Jacques Capdor – Digital Freakazoid
Digital Freakazoid was the street name of Jacques Capdor, an old-school break (street) dancer, from Blacktown, Sydney. Capdor was initially exposed to Hip Hop culture in the early 1980s while still at school and it made a big impact upon him. He became heavily involved in breaking, forming his crew the Break Lords in 1984. Capdor remembers the 1980s fondly and relates some of his early experiences breaking in Blacktown…
I started breaking back in 1982 at the age of 11, with my cousin Eric Capdor aka Apache. We were always in high demand at family weddings and parties. Eric always had this one move that he loved doing where he would pretend to pull out his eye, swallow it (using his popping, locking and wave techniques) then do the motion of swallowing incorporating a body wave, he would than bring it back up using the same method, coughing it up into his hand. He then would pretend to throw his eye at me. I would then mimic the same moves, cough it up and throw back his eye at him where he would pretend to put it back into his eye socket. All the while he had one eye shut to give the impression that he had removed his eye.
I didn’t become part of my crew the Break Lords until 1984. The Break Lords were a trio hailing from Sydney’s west side (Blacktown); the crew was Marc Nemorin, aka Machine, Abilio Pascoa, aka Speedy and I.
We came together as a trio by accident in 1984 at school. The school was organizing a gala day which showcased our school’s talent, so being the only known breakers in the same year; we decided to come together as the Break Lords. I can remember half an hour before going on stage, that I hadn’t laid the cardboard, and the guys were relying on me. So I bolted into Blacktown Franklins, gathered up boxes, broke them up, put them in my armpits, struggled back, losing my kung fu shoes along the way, and having to regather. Marc and Abilio’s jaw dropped to the ground, when they saw the cardboard I’d gathered. They were the crappiest and smallest boxes and were soggy in some parts. I only had less then five minutes to tape them all up; I didn’t even have time to remove the staples, and came off second best. My clothes had small rips, I had a few scratches, and I can remember looking at the staples and seeing tufts of hair stuck in it.
In 1982 breaking was only new to Australia; it was Malcolm McLaren’s ‘Buffalo Girls’ that left an impression on me and the youth of Australia, we were all attempting the dance moves.
I can remember laying my parents’ garage with cardboard and practicing day and night bruises and all. The garage ended up like my own dance studio, I had kids in the street rushing over straight after school just so I could give them lessons, they were all dressed like they’d just walked out of Olivia’s ‘Let’s get physical’ music clip. These kids would tell me they needed lessons badly as a family member was getting married or having a birthday and their parents wanted them to impress and put on a show. The only time I’d get a rest was when the milk man came by; we’d all rush over and pick up our favourite beverage, chocolate Moove for only twenty cents.
We would hang out break dancing on footpaths, in parks, basketball courts, outdoor parties, car parks, police boys clubs, blue light discos, even notable parts of Sydney like Circular Quay was a popular hangout for breakers. During the 80s it was common to see breakers outside or in shopping malls with a sheet of cardboard and a ghetto blaster performing for an audience.
We’d hang out at Franklins, waiting for cardboard boxes to come down the caged shutes, we’d rush off when we had enough, pull them apart, tape them up and before long we’d have our dance floor. Scoring industrial cardboard was a big bonus; the sheets were thicker and in bigger pieces and lasted longer, as you can imagine recycling techniques have changed since the early 80s. Some kids would show off and roll out a piece of lino.
We would battle and challenge against each other showcasing our dance moves. The winning side was determined by the breaker who could out perform each other by displaying a set of more complicated and innovative moves.
Marc aka Machine reminded me of the days when we use to record the music off the radio. All prepared with the finger on the record button, only to have his Mum half way through the recording come in and say dinner was ready. We’d be out there breaking away and have his Mum’s recorded voice on the tape which was way uncool but funny at the same time.
In the 80s breaking got a lot of kids into trouble from their parents. I can remember some kids that smoked, would forget to empty their pockets of one or two cigarettes and their lighter. Their break moves would send it all flying out onto the dance floor, in front of parents and family members. In disgust the parents would drag them away by the ears, how embarrassing.
We wore nylon Adidas and Puma tracksuits, double breasted shirts and baggies with kung fu shoes, or jeans with hooded jackets. We wore the same outfits to show uniformity. Our sneakers had thick laces. Bigger crews with the same matching outfits were perceived as a threat to other breakers by their strength in numbers.
Our heroes at the time were the Rock Steady Crew; they pretty much took break dancing around the world. On the 29/07/1984 Countdown featured the Beat Street grand final with special guest the Rock Steady Crew. The finalists were Electric Troopers from Queensland, Street Patrol from NSW:
Electro Shock from Tasmania:
Shane Mathews from Northern Territory:
Rap City Connection from South Australia and Energy Transfer from Victoria, who were voted the winners:
The Rock Steady Crew performed live and announced they were touring, to the excitement of breakdancers across Australia.
Like Countdown, other television programs from the 80s which showcased local breakers as well as other elements of Hip Hop culture were: Sounds, Young Talent Time, Hey Hey it’s Saturday and Star Search. Break dancing in the early 80s got a lot of media exposure through movies and documentaries such as Wild Style, Beat Street, Krush Groove, Breakin’, and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. These films helped to expand the appeal of Hip Hop culture in Australia.
The popularity of the break dancing scene eventually faded in the mid 80s, it went pretty much underground until it made a comeback, in 1997. Break dancing is much alive in Australia again, but there are some considerable differences to that of breakers of the 80s. Nowadays you won’t find breakers out there on the streets, breaking in their tracky dacks with a ghetto and a piece of cardboard. These days we have a lot more breakdance comps, events and festivals that showcase break dancing, not to mention workshops and dance schools adopting Hip Hop due to its popularity.
A lot of critics of Hip Hop have said that non-Anglo Australians were more attracted to the Hip Hop culture because of its lyrical content of racial opposition such as in African American Hip Hop. I don’t think we were attracted to Hip Hop because of race. Sure there were issues with race, I can’t remember how many times I was called a wog, but that didn’t make me turn to Hip Hop, I just wanted to dance and belong. Non Anglo youth embraced Hip Hop better than the Anglo youth of Australia, who were pretty much already part of the Rock scene. Hip Hop appealed to us more because of its fusion of funk, disco, soul, jazz and R&B which had been exposed to us one way or another through our parents’ cultural music. On a typical Saturday night the Aussies would be at their local pubs while the Wogs would be lined up outside clubs like the Apia Club, Vibrations, Mystics and Flashez to name a few.
Hip Hop from the early 80s was all about everyday, family, having a good time and being a ladies’ man.
There may have been elements of social issues, like ‘The Message’ from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five; a classic song which spoke about surviving day by day in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. But Sydney’s west was no way like the ghettos in America.
In the early 80s Hip Hop was pretty much an underground culture, a lot of the music we listened to was American Hip Hop, the likes of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, the Sugar Hill Gang, Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force and Run D.M.C.
Other then American Hip Hop, one notable Australian artist at the time that we listened to was Sound Unlimited who originated from the western Sydney suburb of Burwood in 1983. Sound Unlimited, (previously called Westside Posse, then Sound Unlimited Posse) became the first Australian hip hop act signed to a major label.
They have contributed to the Australian Hip Hop scene supporting several other bands. The group supported acts such as New Kids on the Block, Public Enemy and De La Soul during their Australian tours.
Hip Hop in the day, was very hard to get a hold of, only a few DJs, radio stations and music stores stocked imports. We relied on music stores like Central Station Records, to keep us up to date with the latest imports. Community radio stations like 2RDJ FM, 2SER and 2RRR, and youth network Triple J kept us up to date with the Hip Hop scene.
One thing I learned from the 80s was a lesson in recouping from “Mr T” through break dancing. If I ever fell to the ground rather then get up and brush myself off, I would save myself the embarrassment and break out into some dance moves like crazy legs or the caterpillar. It worked a charm always; I’d always get my high fives afterward, instead of snickering of embarrassing laughter from bystanders, as they say, in case of an emergency Break Dance!
I’m glad to have been part of the 80s, for me I feel it was the best decade of music and fashion. This is a message to the 80s come back, all is forgiven.