DJ QBERT Gets Metaphysical by: MIKE PFEIFFER
DJ Qbert has been called the greatest scratching DJ on earth. Since his battling days back in the 90’s as part of the Invisible Skratch Piklz crew, Qbert has been demonstrating his skills and schooling the world on the art of scratching. On his most recent tour with Craze, I caught up with Qbert about his life and music between bites of fruit and sushi. RM – Let’s start at the beginning. What was the first record you bought with your own money? Qbert – With my own money… it would have to be a Devo record. I was big into Devo back when “Whip It” came out. They were so weird and I was into weird music and stuff. My nickname in middle school was Devo because I liked them so much. I played it like a million times. RM – What was the first record you scratched with? Qbert – That would be Egyptian Lover’s “What Is A DJ if He Can’t Scratch.” That’s a good question, no one has asked me that. The beginning of the record has that “wha..wha.. wha..” and that was it. I should call him up and tell him. RM – There’s been a significant evolution in the art of turntablism. How have you changed? Qbert – At first my crew was like forget that I’ll always stick to records. But then I saw all the possibilities the new technology could bring. So all the ideas started popping
in my head of what I could do. So now we have vinyl that on one side is digital and on the other is analog scratch sounds. The world is endless on the possibilities. RM – Do you miss carrying around lots of vinyl? Qbert – Absolutely not. Minimalism is awesome. Do what you can with what you got. We are in the process of developing a mixer with a computer in it. So my partners and I are working with Intel to make our dream mixer. That’s the next step. Back when I was first scratching, I knew things would change. There might be a day when you’re scratching with your mind. There will be a machine that plugs into your mind to project your music. It’s a few steps forward, but this is how we get there. RM – You have been scratching and making music for more than a few decades. Over time, the music and scenes have radically changed. Is there a favorite period for you? Qbert – It would have to be now. I have learned so much. I can’t stand to hear my scratching from back then. It sounds so ancient. I’ve been studying a lot of music theory and jazz and all these spiritual things that go into the music that I didn’t have back then. All of it is beautiful, but I’m always living in the moment.