Audio Alchemy: Dan the Automator is Yoshi’s Catalyst



Crushed near the front of a crowd of hundreds of patrons at Yoshi’s Friday night, I had a good view of the bewildered jazz fans spilling out of the Chris Berry set: Where did this crowd come from? Why were they trying to start a wave?

Well, after enjoying ourselves in Yoshi’s lounge, watching DJ Shortkut mix together old-school music videos from EPMD and the likes, we were told that Q-Bert would be performing in 3-D on Yoshi’s main stage; this caused a veritable stampede and we ended up packed like sardines for over an hour. It didn’t matter. Q-Bert was going to be in 3-D.

Dan the Automator (producer of classics like Deltron 3030 and Dr. Octagon) curated and emceed the evening. “This is the first time a DJ has been in a 3-D fishbowl,” he told us, as a screen was set up behind Q-Bert. He explained that Q-Bert wanted a fifty-foot screen, but could only find a fifty-inch screen at Wal-Mart.

The fifty-foot screen would have better served the large crowd, but the concept was cool: With tropical fish swimming 3-D laps behind him (not to mention Mars-1 painting a black canvas with swaths of sky blue, stage left), Q-Bert got down to business. Now, this is, in Dan’s well-received words, “the greatest scratch DJ of all time,” a DJ who took scratching to its logical extreme ten years ago. So it’s fair to wonder if he has anything new to offer.

He does.

Q-Bert’s set began with tweaked, glitchy ambient beats. One song rumbled along with the low-end buzz of rubberband sirens; another beat was composed of metallic clicks, like a drunk fiddling with a ring of keys and a stubborn lock. For about twenty minutes, scratches were looped and piled. Hopefully this is the beginning of something new.

Dan hinted that he and Q-Bert are collaborating again. Their pairing on Kool Keith’s Dr. Octagon album remains one of the touchstones of late-‘90s indie hip-hop production, so this is great news. What’s next? Well, keep popping into Yoshi’s for this bi-monthly party and you might find out.

Next show: Dan the Automator introduces a new project on March 13.