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vol 3 - issue 07 (mar 2001) :: interviews
DJ SPOOKY [AKA PAUL D. MILLER]
interview by debbie
image by insane wayne chinsang

WHEN SOME OF US GET BORED, WE COMPLAIN. WHEN PAUL D. MILLER GETS BORED, HE MAKES MUSIC. OR IMAGES. OR WORDS. AND HE MAKES THEM BETTER THAN WHAT BORES HIM. OCCASIONALLY, HE MAKES THEM AS DJ SPOOKY. TASTES LIKE CHICKEN'S OWN ?UEST-COIFFED DEBBIE RECORDED HIS CONVERSATION WITH THAT SUBLIMINAL KID AFTER A RECENT SHOW OPENING.

debbie: What sparked your interest in art and the power it holds?

Paul: Well, art is one of those languages where you donít even speak. It can be a universal language without getting demoted by every aspect of life, but itís open enough that it can include all of them. Art is probably one of the few places left in our culture where there is a degree of openness in dialogue.

d: You write for numerous publications, create albums, tour, co-publish A Gathering of the Tribes, and edit Artbyte magazine. Youíve shown art in galleries all over the world and worked with everyone from Saul Williams to Yoko Ono. How the hell did you get into all this?

P: It was just an urge towards hybridity. I found so many paradoxes and contradictions in our culture. Sometimes what cuts through everything is simply action. When thereís time for reflection, just sitting back and thinking about things, somehow you just lose that spark. When youíre working, people, events, elements,..they all become a blur and you just get to the core of things.

d: Are you always focusing on doing your own thing?

P: At the end of the day, itís just a fight against boredom. I just find most of whatís going on so mind-searingly boring. I want action. I want wild stuff going on-- an explosion every day. For me, my music sounds like that. Itís going off in many directions. Rhythms are torn apart. The sounds arenít meant to be specifically seamless. Itís about fragmentation. When I say an explosion, thatís whatís going through my mind when Iím DJíing.

d: Have you found anything that has that force without your touch?

P: Yeah. Iíd say dancehall reggae is the closest to what Iím talking about. The MCíing style is like electricity coursing through the veins of the performer. You can hear it in the records. You can hear it in the sound. Thatís what club culture is sort of about at a performative level. In the club culture scene, the music itself has to carry that electricity. I love that.

d: Who in your field, do you think, is taking shit to the next level?

P: Iíd say my favorite programmer at the moment is Amon Tobin. He combines jazz and electronic music in a way thatís just stunning. He pulls things into a linear and nonlinear space around sound. Thatís just an amazing feat. I really like Richard Divine. He does cold electric shit. Soundlab, too. Theyíre a collective of artists in New York who do moving events and parties.

d: A few days ago, I was listening to a track you did. At first, all I could focus on was the source of the music. Eventually that melted away and it all just became sound. It reminded me of ďFeioĒ from Miles Davisí Bitches Brew. You can listen to that and, after a while, the guitar and trumpet disappear and youíre left only with sound. Do you feel as though youíre setting a modern standard similar to the one Miles set in his day, or are you doing something totally different?

P: Yeah. I really like Milesí critique of the theater of sound. With a lot of his records from the Ď50s, youíre looking at him dealing with brief compositional moments where it was still formulized song and structure. But by the Ď70s, he had let all of that go and had these sprawling jam sessions done. I think Bitches Brew is an absolute classic; but youíve got to remember it was made from tape cut-ups. Teo Macero recorded the sessions, but Miles hated a lot of the live sequences. He would splice them together and make edits over and over and over. So itís an interesting critique of the live versus tape mind-state. I like the fact that he, as a jazz musician, was one of the people to really dig into that as a commercial enterprise. It was kind of like a hybrid paradox thing because everyone viewed jazz as improvisational. Itís a paradox in our culture. We really want the notion of the live event. My preference is to make mixes and have them play in specific environments without me around. Thatís the ďspookinessĒ of presence and absence. Itís total dispersion.

d: Is there something that you used to have your hand in that you donít pursue anymore?

P: A family life, maybe. I donít deal with my family that much. I mean, I love my mom and talk to her a lot, but I travel. I donít get a chance to see her as often as Iíd like. Or my sister, for that matter. Itís too bad.

d: Do you ever see yourself slowing down and going back to that?

P: Yeah. But this travel shit takes a lot of time and energy.

d: In earlier writings youíve referred to technology as the source of ďexplosive forces.Ē You mentioned that it could either, ďadvance humanity to a new level of social evolutionĒ or permanently separate us. Now that itís 2001, which direction do you think weíre headed in?

P: Itís hard to say. I think America is at a serious crossroads of identity. You have the Midwest states that voted for Bush, versus the American ďrealĒ cultures of the coasts that voted for Gore. Middle America cannot deal with cosmopolitism and America as a global entity. Thereís going to be massive fragmentation unless people can be open to diversity. I donít care how many black people Bush puts in his Cabinet. Itís like this weird sense of people finding it deeply difficult to deal with diversity. In the urban context youíre forced to deal with that realism. I lived in the Garment District. Thereíre Jewish fur traders. Thereís the Fashion Institute with young college kids and fashion types. Then, youíve got the hip-hop scene a couple blocks over. Uptown youíve got the white bread wealthy crew. But the funny thing is itís a New York thing. It mixes a lot more than any other city I know. I wish the world could be a little bit more like New York. Then again, New York has its own problems and weird shit that goes on.

d: Like what?

P: Like Giuliani.

d: (laughs) Youíre the second person to say that in the past two interviews Iíve done.

P: Itís funny. Marilyn Manson did an interview where he said, ďIím glad Bush won, because culture flourishes under a repressive environment.Ē And Iím like, ďWell, no.Ē Under Giuliani we have a law that states that you canít dance, and they enforce it. If youíre moving in a certain way that is considered dancing, youíll have someone tap you on the shoulder and show you a badge or some shit.

d: Is it only in a specific place?

P: No. They try to keep track of it, which is ridiculous. Itís a waste of taxpayersí money. Itís like a police state. Remember the movie Brazil? Thatís what I see happening in the future if people canít chill out. John Ashcroft, a 21st Century born-again Christian, is the attorney general. He had a motto stating, ďI do not drink, dance or smoke.Ē

d: Thatíd make a good t-shirt.

P: Itís going to be an interesting time. In ancient China it was a curse to say, ďMay you live in interesting times.Ē

d: If you could make an army of clones of one person, who would you clone and why?

P: Myself, of course. Because I could have several layers of actions going at the same time without having any one of them take over my attention, and still get a lot of work done, too.

d: Your website refers to DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid as a ďconstructed persona.Ē Do you think of Spooky and Paul Miller as two different people?

P: No. Itís theatre of the everyday Iím dealing with. The persona is a kind of fiction.

d: Considering that you work under an alias, are being interviewed by someone with an alias, and have worked with Kool Keith (a man of infinite personalities), do you think everyoneís a little schizophrenic?

P: Yeah. Multiple personalities are how the human species functions. I think that when youíre angry, thatís one person. When youíre happy, thatís another person. When youíre sad, thatís another. Multiple persona is a viable commodity. It helps everything run. Itís funny though, because I canít imagine any other way of thinking. I guess if you were the same person for every situation, you would be a dull person.

d: Nine out of ten dentists recommend that you use Crest toothpaste. With that in mind, do you think dogs have lips?

P: Yeah, definitely. It seems obvious. They have that black thing that marks the sides.

d: Amen. Last question: Whatís next for you?

P: This year I want to focus a lot more on my art stuff. I think thatís a really important issue for me. DJ Spooky was meant to be a formalized critique of art culture and how thatís immersed in the everyday. It was meant to be a formalized thing, and then the informal aspect of mass culture took over. It drives me nuts when people call me DJ Spooky. But it was meant to be a formalized critique, so I have to reformalize.

VISIT PAUL'S ONLINE BOUTIQUE AT DJSPOOKY.COM


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