DJ Shadow: Hip Hop Time Warp

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Joshua Paul Davis is the man we’ve all come to know as DJ Shadow. With four albums, which he released over the past decade, this man has built a reputation for himself as a producer/DJ. So when JUICE was offered a chance to meet to the man face to face, we didn’t hesitate even for a second. Over dinner and just before his kicka$$ set at JUICE Indonesia’s 6th Anniversary Party, we talked to DJ Shadow and dug up some interesting facts that would kick Wikipedia’s butt.

Hi DJ Shadow. Are you still using AKAI MPC?
No. Not anymore. I used it just under 15 years and in that amount of time, by the end of it, there was no good reason for me to still use it. Now you can have a piece of equipment that controls the samples in the same way but the samples live on your computer so they never leave. There’s no use to go into the MPC and then back to the computer.

Why did you choose Afrikan Boy to sing on ‘I’m Excited’?
I did the beat and my friend from the record company really liked it, and he wanted it to be in the album. I liked it but I wasn’t really sure which direction to go with it. And my friend said, “What about Afrikan Boy?” And I said, “Yeah, okay. Sounds good.” So he gave Afrikan Boy the track and he did the vocals, and I liked the way it came out. That’s how it happens. It was very quick and easy.

‘I Gotta Rock’ reminds us of German Krautrock band Neu!. Do you like that band?
Yeah! I like everything. I mean, you know, I like different genres in music, and I tried to be pretty honest about the groups that I like and groups that I don’t like. But, yeah, I like Krautrock!

People have been describing your music as trip hop and even abstract hop. But how would you describe it?
To me it’s like asking, “What do you call a David Lynch movie?” You just call it a David Lynch movie. You don’t call it science fiction or western. The same thing goes for my music. I like all types of music so I don’t really care about labels.

What’s your take on today’s hip hop scene?
I think what’s happening in hip hop is also happening to a lot of other genres. Because the music business is shrinking everybody is trying to be pop or nothing, you know what I mean? There’s only room for pop acts, and even people who naturally aren’t pop are trying to adopt the pop side, because if you don’t sell it’s really hard to get by. I feel like hip-hop is sort of slowing down. There isn’t a lot of variety. I don’t mind the subject matter but I get tired of listening to the same thing over and over. You used to have all these different styles, like B Legit, Dan The Automator and all the street MCs. And now, I don’t know… It’s like everything just merged into one! To me it sort of means there’s less alternative for people.

Who inspires you?
I grew up on hip hop, so people like Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash were my inspirations. The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel is the first hip hop record I ever bought and you can find all different types of music, like disco, rock and even children’s music in it. That was 30 years ago and it still sounds great today. So, I feel like I’m still doing the same thing, just taking little pieces from everywhere, and putting my personality on it and making something new, because I don’t want to imitate them. They’re great people, I can be inspired by them but I don’t want imitate.

Any plans to release a new record with UNKLE?
Well, UNKLE is always just James Lavelle and whoever he decides to collaborate with. But I’ve been seeing James a lot lately, more than I had before that. So, yeah, we might do something together again sometime. We’ll see.

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