DJ Name: DJ Shadow
Trademark saying or philosophy? "The catchphrase
that seems to stick is from the Biggie/Method Man song..."Fuck
the world, don't ask me for shit" ...and to a lesser degree,
"Everything you get you got to work hard for it."
When you DJ out what music do you spin? "Throughout
my whole career, whenever I spin, what I'm trying to articulate
is the vastness of hiphop. If I think I'm going to be encountering
people that think I'm going to be playing nothing but classic
hiphop then I'll throw in some... Lil Jon and stuff like that....."
How do you transport your records to gigs? "I drive."
The first record you ever bought? "Street Beats Vol.
2 which was a Sugar Hill Records double album compiling all the
12 inches that had come out on the label recently in '83. That
was the first time I went to the store and put down my saved up
allowance money and actually went halves with a buddy of mine.
The reason we got it was because it was such a good value. It
was $7.99 for 2 records as opposed to $6.99 for 1 record. Devo
was the first time I ever chose music on my own."
Most influential record(s) in your life? "I would
have to say "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the
Furious 5 because that was the first hip hop song I heard. And
then also in the top 10 would be (BAM's) "Planet Rock"
because that's the second hip hop song I ever heard. Both were
What exactly made you want to be a DJ? "I don't know
if I could ever say it was one thing in particular. It would be
a combination of seeing the World Famous Supreme Team video for
"Hey DJ" and seeing little snatches of them scratching
When was the very first time you scratched? "The
first time I started scratching was really at the end of '84.
In the early eighties, the big rage was to get these component
systems. It was a turntable/dual cassette deck/radio all in one
for $99.00. So I got one of those and that's when I started scratching.
I remember trying to scratch like Dr. Dre on "Surgery"
and it was impossible!"
When did you first DJ for others? "The first time
I played in public was in '87. It was Black Family Day on the
campus at UC Davis.
And when did you start as a DJ on KDVS FM, the UC Davis station?
"Probably in '87. I used to make little pause tapes at home.
I could scratch over the top. If I held the little selector knob
on the unit in between phono and tape, I could record from a tape
onto another tape and do overdubs at the same time. So that's
how I was able to do these mixes and then in '89 I got a 4-track.
But by then I was doing stuff for KMEL."
You are a reknowed crate-digger. But do you have time to listen
to all those records? "Right now I've got this one storage
unit that's dedicated to stuff I haven't gone through yet. I kind
of got that from the store...where I shot the album cover for
How important is it to crate-dig? "For me it's become
a cultural thing. Some of my best memories that I have of my lifetime
are on roadtrips looking for records. I've been doing it now really
since '87 as far as looking for old stuff..... A lot of times
people are like well you don't need to do this anymore. You can
download samples online, but...... it's a cultural part of being
a DJ.....It's ingrained in me. If I were to stop making music,
I'd still dig. The people that you meet and the places that it
takes you and the adventures that you have along the way......."
In your opinion who is the best DJ or best two DJs of all
time? "I would say (Grandmaster) Flash and QBert.....I
think Flash for all the reasons you could think of and QBert for
all the reasons you could think of."
What is the best thing about success? "Some sort
of validity that what you're doing means something to somebody.
Just the feeling that no matter what anybody can do, no matter
what these fucked up labels try and do. No matter what these different
snakes in the industry try and do to fuck you up. Nobody can take
away what I've done. I've never gone gold. I've never done this.
I've never done that. There's so many things I still want to do.
But if it were all to end today, nobody could take away whatever
contribution I did make. That's a great feeling! At the end of
the day I was able to get through to some people.
And what's your main goal for the future? "To continue
to try harder and harder to streamline the avenue between what
I hear in my mind and what I'm able to actually release to the
For more information on DJ Shadow, including his vast discogrpahy,
visit his official website: www.djshadow.com
NOTE: This Q&A with DJ Shadow
is an excerpt from a much, much longer interview conducted by
Billy Jam as part of the research for the forthcoming DJ
QBert biography book/DVD.