ArtistWorks Blog

Gold Voltron Speaks

gold voltron beatsHe's a mystery wrapped in a riddle... Maybe not quite, but I've always wanted to describe someone that way. Regardless, I first became aware of Gold Voltron in 2009 when QSU first launched. He was always positive and encouraging, and always uploading beats for us to skratch to. He also had a quirky sense of humour which felt right at home, and quickly became one of the most well-known characters on QSU. Not only was I seriously impressed by the level of his skratch skills, but also his knowlege of beats and music is insane! I learned a lot just through the stuff he posted, but always wanted to interview him for the blog - I had a lot of questions! So finally after years of procrastinating, I sent all the questions I had - and thankfully he answered them all!  So here it is, Gold Voltron speaking on just about everything I wanted to know - enjoy it nerdz!  

gold voltron mixer

ADA: How long have you been doing all this (skratching, making beats, DJing, etc)?

GV: Started in 1984.

ADA: How did you first get into Hip Hop?

GV: When I started or wanted to grab some tables, it was the late 70s/early 80s.  This was the golden years for hip-hop/BBOYs/DJs etc.  Skratching was relativity new and exciting.  Seeing DST cut with Herbie Hancock really blew me away.  It was then that I realized I wanted to be a DJ. 

ADA: What was your first equipment (turntables, mixer, beat machine, etc)?

GV: Wow, my first setup was a pair of belt driven JVC turntables and a Radio Shack mixer (without the cross fader).  I also picked up one of those Radio Shack echo chambers, it was horrible for effects but fun to experiment with.  I had various beat machines over the years, including taping sounds from a friends Casio!  There were times when I would pause tape beats.  You basically get a cassette recorder and record/pause each kick, snare, high hat.  Sometimes the beat would be WAY off!  Too bad I didn't save those cassettes, although they would sound horrible these days.

ADA: Who are your role models, who inspired you, who do you look up to?

"The Z Rock crew" - El Bravador and The DJ MC FreshGV: There was a local crew in the mid 80s in Richmond, VA called "The Z Rock crew", which were El Bravador and The DJ MC Fresh.  These two guys started on an AM radio station "WKIE 1540".  Since it was an AM station, they were allowed to do whatever they wanted.  They pushed the boundaries with skratching and mixing and in fact were some of the first DJs in my area to use the line faders while skratching.  I would sneak my Walkman into high school and sit in the back of the class and listen to them each day at 2pm.  I ended up breaking my headphones in half so I could run one up the sleeve of my jacket and lean on my hand!  Those two DJs changed the way I thought about being a DJ.  They were always super positive and encouraging. These days Anthony Rother is a huge inspiration.

ADA: Were you always focused on skratching, or were you also into mixing and beat juggling? Did you ever battle?

GV: Actually I loved skratching from the start, but also mixed because back then you had to pretty much do it all.  Most people were not hip to just skratching by itself, so you had to be creative and make tapes that incorporated it all.  To me this is an important step as a DJ.  The foundation of all DJs is knowing music, selecting the right songs/beats and playing out your own story for others to hear. 

In order for people to know who you were back then, your mixing style had to be unique.  Also since most mixes were usually one take, I would practice the set over and over and over until I was ready to record.  Even with all that prep, I sometimes messed up, a needle would pop or the dreaded cassette tape monster would eat my tapes!  This whole question in itself could go on and on for days.  I can't stress enough being well rounded and going outside of your box.  I loved the DMC battles but always stayed a spectator.  Watching other DJs come up with killer routines was/is super fun to watch!

ADA: Were you in any DJ crews, who are/were you affiliated with?

GV: LOL, I used to DJ for a local crew called the Imperial Break Masters in the 80s.  I never really got into the crew thing because production took up so much time.      

gold voltronADA: Tell us about DJ Gutter. Was that always your name before Gold Voltron or were there other identities we don't know about? What happened to DJ Gutter? Were there any official mix tapes, releases, etc?

GV: *sigh* yeah that was my only other DJ name before GV.  I actually got that name from a friend as a joke.  We were sitting around trying to find a good DJ name and it was raining.  He heard the rain running down the gutters and mentioned it.  It stuck from that day forward.  I kept that name up until 2009 when I joined QSU.  I wanted a more positive name for QSU and while looking around my studio, I saw a gold Voltron on one of my shelves.  That day GV was born!  I'm happy with the way things are now and the direction it has taken.  There were people that would always associate "gutter" with being a hood/ghetto DJ and I would get a ton of emails asking if I played this or that mainstream song.  It got really tiring so I decided to change.  A lot of older DJs still call me Gutter and make references to some funny things that happened back in the day.  TTNN comes to mind! 

ADA: Is it true that Thud Rumble used your design for their signature slipmat - the Butter Rug? Tell us about the infamous Sewer Slime Slipmats - when did you come up with them? Did you physically make them yourself? Where were they sold, and most importantly - are there any left? I've always wanted a pair!

sewer slime slipmats

sewer slime slipmat

GV:  Oh boy this haunts me yet again.  Let's be clear when I say that I personally never said Thud Rumble or anyone else stole my design.  The Internet forums back then were a battle ground and no one held any punches!  When I first designed the mats (late 1999) it was just a personal thing and never meant to be in the public.  A friend used them and freaked out saying it was beyond any design he had ever seen.  He posted about them on the net and ZeeVee (RIP) from sqratchattack.com (RIP) asked if I wanted to sell them through his site.  I had not even setup a PayPal account and there were already like 75 emails asking how to buy them.  I was caught off guard and wasn't sure if I was ready.  It was Zeevee that got me into making them, he was always supportive and a super dope friend. 

Then the internet rumors started.  I would hear everything from Q and I got into a fight, to them sneaking into my house and stealing the designs.  It was beyond comical and I sat back to watch.  If you were able to look back at the old forums, you would also see that I never personally pushed my mats.  The hype was all from fellow DJs who used the mats.  I spent a lot of time making each set of mats, all done from my garage.  Just to put things into perspective, I made mats from 1999 to 2006.  The last time I checked my count of slipmats made was over 10k pieces.  There were times when I would be up to like 3am making mats for customers.  It was exhaustive but rewarding.  I had customers all over the world and even from places that you would not dream had electricity much less DJs.  I still have the original prototype set, but they are framed and not for sale.  What is cool though is hearing from DJs that still have them 10 years later!

sewer slime slipmatdj gutter slipmat

ADA: Speaking of Thud Rumble, they just released an App that features your beats called Warflex Gold. How did that all come about?

GV:  Yogafrog had hit me up about putting my beats into one App so DJs/BBOYs/MCs could groove too.  I compiled some beats from this year and submitted them. Thud Rumble did a great job in making the App. 

ADA: Were you in contact with Qbert before Qbert Skratch University?

GV:  I had talked to Q off and on via the internet for a long time.  Most of the time it was either by forums or mchat (before paltalk).  Everyone communicated that way if you lived on either side of the U.S.. 

ADA: You were one of the first members of QSU, and have been with us the whole time - going on 4.5 years now! What do you think of the online learning model at ArtistWorks, can you speak a bit about your experience with QSU and how it's grown over the years?

GV: It actually worked out well with the way I stayed with QSU.  I had originally signed up as a member to check things out and loved the videos and interactions with everyone.  It's a really positive environment.  You get one-on-one with Q and can see video responses to your questions.  It's also great to see DJs that just started out and are now ripping up the cuts!

ADA: What is it about Qbert that makes him a good fit for this? How do you think Qbert has evolved as a teacher over the years? 

GV: Qbert has always been a positive influence in the skratch community.  He's always evolving and surprising people with new and innovative ideas.  The best way to learn is to watch others. 

ADA: Do you think Qbert will continue to push new boundaries or is there a limit to what you can do with skratching Freshhh and Ahhh?

GV: Q peaking out?  He has alien arms and is a freak of nature!  He truly is the Bruce Lee of the skratch world.  He has been making new things with the AHHH sample for what?  25 years now?  That to me is amazing. 

ADA: You've become such a big part of QSU with all the beats you've contributed (so much so that Qbert designated you as the resident "Beat Master"), how many beats are currently on your Student Page?

GV: When I signed up for QSU I asked Q how many beats could we upload and he replied "dunno, just upload until you can't".  I took that literally and started uploading my own beats and loops.  So many that people started complaining that it took a while to get to the bottom of my page!  ArtistWorks then redesigned the site so that you could scroll one section to see a users beats.  Last count there were over 1k on my page.  This was also in addition to full break albums that I ripped and posted on the QSU forums.  If you look hard enough, there is a ton of stuff there! 

ADA: I know in the beginning you were uploading a lot of loops from existing beats, were you making your own beats back then too? How has your beat process evolved?

GV: As a DJ you are always looking for those breaks.  When I started uploading them to QSU, I wanted other DJs to skratch to my taste in breaks/loops.  I honestly never expected it to blow up and have so many users asking for more and more beats.  I had always did some original beats here and there but didn't really get serious until a few years ago. I used QSU as a testing ground for my own beats and wanted to see how they would be received.  Q and QSU loved them so I continued banging things out.  Each new beat is an experiment waiting for user feedback.

ADA: What equipment do you use for your beats (hardware, software, etc)?

GV: I've had everything from a MPC 2000 to Maschine.  A lot of beat machines have floated through my studio.  These days I use Maschine and software, it's so versatile and accessible.  I can literally have hundreds of instruments at the click of a button.  It's all about user preference.  Some users want to stay OG and use a SP1200 or a MPC 2000XL.  I say use whatever is comfortable to you.  In the end you want to make music, not spend months trying to learn something you hate just because everyone else has it.

ADA: You've been into skratch culture a long time, what are you thoughts on its progression? Because it seems to be a mixed bag - on the one hand it's easier than ever to "be a DJ", and there are some incredible new guys out there - but there does seem to be something lacking in a lot DJ sets - what do you think, where is this all going?

GV:  It's still in its infancy.  A lot of people jumped on the wagon and after a few years jumped off.  We still have so much to learn and create.  There will always be boring sets and then super creative sets.  It's all up to the individual and their style.  A good personal friend of mine DJ Tdawg and I talk about the scene and where it's going.  There is a lot of technology out there for people to use, but if you don't take advantage of it, it's worthless.  For example, go watch DJ Day use Serato.  A good DJ can go from 2 turntables, mixer and a few pieces of vinyl to a fully blown digital setup and rock it. It's all about the person and their abilities. 

ADA: Are you more nostalgic for the past or more excited about the future (in terms of music)?

GV: I love a mixture of both.  There will always be good and bad music no matter what year it is.  The trick is to find what you like and stick with it.

ADA: What do you like to listen to these days?

GV: These days I listen to a lot of classical, blues, old 1920s raw music!  I found some old Indian chant records recently and the sounds are magical! 

ADA: Favorite sample to skratch?

GV: "Cut like a guillotine".  Also "motherfu**er say what!"

demis roussos sucesos en espanol

ADA: Favorite BPM?

GV: 115 or 120 (electro!)

ADA: Favorite mixtape?

GV: There was a DJ in Trenton NJ in the early 90s named DJ Juice.  He had some of the most creative intros I had ever heard.  DJ Rob One (RIP) is the top of my list.

ADA: Favorite record for skratching? How about for listening?

GV: Skratching: DJ Flares "Hee-Haw breaks",  listening: Demis Roussos, "Sucesos En Espanol". 

ADAFavorite beat of all time?

GV: Does it have to be just one?  DAS EFX, "Real Hip Hop".

ADA: Favorite producers of all time?

GV: RZA, PREMIER, EASY MO BEE, STOUPE, TRACK MASTERS, DJ MUGGS. The list could go on and on.

ADA: Who are your favorite skratchers? 

GV: Man, let's see... DJ Happee and dinoh!  DJ Mouse, Flare, D-Styles, Ricci Rucker, Waystyles, I-Emerge.  So many dope DJs!  These days there are so many dope skratch DJs due to the information being readily available.  It's so hard to name one person as the next day, 50 more come along! 

ADA: Is turntablism a dying art? Will controllers ever replace turntables?

GV: Any art will survive or die based on the passion of the users.  I can remember when skratchin was in the mainstream in the late 80s/early 90s and then kinda died out during the mid 90s.  But yet you still had that loyal group pushing the envelope and keeping it alive.  Will skratching die?  It's still in its infancy, let's see how it progresses! Again, there will always be a loyal group that loves one medium or another.  Me personally, I try to incorporate everything together and give myself more options. 

ADA: I was sorry to hear that you may not be able to skratch much longer due to a health condition, arthritis?

GV: Your health is first and foremost your No. 1 priority, or it should be.  When I started having problems with my hands, it really freaked me out.  We use our hands for everything and the thought of not being able to DJ, is upsetting.  But through physical therapy I have been able to manage it and move on.

ADA: How do you feel about a life without skratching? Also, how much time do you currently spend skratching?

GV: Honestly if I had to stop it would devastate me.  It's been a part of my life now since 1984, do the math on that one.  There were times when I would skratch literally 9-10 hours a day or more.  These days I break things up into small sessions and work on specific combos.  Usually about 30 mins or so each session. 

ADA: How much time to you spend making beats?

GV: Nowadays I spend almost all day either looking for breaks, beat kits or making new material.  There is not a moment that doesn't go by that I'm thinking of some new pattern or beat.  I usually keep a notebook nearby to write ideas down.

ADA: How digital are you these days - do you still have your whole record collection? Do you still dig for vinyl? Do you listen to your records around the house?

GV: I have roughly 3500-4000k of actual vinyl left, I only keep what I really think is "valuable" to me.  As for my digital collection, I use Glyph hard drives and have about 7 Terabytes of music and counting.  I allocate a few hours a week to digging for real vinyl.  These days it's really hard to spend time digging and working on beats among other life's callings.  I did have the option recently to take on about 20k pieces of vinyl, but had to turn it down.  Yeah, it makes me sick to think about turning it away too!

ADA: That sounds crazy! Who's records were they and what was in there? Must not have been a good deal?  

GV: It was a radio DJ who lives about an hour from me.  He said there were some old school, mainstream and other things. When I asked about pricing he said $1 a piece. When I said I wanted to stop by and look, he raised the price to $3 a piece.  He also said I had to buy all of them or none. At that point I said no thanks. Would have been a good find though!

ADA: You've been working on an album - will this your debut as an artist, aside from your beats/mixtapes?

GV: Yeah, it will be my technically first album under the Gold Voltron name.

ADA: Tell us everything about "Electro Skin" - the people must know! And also, when's it coming out, what formats, where can we buy it, etc?

GV: I started electro skin in June 2013 and wanted an old school electro feel.  It's taken me a little longer than expected because I want a specific sound and have taken my time to find the right samples.  I got my inspiration from Egyptian lover, Mantronix and Anthony Rother.  In fact one of my songs is dedicated to Anthony and his incredible career.  As for equipment, I've been using Maschine, bunch of Korg keyboards, tons of MIDI keyboards and controllers.  I also like taking old machines like the Roland CR 5000 and sampling beats from it.  When I first start beats, it's all an experiment and a ongoing process to get to the final result.  This album is mostly instrumental with me adding Vocoder on a few songs.  It should be available as a free download on my site before the end of 2013. 

gold voltronADA:  What's the best way to keep up with you (links/social media, etc)?

GV: www.goldvoltron.com
www.facebook.com/goldvoltron
www.twitter.com/goldvoltron

ADA: What have we missed? Tell us something we don't know about you.

GV: I'm a regular guy with some records. 

ADA: I already knew that! What advice would you give someone who's new to skratching?

GV: First and foremost, learn record control!  Use this formula when you skratch: 90% record control, 10% fader.  Also, don't use one resource to learn from.  Watch different DJs and incorporate what you find useful into your own style. 

ADA: What would be Gold Voltron's Golden Rule of Making Beats?

GV: Keep it simple.  A good friend of mine, DJ Ragz always says "keep it simple".  Sometimes it's easy to add a bazillion sounds to your beat, but don't!  Also learn about beat layering, it will take your sounds to a whole new level.  Stick to one piece of equipment and learn it inside and out. 

ADA: Any final words for the peoples out there?

GV: Peace to the OG DJs and OVF!  Seriously, I'm a easy going guy so hit me up sometime.  I love to hear about new beats or maybe another DJ finds a new way to do something.  

​sewer slime slipmats - gutter

Very rare photo of the Sewer Slime Slipmats from Gold Voltron's private collection

 

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