For those of you that have been following my work from way back, you’ll know that I’ve been working on a hip hop and spirituality project as I work on my punk and spirituality project, for those that don’t know, it’ll be news to you. Over the last few years I’ve been talking with people from the worldwide hip hop community about their thoughts and feelings on, as well as their experiences with, spirituality and how it filters into their art and life. DJ QBert was one of the very first interviews I did for it. He’s my all-time favourite skratch DJ, his musical compositions are epic and he also does a lot of posi work in the community and evolving his craft. I first discovered him back in the early 2000s via this Lamb Chops vid:
Here’s an excerpt of our chat from my Hip Hop Insight project. Enjoy!
BIANCA: Everyone learns their craft from somewhere, who are/have been your mentors? Who inspires you? Who has made a lasting impression on your style?
DJ QBERT: I’m a student of everyone. I’ve learned that everyone knows something more than the next man… even the guys that suck. They may teach you some things that they can’t do yet or an idea that you never thought of. As long as you are open to learning, you’ll always gain something to add to your artistic vocabulary that will help the art. I find myself listening to lots of jazz like Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Miles Davis, etc. also lots of guitar greats and piano documentaries. Also classical music and their philosophies are real good too… dang, I listen to everything!
B: What inspires you outside of music?
DJQ: Sculptures, and minds of really great people. Nature is the best actually… lately I’ve made a lot of music thinking about nature.
B: Was releasing your D.I.Y Skratching Instructional DVDs your way of giving something back to the community, how important is this to you? Do you feel knowledge should be shared?
DJ Q: That’s just a start… this new DVD that is about to come out has over 100 skratches and it’s like a dictionary of as many as I could find, even though there are an infinity of combos, this one is still ridiculously incredible! It’s called “scratchlopedia breaktannica”! it’s a year in the making and it’s about to come out! Lots of crazy skratches that no one has ever seen, and I can’t wait til everyone does them in their own way!
B: You’ve won the DMC’s many times, was competing in it taxing/draining on you spiritually, mentally, physically or otherwise? Was there anything you did to get yourself in to a particular head-space to compete?
DJ Q: I thought I was a boxer, and I trained like a boxer but on the turntables… I kept hypnotizing myself saying “I am the best” over and over… so it made me train harder and think of the impossible! I loved the experience, because it was like a game to outdo the opponents and it was fun to have that feeling of power over them with all my new skills at that time. I was all about turntables and I dreamt, and ate skratching when I was in battle mode! But of course now, those old battle routines are very possible [laughs].
B: Do you have any pre or post-show rituals?
DJ Q: Just practice lots the days before for the confidence level to be up. I like to get my act together, you know check my needles and have a good soundcheck a few hours before the show. I think of myself as having fun up there and right before the show, maybe have a small chat with a few close friends and keep it fun and light hearted, so the nevousness becomes no big deal. I safe up the nervous energy and turn it into a good thing for when I need it in those difficult speed combos [laughs].
B: You love nature and being out in nature, do you feel your spirituality is heightened when in nature?
DJ Q: I like to be grounded and I find many ideas are in nature… you just have to be aware of the subtleties. I love channelling the energy of this one tree outside my house… he makes my skratches feel very earthy. Maybe it’s a she or both?
B: What is spirituality for you?
DJ Q: When people ask me what my religion is, I just say “peace and love” is my way of life.
Check out DJ QBert’s latest INTERACTIVE record–Extraterrestria! It is one of THE most AMAZING packaged vinyl I have ever seen! The album sleeve doubles as a DJ controller.
For more DJ QBERT.
More Hip Hop Insight to come soon! Stay tuned.
Peace & love,