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A little verbal calisthenics with newly named America’s Best DJ, Qbert

A note to parents wary of their child’s DJ aspirations: Learning on a set of Fisher Price turntables as a toddler may just have led DJ Qbert—a.k.a. Richard Quitevis and Grandmaster Qbert—to recently being named America’s Best DJ of 2010 by DJ Times Magazine.

The Bay Area-bred DJ, deemed by his peers to be a pioneer of scratching and boss of the “drumming” technique, is recognized as a groundbreaker whose spiritual side keeps him focused on the future. A 1998 DMC Hall of Fame inductee (think Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for hip-hop), Qbert astounded hip-hoppers with his instrumental innovations for turntable manufacturer Vestax in 2006 and was the first DJ whose avatar appeared in video games beginning in 1998 with numerous EA Sports titles and most recently DJ Hero 2.

Last year he launched Qbert Skratch University, which offers virtual video DJ lessons via the Internet.

Prior to the annual awards ceremony, held this year at Ghostbar on Oct. 2 and attended by last year’s winner, Rain resident DJ Z-Trip, Vegas Seven sat down with the unstoppable DJ Qbert.

Where does the name Qbert come from?

The old video game from the ’80s, and my last name starts with a Q. Everybody just called me Qbert. I wanted it to be something out of a comic book like “Ripclaw” or something, but my nickname stuck more than my DJ name.

What was the highest level you ever reached on Q*bert?

Not very far! It may be in my name, but that doesn’t mean I was very good at it.

Good point! But you’re earning prestigious awards nonetheless. What inspired you to become a DJ?

Scratching. I love how you can manipulate sounds with your hands. Especially when it’s done really funky. It’s the weirdest musical instrument. It makes you dance like an alien or a robot—it’s so fuckin’ cool.

In 2001 you came out with an animated video to go with your Wave Twisters album. Is there a visually artistic side to Qbert as well?

I was always into graffiti and art. I collect street artists’ stuff. I love art and sculpture and calligraphy and painting and anything that is super-creative. So, why not make an animated, graffiti, hip-hop movie? So we did Wave Twisters.

The Bay Area, where you grew up, is of course a great place for culture.

I love San Francisco. I also love Hawaii, because of nature. It sounds corny but I like talking with nature. You get these messages from the animals and plants, and things like that. I always get inspiration from nature.

What do you like to do when you come to Vegas?

I’m kind of a hippie. So I like to check out this raw, organic, vegan spot in Vegas. You can get organic deserts, but it’s all really healthy for you. I used to love eating cheesecake and all this and got really fat. Later in life I learned about eating really healthy, organic and sustainable food. I like doing a lot of yoga.

You seem very in tune with yourself and spiritual. How do you feel about Sin City’s culture?

As far as gambling, there’s really no such thing; people don’t know that. Money is just energy; you can never truly give or take away money. You get what you deserve. If people knew that, they’d be working together to make the world a better place. It comes back to you through karma, not gambling. It’s just energy. If you want to make some money, you gotta get out there and help people.

That’s an interesting way of looking at it. How did you gain this insight?

I had a teacher who was a Buddhist. I had all these questions about life, and it really opened my eyes to how this whole world is hypnotized by greed, hate, envy and jealousy. This world we live in is like a big video game: The only way to win is by playing it with love.

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