QJ: I grew up in the South Side of Chicago in the 1930s. Back then we [African-Americans] lived like street rats in this place that just bred gangsters. My grandmother was an ex-slave and one of the biggest black activists in South Carolina in 1895. She sent my aunts and my father to Rutgers University in Jersey, a wise decision. My father became a master carpenter and every day during our childhood he told us “once a task has begun, never leave it til it’s done, be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.” QJIII: You have an incredible work ethic. I’ve never seen anything like it. In no point in my life have I been able to hang out with you 24/7 and keep up! QJ: I think it probably comes from not having a mother. I mean, I’ve still got scars from when I was seven years old and went down the wrong street… Chicago was very tribal and fierce.
QJIII: How were you able to master so many verticals? QJ: Inquisitiveness. I want to know how everything works, I always have. For me it’s about always having humility with your creativity and grace with your success. It’s easy to get carried away; you get one hit record and go crazy. To me, that’s not the way to roll. It’s one thing to get a number one, but staying number one is something else. It’s about giving back. I’ve tried to teach you kids that too. My favorite phrase for life is "love, laugh, live and give" – and don’t expect anything in return for giving. QJIII: When I was growing up you always talked about learning the science behind something before you get creative. What’s that balance about? QJ: You have to learn the science of what you’re doing, no matter what it is. Because you can’t break the rules until you learn the rules – and once you’ve learned the craft core of your skill, then you can really break the rules.
QJIII: When I was growing up you took Michael Jackson and me to Silicon Valley. We went to the Apollo Alto Research Centre where Alan Kay was working. This was before computers were even mainstream… QJ: Alan Kay, the guy who created Mac One and Mac Two, overlapping windows on computer screens, computer icons… All that stuff was Alan Kay. All he spoke about was computers, computers, computers. I really thought he was smoking Kool-Aid. But then that thing came out to the public and within 11 months everyone on the planet had a computer… QJIII: So you’ve literally been involved in music technology from the beginning. QJ: Back in the 1970s, Robert Moog [the inventor of Moog synthesizers], came to me and asked why the brothers weren’t playing his instrument. I said, “Bob, it’s because it creates a sonic sound that doesn’t bend. And if it doesn’t bend, a brother ain’t gonna play it. He can’t get funky if it doesn’t bend.” So Moog came up with a portmanteau and a pitch bender – and eventually Stevie Wonder won four consecutive Grammys using that instrument.