say, ‘now I’m gonna mix your song into Nila’s song,’ and Nila picked whatever, and then I’ll mix in another song. All of them get to hear all of their songs, but they also get to hear them mixed into one another. I sneak them in and ask ‘can you hear your song yet?’ cause I’ll do the mix really, really slow.”

When teaching the technique of scratching, Trimingham explains what to do visually. “You’re bringing in a song as if it was a moving target, and you’re trying to hit that target,” he says. “So this record is the moving target and this song that you’re not quite bringing in yet is the arrow, and you want that arrow to hit this moving target. You want them to be on at the exact same spot—and the students are conceptualizing and getting it. It takes time but it’s all about baby steps, just jigga, jigga, jigga to the beat.”

 

This spontaneous, in-the-moment improvisation and versatility on the decks is very characteristic of TruMastr’s approach to performing. He applies a visual explanation to what he does outside of the classroom as well, explaining, “When I come out, people know that it’s going to be very colorful, very artistic and it’s gonna be me with a turntable that acts as a brush. You know, that’s how I spin.”

Whether he’s playing a set of original music with J-Live or DJing a dance party at Quintessence or Red Square, that color comes from Trimingham’s extensive music library. The man has about three terabytes of music in his personal collection, as well as thousands of vinyl records, which he has edited down over the years.

“I’m a digital digger now and I used to be a vinyl digger,” he says. “I look for obscure dub, drum ‘n’ bass, super obscure funk, Polish, Indian; that’s really my big thing. Even when I’m playing a party where the expectation is to play familiar music or Top 40, I need to be prepared for that. I get as much of that music as I can ready, work it into the evening and play a little bit of me. People trust that it’s going to be something weird, funky. It’s gonna be throw-back, Motown, Stax, whatever. But it’s gonna be Tru.”

Trimingham likes to dedicate his events to a certain theme, either a genre like funk, or a decade such as the upcoming ’80s vs. ’90s party at the Fuze Box on Sept. 1. On Sundays at McGeary’s, he plays a night dedicated to service industry workers to allow people whose work schedules are weekend-heavy the opportunity to listen to good music and hang out on their night off.

DJing weekly is just one component of the bigger project he is a part of. With nationally known MC, DJ and producer J-Live, who also is an alum of the University at Albany, Trimingham has toured across the nation as well as in Greece and South Africa.

“J-Live and I have been friends since we were in school together in the mid-’90s and have been tight ever since,” Trimingham says. “About two and a half years ago I asked him if I could be his DJ and he said, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ He liked the way I sounded, he trusted my judgment and he knew that I would grow. The first couple of shows we did together were rough, but we have a great rapport and we got through all of that, and now we’re great together.”

On Tuesday (Aug. 23), Trimingham and Rawhead, from locally-based Sub-Bombin Records, will join J-Live at the Mercury Lounge in New York City for a celebration of the release of The Live Trilogy, a three-part mixtape series promoting the long-awaited fifth full-length from J-Live, SPTA (Said Person of That Ability), which will be available worldwide on Sept. 27.

 

Back home, Trimingham and his brothers-through-music, Jody “Lo-Fi LoBo” Cowan and Oddy Gato are sincere about merging music with community through their company Beat*Shot Productions. The three met at a house party in the summer of 2006, clicked over the music they enjoy and produce, began to work with each other and haven’t looked back since. Oddy Gato is the performing artist of the crew and Cowan is a beatsmith who also does a weekly radio show at the University at Albany’s station, WCDB. Together, Beat*Shot work against the current to breathe life through beats into the Capital Region underground hip-hop community.

The goal is to put the same spotlight on local hip-hop that there is for other genres of music such as indie rock or folk. Crucial to this are the company’s two major annual events, which have both been dubbed “an event where friends and family blur”: Beat*Shot Spins for J Dilla (a tribute to the late producer and fundraiser for the J-Dilla Foundation) and the Beat*Shot Festival, both held at their home venue Red Square. What started as a birthday party for the Beat*Shot Festival’s two founders, Cancerians Trimingham and Cowan, blossomed into a three-day throw-down that celebrated its third anniversary this past June.

“It will end this year and we will think about the next one the very next day,” says Cowan of the festival. “This is what we do. This is what we get excited about. It’s really great to see people who normally wouldn’t be in the same room together perform and hang out. There are so many personalities, genres of music, and when you look at it, at the unity behind it, it really is all about the group hug.”

The first day is dedicated to DJs and dancing, the second is for the “away team,” showcasing out-of-town talents, but the last day is the driving force behind the event: a showcase of Capital Region-based musicians, MCs, DJs and producers. During each day of this year’s fest, every genre and sub-genre in the electronic rhizome was touched upon, breaking the disconnect between upstate and downstate, all while engaging the local community, record labels, artists and graphic designers.

“We have huge support from the community in what we do, but I feel like it’s a balanced support,” Trimingham says. “The people that support us are people that we support. We like that they’re independent and they’re for us; they’re for the people, you know. We are not doing this because we want to make money. We want to do this because we want to put good stuff forward, and often times, good stuff is not the stuff that gets paid for.”

Maybe this is why Trimingham stops short of describing his passion as his job. It’s certainly the reason Beat*Shot exists and why each individual member does what he does with robust passion. “The people who play at this festival are the people who want to spin because they want good music to be heard. That is my reason for DJing,” he says. Considering how relentless and radiating Trimingham’s efforts toward the music and community are, it’s only getting better with age.