[Exclusive] DJ Shadow Interview


“It’s a very different experience to DJing as it is the presentation of a full ‘show’, and that’s how I approach it. A performance.” according to DJ Shadow, who will be bringing his full audio-visual show in Hong Kong for the first time.

DJ Shadow is a true innovator, celebrating 20 years since the release of his seminal debut album "Endtroducing…..", which remains a fundamental cornerstone in music from the last quarter century. The highly-acclaimed DJ and record producer released his latest LP last year and remains as relevant and forward thinking as ever. Bringing his incredible full visual show to Hong Kong for the first time. DJ Shadow’s set will be a highlight for all festival goers across generations.

In this interview, DJ Shadow talks about his upbringing, reveals a project he's in and shares his experience working with beloved director Wong Kar-Wai. “I’m not the kind of DJ who jumps around, smokes a cigarette, stage dives and generally tries to be cool. What I’m interested in with my show is how to cast a spell on the audience, rather than any desire to be adored.” He emphasizes. Check out his candid interview with us:

Sónar: Where are you right now and what are you doing with your day? (other than answering these questions!)

DJ Shadow: I’m in my home near San Francisco. Today, I woke up, listened to a few different records, then had some phone calls and emails before a filmed interview for a documentary on drum machines! Then had lunch with my wife, a few more errands then worked on the live show and some music.

Sónar: From such a seminal debut through four acclaimed albums, what would you say is the secret to your long-lasting success and how much has your creative methodology/process changed over the years (or stayed the same)?

DJ Shadow: On many different levels there are a lot of consistencies throughout. Especially in terms of what I look for in music. A lot of things I value are based around work ethic. I respect producers who really spend the time and are methodical in their approach. The ones who go deep and try revolutionise how people think about their particular genre or instrument. They’re the ones I’m inspired by. Of course, the technology has changed over the years and that feeds and steers the way you think about music and how you can manipulate sound.

Personally, I think it’s very important to throw yourself in at the deep end every now and then. To learn a new piece of gear, or listen to new music and challenge your ideas. Learn about the lineage of music and how you can connect the dots. I also think it is very important to keep an open mind. I was lucky to grow up whilst hip hop was growing up, and seen how something that was largely ignored at the start really shot in to the mainstream. You have to stay humble and keep your ears open.

Sónar: Your influence on fellow artists and fans is immense - how do you stay grounded?

DJ Shadow: I find it very easy actually, and it’s music which keeps me grounded. I grew up in a working class household and there wasn’t anyone in show business in my family. It was a good environment and showed me that you really have to work hard to be where you want to be. I deal with basic concerns like everyone else – worries about money, the safety of my family and what’s going on politically with the world. I’m definitely a worrier! It doesn’t feel challenging to me that on a daily basis there will be struggles. That’s what I think life is about, and music is a great mechanism which helps solve the problems I’m experiencing in daily life, or to relieve stress and figure out emotional issues for example.

Sónar: What new music or new artists are you listening to?

DJ Shadow: Every week I like to get into a new album, and I’ve just got hold of Stormzy’s new one. The last new album I listened to was Thundercat’s which I like a lot.

I’m involved with a label called Liquid Amber and I get a lot of submissions through that and there’s always something new to listen to. We’re about to release a new lp by Noer The Boy so we’re getting ready for that at the moment.

Sónar: A generation of fans in Hong Kong came into contact with you via the ‘Six Days’ video collaboration with Wong Kar Wai. What can you can share about that experience of working together?

DJ Shadow: That was an awesome experience. When I think back on it, it still seems surreal. I have considered myself a global citizen ever since I first left the states on tour and have been lucky to travel the world. Through all those journeys I’ve kept an eye out to work with talented people wherever they are. It’s something which one of my mentors Dave “Funken” Klein instilled in me through his vision of building a global label.

So back in 2002, my manager at the time and I were thinking about who we could work with, and I said that I’m tired of the same old names, and let’s do something out of the box - work with a motion picture director and his name came up. I thought it would never happen, though we just went for it. What I remember of the experience is that he was so very humble, in his words and messages to me. The project was such a departure to what he was doing at the time, and I honestly don’t think a Western director would have reacted or taken up the project if the roles were reversed.

Sónar: Having been to HK before, what are your impressions of the city?

DJ Shadow: The first time I was in Hong Kong was 1996. What I remember is a very cosmopolitan, dense, city and I remember vividly the bamboo scaffolding across these huge buildings. I love cities in the world which have that confluence of cultures coming together, and what’s exciting for me on this trip is that I have some time off so am really looking forward to exploring the city.

Sónar: This is the first time you will perform your full audio-visual show in Hong Kong, and with such high creative standards, what can you tell us in terms of what Sónar fans can expect from the format and what excites you in terms of putting it together?

DJ Shadow: Visuals are very important to what I call my “A show” or “Artist show”. I want to create visuals which are very sympathetic to the music and help draw people in. It’s a very different experience to DJing as it is the presentation of a full ‘show’, and that’s how I approach it. A performance.

From the moment I started doing festivals, I realized that I’m not the kind of DJ who jumps around, smokes a cigarette, stage dives and generally tries to be cool. What I’m interested in with my show is how to cast a spell on the audience, rather than any desire to be adored. This new show we’ve been working on for over a year now, and Sonar Hong Kong will be my first show of the year. I’m comfortable saying it’s a great show which really works, and hopefully people will be into it at the festival.

A sure-fire smash festival hit, don’t miss out on this unforgettable experience, only at Sónar Hong Kong 2017. Get your tickets here!