Qbert

The turntable legend sheds light on his scratch philosophy and how it all began.

Qbert may be the greatest DJ ever to transgress a turntable and mixer. Not since the days Clara Rockmore mastered the aural intricacies of the theremin has a musician been so inextricably linked to his instrument. Qbert is the Eddie Van Halen, the Kurt Schwitters, the Bruce Lee of DJ’s, the DJ so good they made a rule that he could no longer compete in Scratch Battles ‘cause he was just so much better than everyone else.

Though a founding member of Invisibl Skratch Piklz—the most legendary scratch crew of all time—Q wasn’t always holed up in his room sweatin’ the Technics. Brought up in a suburb just outside S.F., Q got caught up in graffiti culture early on, hanging out in infamous graff corridors like Psycho City. But as fate would have it, one day he found himself behind a couple turntables. Not long after, he created the fantasy worlds found in Demolition Pumpkin Squeeze Musik and, more recently, the epic fantasia that is the feature-length film and soundtrack Wave Twisters. The rest, as they say, is scratch history.

So it’s been a while since we heard from you. What have you been doing lately?
Oh, a lot of training, a lot of practicing. I’m living in Hawaii right now so we’re doing a lot of filming of me practicing for this new thing I’m doing called Turntable TV. I have this car with turntables in it. And I drive around to all the beaches and practice and tape our little adventures in the car! (laughs)

Scratching is often compared to bedroom guitar wankery. How do you feel about that comparison?
Yeah, sure. I can see that. You know, it’s like anything. It depends on how a guy wants to approach his instrument. I see my style as sort of a mix of a lot of different things. (Tabla virtuoso) Zakir Hussein. Thelonious Monk. Louis Armstrong. Stevie Ray Vaughan. I don’t know. Tons of people. Les Paul. Sun Ra. Like I like his whole take on Space Music.

Yeah, it seems like you’ve always been interested in fictionalized musical spheres.
Well, you know, your imagination can create reality. So, bringing that reality to life and making it not imagination anymore, it becomes a real thing. I don’t know. I guess there’s two worlds: the reality world and the fantasy world. I’ve done a lot of fantasy with my albums and a lot of reality with, say, the Turntable TV stuff. I grew up watching cartoons and robots and that type shit. Space Monsters. For a kid, that’s sort of like the highest psychedelic trip, you know. To watch space robots, like Ultraman.

You’ve always had a juvenile streak running through your music. You have a good time.
You know, music is entertaining, so why not? A lot of people are being serious and, of course, that’s important too. But there’s also a fun side to it as well. And a lot of people don’t see that. So maybe being one of the first scratch guys out there, I thought I might as well pioneer some humor into it too. Kinda like Jackie Chan is to Kung Fu. You know, he has skills, his acrobatic styles and whatever, but he throws some comedy in there, too.

– Alexis Georgopoulos

Reading by Lena, who has no idea this palm belongs to Qbert.

1. Wildly independent in thought. This person inhabits—mentally—entire universes that others can’t even conceive of.

2. His love is the vastness, but details will just itch him. These are the hands of an explorer who wishes to touch the sensations, the tastes, and the textures of many places, but is not that interested in talking about them.

3. He wants to know how everything works. However, he lacks the patience to become an expert in all the sciences, so he’ll tend to invent his own theories and systems to explain things. They will be really interesting and some of them will even work. He has the sort of mind that could come up with a new theory of relativity involving relationships between aardvarks and quarks.

4. His careers are by his own choice and involve travel and imagination. One of these careers will lead to fame and fortune. In another time and place he might have become a traveling bard.

5. His nature is to worry incessantly about everything, but he is able to pay absolutely no attention to his worries and goes on about his explorations regardless.

6. Really smart, but since he does not generally think in words, this may go unnoticed, especially by himself. Can’t remember everything he thinks.

THE SPRING ISSUE


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