Invisibl Skratch Piklz member Q-Bert may have spun a lot of turntables in his day, but don't call him a DJ.
Rather, he's a professional "turntablist."
Actually, turntablist is a title I.S.P. prefer over DJ these days. "I'm a musician on the turntable," Q-Bert insisted recently
when talking about limited instrumentation used on his upcoming album. "A DJ is someone who plays music for people, but I
make my own music on a turntable."
I.S.P., a San Francisco-based four-man crew of hip-hop DJs, are currently in the studio finishing their long-awaited
full-length debut. Even though there has been an exponential rise in the number of DJs around the world since I.S.P. formed
in the late-1980s, their upcoming album stands to be the first made strictly from turntables.
"We're going to make an album that's all scratching. The X-ecutioners,
they had some MCs on their new record and some production on it and stuff.
The Skratch Picklz record will be all turntablist stuff," Q-Bert said.
The four members of I.S.P. -- Q-Bert, Mixmaster Mike, Shortkut and
Disk -- have inspired and influenced numerous DJs around the world and are
perhaps the best-known and most-respected turntable crew of the 1990s (see feature, "Invisible Scratch Pickles Are Itching For Success" in the Jan. '97 issue of Addicted To Noise for more background on this outfit). Collectively, they have won five world titles in DJ
competitions and, despite their aversion to the title, have fought to keep the tradition of the live hip-hop DJ alive.
The I.S.P. plan to set themselves even further apart from the pack using nothing but turntables to construct the music on their
upcoming full-length album. No other group of musicians has recorded an entire record that way. And this is not going to be
an album of mixed samplings. Rather, each member of I.S.P. will play his own turntable instrument.
For instance, when I.S.P. perform together, one member plays the snare drum with his turntables, another plays the kick
drum, someone else may play horns, and another composes the bass line. "It's all scratching. Everything.
All the beats are scratched. A pure turntablist record," said Mixmaster Mike, speaking about the upcoming I.S.P. album. The still-untitled
LP is set to be released in early-1998 on the band's own label, Furious Ostrich Trax.
To tide fans over until then, the group recently released a vinyl-only EP on Asphodel titled The Klams of Death,
which Q-Bert described as "a 14-minute piece with all kinds of different styles collaged together... You got
fast, slow, all kinds of styles of scratching and new techniques people
haven't heard before."
The upcoming full-length album is expected to contain material similar to that found on Klams of Death, only with more "kind of freeform songs," said Mixmaster Mike. The album is about one-half to three-quarters finished and will
contain about an hour's worth of music, though no song titles have been confirmed. "There's definitely going to be shorter
songs and longer songs. Some are going to be 10-minute pieces and some are going to be one-minute pieces," Q-Bert said.
"There are different types of styles we're going to be experimenting with."
One new style set to appear on the album is "space echoes," which Mixmaster Mike describes as blending scratches together to
create a reverb-laced science fiction-style vibe. "Alien communication scratching," Mike said. "It's all alien."
Also prior to the I.S.P. album's release, Mixmaster Mike plans to put out an LP titled The Beta Kapsule, featuring
Q-Bert and DJ Saafir. This album -- to be released in late December on CD, cassette and vinyl on Mike's own Global
Terrorist imprint -- is an instrumental collage of hip-hop breakbeats and innovative scratching with snippets of
science-fiction movies throughout the record.
In addition to recording the album, the four members of I.S.P. have kept busy with various other side projects. Q-Bert, who
was also a member of Dr. Octagon, has been touring Japan, recording his own music and has appeared in two
nearly-completed documentary movies on DJs, Battle Sounds and Hang the DJ.
As a group and as individual members, I.S.P. have released numerous audio cassettes, instructional videos for DJs and
produced five volumes of a videotape series called Turntable TV, which documents DJ crews from around the world.
[Wed., Nov. 19, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]