Mutiny's well known visualist, Dubstream's hot DJ, world renowed audiovisual artist, sits down and tells us his history and shares with us his plans. Something we were all wondering about! Read on.
AV: Why don't we first talk about the Dubstream parties you started?
Q: Dubstream extends from a party I used to be part of called Futureproof. That was a party me and Karsh [Kale] had started. We sort of started it out of frustration at what was available in New York City at the time. It was received really well; kind of became my introduction to throwing and organizing parties. We did that for a year and it was during that time 'Quanteye' as an alter ego was born.
AV: When was this?
Q: Early 1998. That was when I was starting to mesh audio with video - but the technology wasn't there yet so all the work was very psychedelic and ambient. Closer to what I-tunes can do as a visual plugin nowdays. Still however, I got to perfect the art of knob twiddling and learning the tricks. We were kind of the only forward looking Asian party of the time, besides of course Mutiny.
AV: So Dubstream came out of all this history?
Q: Yea, I launched Dubstream as a stable party around the time Paisley first opened. Although, I had been doing parties under the name of Dubstream for some time, Paisley became the first permanent home for it. When that happened Atul [Zakhm], officially became part of the collective.
AV: So are you guys still doing Dubstream parties?
Q: We are definightly doing them but unfortunately, since it is a two man operation and, with Atul really busy with his work and me doing video work for three different parties a week - we aren't able to focus on it clearly - but we are definightly coming back to it. It's just a matter of finding the right place and getting the right groove going.
AV: So what are you up to these days - you said you are playing at three different places per week - what are those?
Q: Well that of course changes from week to week but there are a certain regular things that happen. Like take two weeks ago I had a hip hop party Wednesday night, Thursday night was Mutiny and then on Friday was a gig at the Fine Arts Conservatory at NYU. So I kind of covered the entire spectrum from Russel Simmons to Fine Arts in a matter of a week. So its been that kind of environment for me. There has been a lot of diversity in what and who I have been playing with.
AV: So, who have you done visual work for or with?
Q: My visualist alter ego has led to working with people that I have grown up listening to and who have been some of my biggest inspirations. People like Rza of Wu Tang, Grooverider: who I played with at the Roxy. Those guys were like gods to me when I was growing up.
AV: So with all these inspirational people within your reach - have you produced some of your own music along side the visual work?
Q: Well I have been always doing that ever since I started djing - it kinda of came hand in hand. But I think, maybe because I have spent so much time with people with so much musical talent, that I really put a high standard on what people should put out. I mean audio technology is at a point where anyone with a laptop and a dream can put out a track. But, I think that track won't have soul - won't necessarily take you anywhere. So, I have made some great beats that I drop when I am djing but nothing comprehensive enough to be put out as a track on its own. Although, I have been doing more and more sound scapes for my video work.
AV: What do you mean 'your own video work'?
Q: Well ok, when you see a Quanteye set live, you are watching stuff that I sampled, stuff that I have borrowed from but you will also see, about 75% of what's being played, original material that we have created or that we have animated ourselves. So thats 'our own video work.'
AV: Ok then, are you now mainly doing work as a visualist or a dj?
Q: Well initially I was doing work as a dj and I really didn't put myself out as a visualist for hire until recently. The technology has finally caught up with what I want to be able to do with it; so now I have my whole system worked out and I have started getting, I guess promiscuous with it and started playing in the visualist vein.
AV: I know that you have done gigs out of the country - how has that been?
Q: Well first off, it isn't like djing out of the country. You can't just bring your wax and hook it up and be ready to go. There are a lot technical issues. For example when I was in Paris, the voltage converter slowed down my hard drive and all the video had this weird lag affect. See what I feel sets me apart from other visualist is this level of live interactivity and once I lost the ability to edit and video scratch live it completely took me out of my element. I had that same thing happened to me when I was in India, although there it is the lack of consistent electricity.
AV: Wait, you mean you lost power while doing a gig in India?
Q: Yea! But, I guess that problem affects everyone there. But besides that, I was doing this gig in Delhi and everything was half the frame rate it usually is - which was a kind of cool affect all on its own but it wasn't what I was going for. On the other hand however, while I was out there Karsh and MIDIval Punditz had their records come out on Times Of India and the club we did a party for had the best audio, visual and electrical setup that I have ever seen.
AV: Talking about your gigs, do you have a set that you prepare before one or how do you do it?
Q: Again what I was saying earlier, I feel what distinguishes me from other visualists is the level of interactivity. So I try not to pre-arrange too much before the gig. I try to feel what the dj is playing and what the crowd is vibing to. You can kind of tell what the people are enjoying and what samples they are enjoying. I think it is exactly like a dj gig - as a dj you would never head out to do a gig with a premixed set with a set of tunes that you would play - if you are doing that then you might as well pop in a disk and just press play. So it definitely depends on how a crowd responds to a visual set although, I think a whole new set of rules apply when you are doing a dj gig then when you are doing a visual set.
AV: Actually yea, at certain times, it almost seems like the dj is at odds with the visualist. He wants to make you dance and the visualist wants to make you stand and watch.
Q: Maybe, but really the visuals are only there if you want it. No one has to watch but of course at every party there are the dancers and there are the wall flowers. So if need be I am providing entertainment for the people who don't enjoy dancing but enjoy the music. At the same time however, there have been times when I have noticed someone going off the hook on the dance floor and then they have come up to me after the gig and told me: 'man those were awesome visuals.' To which all I can think is: 'when did you have time to watch them?' So maybe we are at odds with each other, but you never know who is watching and who isn't.
AV: Ok, changing topics a bit - where is Quanteye heading to now?
Q: Well, it's really that I am an audio visual artist now and recently I have started playing more and more in that vein. I have now started doing dj sets where I am also playing visual sets right along with it. Really, it's an incredible challenge because for example when there is a break down in the audio you want a break down in the visual affects also; that requires a lot of dexterity and it's something that I have been able to handle so far. Honestly, ultimately that is what I would like to represent. We are now living in an age of convergence so why shouldn't our live entertainment go through the same also.
AV: So since you are working in this audio visual medium and meeting all these artists - has any one of them approached you about doing videos for them?
Q: Actually yea I am working on a couple of them right now. But, I live with a rule of not talkin about stuff that I am working on. [smiles]
AV: Well ok then! Why don't you talk about the stuff that you have already done?
Q: I guess there is one I can tell you: one of the artists you have featured on AsianVibrations - I am working on a video for them. But, as far as what I have done already - that's everything from corporate reels for Pepsi to video backdrops for magazine launches. Like we did a campaign for the launch of a beverage in the global market - it was a reel for their marketing department. Nothing that I want to make a habit of but eh it pays the bills. Honestly, I am actually surprised at how much commercial work has come out of this. I mean when I started doing visual work it was not something that I had thought of but it has definightly happened and I am not complaining.
AV: So since you can't talk about the work you are doing for other artists, why don't you talk about stuff you are working on for yourself?
Q: Well, in persuit of this audio visual goal I am doing animations and videos for which I am writing songs also. Ultimately I would like it if all the artists I have been working with collaborate and bring in the audio while I bring in the video to put together a dvd. I would like to get it done by the end of the year. By getting it done I don't mean 'available to the public' I mean 'for myself'. A release to public probably won't happen for another year or two.
AV: It's kind of interesting you are working on a dvd. It seems to be what people expecting now days. With a dvd costing about the same as a cd it seems to be the logical step: stop selling simple songs rather sell audiovisual experiences.
Q: See that is the argument from the people who don't support copy control and hard line copyright protection. Their main argument is that if the material is compelling enough, people are going to buy it no matter what. It's kind of what happened with 50 Cent's new cd - it was out on the street way before it was even released by the record label. If now the label released it as a dvd with music videos then people would pay for it obviously - the idea is to create content that people want.
AV: So how do you as an artist go about doing that?
Q: Really I will create the work I want to create and hope that people buy it and honestly, the true fans will go out and buy it. Really I feel that the people who are downloading my stuff are the people I wouldn't have reached anyway. These are the people who wouldn't have gone out and bought the product anyway. I am just happy they are enjoying my work because I wouldn't have reached them in any other way.
AV: As a final question and completely off topic: how do you feel you fit into the Asian Massive scene here in America?
Q: Honestly speaking, as an artist I feel it has been beneficial for me to kind of step out of being an Asian artist and into just being a visual artist for hire. I mean the kinds of shows that I am getting now have nothing to do with being Asian. In a way it's nice because I am no longer being measured against a small genre of people; I am no longer in a box that I have created for myself; I am enjoying the artistic freedom that being a visualist brings. Really, I could cut up Bollywood films all day long and end up with some really awesome loops but at the end of the day if that is all I have done, my world would be very small.
AV: Alright man, thats it - thats all I had planned to ask you. Anything else you want to share?
Q: No that pretty much covered it. I just want to let everyone know that the Dubstream relaunch will be great. It should be a full on audiovisual experience.
AV: Myself and I am sure, the readers are holding their breath for it. Thanks for taking the time out for AsianVibrations.