Q BURNS ABSTRACT MESSAGE: ACID TED EXCLUSIVE
Exclusive interview with Q Burns for me and exclusive track for you to download. My first ever interview. Shame I manage to mess it up. Lucky he’s a gentleman. I’d have gone off in a huff.
Before the interview proper, a quick Ted’s Top Ten Quiz:
1. Weatherall or Oakenfold? Weatherall, if for nothing else, this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Nf4VLdOTGs [primal scream’s higher than the sun]
2. Vodka or coffee? Espresso Vodka, please – http://vangoghvodka.com/van-gogh-our-vodkas/espresso-flavored-vodka/
3. Dance or Indie? Well, indie-dance, really. See my Weatherall link above.
4. Real instruments or synthesisers? Synthesizers are real instruments (sorry if this is starting to seem a bit cop-out-y … but I’m trying to be serious as a heart attack).
5. CSI New York or CSI Miami? Would you believe me if I told you that I’ve actually never, ever seen either? [No. Go rectify that immediately]
6. Mr Burns or Robert Burns? Oh, Mr. Burns, most definitely. I’m not much of a Simpsons fan but I’ve been checked into hotels under that name many times.
7. Miami Dolphins or Miami Heat? Orlando Magic. Not a Miami fan of any sort.
8. Cape Canaveral or Disney World? Cape Canaveral, enthusiastically.
9. 808 or 303? 303.
10. Miami Bass or Rabbit In The Moon? Rabbit In The Moon. Their mark on Florida’s dance music is a lot more appealing to me than that of Miami Bass, yes.
And so to the interview. What you need to bear in mind is that I’ve read Q-BAM is originally from the mid-West. I think I got confused in an article about a date he was playing there. He’s not. He’s from the South. But I keep going on about it. I’m such a
pro prat. Anyhow, on with the interview.
An obvious question, but where did Q Burns Abstract Message come from (dull – but I’ve never seen an answer to this question)? It’s a long way from Michel Donaldson.
I started my DJ career on the radio back in the stone age. As it was a technologically deprived time all DJs had to play vinyl records on the radio. The records that were popular got played a lot and they’d get stratchy noises at the beginning of the songs were they were being cued. The technical term for this noise was “cue burn.” I thought that would be a funny DJ name, and voila! I added “Abstract Message” as it was originally meant to be a band (and it sort of is) and I also was trying not to get confused with Q-Bert. That didn’t work.
What was it like growning up in St Louis? Not a place a Brit visitor to the US would normally go. Is there anything to see there?
Well, I don’t know as I didn’t grow up in St. Louis. I would have liked to as William Burroughs, Miles Davis, and Vincent Price grew up there. It would have been nice to pal around with them all. But I was born in Orlando and spent all my formative years in a part of Louisiana that was way too far north from New Orleans. But Louisiana is an interesting cultural environment as it’s a bit of a mutt. French, Spanish, Native American, African American, etc … all of these cultures are mixed and mashed into what makes the state interesting and unique. This is really evident in the music of Louisiana. I think this made me appreciate and seek the sounds that are made when cultures or genres collide.
How did you end up making electronic music, when you started out in a punk band at 15. Isn’t it all hard rawk in the Mid-West?
Well, in north Louisiana (deep south, not mid-west) we barely had a rock station, so no. It was mainly country and R&B (I chose to listen to the latter). But as a tyke I dug messing with tape recorders and thrilled to weird noises you’d hear in science fiction TV shows so that led to getting into the more electrical side of things. I did the punk rock schtick as a teenager but got in arguments with other punks when I rolled in my Roland Juno-106 for gigs. I was told synthesizers weren’t “punk rock” but I won when the Dead Kennedys released their Frankenchrist album which prominently featured synths. I’m still basically a punk rock kid, really, at least in my outlook.
Why end up in Florida, rather than New York, Chicago or Detroit? Was it just for the weather or a retirement plan?
It was a thwarted attempt at attending film school here and I got stuck. I like it though. Especially as a traveling DJ since flights to and from Orlando tend to be a little bit cheaper, especially to Europe (thanks, Disney).
Don’t you get bored after all this time doing so many DJ nights? After 15 years, don’t you just want to curl up with a good book and a mug of hot cocoa once in a while?
Am I allowed to do both? But DJ’ing is always fun and new to me. It’s never boring as the situations are never the same and I do all my sets by the seat of my pants, no plan in place. I used to do the live show thing and that got boring as I was always playing the same types of venues to the same types of crowds, night after night. Not so with DJ’ing … it’s always a surprise and a challenge.
Your DJ sets are said to be vodka-soaked. What type of vodka do you prefer and what are you like when you drink – happy chatty or morose grumpy? I tend to the grumpy and surly.
Drinking vodka for me is akin to Superman coming out of a phone booth. Russian Standard all the way. The Absolut ‘top shelf’ brand Level Vodka is surprisingly really good, as well. Oh, and today’s word is “moderation,” folks. Thanks.
Your ‘Invisible Airline’ and ‘Feng Shui’ LPs were released on Astralwerks (Virgin’s US outlet). So why start your own label – EIGHT-TRACKS – in 2006 at a time when labels aren’t making any real money?
Well, I stopped being on Astralwerks in 2001. I also already had (and still have) a label called Eighth Dimension which was founded in 1994. EIGHT-TRACKS is sort of a side-label to that, focusing on trackier dance tracks while Eighth Dimension has more of an eclectic, song-oriented aim. The labels actually do okay. I mean, the days of gold plated limos and private jets with the Q-BAM logo emblazoned on the side are definitely over, but it’s a myth that labels can’t make money anymore. My labels are actually doing better than when we had to pay loads of money for vinyl/CD manufacturing and print advertising to get the word out. You have to work a lot harder now, but that work is a lot more fun and interesting. It’s the wild west so grab your six-shooters.
Given the sheer time DJing and the label, do you plan on doing another album? Or are albums dead in the iPod age?
I’m really hoping to do another album, or a series of tracks creatively linked through the new distribution formats to become something like an ‘album.’ But I’ve been promising a new album since 2002 so don’t hold your breath. But I might just surprise you. I don’t think albums are dead, but my definition of “album” is a lot looser than side A and side B on a record or 10 tracks on a CD. There’s so much more room to play with the concept now. It’s exciting.
What’s in store for 2011?
I hoping for a very creative year. Lots planned and hopefully even more to be executed. On the near horizon are some Dark Roots and the Balearic Chainsaw, to be revealed as we navigate the bend.
Finally, why did you do that Britney remix? Did you get any adverse comeback from the lady or her record company? Without coming over all fanboy, this is one of your best pieces of work since Feng Shui.
Thanks. I really like it, too. I was indeed commissioned by the label. I sometimes have fans in lofty places. The remix almost made an official release (A&R loved it) but in the end was considered “too weird,” go figure. I pressed up a few white label copies to give to friends and somehow found myself in a club, feeling like Superman thanks to the vodka, face to face with the gal herself. She was given a copy but I’m sure it was quickly abandoned. I did have one of the weirdest conversations with her, though. Weird as I was not allowed to directly speak to her (or her to me) … our conversation was relayed back and forth through her bodyguard. Anyway, I was much more excited to meet Alex Chilton or Jonathan Richman the first time, but that’s just me. And I was allowed to actually speak to them, too.
And the exclusive download is “Innocent (Why Love Sucks Mix)” remixed by Cole Medina. This is a slow, soulful track. A sad, drunken cocktail lounge at 3am.
And tomorrow, an exclusive interview with Q-BAM’s remixer on Innocent, Cole Medina.
Finally, a huge thanks to Q-BAM for the download and interview. It’s somehow reassuring that someone’s work you’ve admired for a decade turns out to be a good egg in reality as well.
Cole Medina‘s return to “Innocent” precedes future singles and projects from Q-Burns Abstract Message including the upcoming “Dark Roots” and the mysterious “Balearic Chainsaw.” Keeps ears locked on Eighth Dimension for more exciting sounds to come.