Interviews Premieres

Q – Keep It Strong (Unreleased Dub Edit) [ISLE OF JURA]

phonica-premieres-061-blog“Q will answer questions anytime…”

Adelaide label Isle of Jura are making waves with their upcoming re-issue of the leftfield Italo gem, ‘The Voice of Q.’ A one-off project under the name of Q, the track comes from Philadelphia-based disco producers Michael Forte and Bruce Weeden. Originally released in 1982, ‘The Voice of Q’ was notoriously ahead of its time, introducing spooky synth lines and astrological vocoders that paved the way for space-age Italo classics like Charlie’s ‘Spacer Woman’ of the following year. Isle of Jura’s re-issue features a re-master of the track comes from award-winning engineer Matt Colton. After a series of bootlegged re-issues from the past few years, this respectful remaster is much-needed. The release also features an instrumental version of ‘Voice of Q’ and a previously unreleased track, ‘Keep it Strong.’ With dreamy piano stabs, a heavy dose of dubby mastering and a funk-laden housey bassline, this track feels brand new, making it our sure-fire pick for this week’s premiere.

Pre-order your copy here.

We caught up with Michael Forte from Q for a very rare interview, ahead of the highly anticipated release, to ask some questions about the re-issue and the musical progression of the duo since this classic track’s release over 35 years ago. Here is… The Voice Of Q

Hey Q! How’s it going? 

Hey, I’m Michael Forte from Q, its been a while since I did an interview.

Whilst Q was a one-off project, you both gained significant reputations in Philadelphia as top-class disco producers, are you still involved in the music industry all these years later?

Yes, I am, I run my own studio here in Philly working with a lot of up and coming artists and on my own projects. I do some music for commercials and help out with various projects for other artists.

The track produced a truly ground-breaking leftfield sound in 1982, can you tell us about the studio set up used? Were there any essential pieces of hardware which were invaluable?

Well in those days there was no midi so it was all recorded live. Around the time we recorded the song the whole sci-fi thing was really big, ET especially, and we were big fans of Star Trek so the idea was to record a song very much in this area.   Every part is played by a musician and there’s a real improvisational feel to it. We started with the drums, the bass drum and snare on a two-track, took the multi-track and then recorded again so it was the perfect loop and recorded in time. Then Larry Washington, a well-known percussionist from the Philly international scene came in and played live hi-hats. The handclaps were basically people clapping, was then put through a harmonizer. The melody lines inspired by star trek were recorded on a mini moog keyboard and the second melody was run through a delay and outboard reverb. Doug Rigsby, a renowed local bass player jammed in the studio and came up with the bassline.

We were literally living in the studio working on many different projects producing for other artists so Q was a break from those pressures and was something we’d work on from time to time for fun. When we had some spare time we worked on the Q record. It was never planned out and it very organic how it came together. It was like a puzzle and when we came to arrange it there were 24 tracks, so a lot was edited out. The song was going to be called Midnight Q after our midnight BBQ sessions but we changed it to the Voice of Q.

What was the reaction like to its release in 1982? Were there any key institutions or DJs that supported it.

In all honesty, we saw it as a novelty record. Sales were ok and it couldn’t really find its place as it was too leftfield for commercial radio, though it was played on R N B radio. My world was not nightclubs or DJs and I was never involved in the promotion and marketing so I couldn’t tell you who was playing it. At that time there were 8 albums a year released on our Philly World label, so I was very busy producing. Once ‘The Voice Of Q’ was finished I moved on to the next record.  During the 80’s and 90’s I forgot about the record, but in recent years people would increasingly mention it to me, I really had no idea that it was so well loved.

Can you tell where the lyrics for ‘The Voice Of Q’ came from and who sang them?

Originally it was going to be an instrumental but then we had a chance of heart and decided to try a vocal.  Buddy Turner visited the studio and came up with a lot of phrases including ‘prepare to receive transmission’. We were playing a lot of video games and the whole thing was inspired by that and the vocoder helped to make it sound futuristic. The kid at the end of the song is the son of a friend of mine who visited the studio and was a direct influence from the ET movie.

Can you tell us a little bit about your previously unreleased track, ‘Keep It Strong’ which we’re proudly premiering?

This was made a few years later with drum machines & sequencers so the approach was a lot more modern. I played the Piano parts in and synthesised bass and used a Mac in the studio. The industry was changing at that time and no one was interested in putting it out so it sat on the hard drive until Kevin from Isle Of Jura came along.

Are there any more upcoming releases coming out of the woodworks this year? 

There are no more Q songs.

Where do your musical tastes lie these days and what kind of records are you buying?

I’m old school and have only just stopped buying CDs so have recently joined Spotify. My favourite genre is pop, but I have broad tastes, Henry Mancini, Classical and Jazz to through to Michael Jackson. I mostly listen to music from my youth, it takes me back to that time and I’m totally emersed in it. Music is very powerful for that.

Isle of Jura seem to have made a real effort to treat your track with respect, after many sketchy bootlegs over the years. How did you find it working with them?

Its been a pleasure to work with Kevin, I got an instant good vibe when we first spoke on the phone. He has a strong connection to and enthusiasm for the music and in any creative endeavour, the art has to be the main consideration.  I’ve worked with many music business people over the years and it’s the music people like Kevin that always do the best work.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

The reissue is out next week!

Thanks, Michael! 


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