This year the DMC World Championships turns 30. For that reason we talked to some of the winners of the last 3 decades about the history of DJing and their personal point-of-view on spinning the wheel of turns. So during the next weeks we like to introduce you to some of them. Today we start with DJ Qbert – World Champion 1992 (s Rocksteady DJs with Apollo & Mix Master Mike), World Champion 1993 (as Dream Team with Mix Master Mike) and one of the most popular Deejays ever.
When did you start with turntablism?
*DJ Qbert: 1985.
Are you still active? Do you make a living out of it?
DJ Qbert: Always training and my album is almost done as well. It’s everything, if you look on the site djqbert.com. I just did some skratches for the new Dreamworks film “Turbo”. We even have a new mixer coming out: the TR-1s mixer! So much stuff! I even have an online school www.qbertskratchuniversity.com.
What kept you excited all those years?
DJ Qbert: Like a jazz musician or kung fu master. Always looking to get better and discover new things.
What’s your most favorite routine?
DJ Qbert: I love when I do my new routines and things from the new album, and also love the feeling of flowing freely when I get tons of practice in.
When developing a new routine, where do you start?
DJ Qbert: It usually comes from a day dream, a dream or just brainstorming. It all starts with knowing that anything is possible. It’s there, you just gotta dig super deep in your soul and pull it out.
Is there a different approach when doing team routines?
DJ Qbert: Yeah, like a team effort. We all share ideas and agree on what the best sound for the audience is and what we like. Usually we work on one part at a time. also jamming helps, and everyone does their homework before hooking up – like searching for sounds, and composition ideas and such.
What’s your basic philosophy on turntablism?
DJ Qbert: I love listening to a good flow, an original cadence, crazy swing, new techniques, catchy melodies, composed skratch patterns, all that funky music theory and beyond when it also includes the spiritual aspects, where the phrasing becomes otherworldly and to some may sound off beat. But I love it like that, when like a jazz artist one can hit that zone – where a skratcher is able to have their kuts dance around the straight line of time and play with all kinds of weird rhythms far off the mathematical chart of nature. In other words, I like it when you can hear the magic of god flowing through them. We all can do it since we are all universally one.
How do you prepare for battles? And how do you feel when doing a battle?
DJ Qbert:Practice like a mad man and study the competition like a boxer. Then do something a step ahead, then keep going more steps ahead after you get that step, and use your imagination to completely be on another world and then make up a routine that battles that guy, then go more steps beyond that, and keep climbing up those stairs even after the battle!
Do you remember your first DJ battle?
DJ Qbert: I lost, then I learned from it and got better, and kept taking them extra steps haha. then I lost more battles and learned, and just kept moving forward with each lesson. they all were wins when you think of them as classes.
How was your DMC battle for championship?
DJ Qbert: First time in 1991, the DMC went like this: I didn’t care if I won or lost, but that I honed my skills. Then I became the bay area champion. Next I went to the West Coast DMC battle and all I cared about was practicing and not caring about winning. Then I won and became West Coast DMC champion for 1991. Same went for the USA 1991 DMC. I just trained and whoever won didn’t matter to me. then surprisingly I won that. So then soon after I go the DMC World eliminations as the USA champ and I just do my best without any cares of being the winner again. Then lo and behold I take first place in that. So the next day I am in the World Finals, but my attitude changes. I became arrogant and thought I didn’t need practice anymore and that I already won this thing. That year, I lost and took 2nd place, lol! A big lesson that taught me to always stay humble and respect the art. I’m not there to be a star but I am here to serve people with creations that I have put my all into. From then on, we kept the same attitude of humility, and went on the being world champs from 92-94 with my team mates Mix Master Mike and DJ Apollo .
Your top 3 turntablism records?
DJ Qbert: Skratchy Seal’s »Superseal«, Skratchy Seal’s »Superseal in the 4th Dimension«, Psychedelic Skratch Bastards’s »Battle Breaks«