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DJ Shadow

the message is clear

FP: You come completly from a Hip Hop Background, is that right?

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 my life.

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.

FP: Wich?

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 last year.

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 new.

FP: Do you always criticice HipHop that hard, even in the states?

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 different.

FP: I can just imagine that the pressure can be very strong.

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 just fresh.

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 obvious.

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 people.

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 music.

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 way.

FP: Would you say that there is an american element in your music that has not derived from HipHop or any other music?

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 shrieks back)

Shadow: Hell.

FP: It`s just a car.

Shadow: Yes I know, but that shit, from where I come. Its not like that.