Coaxing the maximum soul out of the machine
In the realm of dance music, there are few producers that thrive on blurring the boundary between eclectic experimenter and populist ass-shaker as much as Q-Burns Abstract Message. Equally comfortable covering Krautrock legends Faust or dropping his favorite chunky house grooves into the mix, Q-BAM known to his parents as Michael Donaldson is indeed the rare auteur. Whether globe-trotting as a DJ, co-running the Eighth Dimension Records label, remixing artists like Rabbit in the Moon, Fila Brazillia and Lawrence Welk, or recording his own original productions, Donaldson is all about the coaxing the maximum soul out of the machine.
Based in Orlando since the early-’90s, the former record shop owner and college radio DJ has spent the past two decades developing a sound that is obsessively devoted to the funk. His animated, vodka-soaked DJ sets have won audiences for the well-traveled Donaldson from San Francisco to (literally) Siberia, and landed him primo opening slots for GusGus, Chemical Brothers and Meat Beat Manifesto.
However, it’s his playful rhythms, surprising melodic themes and not-so-surprising Eno-esque textures that demand attention. An accomplished indie musician prior to releasing his first single as Q-BAM the breakbeat noir of 141 Revenge Street in 1995 Donaldson is first and foremost a songwriter, albeit one that is just as enamored with the sheer power of the groove.
With a trusty Roland Juno 106 synth at his side, Q-BAM released three full-length albums via the respected electronic label Astralwerks, including Invisible Airline which featured several collaborations with vocalist Lisa Shaw. He has recorded numerous singles for house-centric imprints such as Brique Rouge, Slip N’ Slide, NRK and of course, Eighth Dimension. Q-BAM was also one of the talented producers on alt-country icon Jim Whit’s 2001 Luaka Bop release No Such Place. The album cast White’s stark vocals in a wasteland of dusty beats and ghostly slide guitars, with Donaldson’s tracks providing some of its most intoxicating moments.
Though his ‘endless summer’ schedule more than 100 DJ dates annually and ongoing production projects would seemingly exhaust a mere mortal, Q-BAM rather enjoys this 120-bpm soundtrack. Accordingly, Donaldson and fellow Orlando producer/DJ Atnarko recently launched the vinyl-only label EIGHT-TRACKS, dedicated to releasing strange sounds that you can dance to, says Q-BAM himself. Additionally, house imprint Agave Records has tapped Donaldson to throw down a mix CD titled Agave Nectar Vol. 1, now available in fine records shops worldwide..
As if there wasn’t already enough deliciously warm and gooey queso already piled high on his plate, Q-BAM is also hard at work recording his fourth album, due out in 2008.
(This bio was written by Daniel Fuller … be sure to check out his fantastic music blog The Hardest Walk.)