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San Francisco’s DJ Quest Speaks at Length About Confused Hamsters High on 3-D Effects



DJ D-Styles

Style Wars:
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Grand Wizard Theodore

DJ Qbert

DJ 8-Ball


Space Traveling (part 1):
DJ Quest

Space Traveling (part 2):
Eddie Def

Space Traveling (part 3):
DJ Cue and DJ Marz


Sacramento Rap History Lesson by X-Raided

He's The King of The Smut... On Two Turntables: The Porn / Turntablism Connection — Part 3— DJ Relm and DJ Streak Interview

Just Whatever Rocks: The World Famous Beat Junkies

Waxing That Wax: The Porn / Turntablism Connection — Part 2 — D-Styles Interview

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Year in Review

QBert Receives "Hip Hop Slam Hall of Fame Award"

How to Manufacture Your Own CD, Record, or Tape

Dirt Hustlin':
Oakland's New Underground'

Filipino American DJs of the Bay Area

Party Blocking at the DMC American Battleground

From rocking house parties as a mobile DJ back in the day, to battling sucker DJs in competitions, DJ Quest has always come correct. Now, with his ever evolving crew, the Bullet Proof Space Travelers, and his collaborative band, Live Human, DJ Quest continues to push the boundaries of music and sound itself, tearing shit up all along the way....

DJ Quest first came into notoriety at the beginning of the 90’s when he, along with DJ Cue and Eddie Def, released their first record, Hamster Breaks Vol. 1. "Basically, we weren’t even thinking about what kind of record we wanted to make, we just wanted to record some music and have a record that had our own sound, so then Hamster Breaks came about," explains Quest. "It was actually the first record to come out, at least out of San Francisco, that was straight up for DJs, like for battle motherfuckers, for people who like to cut it up." It came to be a battle record; back when there was no such category. It was just another record.

Nowadays, when you hit up vinyl shops, the quantity of records is overwhelming. It seems that every week someone is releasing some new battle application on wax. But are they really new or is it just more of the same old shit?

DJs Quest and Eddie Def of Bullet Proof Space Travelers.

"Fools are making break records with recycled sounds!" exclaims a disgusted Quest. "One of the things that we tried to do, and I think to this point we’re very successful in doing them on Volume 3 1/2 of Hamster Breaks, was that we used hip-hop sounds, but shit that fools hadn’t used before. It wasn’t like the shit that you’d hear on Shampoo Breaks. A lot of that shit came from Hamster Breaks. A lot of the shit we use comes from hip-hop records, but we’re not trying to find the shit that’s already there. You’ve got to do your homework. Dig a little deeper instead of using another break record. There’s so much shit that you could do that I don’t even think there’s an excuse for taking shit that’s been used. At the very least, you could fucking take a snare and reverse it and it will sound different. It’s just laziness, I guess."

Although DJ Quest holds several production credits to his name, he remains wary of straying too far from his musical roots at the expense of his skills. "I just don’t want any of these things that I do to take over me completely," says Quest. " I don’t want to become a full-time producer. I’m really just in the learning steps of producing. I don’t really think of myself as a producer. I know a lot of producers now; they started out DJing and they moved on to producing. That’s fucking cool. I wish I could do that, but I still have that fire to be on stage. I don’t know how long it’s going to last. Hopefully I can keep playing till I get to be 50 or 60 years old. DJing is something I would do regardless as a hobby but when you’ve got a family, you’ve got to pay bills you’ve got to try to make it all work. You have to do shit that’s going to pay the bills. I’m not saying sell out. Do not sell out. But you’ve got to deal with the shit, y’know what I mean? For that reason, I haven’t been able to spend as much time practicing just DJing. If I were a little rich fucker, I’d be set. I’d be just fuck it. I’m just going to fucking practice and maybe enter a DMC again and some shit but I don’t really see myself doing that because I have responsibilities, y’know what I mean, and you’ve got to take care of it all and balance it out. Producing is one thing that could definitely pay your bills in the long run. But if I was to go straight into that, I’d be thinking, ‘Damn, what happened to me? What happened to my scratching skills?’ Even if I’m not the best, I still want to know that I could do it."

On the battle circuit, DJ Quest was not only able to hone his scratching skills, but also develop as a performer as well. "I think I got a lot of what I do for my live shows now with Live Human or just any live show, I think I get a lot of that from battling," says Quest. "It prepared me for becoming a showman. You’ve got to put yourself in a whole other mental stage before a battle. It’s definitely like going into the Olympics, y’know what I mean? You just go mental. You become like a mad scientist. You lock yourself up everyday and just scratch. That’s still burning in me. It’s part of me. You just got to represent. I don’t look at it in the aspect that I have to battle other people anymore, but I always feel like, fuck, if you’re going to get on stage you’ve got to be the fucking baddest you can be. At least, rock it as hard as you can. Do the best you can."

Indeed, DJ Quest has represented well, as anyone who has seen him in action behind the wheels of steel can testify. But then again, what did you expect from one of the "Old School" originators? Hell, he was one of the early people who inadvertently started scratching "Hamster" style.

"When I started DJing, I was the only DJ I knew," says Quest. That’s why I ended up hooking up my turntables reverse. I didn’t even hook it up backwards because I wanted to be different When I started, I had little plastic, cheap turntables and one of those old 4700 Pyramid mixers. I was clueless. I thought scratching was made by some kind of effects processor that was built inside the fader. I didn’t know shit. I ended up hooking it backwards. That was it. I learned to do everything backwards."

"Nowadays, kids are getting up on the tables and automatically just wanting to crab or wanting to flare. That shit is cool. I’d rather see kids doing that than fucking hanging out on the corner. If that’s what you want to do, if you just want to do it for fun, that’s cool. But, I think if you’re going to get into hip-hop, if you’re going to be a hip-hopper, you have to earn it. You have to dig deep for the old school heads just so you could hear their music and know what they were thinking and I think that helps out letting you know where your next step will be."

"I think if I was to start into hip-hop right now it would be ridiculous because I’d be trying to learn some shit that’s way too advanced for me. Hip-hop has advanced immensely in the last 20 years. What I would recommend would to just go back and listen to some of the more simple stuff: simpler drum patterns, simpler scratches, feel what the patterns were like and what the mood was like of the old school. It would just be an easier way to learn hip-hop and be knowledgeable about everything instead of just being out there doing one thing because it’s trendy."

There is no doubt that DJ Quest got into hip-hop during its height when all of its elements were in full effect but he doesn’t wear it like a chip on his shoulder. Instead, Quest recognizes how lucky he was to get involved with the then emerging culture. "I just think it had to be the right time and right place for me," says Quest. "Back then, when I started listening to hip-hop, it was a lot simpler to listen to and to understand. Shit is so complicated, I don’t think I would begin to understand it now."

Naturally, his honest appreciation for hip-hop influences his approach to scratching. "I don’t really like to be too technical with it, says Quest. "I think it’s good to be technical when you’re doing exercises, just working your fingers, or if there’s this one pattern, you want to get down. It’s not necessary to label any of that shit. It’s audio. It doesn’t need to be explained."

Just like his crew’s name implies, DJ Quest is a space traveler, venturing into the outer regions of the musical landscape. His band, Live Human, just happens to be another vehicle, another spaceship.

"It’s just an outlet, y’know what I mean? A lot of heads are doing it because they feel the need for it. In my case, I just felt the need to do something. It just kind of took me there."

"I wanted to stand out from the shadows, y’know what I mean? I wanted to have the turntable be more in the lead but still do it with music that is somewhat dark because the Live Human stuff is not pop. It will never be pop. It’s still dark and I can push it in a way that now some people consider me a lead man. Ok, that’s fucking cool."

"I’m not saying that Live Human was the first group to use a deejay in the band. That shit’s been done since the 70’s, the 60’s. Who knows? There’s been cats in the UK that would play records while bands were playing and shit. It’s nothing new."

This is true. Live Human isn’t a new concept. It’s just that they’re so fucking good and have been able to achieve a certain amount of success without losing a bit of credibility. They are the real shit.

"It has a lot to do with the reasons why you’re doing it," proposes Quest. "From a DJ point of view, if you feel that you need to get out there, I think it’s fine to get out there and do whatever the fuck you want to do. Get yourself with a group and do that shit. But, when you have a record company with big bucks putting a group together with a deejay because it’s the new sound, I think that shit sucks. It’s bullshit. They don’t know what the fuck is going on. They usually end up getting some weak-ass motherfucker behind the tables."

While content to simply brush off "trendy ass motherfuckers that are just jumping on it because it’s the hip thing," he is a bit more agitated by the blatant commercialism of the turntable art form. Some see it as the long-deserved acceptance into the mainstream culture. DJ Quest on the other hand, is decidedly more harsh.

"Fools want to make some money?" scathes Quest. "Well fuck, then put an act together, take your ass on the road and get paid. Commercials –It will kill your career! My whole thing is it didn’t need to go there. DJs were fine. They were well off doing the shit they were doing. I think it could be done without having to fucking sell it out. It wasn’t necessary for DJs to have commercials in order for the DJ to get recognition. It’s bullshit."

DJ Quest is determined to keep it real. His aspirations are fueled by his love for music, not fame. This holds especially true for his band, Live Human. DJ Quest, along with drummer Albert Mathias and bassist Andrew Kushin, are on a higher mission.

"I guess the thing that I want to eventually get to is being able to call this 3-D effect that we get while we have the three instruments playing, be able to call it more often than not. Be able to say ok fuck we’re playing a show. We start playing and then this fucking 3-D effect thing starts happening, some shit that just makes you kind of lift. It’s hard to explain. But, it doesn’t happen all the time. For me, that’s what makes me want to keep coming back and playing every time and see what else is out there."

This interview took place on June 21, 2000 at the Albion in the Mission District of San Francisco.
Dopestyle, yo.


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