Tony Skratchere pioneered yacht bounce, but losing the "yacht" was liberating.
When DJ Tony Skratchere talks about bounce, he does so with reverence. "'Drop and Give Me 50' changed the landscape," he says. He talks with admiration for the current crop of bounce producers - "What BlaqNMild, the producer, does is hard," he says. "He can make an entire song with just one a word. He's responsible for completely changing the landscape for what bounce is." Blaza, DJ Poppa, Monsta wit da Fade, Joe with Da Dreads and Pikachu - "All those guys are pushing that sound that's so exciting. It's redefining what bounce music can be."
Skratchere grew up as Ben Hebert in New Iberia, listening to zydeco and ragtime, which his father loved. He has always taken bounce seriously, and he'll host 'America - The Party" on July 4 at the Rusty Nail from 2 to 6 p.m. with Quickie Mart. He didn't grow up in bounce, though, and he didn't know what he started when he pioneered yacht bounce.
Yacht bounce began as bar talk on Thanksgiving night 2010 - a fusion of bounce beats and the '70s soft rock whose creators - Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins, for instance - were satirized in the online series Yacht Rock. Skratchere forgot about the idea until one day after a fight with a girlfriend when he started to watch Yacht Rock videos to clear his head. Seeing the show reminded him of the Thanksgiving conversation and he grabbed a notepad. "To my surprise, iTunes has a yacht rock playlist 50 to 60 songs long," he says.
Pretty quickly, the concept drifted away from true yacht rock - "It's such a small pool at that bpm that you can use that we almost ran out of tracks" - but equally quickly, the remixes he posted on Soundcloud prompted other DJs to try their hands at it. Quickie Mart, BlaqNMild and DJ Cuttin all did remixes. "When my friend Luke, DJ Platurn from Oakland started making songs, I knew it was something special." In keeping with the nautical theme, he has restricted yacht bounce remixing to summertime, but the Soundcloud tracks have found fans around the world. Germany loves yacht bounce.
Not everybody was equally entertained. I loved the concept and some of the remixes, but for me, the overproduced, lush sound of yacht rock was everything that punk rock confronted, and I felt that the remixes embraced the values of the source tracks. Last summer, I wrote:
In an interview with Annie Weldon, yacht bounce architect Tony Skratchere said, “Bounce is a specialized genre that’s not for everyone. Anyone can listen to yacht bounce.” True, but is that what you want? To sanitize bounce so that it doesn’t disturb anybody, or would you rather rough up the implacable gloss of yacht rock by Taking It To the Hood? Do you want to buy into all the bourgeois musical values imbedded in those songs, or do you want Take Them to The St. Thomas?
"I was miffed," Skratchere admits. For him, these were songs that were in his parents' record collection - songs that were fun, and all he was doing was making them more fun. For this year, he decided, "We need some consciousness. You've got to be subversive." He ripped Public Enemy a cappellas to his hard drive and started working them into his remixes. "They're coming to party with us now," he says.
He was even more surprised when he discovered that members of the bounce community were upset with his project. In his mind, this was just an expression of his affection for bounce. He knew what he was doing was old school bounce, already antiquated, He got a visit from producer K. Real to see where he was coming from, though, because members of the bounce community were concerned that he was making fun of bounce or them. "A lot of the cats that roll in that real, traditional bounce community don't fuck around," he says. When he told K. Real that he plays bounce at his parties - not just yacht bounce or his own bounce remixes but classic and contemporary bounce, things went better. According to Skratchere, the fall-out was this:
"We don't want you to call it yacht bounce."
"Okay, what is it?"
"Call it bounce music."
And for the most part, Skratchere honors that promise, using the term "yacht bounce" only when working around it is too cumbersome. The suggested new name also freed him up to do what what he wanted to do in the first place - make fun tracks out of fun tracks. He can move into the '80s, and recent bounce remixes include George Michael's "Father Figure" and the Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls."
This season is probably the end of the line for Skratchere's bounce remixes. He's put the Triggaman sample and the [James] Brown beat under all the tracks he wants to; it's time for new challenges. But he's proud of what he's created, whatever you call it. "I wanted it be an aesthetic. It adds an element of whimsy, and all party music needs to have that."