Up and coming record label KEATS relies on a fairly straightforward formula: Kiez + beats. Kiez being the German equivalent of ‘hood’, this young Berlin imprint operates strictly on street level. Each episode features a selected producer’s sample-driven audio guide to a certain neighborhood, highlighting the urban sounds of a new generation feeding on raw talent. While Man Of Booom mastermind Figub Brazlevič put forth a vintage, boombap-flavored blend on Volume 01, Volume 02 takes the proverbial U-turn.
Though clearly hip hop influenced, the label’s sophomore release is not the old school, beat laden product some may have been expecting. This, my friends, is a whole new monster. Lo and behold, Magdeburg product, DJ, producer and beatsmith Q-Cut literally unleashes the kaiju on his most recent KEATS offering. Curiously entitled “Kaiju Dugu”, Q serves up an abstract arsenal of free-spirited, eerily melodic instrumentals set to wreak havoc on your inner eye.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed? That’s okay. “Kaiju Dugu” is somewhat out of the ordinary. It’s an invasion of sorts, a symphony of unyielding, extraterrestrial samples and loops, taking you to places unknown, to strange neighborhoods and beyond. Prepare to enter previously uncharted, yet skilfully scripted territory. Q digs deep on this one, providing for an unparalleled cinematic experience of rhythmic soundscapes, a fantastic journey through time and space, a return to the mind.
Seeking to find out more about this rare specimen, I contacted Q-Cut and asked him a few questions. Here’s what he had to say.
The original German version of my interview with Q was published in cooperation with the hhv.de mag.
Q-Cut, who are you? What do you do? What else would you like to share about yourself?
My name is Q, I’m 30 years old, born in Magdeburg, Germany, but moved to Berlin three years ago. I’m also a father, have been a vegetarian for the past ten years and work in audio-visual media and graphic design. I’m a good guy, but can be grumpy at times. When I was young I took a few piano lessons and also tried learning the guitar. At age 14 I bought my first turntables, got into scratching and turntablism and then started making beats. By now I’m probably up to 2000 beats and counting, all styles, though I focus on boombap mainly. My greatest influence was Madlib, most notably “Soundpieces”, “The Unseen” and “Madvillainy”; up until Flying Lotus appeared on the scene. My all-time favorite German rap album is “Kein Zufall” by Blumentopf.
What does “Kaiju Dugu” mean? Why the title?
I’ve always been a big fan of dinosaurs. Back in the day I used to watch those old Godzilla movies a lot, the ones that used to air on Sundays and also “Jurassic Park”. Then I watched “Pacific Rim”, which introduced me to the term kaiju, meaning ‘strange creature’ in Japanese, or simply ‘monster’. That struck a chord with me and matched the album’s sound. Only later did I come across the dugu, an ancient sacrificial ceremony practised by the Caribbean Garifuna tribe to appease deceased ancestors and bring them to the present.
How did the release on KEATS come about? Which neighborhood [or Kiez (pronounced ‘keats’) in German] do you represent?
hhv was planning an instrumental series. I had previously been in contact with them for my “T.C.A.Z.” LP featuring Main Moe, which is how this project came about. If I’d have to name a hood it would probably be Stadtfeld in my hometown Magdeburg. That’s where I was born. I now live in the Berlin area of Prenzlauer Berg, but I’m practically just a guest. That being said, I currently don’t have an actual hood to call my own. So I guess I couldn’t help but re-interpret the KEATS-Kiez-beats concept and create the kaiju. It’s about the kaiju’s arrival in a neighborhood, any neighborhood and the sounds accompanying its coming.
What type of environment was the album created in?
80% of the beats on the album were created about a year ago. It was winter. And seeing as I usually work on my music by night, it was most likely always dark. I’m sure that had a certain influence on the sound, but I don’t really spend too much time thinking about stuff like that. I’m a typical bedroom musician. There’s a small space of about three square meters reserved for my gear in a corner of our bedroom, but it does the trick. A friend recently told me that he’s into meditating. As he described the state of mind he enters during the process, I felt like I could relate. I’ve discovered that when I produce, I push aside my thoughts and focus only on what it is I’m doing.
Is “Kaiju Dugu” composed exclusively of samples or do you also include field recordings?
It’s 95% samples. I guess it was a conscious decision of mine to keep things analogue by creating melodies from collected and sampled sounds. With the exception of a few microKORG bits that is, as well as some shakers and other percussion in the background.
What’s the idea behind your “Vinyl-Rumination” releases? At times Vol. 11 seems like a rough draft to “Kaiju Dugu”. Any parallels there?
I’ve been releasing the “Vinyl-Rumination” series on and off since 2005. The basic idea is to compile loops that sound dope just as they are. Alchemist and Madlib have been doing that for a while now and I love it. You can really mess up a loop’s original vibe by adding drums and the likes. To create the more elaborate Kaiju beats I needed to find solo parts of particular instruments. All the other cool stuff I find I record, save and sooner or later add to a “Vinyl-Rumination” release. So the answer is yes, there are parallels to be found. Volume 11 is composed of loops that I dug up, while searching for suitable Kaiju sounds.
“Kaiju Dugu” sounds like contemporary classical music at times, if it wasn’t for the beats and loops that bestow a definitive hip hop vibe upon the tracks. What was the vision? What inspired you to try something new?
Let’s just say I got bored of the beats I was hearing, even the ones I was producing at the time. There’s this bundle of 300 drum loops available on the web that everyone seems to own. Don’t get me wrong, they’re cool, but they’re everywhere. That had been bothering me for some time. Then “Rare Chandeliers” by Alchemist and Action Bronson surfaced. 80% of the beats on that album are created from loops, good old loops. That really kicked things off and inspired me from a musical standpoint. I then decided to create beats that sound like they’re looped, beats that remain sounding fat even when, ideally, I try to avoid using any additional bass drum or snare. Beats that just keep on rolling, like on the first track. That didn’t always work, but pushed me to dig for loads of new drum and percussion samples. I even re-checked records I’d already sampled, looking for drum solos, parts I might have overheard the first time around because they weren’t classic hip hop drums. When producing beats today, I look for a cool drum or percussion loop first, then proceed to find a fitting sample. “Kaiju Dugu” is basically the cream of the crop, the best of the 25 beats I composed using this ‘new’ approach. I like to call them ‘the first generation’.
What are your hopes and aspirations for this project?
Madlib once said, “I do it for my health.” I feel the same way. It’s fun for me to produce this sound and I’m excited to have an initial portion appear on vinyl. Of course I appreciate each and every ‘like’, any positive feedback. Still, I am a realist at heart and well aware of the fact that there are tons of beat producers out there. Also, this specific sound isn’t easily digested. It could potentially scare off the occasional listener.
This is your first own release on vinyl. What’s next?
Well actually the first release was “T.C.A.Z.”, but yeah, it’s my first own vinyl. I just finished producing another album with Moe [Main Moe] and there’s a couple of projects underway with Fleur Earth and Moontroop. Other than that I’m just busy making beats. There’ll be a few new productions included on upcoming releases. More on that once it’s official. I’d also love to continue the Kaiju series, continue building the plot along the lines of “Kaiju …”. I’ve already drawn up some cover ideas.
Back to Berlin. Do you feel at home in Berlin, musically at least, or do you miss the Magdeburg scene? Do the two cities even influence your music in any way?
I moved to Berlin because I needed a change in surroundings and my girlfriend was already living here. I still feel as though I’m on vacation. Berlin isn’t really my home and I don’t plan on growing old here. As a matter of fact, large parts of the Magdeburg scene are currently living in Berlin, at least the people I’ve worked with in the past including the OFDM crew (Schaufel & Spaten, Der Plusmacher, Fresh Face) and Pierre Sonality, who lives in Hamburg though. On the other hand, it’s easier to meet new people in Berlin and in some ways I guess this record may not have been released if I lived in Magdeburg.
“Kaiju Dugu” is limited to 300 hand-numbered copies worldwide and available exclusively via hhv.de.