DJ Shadow

////DJ SHADOW //// OCTOBER 2006////

It appears to be both Shadow by name and shadow by nature with this particular Disc Jockey…I mean, how many of us really know all that much about him. We know his music has always been years ahead of time and any one particular fad and has rarely been anything less than pure undisputed genius. We’re talking about a man who positions himself just far enough off the radar to let his music do the representing. Towards the end of the summer and just hours before his first headlining club show in the UK for just under four years, Outline managed to get a speedy fifteen minutes for us to find out a little bit more about his new album ‘The Outsider’ and unravel the magic that makes this man…

Getting straight down to business, I wondered if you put a lot of emphasis on the live performance side of things?
I try to put something together that represents my career well, and I try and make it as entertaining as possible. I try and stack up entertainment value against any band performance really. I don’t want to be presumed as, ‘this is the best I can do, I’m a DJ, what did you expect?’ I try to make it so that I’m quietly engaged in what I’m doing so there’s also plenty for the audience to look at and interact with as well.

You’ve been in the game for a long time now, I wondered if you get nervous before you perform?
Yeah, I sorta get a little nervous when I realise it’s a show day. They really hit about half hour before the show.

So what, if anything, do you get much out of the live show thing?
Well, I suppose a feeling that I’m connecting to a large number of people, they may or may not already be converts. For example, I just played some shows in Germany with Massive Attack and I was playing to their audience essentially. They were big 5000-8000 people venues. I mean, that’s a lot of people to hopefully convert. It’s a nice feeling at the end of the show when you kinda feel like you’ve won. There’s times when I think that I can’t be bothered with touring, but when I get out on the road, that feeling kinda dissipates. It’s essential artists do it. The overall importance is that, if you believe enough in what you do, you put yourself on the line for it. I mean, you are pretty exposed up there, people can yell and throw whatever they want at you. I think they need to see that you are willing to accept that sort of thing when you are trying to show them what you do.

By now, you’ve pretty much played all four corners of the globe and everywhere in between. Do you notice a real difference in the audience, depending on where you are?
Erm, yes and no. I mean, I’m at the beginning of the touring season right now, but I’ve already to been to about a dozen countries so far. The crowds have been mostly the same. The real differences to me are festival crowds. In that situation it really depends on who plays before and after me. Recently on a lot of the festivals I’ve been the last act. So the vibe that’s cast before me does tend to effect audience a little bit. If I’m a supporting act, that also effects things as well, because there’s not a greater percentage of people that know my music. One of the weirder ones that I did recently was Creamfields, which I’ve done a couple of times before, but this year it was strange for me. What was expected was DJ’s getting up and playing familiar music for people to lose their mind to, and then I get up and do my semi-down tempo highbrow hip hop kinda thing…I don’t know if it was exactly….put this way, before I went on, everyone was jumping up and down to Rage Against the Machine and Chili Pepper songs. I saw that and thought uh-oh… in that situation it’s sorta like a boxing match with the drugs, and you know your gonna lose!

You haven’t played over here in about fours years now, why so long?
Well, I played at Wireless (London) in June…but that was a festival. I toured for nine months after Private Press, which was when I last played over here. Then I took three months off. I then spent about a year trying to learn how to make music again. I decided that I didn’t want to do another album on my same MPC sampler again, which takes us up to 2004. My wife got pregnant with our twin girls and then I was just working on the album really. Sorry to sound crass, but touring is not really a great money maker for me, so I usually try and do it to support a project. If there’s not a major project out in the market, then generally I tend not to tour.

Your new album is called ‘The Outsider’. I’ve read you called it that because your music is kinda on the borders of many different styles. I wondered if this title also reflects you as a person?
Yeah, sort of. I mean I consider it a positive thing, rather than ‘woe is me’. I like to be where other people aren’t. If everybody moves to the left, then I like to move to the right. It’s not to gain reaction, its more like, if everybody is spending time over there, then what good is it going to do me, being over there and exposing the same stuff. Surely there must be other sources of inspiration out there that will make my music sound different. I kinda get into my own space. When I fall in love with a type of music, be it Hyphy or Garage Rock, I don’t really tend to advertise it, well at least not when I’m seriously into it and extracting a lot of inspiration out of it. I mean, I enjoy it when peers of mine tell me what they are into and I’m into the diametrically opposite to it,  It’s a good thing.

Previously on DJ Shadow albums (rather than side projects) you’ve shied away from getting in vocalists, but ‘The Outsider’ is packed with guest performers?
The main reason really is that I was a bit disappointed to the reaction to ‘The Private Press’. I thought that people would see that, that album was not similar to ‘Entroducing’ in any way. The only similarity to me was that they were both instrumentals. But that seemed to be enough of an excuse for people to be quite lazy in the way that they thought about it, which I can understand on one hand, ’cause that’s human nature, but I didn’t want to give anyone an excuse with this album. I wanted it to be as different as possible to my other albums. Tactically right now, I feel it is really important for me to demonstrate what I am, rather than letting other people dictate that to me. I have also realised recently that the next record I do could easily be the most mellow and could go back to something really dream-scapey. I knew with this record though, that I’d have to make it so it would be very difficult for people to ignore. I wanted to make a record that invokes a reaction, whether it’s love or hate. The only thing I didn’t want was indifference, because I felt like I a got enough of that the last time. As an artist you like to think that, that non-reaction isn’t really justified.

Did you ever consider using your own voice?
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered it. You know the song ‘Stem’ on Entroducing? Originally I wrote lyrics to that song and I did the vocals through a voc-coder. That was the only way I felt comfortable having my own voice on the record at that time. But I didn’t feel the voc-coder disguised my voice enough, it really bugged me in the end. It really shocked me about a year and a half ago when I was working on the Anniversary edition of ‘Entroducing’ for Universal. I was doing research on my own archive and I found a mastered DAT of the vocal version, which meant I actually nearly used it. It really surprised me cause I never thought I got that serious – to the point I’d let it be mastered.

I believe there is an Anniversary re-edition of ‘Entroducing’, although I haven’t been able to find out much about it?
Well, it’s out in the States. It’s got a bonus disc with alternate mixes and other weird little things I’ve done with the DAT.

Allegedly you said with this album you were going to make it so it would be very difficult for people to copy your style. Is this a problem for you?
I don’t mind what people do, but it’s one of those weird things that starts to happen after a while. I’ll be minding my own business eating my cereal in the morning flicking through a magazine and see some review of a peer of mine that I feel is not really on my level.  I know it sounds kinda fucked up to say, but I think you get to a certain point in your life when you feel like you can be honest with your own skill and then the skills of other people around you. The review will say ‘he makes Shadow sound like….’ya know. Basically people can’t prop somebody else up without tearing some one else down. I would read it and think, ‘no he’s not and no I’m not, you gotta be fucking kidding me. That’s when I get so irritated, when it’s so obliviously a hatchet job, yet at the same time, it’s meant to be so much better than I am. Then you’re like rrrriiiight, you start thinking maybe I need to be a bit more aggressive about pushing my own agenda through.

Finally, the track ‘Artifact’ is an instrumental relic to something you’d been working on with R.A.T.M front-man Zack De La Rocha. Why did he not appear on the final track?
Zack had been chasing me to work on his solo album, even before the U.N.K.L.E album came out in 98’. It wasn’t until mid 2000 I agreed that I’d do it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, I was just busy with other things. I also didn’t like the idea of working with a really established name straight after U.N.K.L.E, I didn’t want to turn into this flavour of the month type thing like, he’s working with this guy, now he’s working with this guy – ya know. So we worked on a couple of songs but he sorta had some figuring out of life to do or whatever – he’d just broke up from Rage. Then we got back together at the beginning of 2003, I did some music, but I guess he was having some sort of writers block. He was meant to finish the album with Trent Reznor, but my understanding is that they never really connected…there was a lot of other stuff I’ve heard, but I can’t really repeat…

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