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DJ SHADOW AND CUT CHEMIST are bringing the Hard Sell tour to Australia, with an accompanying mix CD in tow. Based on the pair’s legendary Hollywood Bowl show last year, which incorporated eight turntables and two guitar loop pedals, the CD and the tour represent two of our generation’s finest turntablists pushing the musical, and their own technical, envelope. Both the boys jump on the horn for a few minutes to share their thoughts with BMA. Shadow says that, in terms of this tour, ‘showcase’ isn’t a bad word. “There are people out there with a deep appreciation of music, and they want to be exposed to different types of music and have their musical vocabulary expanded. I think, on some level, my whole career has been based on that. In some ways I’m a gateway artist for other types of things to be experienced on a musical level. Almost like, it’s 1994, here’s what I’m into, go check it out. It’s 1996, my album reflects all the things I’m into, check it out. This set is very 2007/2008 for us. It’s about what we represent musically. “Putting the set together really stretched my abilities because I’m not routinely used to doing a four turntable show. My most recent live show was four turntables, but they weren’t all vinyl turntables. If you throw a guitar pedal into the mix, which is something that Cut brought to the table, then we’re both using our hands and our feet. That’s what it is about. When we put a set together we’re not thinking ‘let’s do something we’re going to be comfortable with’. We try to put a set together where we think, ‘if we get through this thing, it’s going to be a miracle’. That is exciting to us. It is scary, but it’s when you are really alive as a DJ.
The new show is quite different in terms of the types of music we are playing,” explains Cut Chemist. “We are playing more genres, more turntables, and more records. We’re utilising all eight decks during certain points of the set, but we don’t have eight of the same record playing. Not because of difficulty, but because we didn’t have eight copies of a record. But we are using all eight decks at once and sometimes it seems like we’re playing all eight of the same records. “Initially, we came up with that number because we had to during one part of the routine. The very first thing we do is to recreate the notes from Close Encounters of the Third Kind that the spaceship makes, so since we needed eight turntables to do that, we just figured we would use eight turntables for the rest of the set and up the profile. This has been the very first set that has been entirely 45s. During Brainfreeze, we cheated a little bit just to do some of our own stuff because it was the first set we did together. We thought it was important to break the theme.” Chemist says that he and Shadow originally paired up after a remix request from Shadow for Number Song back in 1996. “That was when we started taking it to another level, from shooting the shit about records to actually doing something that involved something career-oriented. And then after that it was Brainfreeze, which was just a couple of years later. I was asked to do a set in San Francisco at a show and they wanted me to team up with Shadow. We thought if we were going to do it, we should do it with all 45s and challenge ourselves, hence Brainfreeze was born.”
“I think someone who can do technical, precision tricks that I can’t do is cool to watch and learn from, but when it comes to playing in front of 2,000 people, my favourite DJs know how to do that, but they also know how to get a flow going, a sense of movement over the course of several hours, so that you feel like you’ve gone on a journey. There is an end that makes sense and impact at various places, rather than just 100 mile-aminute technical tricks for an hour. I think both are important. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.”
Evolution has always been a huge part of what Shadow and Cut Chemist do together. DJ Shadow says the pair has always been in competition with their peers and with the rest of the musical world to do things first, or better, or both. “In 1999, nobody was really mixing funk 45s. That isn’t to say it had never been done in the history of mankind, but it wasn’t something that was currently available to the listening public at that time. We wanted to provide that. In 2001 we wanted to follow up Brainfreeze with something that we felt was infinitely superior; in terms of record selection, sophistication and throwing in different types of music in there that stretched our abilities.
Kid Koala is also on tour to support the pair for the first time, and Chemist says it’s been great having him along. “The best meal we’ve had so far was a home-cooked meal by Kid Koala’s wife. It was awesome. He plays all vinyl and we play all vinyl, so it’s part of the statement we’re trying to make. He’s been a lot of fun and is just one of those dudes who likes to see what’s going on and we’re learning from him and he’s learning from us. He’s like ‘hey man, let’s go out and check out some stand-up’. I’ve never had anybody ask me to see stand-up before and it was just crazy.”
“With my own live show in 2002 CD turntables were brand new, so I threw them in. In 2006 Serato was just getting on its feet, so we threw that in. In 2002 I factored visuals into my show, which a few people were doing, but not many. In 2008 it is more common, but we want our visuals to be better than everyone else’s, with more sophistication and effort put into them. We want to put a show out there where, if you pay to see it, you’ll be like, ‘I’ve never really seen anything like that before, that was pretty cool, that was cutting edge, that was as good as I’m going to see; that was DJing in 2008.”
Working together on vinyl since 1999’s Brainfreeze, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist have moved on considerably in the ensuing nine years, changing their set and evolving to keep ahead of the rest of the world.
DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist present The Hard Sell on Wednesday April 23 at UC. Without a shadow of a doubt these tix will sell extremely fast, but you can’t get ’em at your local chemist, only Landspeed or Moshtix. The Hard Sell is out now on Reconstruction.
12 bma magazine
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