Qbert on the Invisibl Skratch Piklz Reunion at Fool’s Gold Day Off

If improvisational jazz was applied to turntables, then Qbert would be Charlie Parker—with a hip-hop beat. For anyone who’s been fortunate enough to watch his hands work, you aren’t able to pull your eyes away, trying to figure out how two hands on a record are making those sounds. And when he teams up with the legendary crew the Invisibl Skratch Piklz? Well, you should consider going to the Fools Gold Presents Day Off LA ’14 just to be amazed by these skilled spinners who haven’t linked up live since 2000. Even if the music’s not your thing, you’ll be witnessing a bit of music history in the making. We caught up with Qbert to geek out on turntablism.

What prompted the Invisibl Skratch Piklz reunion?

I guess people have been asking for it and it’s the perfect time to do it at the A-Trak show. We’re going to try to get some of the older members in it as well with Apollo, A-Trak’s going to jump on, G-Style, Shortcut and myself.

Is Mike going to be there?

Yeah! Of course, Mix Master Mike.

Since DJing has come to the forefront of pop culture, you hear the argument about button pushing and all that—which obviously you guys don’t do. What are some of the challenges right now for you as a professional DJ to those that don’t understand the origins?

It’s been the same for us. We’ve always been just evolving, scratching. It’s actually become a lot [more fun] now with all the new technology and stuff. The sounds in our heads are more fun now to create with combining all the scratching knowledge with the button pushing. It’s definitely getting closer to a time where we can just think stuff and it’ll just pop out of our head. [Laughs]

There’s some DJ schools popping up left and right, I think there’s even one for babies in New York. But you’ve had the Scratch Academy since 2009. What do you feel sets you apart?

Mine is online so DJs can learn 24 hours [a day]. There’s curriculum and I’m always adding new scratches and new techniques on there. It’s kind of like Facebook for scratchers.

With the EDM producer-as-DJ trend, it’s becoming harder and harder to actually catch sets that have a lot of skill and technicality in a large nightclub. Who are you in awe of that people should check out?

You can’t leave out the crew. There’s Shortcut and Mix Master Mike and G-Style and guys like that that are always killing it in their set.

A lot of the mainstream media right now doesn’t understand there’s a difference between, say, Avicii and legit turntablists. What would you say to them or how would you explain what you do to someone who only sees the surface of things?

It’s been like that ever since we started. It’s always been commercial DJs really don’t do anything—I can’t say that because some commercial DJs do—but in general it’s more for the music and making people dance. We do that as well, but incorporate playing the turntable live like a musical instrument. I guess that’s the only thing that would differentiate us as far as just being a robot up there, we’re actually being a human and playing the turntable like a jazz musician would. We’re scratching all these futuristic sounds and everything.

Do you ever actually use that Pioneer gold-plated mixer you got from winning America’s Best DJ in 2010?

Nah, it’s just a trophy. I have like a thousand mixers in our studio and in my house. That’s just too nice to touch.

Who do you think are the most important crews in the history?

Well there’s the X-Ecutioners from the East Coast … Rob Swift and Roc Raida passed away and Steve D was in the crew, Total Eclipse and Mister Sinister. Those guys were really amazing as far as beat-juggling. They would get two of the same identical records on both turntables and do these tricks with the beats; switch the beats around and rearrange it, slow it down, and make it super funky. It’s really incredible what they did if you watch the old DMC’s in the late ‘90s. All throughout the ‘90s, anything with X-Ecutioners or X-Men those guys were astounding with two turntables. Beat Junkies as well. Beat Junkies are another crew, but they’re from Los Angeles. And then Invisibl Skratch Piklz was Bay Area/San Francisco.

You’ve got some exciting new gear, correct?

We have a new mixer coming out, speaking of mixers. We’re coming out with the TRX; my company is called Thud Rumble, if you go to ThudRumble.com. We make slipmats and design needles for DJs. We have this new needle that the OSGEMENOS guys did, the OSGEMENOS twins are a very famous graffiti duo from Brazil. They travel all around the world and paint on buildings. They get paid to put their art up there. They did the art for these new 25th anniversary needles. And we got this mixer that we’re making which is all chrome. It’s really, really beautiful. That’s coming out soon. … We had a Kickstarter and we got the No. 1 highest paid hip-hop group for Kickstarter. That was really amazing. Everyone that signed up for our Kickstarter will get that mixer if they bought that package. It’s very limited edition. And we’re going to have another version of it that’s not all chrome plated that is the same mixer, but it’ll be available to the public.

You’ve also got a couple of new LPs?

Yeah I just came out with two albums. One is called Extraterrestria which is music from outer space. … And then there’s another album I came out with which is Galaxxxian, which is an album from Earth. So it’s the opposite. … It’s a reflection of what’s going on here on this planet with all the craziness.

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