Dj Q-Bert Interview

Ahead of this weekend's DMC Championships
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The DMC World DJ Championships are set to take place this Friday and Saturday at London's O2 Indigo venue with guest appearance from Dj Yoda, Dj I-Dee, Dj Fly, Rob Swift and Dj Q-Bert.

THE competition for any aspiring DJ, the event, which boast Clash pals Drunknmunky as official fashion sponsor, will see a Battle For World Supremacy, a World Team Battle and the Dj Championship World Final itself as well as some of the planet's best Djs entertaining the crowds including Dj Q-Bert.

ClashMusic caught up with the three time World Champion, and member of the DMC Hall of Fame, ahead of his appearance to discuss DMC, turntablism trends, technique and talking to aliens.


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DJ Q-Bert Battle - Lamb Chops



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2009 is the 25th anniversary of the DMC championships; aside from the advance in technology, what's been the biggest progression in the history of scratching in that time?

Just the fact that people are learning that the turntable is a musical instrument. From that, there are infinite ways of using it as one. The technology can keep advancing until it becomes a mind reading device in the future where all you have to do is think about it and everyone can hear you scratch... but still with it all, the best is raw hands on vinyl for scratching!

What's been your contribution to that?

All the noise I make on the turntables, I guess. I don't know if I’ve actually contributed anything: maybe a scratch or two, here and there.

Why is the final held in the London when turntablism is effectively an American creation?

Probably because Tony Prince [founder of Mixmag and the DMC Championships], who is the president of the DMC, happens to be from the UK. Just maybe.

Why do you think it is that body tricks have practically disappeared from the championships?

Because people have found out that it's a musical instrument. Actually sometimes, I'd rather see that than someone hurting my ears with a bunch of unoriginal noise. It's all fun and people become too nerdy with the skills...body tricks are fun! Hmm, come to think of it, with all the noise I make, maybe I should start doing body tricks, ha!

What's more important: scratch technique, juggling ability, routine flow or feel?

All things combined, just like in music - there are many facets to the overall presentation. Tone, colour, melody, harmony, soul, feel, originality, rhythms, chord changes, tempo, timbre, background, foreground, blah blah etc, etc.

Do you think that by elevating the role of the DJ to this insanely high level, it's managed to reduce the amount of scratching heard on mainstream rap records?

I think it's become more of an underground elite kind of world. Do you hear a great piano or guitar or even sax soloing on commercial mainstream music all the time, too? Do you even hear a great song there on mainstream rap records?

It used to be that the DJ was the beat-maker, but we now have dedicated beat producers, do you think this has led to this public demise of the DJ?

Scratching has always been underground, so I really see no difference from back then or now. You always have to hunt for the good, underground stuff anyways. The true school hip hop world is alive and growing, but definitely not in the eyes of the mainstream consumer.

Serato [a software based scratching system] certainly seems to be the preferred method of DJing live, and really - anybody can be a DJ. Is vinyl now in danger of disappearing?

Not to a true scratcher. The new thing is that both worlds have come together: Serato, Traktor, etc. We're even making vinyl now that is one side digital, and the other side analogue!

With this evolution of technology, are we looking at a revolution in rap?

Of course... just like with any art, there are real lyricists out there too doing it for the love and not the money. Graff artists, break dancers, beat boxers, sex fetishes etc. All advancing! Just look on YouTube... Do a search on ‘Percee P’ for a dope MC. Check out a popper named Salah, look for B-boy battle of the year, Freestyle sessions, Mighty 4 - a beat boxer named Kenny Muhammad or Killa Kela...

Who are you most looking forward to seeing at the DMC Championships and why?

Everyone, because I'm gonna learn something. Everyone has something different to offer and knows something that the next man doesn't. Also it's a great time to see my brother and sister scratch DJs!

With so many great DJs, who, in your opinion, is the most, all-round, complete DJ?

Wow... there's always a DJ that will know something more than the next, so I haven't seen one that is all around that I really pointed towards, but I'll name all the ones that I really like: Precision, Rob Swift, Roc Raida, Mista Sinista, Total Eclipse, Ken One, Koukji, Mike Boo, Miyazima, Toadstyle, Vajra, Craze, A-Trak, Mix Master Mike, Shortkut, D-Styles, Teeko, Klever, Noize, Scratch Perverts, Beat Junkies… there’s too many to name.

And what's been your favourite DMC performance?

Lots of older ones, but I forgot their names! Aladdin in the USA finals 1988. A-Trak vs Craze. Also probably Vajra, but his routine went over the judges' heads and he didn't make it to the finals.

Is 'Super Duck Breaks' still the best battle record?

I thought it was one of the best back then... still a classic, but I haven't used it in over ten years! I mostly now use the skipless 'Superseal dirt style' ones, and have been for the past 10 years, especially since they were designed user-friendly for us! I really do hope that there will be another 'Super Duck Breaks' though!

A while ago, I read somewhere that you tended not to scratch to hip-hop at home - preferring the medium of jazz for more expressive scratches. Does that still hold true?

I love how the rumours get twisted! I listen to jazz, but use the ideas and scratch to hip hop beats mainly, especially funky B-boy breaks looped. But there have been a few times where I would scratch to jazz just to play along with it.


How's the Skratch University [Q-Bert's online tuition site] doing?

It's been 3 months and it's just about reaching 550 students worldwide! Super fun and I learn so much and have a ball giving all the knowledge to them!

Are there any specific projects you're working on now?

I want to make another film like ‘Wave Twisters’, and seeing about it becoming much more than that! I hope it all works out. It usually does when you put in a lot of work. The universe helps out a lot when you are making a creation, especially if it is to make the world a better place. I want to make it a story where people can learn about life in a positive way somehow, but at the same time, still true to real hip hop in a future sense.

Do you think the DMC will need to create new heats, such as a Serato only round or a vinyl only session, as we embark on the next 25 years of DJing?

Of course! I would also like to see a round where the DJs only just scratch question and answer style against each other to a fast beat or halftime and also a mid tempo beat! That’s how we do it anyways when we all get together to practice. Not sure if there is an ITF [International Turntable Federation] anymore, but there should be head-on battles since those are really exciting.

Are you still talking to aliens when you scratch?

We are always talking to aliens... They see us but we can't see them. We’re kinda like a fish in a fish tank with many higher beings in different dimensions observing us. So think about that, the next time you masturbate!

You ever had a spiritual dialogue with Hendrix?

I think about a lot of artists on the other side and sometimes wonder if they are in the room helping out my flow. I try to call them and hopefully they aren't too busy in heaven to help out.

Finally, what should we expect from 'The Super Jam' when you, Rob Swift, DJ Fly, Shiftee and Switch go up against each other?

Ha ha! Now we're going against each other? I’m just gonna flow and blend in with the sounds. They can battle each other if they want. I’m just gonna have fun jamming with them.

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Words by Ash Akhtar

Q-Bert appears at the DMC Championship Finals, taking place at IndigO2 at The O2, London September 11th & 12th.

See http://www.dmcdjchamps.com/ for further details.

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