By Jim Schutze
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Many of the ISP's songs begin by scamming split-second snippets of beats from records like Battle Breaks, Gag Ball Breaks, Hee-Haw Brayks -- sound-effects records intended to be used solely for that purpose. "Those are a few of our favorite ones," he says. "There can be something like 2000 sounds on each one, so the possibilities are endless." Each record tries not to go over twelve minutes, otherwise the grooves become too thin to find the quick sample. "Say you have a magazine and you cut out a guy's head," he says. "And then you take another magazine and you cut out a guy's arm, and so forth, until you have a whole person. Collaging a song like that is just one way of doing a song. All I need to make a song is a tiny sample. And when we're on stage, it's like a complete rocket launch of scratching. We're like samurai tsunami on the turntables."
Basic necessities for performing begin with two turntables, a mixer, needles, records, and headphones. The chances for things to go wrong are as common as for your typical four-piece pop band; it's only the circumstances that waver. Instead of breaking a string or guitar chords shorting out, tables could be wobbly and can set the needle skimming across the wax, or the air could be really humid and make the records really slippery. "I think every show is a learning experience on how we can improve," says 30-year-old QBert.
And while it sometimes seems rehearsed, most are free to embellish their musical tales they tell or mock. When performing in a group, each member will assume different roles -- guitarist, drummer, bassist, or vocalist -- with their scratching mischief.
"Ninety percent of the time, it's freestyle when we practice," says QBert, who claims most of his influence comes from jazz but will study the style of anyone great. "But if we're preparing for a show, we'll pull the best freestyled parts and put those together. It's just like a jazz band jamming, but based in hip-hop. Right now, me and D-Styles are really into Stevie Ray Vaughan. We try to emulate his energy because he's all about patterns, tricks, and flows, and we do the same thing with a turntable."