A mixture of things
Berlin raper Quio come back with the new album - "Phiu". We talked to her about the record and her experiences as MC.
- What did you fascinate in hip hop culture that you decide to be a part of it?
- First of all I don't really consider myself as a part of the hip hop culture. For the possibilities/ role models that it offers for women is more than limited. I consider myself a musician with hip hop influences. In that way I have more freedom as an artist. And also from the hip hop style police. I don't really go to jams anymore, like my hip hop MC friends. But I l hold rap workshops for girls and mixed groups, because I am really into the schooling idea, which is of course not exclusive to hip hop.
- What did you get into it?
- I found hip hop rap really fun in the 80s. There were quite silly rappers around. When you watch the 2LiveCrew video to "Me So Horny" (I am wearing the t-shirt to that in my last records booklet) you will see what I mean, it is hilarious. What was also really funny was all that taking yourself too seriously and the boasting. The many ideas in the lyrics, the surprises.
Of course, though at the time the sexism concerned me (thinking about the standards of today a joke, of course..), "Me So Horny" was as far as I remember the first track that got to court because of its sexist lyrics.
But that set aside, I also really liked the playfulness of the sounds, that disappeared somewhere in the nineties but luckily seems to come back from time to time, the last example of a positive contribution was British hip hop. And I also really like electric boogie!
- What did you feel on stage when you started to perform your raps?
- I guess this question is some sort of hint to me being female?
Have you ever asked a male MC this question? In my case the answer would be kind of similar. When you begin, everyone is nervous. Male and female alike. I guess if you have a crowd of sexist thickheads in front of you it would make a difference. But as I started to MC not to hip hop but to drum & bass that was not the case. The scenes differ a lot.
To explain this a little better, I have to say that the role of the drum & bass MC is different in Germany than in the UK. In Germany there would be no special light on you, you stand beside the DJ in half-shade and not be so upfront. One reason for this is probably that drum & bass MCs here mostly use the English language and clubbers would not understand therefore not be able to respond to what you are saying. So the MCing to drum & bass in Germany has more of a musical quality, and less stress on the content.
When I had my first appearance in a bigger club by the way, I felt really good, because the other MCs could not rhyme as fast as me!
- Do you have any problems with acceptation on that male dominated scene?
- For some strange reason women seem to have less problems with a female MC than men. Of course I had problems "as a woman" in the male dominated scene. I could tell you lots of stories... but thematising my status "as a woman" may blur the fact that we aren't talking because I "am a woman" but because of my music. The goal for women must be to have a sense of implicitness in what they are doing! And not to continuously ask themselves why they are doing or what they are doing although they "are" women.
- Why did you perform not only to hip hop beats, but also to drum & bass?
- I started MCing to drum & bass in 1997, and in the course of that also rapped to hip hop as a side project. I then also MCed to UK Garage and a little to grime/dubstep. But I still do a monthly night with DJ G-Serve (who is also co-producer on my album) and DJ Christine Lang (who made the prize-winning video to "So Dazed") at a club called Box + Bar at Deutsches Theater, Berlin. I also MC with the female DJ collective Femmes with Fatal Breaks.
When I started to MC to hip hop I was really happy that my drum & bass rhymes fitted just perfect to the half time of the hip hop beats.
- How did you start to cooperate with AGF?
- I met her when I was doing MC at an after-party to one of her concerts in Berlin with a mutual DJ friend in a club. We met a few times and started going out to 2step which was great fun, because we are both 2step afficionados! And then around 2000 we started doing some tracks together with her companion from Laub, Jotka. But we never released them. At that time I was working as a music editor and our ways parted for a while until I had quit the job. Then I played her some hip hop tracks I had done with a producer from Hamburg, Donna Maya. She found them interesting. Then I played her "So Dazed" and "Gazon Gasolina" I had recorded with Audiotaxi (DJ G-Serve and Mokry) and she liked them even more. So we decided to come together again and produced my 12" "Gazon Gasolina".
- Why did you change your nickname DJ Looney Tunes to Quio?
- I really liked MC Looney Tunes, but it was not possible to use because of the Warner Brothers cartoon series. When I started using the name I didn't know that they also besides "Looney Toons" had a "Looney Tunes" series too. Also it seemed too long. And I wanted something that didn't have such a clear association. Rather something that I could fill with new content.
- Your debut album - "Like Oooh!" was the first full scale experiment in mixing rap with abstract electronica. Do you felt like pushing the boundaries in hip hop music?
- Oh, of course. But not only in hip hop, but also in abstract electronica and pop and club music!
- It was difficult to perform that material on stage?
- No. Of course it is different from place to place what people expect, and how they react. But that is the same with every act, I guess...
- Your new album - "Phiu"- is more danceable. AGF created strong beats this time - from reggae and dub to 2step and grime. Why did you decide to go this way?
- It is a mixture of things. First of all, we didn't sit down and decided how the album was going to be. It developed. I always have tons of things I want to put in that get filtered or tried out and then left aside or there for later use. I had some I wanted to put in since the first album, like dub, because I really love dub! 2step influences have also been in the first album, and grime influences were new, because our co-producer G-Serve who is also a DJ started playing grime at the time. Maybe AGF and me created more dance-able beats because at the moment neither of us really has the time to go out (AGF has a one year old baby...and I have two little children) and so we have more need to create our own club in the studio!That also may have influenced the choice of our co-producers which, of course, have also put in their influences.
- "Phiu" is more varied in vocals than "Like Oooh!". You rap and sing - also in more melodic way. For that reason some track has more "song" structure. Where is that idea from?
- But I thought I also sung quite melodically on "Like Oooh", on "So Dazed" or "My Friend".Before I was an MC in the mid-nineties I used to be the singer of an indie pop band. Maybe that explains "Better Mood". "Mole" was a 2step track by G-Serve, which AGF completely changed and made more intensive through that. On "I Jump" we originally planned to take a rap, but then my first idea was this high sung voice, where AGF laughed out loud when she first heard it, because she expected something completely different.
You are right though with the song structure. Idea again sounds like someone has layed it out right from the start. But it developed. I can't really tell you why though, it was something that just seemed to sneak up on us.
- There are a lot of vocal guests on "Phiu". How did you choose them?
- Darius James held a creative writing class, and because I have been writing little stories from time to time and I really like his stuff, I was happy that I could go. We get on really well and have a shared sense of humour. I wanted to make a song in German, and read a lot about national identity. I started writing lyrics in German, but never was quite happy about it. So I decided I could ask other, non-German speaking people, to speak German for me. And as Darius has this great voice I asked him to perform his favorite words and some of mine. And my artwork designer, who is a Finnish friend of AGF and her boyfriend Vladislav Delay, happened to be there when we were recording and AGF thought that her voice would be a good contrast to Darius´, so we recorded them both.
Lise is my favorite singer for soulful choruses, she has just turned 17 now, when we first recorded on "Like Oooh!", she was 15!
I really love Nicolette`s voice and style of singing. A friend of AGF had her contact and so she sent her an email asking whether she would be interested in collaborating. She was, and so we changed files and AGF made remix of one of her tracks and she sung the chorus to "So Loud".
Edu K is a great performer and we have the same understanding of ourselves as rappers. He also sees himself more as a musician open to any sort of style rather than wanting to limit himself through belonging to a certain kind of style. A friend of mine is his label boss, so I asked him whether he could get us into contact. Edu was instantly on fire and sent lyrics, files and this great Brasilian lesson back to me as fast as a rocket! It was also great fun learning the rap, too!
For "Chilaine" a befriended German musician, Bernadette la Hengst, asked me to make a contribution for her compilation of kiddies music for adults (every parent gets to be terrified by the mostly horrible music which is labeled"music for kids" these days, so she wanted to present something that was hearable for both). So I thought of a text with some ideas from my children. My son has created this character with his best mate called Chilaine. Chilaine is a great guy, has this bossy voice and is allowed to do everything. He can fly like a bird, and crawl up on walls like Spiderman. On "Chilaine" I decided to expand the idea to also be a female character, because me and my daughter are really pissed off that there a so little female super heroes. So I invited my son and his friend and my daughter and her best friend (who happen to be brothers and sisters too) round to the studio. And my husband who tried to keep them under control and also sung in a deep voice. I was so happy about the track that I took it on my album too, which also corresponds with "Lempapa" on "Like Oooh".
- Some tracks wrote and produced other artists than AGF - Audiotaxi, Al Haca and Tricky D. Why did you invite them for cooperation on "Phiu"?
- My collaboration with AGF as Quio started with a track by Audiotaxi, "So Dazed", where she took the sketch of the track and reworked it in her own way. And also with "Gazon Gasolina" which was an all AGF production, we have continued with that way of working, some tracks AGF gets as sketches from other producers and she reworks them, and some are exclusively produced by her. That way the styles get more versatile while still being unified in AGF`s way.
Audiotaxi (G-Serve and Mokry) and G-Serve on his own are people I have been working with for years now, as MC/DJ-Team and promoters for our parties. AGF likes to work with their beats and I love the mixture of the two.
Al Haca is a friend who I met through his rapper RQM. I love his deep basses and dancehally feeling that's why I wanted him to give us a beat-sketch.
Tricky Dicky is also a DJ I have worked with and I knew he produced dub, so I went round his East Berlin high-rise home and listened to his deep beats and chose the Chilaine beat.
- Which collaboration from "Phiu" is the most important for you?
- They are all very important to me in their way! The one where I was most involved emotionally was the one with Darius James, because I think "Bratwurst" is such a funny and original track, and it is the one where I most feared it would be bad, because of its content, so I was sooo relieved when it wasn't, and got out so well. From the co-producer ones I would say G-Serve, because he has given his flavour to many tracks from my old and my new album.
- How do you work on lyrics?
- I often have an initial idea either of content or rhythmically or melody wise. When I have found the words of the first one or two lines I continue to develop what I seem to want to say. I cut and paste too within the text.
- Where do you look for inspiration for lyrics?
- As I write in English and I really love the English language, I take inspiration for my lyrics from English speaking people, either friends or TV series and programmes, comics and magazines. Also from my travels and I love to bring in quotes by other musicians.
- Have you got any favorite topics of your "songs"?
- I have various topics. On "Phiu" I start with my definition as a person who has grown up in Germany. And on the next track, "Grow Together", I talk about the definition of gender and how I hope that my children will have it less difficult with being a "boy" or a "girl". I am interested in how people and myself get categorized,how you get limited by definitions (by being a hip hopper e.g.), and I try to make listeners see how silly clichéd and all too narrow evaluations may be. I looked at how I am supposed to be "as a German", which was funny, because that varied through the centuries, and also often didn't seem to have anything to do with me.
I also talked about why I write in English on "Bratwurst" because people have asked me repeatedly.
Apart from that I also love to boast, like on "Rising Tide" and "So Loud". And relations to other people in all its forms is an always important topic ("I Jump", "Come Closer"). And an ode to looserdom, a remembrance of my time as a guitar-popper and the feeling o that is "Better Mood".
- Do you think that hip hop is still the most creative form of music these days?
- I never thought it was. But seriously now, it has been for quite some time, but there have also been years where it hasn't. I don't think a genre can keep up with innovations nonstop. Every type of music has to have its more boring periods, and not every one gets back with a new innovation. Hip hop has managed to do come back with new ideas now for quite some time.
AUTHOR: PAWEL GZYL
PHOTOS: GERRIT ENGEL
+ Quio - Phiu
+ Vs_Price - Song06.txt.
+ Gebrüder Teichmann - The Number Of The Beat
+ Swod - Sekunden
+ Rework - Pleasure Is Pretty
+ Various Punks Vol_A
+ Modeselektor - Happy Birthday!
+ Genaro La Fosse - Focus Factor
+ Bunny Lake - The Church Of Bunny Lake
+ bpmf - Parousia Fallacy
+ Basteroid - Upsets Ducks
+ Louie Austen - Summer Love EP
+ Anthill - Love
- - - - - - - - -
+ EDDY MEETS YANNAH - Once in a While
+ DON CHERRY QUINTET - Live at Café Montmartre 1966
+ F.S. BLUMM MEETS LUCA FADDA - F.S. Blumm meets Luca Fadda
+ GOSTA RUNDQVIST / ANDREAZ HEDEN - If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking
+ VARIOUS ARTISTS - Motel Lovers
+ GRAND NATIONAL - A Drink & A Quick Decision
+ DIMENSION X - Dimension X
+ FOR BARRY RAY - New Days
+ EYES LIKE SAUCERS - Still Living in the Desert (and mostly inside my own head)
+ WILDBIRDS & PEACEDRUMS - Heartcore
+ COLD BLEAK HEAT - Simitu
+ THE BEAUTIFUL SCHIZOPHONIC - Musicamorosa
+ WILLIAM BASINSKI - El Camino Real
+ HANS KENNEL MYTHA - How It All Started
+ SIX TWILIGHTS - Six Twilights CD/DVD
+ PAOLO ANGELI - Tessuti
+ NELS CLINE, ANDREA PARKINS, TOM RAINEY - Downpour
+ BLOSSOM TOES - We Are Ever So Clean - If Only for a Moment
+ SINEAD O'CONNOR - Theology
+ CHICAGO UNDERGROUND TRIO - Chronicle CD/DVD / TIGERSMILK - Android Love Cry
+ SUN RA & HIS ASTRO-INFINITY ARKESTRA - Strange Strings / SUN RA & HIS INTERGALACTIC-INFINITY ARKESTRA - The Night of the Purple Moon
+ PJUSK - Sart / JODI CAVE - For Myria
+ MARCUS SCHMICKLER / HAYDEN CHISHOLM - Amazing Daze / ASMUS TIETCHENS / RICHARD CHARTIER - Fabrication / RAFAEL TORAL - Space Solo 1 / BRION GYSIN - Live in London 1982 / SUPERMAYER - Supermayer Save the World / VALGEIR SIGURDSSON - Ekvilibrium
+ WOLFMANGLER - Cooking with Wolves
+ BORBETOMAGUS & HIJOKAIDAN - Both Noises End Burning / PETER BROTZMANN OCTET - The Complete Machine Gun Sessions / KEVIN DRUMM & DANIEL MENCHE - Gauntlet
+ TIMELESS PULSE - Quintet
+ SKALLANDER - Skallander
+ THE OSCILLATION - Out of Phase
+ MATT McCORMICK - Very Stereo
+ PUMICE - Pebbles
+ MICHIO KURIHARA - Sunset Notes
+ BLAINE L. REININGER - Glossolalia
+ VOLUME - Aeter
- - - - - - - - -
WYWIADY / RELACJE
+ A source of energy - rozmowa z duo Modeselektor
+ A mixture of things - rozmowa z Quio