Hip-Hop legend DJ QBert shoots lightning from a turntable at Maker Faire

It is well known that the practice of scratching records first came from New York by originators such as Grand Wizard Theodore, while the legendary Kool Herc was experimenting with doubles to keep funky drum-breaks on repeat.

The world became familiar with this sound when Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” won a Grammy in 1983, with Grand Mixer DXZ’s revolutionary sounds reverberating on the air waves.

Fast-forward to the 1990s, when a a crew of virtuoso turntablists formed in San Francisco. DJ QBert and Mix Master Mike – prior to his role with the Beastie Boys – were known as the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, adding Shortkut, DJ Flare, D-Styles, DJ Disk, Yogafrog, and A-Trak to form one of the most respected battle scratch DJ crews in the world.

Fifteen years into the new millennium, as vinyl records and true DJ skills are respected as a modern renaissance, the scratch DJ community crashed into the DIY community at an event called the Maker Faire near San Francisco. In an impossibly short summary, the Maker Faire event is one-third Myth Busters, one-third Burning Man, and one-third Weird Science.

The Maker Faire asked a duo of Bay Area technologists at LumiGeek to help pair QBert with a young Maker that builds electric tesla coils. The tesla coil – not to be confused with the electric car – is a science experiment that generates miniature lightning bolts that can be tuned to create sound. After some trials and tribulations, Cameron Mira, aka CamDax, had connected his contraption to a turntable in QBert’s secret lair outside SF.

Using a turntable to shoot lightning bolts might take some deep aficionados back to the 2001 animated feature-length film by QBert called Wave Twisters, where outlandish alien cartoon characters are shooting sound waves out of the mothership to battle the evil Lord Ook. George Clinton, eat your heart out.

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