Starwax magazine

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« Hey Clément! When you go to San Francisco in September, do you want to interview with Invisibl Skratch Piklz for Starwax? ». « Yeah!!! » . That’s how Dj Claim was going to meet Qbert, D-Styles and ShortKut, some of the greatest international personality of the scratch culture for the past two decades. They are also some great defenders of the collective turntablism, and today, they put out the first ISP album, « the 13th Floor » which everyone has been waiting for since 1989! Also, more surprisingly, this album was recorded like a jam session and was recorded in five days at the Red Bull Studio of Tokyo. This magical meeting will put the light on this mysterious 13th Floor album, which will have no secrets for you anymore.

Dj Claim: I represent the Wave Twister and Phantazmagorea generation. What I mean is, I started scratching in 2000, when ISP was announcing their last show at Skratchcon. So I haven’t known about all the origins of the scratch or the evolutions that took place in the 1990s. Qbert, when you first started scratching I was only one year old!
Qbert: Daaaamn! So you’re ten now! (everybody laugh)

If I seem happy to interview ISP today, in the middle of thousand records in Amoeba Berkley, with the presence of HardRich and Skratchy Seal, it’s because you were in the top of the game when I was a child, and you still in the top of the game now, but not as some old school DJ, you stay on the cutting edge! So to start I will ask some basic questions about you, your beginnings, stuff like that. Then we will talk about Invisibl Skratch Piklz and this incredible album « 13th Floor », and to finish I’ve got some questions from a few fans from around the world. But first I’ve got three questions for Skratchy Seal. How old are you?
Scratchy Seal: Ten.

Is it true that you are the best skratch dj ever?
SS: I’m just a super-duper seal on the “wheels of steel”

Do you have a Girlfriend?
SS: YEAH!….. why? You wanna get at me?!

Which Dj influenced you the most when you were a beginner?
Qbert: Cash Money, Mix Master Mike, Jazzy Jeff, Dj Alladin, Mix Master Ice, DST.

D-Style: Jam MasterJ, Marley Mar, Joe Cooley, I mean there’s so many,

ShortKut: Dj Miz, Steve D, Rob Swift.

Qbert: Executioners.

ShortKut: Roc Raida.

What was your favorite scratch video at that time? Except Rockit.
ShortKut: Buffalo gals had a bunch of scratching, I remember that video.

Qbert: New music Seminar VHS tapes., all those battles. The DMCs, all the old DMCs were good.

Which techniques did you start to really express yourself with?
Qbert: Stabs for me.

ShortKut: Transforming, I used to copy the scratches on UTFO… Roxanne Roxanne, once I learned that I thought I was… like I could do that to any beat, that pattern over any beat, just do the same pattern.

How many times do you practice for a working session?
D-Styles: 30 minutes every day or more.

ShortKut: The same

Qbert: Two hours, an hour at the least, it depends on how I’m feeling. Sometimes a whole day. Sometimes none, when on tour.

Do you have a working routine like in sports with warmup and stuff like that?
Qbert: Just having fun.

ShortKut: Just whatever bpm beats that we scratch to, that’s the warm-up. We don’t have (I don’t have) a certain scratch type that we, you know.

Qbert: But, if I want to get serious, stabs. Stabs, to get it clean. It’s so hard it’s tiring.

Do you use a skratch notation and if you do, how do you use it?
D-Styles: I don’t, but I’ve seen Q write stuff out and it actually helps make sense of the technique when I see it drawn out. I’m more of a “just try and sound it out” and figure it out, but when I see how Q draws it out its very helpful for sure.

ShortKut: I don’t use it, I just hear…

Qbert: you do!

Dj Claim: I do, but just for remembering something or to learn it to somebody… Never read it to play, just free styles.
What do you listening the most those days?
Qbert: jazz music sometimes, reggae.

D-Styles: I listen to a lot of 70’s, like, rock, just in the car driving. Yeah, it just reminds me of my influences as a kid growing up.

Where did the name Invisibl Skratch Piklz come from?
Qbert: Mix Master Mike said Invisible Pickles and then Dj Disc said Invisible Scratch pickles, just for joking around.

Who created your incredible famous logo?
Qbert: Doug One, Doug Cunningham.

Can you give us any news from Dj Apollo?
ShortKut: His mixtapes are on I dj with him a lot during the day, he’s on the radio out here 105.7fm We still do stuff together as Triple Threat, me, him and Vin Rock. We just did a bunch of Red Bull stuff together. He’s very active as well.

Your album was recorded in five days in Japan. The songs were already composed, or you created all in Japan?
DS: They were roughly composed beforehand but we wanted the “live” element so we decided to record it live in Japan like as a one take thing and then if there were some mistakes we’d clean it up but we recorded everything in Japan, we had some sketches already thought out.

SK: Just building as we go, but we had the skeleton (the beats) already laid out.

DS: We didn’t know what the solos would be or anything so we did all that live.

When you compose, does each of you have a defined role, like in the band with someone on bass, another on drums, etc…?
SK: No, we switch. It’s just whatever, we have an idea of how the song is gonna be and whoever fits in, like whoever is free for that part so all of us have different roles we can be a soloist or percussion or, you know, melody. It just all depends on the song.

DS: Yeah, like today, sometimes I was the drummer, sometimes Short was the drummer, and on another song Q was the drummer. It just rotates, you know what I mean?

Dj Claim : That’s the great think about scratching, we can play everything
SK: Yeah right, not always on the same thing, alway changing.

What software did you use on this album?
DS: We recorded in ProTools and me and Short used Serato and Q used Traktor.

Vinyl sample only, or other sources too?
SK: …I think this one was mostly vinyl…

DS: if I find a good sample I record it into ProTools or Ableton and then just to have it so that its not scratched up so the sound is good and then I’ll use that sound and mess with it, but yeah, we dug on vinyl and put it to digital.

Why did you took this intentional decision to make that album more like a super funky high level jam session than a sophisticated studio album?
DS: Well, you know we wanna be able to perform the songs live so if we just make a studio album it’s gonna be heavy on the production and we’re not gonna be able to do any of it live. So, it’s gotta be minimal enough that we can play the parts but still sound good, you know what I mean? That was the concept.

SK: Just everyone having one mixer and one turntable each to recreate what we did live, you know? Just that live element, nothing too pre-produced, just that kinda straight “raw”, everyone just does it from scratch.

I saw your animation on instagram on the track Kenny G’s Perm. Are you thinking about making videos?
Q: Yeah we’d like to. If you know any cool video guys let us know.

How many copies did you release?
SK: The vinyl we did 1,000.

Will you do more?
SK: Well see. It’s not planned right now. Maybe just keep it limited. Right now it’s super limited, whoever had it today was the lucky ones at the in-store.

I just bough 13 copies to bring back in France, for the non lucky guys.

SK: Oh right on man! Thank you.

What does the title « 13th floor » mean to you?
Q: You know most buildings, they don’t have a 13th floor…. but they do have a 13th floor it’s a secret. So everything that goes on in there that nobody knows about.

SK: Like I don’t know how it is in France or Europe but out here in the States a lot of buildings don’t have a 13th floor so it (the new album) is almost like a soundtrack to what would be on that one floor that doesn’t exist. It gives us an option… there’s a little bit of everything on there. Like you open the door and there’s some jazz shit, and you open this door and there’s some punk/metal, punk/rock type stuff, you know? Just different kind of vibes I guess.

Why did you choose the look of an old Jazz record?
DS: I think we’re all fans of that jazz, you know, just jazz music in general, and there’s so many parallels with scratching and jazz that’s kind of how we approached scratching so it only made sense to do something like that, you know?

SK: Also, since we did it in a studio, as sessions players, kind of fits the vibe.

Do you have World Tour planned for the future?
Q: We’d like to. Hopefully. We want to. We’ll manifest it.

SK: We’re kinda taking it as it goes right now. For now we got certain spot shows like we’re headlining the DMC World Finals this year in London and going back to New York the week after to do something. Yeah, hopefully as time goes we’d like to be able to do this everywhere.

On September 24th when you play in London for the DMC will you play with new « Invader » mixers?
Q: That would be good.

HardRich: It’s tricky because the DMC is sponsored by Rane and uh….. .

Q: Well, when I perform at the DMC I can use my Traktor, so maybe it is possible. Yeah, maybe. Just because we’re performers.

HR: Yeah, we’ve got enough prototypes now so it’s ready it just comes down to have it ready and have enough time to practice with it and all that, I’m still talking to the Serato guys about serato support in it, there is just one thing missing with the crossfader, midi map. Hopefully, we can get that sorted in the next week or two.

Why has vinyl never died?
SK: ‘Cause peoples collections will never be finished.

Q: Damn, what an answer!

D-Styles, ­your dope scratchers delight looper is signed « Beat Junkies » but can you tell us which members worked on it?
DS: Babu, Rhettmatic, Melody, J-Rock and myself.

DC: Thank you for the pitch and the fade out when you stop the beat by the way.

DS: Actually HardRich was the first to introduce the pitch on a looper… How do you call it, when the tempo automatically uh…

HR: Oh the speed booster.

How was your collaboration with Birdy Nam Nam on they first album?
DS: Yeah, that was a long time ago. They flew me in and Mike Boogie out to Paris, we stayed with DJ Need and Crazy B, and we recorded at the studio for maybe two or three days. We just recorded a bunch of stuff and they cleaned it up and took what they liked…. I don’t even have a copy of it.

Really? I’ll find a copy on Discogs and send it to you.

I know you travel and mix a lot, but do you think about releasing a solo album?
SK: Absolutely. I’m in the middle of it right now. Just still makin’ beats. One of the first releases is gonna be a track I did with Tropkillaz from Brazil. And its the same track I did for the Serato Video that just came out. So, doing something with them, just a little bit of everything. Stuff to play out. Slowly, but surely.

Qbert, ­ Is it true that we will have your « Extraterrestria » on vinyl soon, or later?
Q:Yes. We are waiting for the puzzle pieces final to be made and put it all together as a box set. That’s what we’re waiting for.

Are you thinking with « Code Cut Crew » about making an album ?
Q: Yes. Hard Rich what do you think about that?

HR: There’s 4 songs done right now. We just done another video. I talked to Mix Master Mike about doing the next round of beats for it, so it sounds like its gonna be a full album, yeah.

What about channel Zectar with Mix Master Mike?
Q: Yeah, he wants to put out a single after all this ISP stuff and then by that time when that comes out we’ll probably do a 2nd ISP album.


Kitty Kutz from New Zealand: Will you battle the X­Ecutioners again?
SK: I don’t know. Um, it depends, I mean everyone, especially with the Xecutioners, Total Eclipse is in Australia right now and Rob Swift is busy doing his thing on TV with the ESPN and everything, so, everyone’s busy I think, you know? It’s one of those things, if the stars align right it will happen one day, I don’t know. Maybe. Who knows.

Gundam from Germany: Has Professor Flaud turned up again since his appearance in the ISP Turntable Mechanic Workshop 4 in 1997?
Q: Yes he’s tried to make a new mixer to battle the Invader Mixer. And, um, but he’s doing it wrong because he’s promoting that you can watch porn on it because it is a computer and you know you can do that on ours too but we don’t want to promote that but he’s promoting that on his mixer, so, I don’t think that’s very nice for the like… it’s just not what it’s for.

Andy Teller from Germany: When was the last time you have discovered a new skratch who place you in the feeling of a beginner again? And what was that skratch?
DS: For me it’s the chirp. I’m still trying to get it, and I can do it some days, and I can’t, so, yeah, for me that’s my big trouble scratch and I’m still trying to work at that.

SK: I’m just trying to catch up to these guys.

Q: Even you Dj Claim had a combo and you drew it out. I just turned to the next combo because it was too crazy for me .

Daniel Hult of TableBeats from Sweden: « How do you start the process of making a song? »
DS: I don’t think there’s a way, sometimes you have drums and you have an idea off of that. Sometimes you have a melody or a bass line, but, I don’t know, atleast for me I like to have drums and start with the drums and then I’ll usually build off of that sometimes.

SK: Especially if it’s gonna be like acoustic drums or synthesized-style drums, but that’s how we’ll pretty much have something we’ll go to each other and like, “you have something with this?” “Can you find something that goes with this?” But, like, there’s no real process.

Adam Butler aka ADA of ArtistWorks from USA: After over ten years of not performing together, what changed and who reached out to who?
DS: We were doing shows here and there not us three collectively, but sometimes it’d be me and Short, sometimes me and Q, sometimes Q and Short. We did a show, The Fader Fest, 2011, and that forced us to practice and come up with new music and after that we always talked about doing an album and then one opportunity with Red Bull came up where we could record it in Japan we said this is perfect it will force us to be in the same place for five days and just fully record something.

Dj Peus of Parlons Scratch from France: Qbert, when you where in France at Maker Faire, you have offered the possibility for locals djs to scratch with you. Do you think ISP can do that on that kind of event in the future?
Q: What do you guys think? Yeah, why not? Will that mess it up, or is that cool? What if somebody hogs it up there? It’s like 50/50 for me. Depends. Sometimes their drunk too, so it’s hard. If we know them. Hey! I remember you came in a show, and you were drunk. Remember that? (laughing).

Dj Claim: In Amiens? Noooo I was drunk after, not on stage!
Q: Yeah! You were one of those guys!

Dj Claim : No haha, it was the time when you had those two millimeter of silence before having a sound on your crossfader, it’s for that I was looking drunk haha
Q: Oh shit, you remember that! It was fun.

Dj Claim : Yeah but I was drunk only after… Maybe you were drunk!
Q: haha yeah you got me (everybody laughing)

Emma Short­-e from in England: What can you say to a beginner who is focused on techniques, to help him to be more expressive and musical?
SK: Loosen up. Don’t be so serious. Yeah. Listen to other music before you go up to cut too. Listen to older scratches on records, like Joe Cooley, how they do it.

DS: Scratch without the fader. Even for a little bit. It forces you to be kinda like a kid and just make melodies with it.

Q: Let yourself go like Shortcut said. Maybe let God process you and just flow and anything can happen.

SK: Shrooms. < laughing >

Q: That’s basically it. That’s what we’re really trying to say. Take some acid.

Dj Sfera from Romania for D­Styles: « can you give us the title of one of the movie you have sampled on Phantazmagorea »
DS: “Hated” by G G Allin. It was a documentary. I took a lot of dialogue off of that. You’ll hear the samples that we used.

Star Wax Team from France: If there were no scratching in your life, what would you do?
Sk: Good question.

Q: Maybe be a producer. Make beats. Play guitar, piano.

SK: I’ll be better than David Guetta (Everyone Laugh)

Interview by Dj Claim