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Story outtakes, celebrity confessions and the latest pop culture news in the Bay Area

About Me
I'm a pop music writer for the San Jose Mercury News. I cover pop, hip hop, punk, rock, dance, and ethnic - well, basically everything you can dance to.

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  • Tuesday, January 25, 2005

    Party at DJ Q-Bert's house in Daly City!

    Last night, I was lucky to catch GrandWizzard Theodore @ the NorCal DJ Academy in SF.

    The man known as the "inventor of the scratch" talked about how it all started - how he was on two turntables in his room, replaying the groove over and over, when his mother knocked on his door - and basically said - You either turn it down or turn it off! At this point, his hand moved - created the sound "wigga wigga" - and the scratch was invented.

    He says that even though the scratch was found by accident, it was something he had inside him and something he ultimately perfected. He then showed us a demonstration, placing his hand on the turntable as if it was the face of a clock, at 9 o'clock and at 10 o'clock. He scratched with such ease - he's been at it for 30 years.

    Back in the day, he said, it wasn't so easy - they didn't have felt protecting the turntables - they would cut up undershirts. And the knobs were not so easy to turn; they were big and bulky - making the DJ look like he was having a seizure as he was trying to mix the music.

    Then, Q-Bert, another DJ pioneer, went on the turntables and juggled some beats using a drum record. He said he's been listening to a lot of jazz lately to imitate their improvisation with scratching.

    Someone asked Q if he played any "traditional" instruments. He said no. Q compared it to mastering a videogame - in his case, Street Fighter. Instead of spreading out his skillz, he basically practiced all his moves with the character Ken and perfected it - so like that character; he concentrated on the turntables and nothing else.

    Later, I went to his house party in Daly City, where a lot of the scenes from the documentary "Scratch" was shot. Inside, there were eight turntables and all kinds of DJs from the very local and indie to the very famous like GrandWizzard Theodore and DJ Flare. Many of them worked the tables.

    Besides turntables, the theme of the house was robots: robot paintings and old skool robot figurines. Many of them were from the Japanese anime Neon Genesis Evangelion.

    I felt fortunate to be there.


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