The lines that previously divided Hip Hop, electronica and rock music are slowly but surely disappearing. Whether it’s Jay-Z working with MGMT or Dame Dash with The Black Keys, Hip Hop artists are looking to a more diverse musical palette for inspiration. Nobody recognizes this trend as well as DJ Spooky. Spooky recently released his latest solo album The Secret Song [click to read] on Thirsty Ear Records. Blending Hip Hop, Electronica, Rock, Dub and numerous other musical styles, Spooky discussed how he bridges the gaps between these genres.
“I just willfully ignore divisions and just make music," said Spooky. "To me, nothing is separate. It’s just about…pattern recognition, like looking through beats and tempos. A lot of people will set up their track listing based on [beats per minute]…if you’re using Tractor or you’re using Final Scratch…or Ableton Live, they’ll just set up their whole deejay routine based on like 130 beats per minute…it’s incredibly uncreative and above all, it’s incredibly standardized because everybody’s going to do that…who cares, you might as well let the iPod play…I’m not against the iPod, but some people get so deep into the playlist mentality that they don’t mix things.”
One of the key themes Spooky explicates on The Secret Song is the pervasiveness of economics is modern society. He describes economics as the hidden link between art and society.
“[My] basic vibe [for The Secret Song] is that everything is connected,” explained Spooky. “There’s no real subdivision of labor so to speak. We’re just living in this crazy digital media world…I’m a '90s baby so to speak, and a lot of the material I came up with when I was just getting started…was about this new stuff and trying to figure out ways to make it accessible and interesting to my generation…I tend to think that on one level or another, economics is the hidden glue, and there’s a lot of issues that where you think about like how people pay for the idea of just being on this planet…it’s eerie, so I just wanted to try and figure out some clever ways to make music out of that kind of uncertainty and kind of…deep anxiety about the way [the economy] functions.”
Spooky said that the sound and message of The Secret Song was affected by his locale. Hailing from Washington D.C., Spooky discussed how the diversity of his home first influenced him. He also added that his current home in Manhattan provide the perfect backdrop through which he could flesh out The Secret Song’s theme.
“My inspiration for any album or any film project is [where I live],” said Spooky. “You can always say you neighborhood affects you. I grew up in Washington, D.C. and I was in a multicultural context from [the] jump. I had friends from all over the world, a lot of kids from different embassies…I went to school in Maine to Bowdoin College…there’s sixe feet of snow on the ground in the middle of winter and you’re not [doing] too much except listen to records and work on crazy computer stuff…I was in the middle of Maine with a lot of time on my hands.”
He later added, “I live in New York. My reference point is the urban [context] with the city streets…people moving through this globalized metropolis, and above all, the kind of things that hold it together…everything plays out here… I walk around, I have my headphones, I go jogging and I’m always thinking about the density of [life here]. One time, I pulled out my cell phone to see how many networks were within 100 meters and my phone registered over 107.”
Spooky also discussed the current tat of deejaying in music. Spooky notes that technology has become accessible to the extent that now anyone can become a deejay. While Spooky appreciates the new wave of technology, he realizes it takes much more than just the simple click of a button to be a deejay.
“[Deejaying] has become hyper-democratized,” he said. “Everybody can do it. My mom’s doing it. In fact, we’re making an iPhone app [for Secret Song]…that’ll let you remix the album in the same way that somebody like Diplo was doing…I like to think of it much more in the context of how much sound goes into production…it’s not just about software, and I think a lot of people get caught up in that misperception. Anybody and everybody can use software. It’s not a problem. Kids are doing it. Your average 13 year old has a decent amount of [technological] literacy…the world of the deejay has changed because everybody is into information. The deejay is a collector of information, first and foremost. It’s not just about how many rare records you have or how many software patches or iPhone applications, it’s about pulling [all of these elements] together and making something interesting.”