Standing as a prominent figure in the development of instrumental hip-hop beat design, specializing in turntable wizardry and producing the critically acclaimed 1996 album, Endtroducing….., it’s clear that DJ Shadow has played an indisputable and direct role in shaping and developing the electronic music genre. Despite constantly touring since 2012, it’s been three-plus years since Shadow has played any of his original material live, and he knows his fans are anxiously awaiting the next chapter of his ever evolving and genre defining career that’s been two decades in the making. Luckily for us, the history making musician has already begun showing glimmers of what the future holds, and he’s getting poised to unleash it all.
Over the last year the electronic music veteran not only teamed with Cut Chemist for the wildly celebrated, vinyl-only Renegades of Rhythm tour, but kicked off a new pacemaking, bass-heavy side project with Nor Cal up-and-comer G Jones entitled Nite School Klik, and has launched his own imprint, Liquid Amber. On top of all this, DJ Shadow is planning a “really unique release for the Renegades tour” and has recently begun enthusiastically working on a new album, which he plans to commit to working on all year. It seems like DJ Shadow’s musical fervor has only matured with age, as he’s been dipping his hands into more musical projects than ever before. But how has the legendary electronic artist stayed inspired for this long?
Rewind to 2012, when he planned to “be off the road for quite a while.” DJ Shadow explained in a recent interview with Crave that when he was approached by LA based Low End Theory to perform a DJ set that:
“…it occurred to me that I hadn’t just done a regular DJ set with other people’s music that’s current that I like since the late ‘90s. Around that time, when I would go out and play, people were really expecting me to represent the music that I would put out on record. They were treating me almost like a band, where if you want to see your favorite band play, you’re expecting to hear those favorite songs. So I tried to stay true to that, but I was having so much fun putting the Low End set together, and it went so well that on the basis of that offers just kept coming in.”
Fast forward a bit, and Shadow was seen “doing a festival in Sacramento, and that led to other things, and other people wanting to book this kind of new look” of “contemporary bass stuff, post-dubstep stuff and pre-trap stuff. More headsy, beat-driven stuff,” which ended up taking him on the road for another two years up until the kick off of his Renegades of Rhythm tour.
DJ Shadow’s broad musical taste, highly opened perspective on the art of producing and DJing and thirst for musical knowledge has gifted him the flexibility of throwing himself into the fire of today’s, much different, electronic scene. He thoughtfully explicated:
“my feeling on music is that if you’re not a student, if you’re not constantly in class and realizing there’s no such thing as being finished with that… you’re constantly learning, you’re constantly figuring out how to evolve and adapt. There’s no ‘I’ve arrived, I’ve made it, I don’t need to keep growing. I am who I am and people know, and that’s how it’s going to be.’ If you have that mentality, you’re never going to stay at that level.”
“If youre not switching it up and staying ahead of things, it’s not gonna work for you. I feel like the trick is… there’s still a message I’m trying to send in my sets. I, as DJ Shadow, am not gonna go up there and try to rock the stage with Beat Port number one hits. That’s not who I am. I want them to move, but I want them to meet me halfway. I’m always, constantly curating sets that reflect my own identity, not someone else’s.”
A priceless and forward thinking pearl of knowledge that many of today’s electronic artists should heed if they plan to stay in the business of music for the long run, as Shadow has. For DJ Shadow, “it’s just a matter of keeping the faith as an artist or musician, and keeping the faith. Keep being creative, keep pushing ahead.”