Throughout history, certain individuals have found callings, and through that calling have redefined the world we live in. Edison, Mozart, Einstein, Da Vinci, Picasso, Warhol; genius that took what we knew and changed it, made it new and also made it acceptable, usable, common. Richard Quitevis is one of those people. Quitevis weapon of choice is the turntables. Under the moniker Qbert, Quitevis has won more awards and is held in higher esteem than any other DJ. For him, turntablism is an obsession, but it’s an obsession that he wants to share with the world.
“It was just the weirdest sound”, Quitevis says of how he got into DJing, “and growing up in San Francisco there was a lot of hiphop and breakers around. And scratching is like the weirdest sound, I really fell in love with it, and now it’s my musical choice.” Some would even call it an obsession. In his old studio named ‘the Octagon’ in San Francisco, DJ magazine reported there were 16 Vestax units as the focus of the room, and that ‘every moment, unguarded or otherwise, finds QBert squeezing, fondling, stroking or otherwise manipulating a slab of vinyl’. “It’s a lifelong commitment,” Quitevis says. “Like a kung fu artist perfecting his skills, or a Jazz musician honing his skills,” and whilst I can’t see him, I can imagine him fondling a turntable as he speaks from his new set up, the ‘Temple Warplex’ in Hawaii.
However, turntablism for Quitevis is not like some guarded secret that only a few can know and learn. Quite the opposite in fact, as through his company Thud Rumble, he is bringing ‘the scratch’ to the world. Ranked in the top 50 most influential media companies of the decade by A Magazine, and one of the top 25 Most Creative Companies in the Bay Area by San Francisco Magazine, Quitevis and partner Ritche “Yogafrog” Desuasido are making a name for themselves outside of DJing, whilst keeping Djing the major focus. “Thud Rumble is a company that caters to the scratch DJ niche market,” Quitevis explains. “We make sound effect records, slip mats, instructional DIY videos, we design mixers.”
“I’m very into minimalising everything. We’ve invented the scratch records with all the best breaks and sounds, so a few records with these sounds is all we really need these days,” he say. “I also have a new turntable coming out in July, the QFO. Basically it’s made for portability.” The design is a high-torque circular turntable with an integrated 2-channel mixer, featuring an ASTS (Anti-Skipping Tonearm System) tone arm and pitch control. This was the next evolution in portability from the infamous ‘Kut Mobile’. “The Kut Mobile is a big turntable set up I plug into my car, but I’m still stuck in the car, and it was a question of how can I now take this out of the car,” he laughs. “I live in Hawaii and I like to go to the beach a lot,” Quitevis says of the idea behind the design. “I was like ‘how can I be like the guitarist who plays at the beach all the time, or the bongo player. A violinist can go to the mountains to play. Why do us DJs have to be stuck in a house, scratching while staring at a wall?’ The idea was why don’t we attach a fader to the turntable and make it portable.”
Quitevis also has had a hand in developing a scratch notation device, allowing scratches to be recorded on paper much like musical notes can be. “A-Track (Audio Research + the Allies) and John Carluccio (director of ‘Battle Sounds’) perfected the system. I wanted to do the musical notation as it’s kinda like what we all see. It’s like a universal scratch pattern. When you move the record forward, the on the page line goes up, when you move the record down the line goes down… I dunno if that makes any sense right now”, he laughs, “but if I want to see what a specific scratch looks like, I will definitely write it out. But most of the stuff is in my head.”
With advances in technology like the Pioneer CDDJs and Final Scratch making inroads on the DJ scene, with Allies’ member DJ Craze using Final Scratch in his performances, and Quitevis wanting to make things more portable, I had to know if he’s ever used these new tools. “I’ve messed around with them, yeah,” he muses, “but I’m definitely an analogue type of guy. I like the rawness, the feel and ‘real time’ of vinyl. A good comparison would be between someone playing a piano as apposed to someone playing an electronic keyboard.”
Quitevis rarely tours, but is making his way down to Australia at the end of June. “It’s very important to live your life, period,” he says of not touring as much as other DJs. “There’s got to be a balance. It’s kind of obvious. I know guys who tour their whole life and it’s like ‘what the hell are they doing, you’re going to kill yourself out there!” It’s like a prison to be touring your whole life.” Adelaide is a scheduled stop on this tour, and we are very lucky to have this great talent, no genius, finally hit our shores. “Whilst you’re waiting, check out www.djqbert.com and www.turntabletv.com,” Quitevis mentions cheekily.