DJ Shadow: Master of the Drumverse

Every article on DJ Shadow starts by saying that he's in the Guinness Book of World Record with Endtroducing....., his debut from 1996, as it stands as the first ever album to include nothing but sampled music. Now that that's over with, let's talk about something else.

DJ Shadow, or Josh Davis, seems to never have been too worried about commercial viability. Endtroducing..... was a tribute to decades of vinyl culture at a time the format was thought to be beatboxing its swansong into obscurity and most certainly was not in any way guaranteed to become one of the most highly regarded albums of the century. He has been credited as the inventor of trip-hop, but even this mantle he likes to deny. Further, his albums have ranged from style to style both between and within them - a fact

that has both critics and fans dealing with sometimes uncomfortable feelings of surprise. His collaborations with other artists include Thom Yorke and Mike D, among others, but he is no "star producer" à la Timbaland - for example, his work on Rage Against the Machine's Evil Empire remains uncredited.

© Esko Suoranta

In 2006, after the release of his third full-length, The Outsider, that, to the disappointment of many, didn't include too many samples, Shadow offered a standoffish opinion on his career choices: "Repeat Endtroducing over and over again? That was never, ever in the game plan. Fuck that. So I think it's time for certain fans to decide if they are fans of the album, or the artist."

Last summer, while playing at the Mansion nightclub in Miami, he interrupted his set after a promoter told him that he should play something more mainstream. He made his feelings clear first to the audience ("I’ve waited a long time to play here, but they said this shit is too future for all y’all.") and later on Twitter:

"I don’t care if I get kicked out of every rich kid club on the planet. I will never sacrifice my integrity as a DJ…ever. Ironically it was drum and bass that broke the camel's back(!) Note to more drum and bass!!!"

The Mansion later offered an official apology, but it's doubtful they'll ever see him (or many of his fans) ever again.

DJ Shadow brought the same unconditional attitude to Helsinki as a part of his All Basses Covered 2013 world tour and it turned out to be definite evidence of his ongoing status as master of the drumverse. The show was not much more than an artist and his sampler, but the musical varieties, the overwhelming throb of the bass and the infinitely layered quirks of record-playing definitely made up for the lack of visuals or any radio hits whatsoever.

Beginning his set, Shadow dryly remarked the lack of a computer at his decks and went on to play what he called the best of music in 2013, promising to play both something to love and to hate, from any genre imaginable. He joked that not many would recognize his own songs played during the 90 minute gig, but the writer managed to spot at least "I Gotta Rokk" and "Warning Call" from his latest The Less You Know, The Better as well as the classics "Midnight in a Perfect World" and "Organ Donor", the ultimate banger to jump up and down to.

At the end of the show, in front of an eclectic audience brought together by sweat and the beat, Shadow addressed potential why-can't-you-play-more-of-that-older-stuff critics by saying that as a DJ, he had always stayed true to an oath of always looking forward, never backward and promised to come back next time with something completely different. Looking at his way of doing thangs, that's going to be the only constant with this artist.

No More Shock and Awe?

Chief Editor's Note: On Love and Other Important Stuff