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FP: You come completly from a Hip Hop Background, is
Shadow: Yeah, I do. HipHop was, though I would not say
all, cause I try to keep myself open to other things,
but nearly all I listend to for the last 14 years of
FP: What got you into it.
Shadow: Initially it was the rawness. When I heard The
Message. I was listening to Devo, Blondie, New Wave
Groups like that that were sort of Cutting Edge. I
remember in 1982 you heard Foreigner on the Radio,
Blue oyster Cult. I was ten at the time. When I heard
Th Message, what struck about was that the music was
almost a nonexistant soundscape, it was very raw, the
lyrics were so direct, it wasnt just poetry. This was
excatly how it was. That was so powerful, it was like
boom. And the next song I heard about three weeks later
was Planet Rock. It was those two songs that ignited
the fire. I was very fanatical. I did not grow up in
the city but about twenty minutes away from one.
Shadow: Sacramento, and then also about half an hour
away from San Fancisco. I had to actually seek it out,
it wasnt something that was surrounding me. I had to
go out and find it. And take it. And I think because
ofthat reason I learned to valuate it a lot more. When
Breaking kame out it became a fad to the rest of the
world, or the rest of the american media, 1985 when
it was supposed to be dead, the feel was still there
and it picked up again. 85 was a ruff year, a bad year
for HipHop. This year is bad too. Maby not as bad as
FP: What do you mean by bad?
Shadow: I just think that its not very stimulating.
Very inbread an conservative, stale. The last excellent
HipHop Album that came out was the first Pharacide
record in 1992. There have been good ones since, but
thats pretty much the last record that brought something
FP: Do you always criticice HipHop that hard, even in
Shadow: Its healthy to criticice it.
FP: Do you get bad reactions?
Shadow: No because what I say is true. I`m not coming
from an uninformed background. I think that a lot of
people agree with what I am saying, but they are not
allowed to say it, cause they are worried about how
the HipHop pressure reacts. Personally I never care
about HipHop pressure, I never have. I have always
thought that was a bad element in HipHop, especially
when money came into the picture. What I mean by HipHop
pressure is that: you have to be the same as us or
else we dont trust you. My early supporters were Red
Alert, Source Magazine, I haven`t changed, but The
Source Magazine has definitely changed. They used to
be all about HipHop Culture, now they are all about
Rap Music Dollars, wich is very different. HipHop is
not Rap. Rap is an Element of HipHop, not all. Breakdancers
will definitely tell you the same thing, anybody from
the Rock Steady Crew will tell you the same thing,
Prince Paul will tell you the same thing on his Linernotes
for Psychoanalysis, Automator, who did Octagon will
tell you the same thing. There is a very strong dissatisfaction
with Rap Music from the HipHop undergound. I am no
FP: I can just imagine that the pressure can be very
Shadow: The reason why it is that strong, and why HipHop
is so inbred, is that there is a very structured wheel,
a very definable system on how to get paid in HipHop.
Busta Rhymes is someone who took that road and sure
enough got paid. As long people like him are allowed
to continue to do that it wont change. There is a very
specific sound and a very specific attitude, and it
changes every year, but as long as you stay in there
and keep doing it, and keep narrowing your scope, dressing
the rigt ways etc. you get paid. As long as that system
is in place. The things I say are gonna seem threatening
to thouse people, not to the people who really care
about the culture and the music itself. Because nobody
can argue that HipHop is very conservative, inbred
and stale, if you were there when it wasn`t its very
easy to see the difference. I considered the music
that I make to be for HipHop veterans. I dont consider
that your average 16 year old kid in america can understand
the influences, cause he wasn`t listening to it back
then, and thats fine, cause thats not the people I
make music for. But I dont like it in a retrospective.
I dont think its healthy to revive Old School. Cause
Old School is Old School. It would be like trying to
revive Funk. That doesn`t go anywhere. But it`s OK
to take the message, that HipHop was trying to bring
forward an apply it to modern music.
FP: What would you call the message of HipHop?
Shadow: To me, what HipHop stood for, was unity through
music. On a physical basis it manifests itself in people
like Bambaataa. He was called the peacemaker because
he encouraged all the gangs from New York to stop fightng
over turf, and start rallying around music instead,
and around your crew, and battaling on the microphone
and batteling on the dancefloors. May sound corny but
it actually happened, you know. And he did it almost
singlehandedly. On the other side of that he was demonstrating
that through what he played. He played James Brown
next to a Rolling Stone Record, next to a Chosens Record,
next to Kraftwerk. And that was his vision. no Boundaries,
no genre barriers. Soul Kids only listening to Soul,
Rock Kids only listening to Rock, he was telling them
that this is nonsense, music is more powerful then
that, music is a more powerful communication. The
powers that be politically and otherwise would like
to see it us and that all seperated, but I`m not having
them, and I will play, and you will understand that
music is for everyone. Thats to me what Hiphop is about.
That to me along with vinyl culture and breakbeat culture
is all that I represent. I dont represent rapmusic.
I make rapmusic with my crew soulsides back home, when
I dont do stuff for mo wax, but I dont do it to imitate
black and I dont do it to imitade Wu Tang Clan, Coolio
or anyone else. We do our interpretation on what we
grew up upon. And we dont do it to sound OldSchool
we do it to sound new.
FP: Endtroducing for sure doesnt sound OldSchool.
Shadow: Well hopefully. It shouldnt. It would be very
absurd if someone made a 10 minute song over a very
simple beat. That doesnt mean anything today, thats
what was fresh 16 years ago. It would be like people
making a record and trying to sound like the Meteors.
The Meteors wouldn`t still be doing Meteors shit. Just
like my favorite line, from someone who was in the
OldSchool: There shouldn`t be any real B-Boys left,
cause real B-Boys would have moved on. Real B-Boys
would't still be doing this shit. That wasnt what B-Boy
Culture was about. B-Boy Culture was about subverting
the context. Videogames, Kungfufilms were very 1979.
They are not very now. We dont go out and play Space
Invaders, we go out and play Nintendo 64. That was
FP: Why did you call it Endtrotucing.
Shadow: I called it Endtroducing, because to me its
on one hand an introduction. I put out a dozen and
a half records but no albums, by choice. So on that
level, I`m a realist, knowing that by putting out an
album you are reaching people you would not reach with
a 12". And also the fact that its the first album
thats going to be released domestically in the States
by Mo Wax. I reach a lot of people in my own country
with Mo Wax, that have never been able to see a Mo
Wax record too. On the other hand, this is a sound
I have been developing for 4 years, and I dont intend
to be doing this next year or the year after. In a
lot of ways it represents not just the nine months
chuck of work that it took to make it, but like what
we are up to now. So the next album is going to be
a lot different, it should be a lot different, cause
I will be inspired by different things. And so the
album is an end to that sound. It just follows the
theory of build and destroy. If you build something
you should be the first to destroy it before someone
else does. Thats what I believe. I could have named
the album build and destroy. But I dont like it that
FP: What I liked most was the way the beats were done
on this album. Something new again. Though many people
are experimenting with it, there is always something
that hasnt been done.
Shadow: Yea I mean I am interested in sample culture
as well. Sample culture is an extension of vinyl culture.
I should say sample music really. My instrument of
choice is a sampler. When I bought it it was brand
new and its sort of a standart now. I have allways
used instruments that are simple I`m not a technologically
orientated person. I like to keep the musicmaking process
very simple so its more grassroots. The technical stuff
I save for the mixdown, but the actual creating process
should be very simple. And I just want to be progessing
with my instrument. There is no excuse to loop a four
to four beat. Thats why I like on the album, and thats
one of the things im proudest about, the experimentation
with the timesignature. Taking 4/4 beats and putting
them in a 3, 4, 5, 7. That takes a little bit more
thought then just the press play. Hiphop has so much
more to offer than its offering now. Whatever people
call it I am just going to keep on doing it anyway.
FP: Breaks is one the most conservative parts in HipHop.
Shadow: Totally. Like records like that of Fugees. They
are cool, but the beats are so simple. Come on.
FP: Do you look up to any other people, or search for
what they do?
Shadow: Yeah certainly. There is tons of people I respect.
Thats why I give credits on the album. I never walk
around telling you I`m better. i'd be the first to
tell you, everything I get, I get from somewhere else,
on every level. Inspirationwise. Everything. its just
point blank. People like Mantronic. People like the
Professor, people that were experimenting in samples
before I even had a sampler. And also people like Jeff
Bear from Portishead. Because I thought what he did
with samples on the portishead album was very good.
Wasnt the most mindblowing or something like that,
but it was a way of looking at samples that was very
exciting, and really natural. His personality came
out through the samples, I like people who can do that,
like Prince Paul. Always puts his personality in a
bunch of samples. Puts his personality into the instruments
and lets it out. I allways respect that. There is certain
people on the drum & bass scene that I think are
really good at programming beats. I `m not that interested
in dancemusic as such, it just doesnt interest me as
much as HipHop, but its interesting, it`s definitely
valid. But I dont have a formula of what I like and
what not. There are a lot of records I shouldnt like,
but I do and vice versa. or just moments in an otherwise
crap song, I like that. Take that idea and extend it.
There is a few things I am very proud of. I have not
heard anybody doing things with the timesignatures
I did, so I cannot credit anyone for that, but you
never know, they probably did it 40 years ago.
FP: Do listen to nonelectronic music at all?
Shadow: Yeah, definitely, one of my favorite groups
is the Fu Fighters. For whatever reason, I just really
like them. I really liked Nirvana when they came out,
I am sorry, I thought when it came out, it was really
really good. For some reason im drawn to selfdestructive
FP: How come?
Shadow: I dont know, I dont do drugs, I dont drink,
I dont even smoke, but I feal like its a release to
listen to angry music. I am very much interested in
different types of music. I love funk, but not in a
retro sens, the rawness of it. Its like going to class.
There is a few songs that have never been done better.
I collect funkrecords, but I dont sample them. Hardly
ever. Its almost like I have too much respect for
them in a way. I dont like funksampler, the collecting
of it. But Funk definitely is responsible for most
modern Music. James Brown is responsible for most modern
FP: Looking at the innersleve of your album it seems
like youve got a special method to do your tracks.
Almost like a storybook.
Shadow: Yeah, I mean, hopefully, if nothing else, more
than the HipHopscene, more than me as an artist, I
hope that when people listen to it, weather they like
it or hate it, they do at least feel like there is
some time and some thought in it. Even if you hate
it. Hopefully the efford comes through. I do try and
keep my quality control really high, I dont remix anybody,
I dont make little appearences everywhere. I 've done
only 2 and a half hours of music for Mo Wax in all
those years. I could have done an album a long time
ago, but I like, even as a record buyer, when people
establish themselves, when they start with singles,
before they have the audacity to make you pay 10 $
for an album. I feel like you have to be really confident
and really focused to do an album. Everybody that is
really motivated failed first. Everybody had records
out that are forgotten. Thats what it takes. It eats
you up but it gives you rocket fuel too.
FP: Do you foresee a future where the music youre doing
now could be formalised?
Shadow: Oh, well, TripHop, wich is what a lot of people
want to associate me with, even though I had no idea
what it is, and I never hear it or anything, is very
formalised, but, not more or less than drum & bass
or any genre. The hole TripHop thing I just could not
care less about it. I dont need it, I dont love it,
it`s just there. Just the way Polka is there. But hopefully
the stuff I`m doing is a little bit harder to pin down.
Like I was saying with build and destroy. I dont intend
to be doing a record like this again. But I`m not going
to to a record just to be different from now. If a
year from now I decided that all I wanna change is
a couple of things, then thats the way its going to
be. By nature I`m pretty confident, that when everybody
is doing one thing, I wont be. I`ve allways been that
FP: Would you say that there is an american element
in your music that has not derived from HipHop or any
Shadow: Yeah, when youre growing up in America music
is forced on you, even in the supermarket. But films
are too. Basically my philosophy on art is, that you
can take paintings, and articulate them in words, forms
or music, you can take music and articulate it visually.
You can take books and turn them into paintings based
on, inspired by or whatever movies. So I believe as
well that music influenced me as much as music. I think
tension in movies is very important for the fact that,
and many people say that, my music is very cinematic
sounding. Its just that I really admire manipulation
of a motion, weather it is books or in movies. I think
movies is a lot more viscereal because it is more dimensional.
Movies can be very powerfull. When I go to a film I
want to be visually moved, I want something to really
strike me. A am inspired by films, and by soundtracks,
by the concept of writing music based on what you see.
FP: Being inspired by films is sort of like saying that
there is a real american element, cause nearly all
of the films are America. There is not much more.
Shadow: Yeah I`m pretty much a product of where I`m
from. I was born in california and lived all of the
time within the same 200 miles radius. Again, it depends
on how esoteric you want to get with it, but I consider
every experience to be a stimula. The weather is very
stong as well.
FP: Do you live in the city now?
Shadow: Now, I`m in the city too much as it is. I have
to have my peace, quite. On the inside of the album
there is a picture of where I am from. You can see
the big bright sky. A couple of telephonelines. Thats
what I like. Thats what I am used to.
FP: What do you think about Mo Wax in general.
Shadow: You know it`s like, people get into it at different
stages, and they seem to think it`s a trend because
they are into it, but i think James is very good at
just giving his vision. I think he is a very driven
person, and really cares about music. Nothing more
nothing less. He has put out good records and he has
put out bad records, I give the label probs, even though
I dont like everything on the label, for at least trying.
I think he is often imitated, but I dont think anybody
does what he does better. It`s like, he imitated as
well, trying to be Gilles in the first place, but now
Gilles is imitating him. people get to much caught
up in talking about the quality or the changes of Mo
Wax. He put out 60 Records, that is an archievement.
(outside, an engine tries something like the aural equivalent
of a gunshot. It's not really good at it. DJ Shadow
FP: It`s just a car.
Shadow: Yes I know, but that shit, from where I come.
Its not like that.