SXSW 2012: DJ Spooky Waxes Poetic About Spotify, Crate Digging And The Rise Of The Superstar DJ

by (@unclegrambo)

DJ Spooky Interview From SXSW 2012

DJ Spooky, aka That Subliminal Kid, is a man of many talents: World class DJ, multimedia artist, writer, and technology entrepreneur. Now you can add Music Supervisor to that list, too, as Paul D. Miller (his real name) is currently hard at work putting together the score for the upcoming VH1 Rock Docs documentary film, Downloaded. We got a chance to speak to him just before midnight last night at a party celebrating the film’s upcoming release, which was also attended by the likes of Ed Sheeran (check out our interview with him!), comedian Reggie Watts, actor/director Alex Winter, multi-gazillionaire investor Sean Parker, and more. We asked him about his thoughts on Napster, what he thinks of the explosion of popularity of DJs here in America, and much more.

VH1: You’re working on putting together the score for the film Downloaded. What was it that drew you to this project?
DJ Spooky: Alex [Winter] is somebody who digs in the crates. He’s always checking out different styles. He got in touch and told me how he had a lot of my music at different times in my career. We just got along. We did a quick interview/discussion, and it just seemed like there was good energy, good dynamics, but above all, a good flow of information.

Were you a Napster user back in the day? Being a recording artist and an avid digger, I can only imagine that your relationship to such a controversial product must have been complicated.
Most of the stuff that I was really interested in was the idea of the “archive” and the “exchange.” And when I say “exchange,” I mean this networked system that somehow enabled so many people to really begin to understand how deep the networks were. Napster, to me, was one of those seminal moments where the extreme volume of information that everyone has about music was able to come alive.

Napster is no longer a living, breathing product, but thanks to some breakthroughs in both technology and record label innovation, streaming services like Spotify now exist. As an artist, what’s your view on streaming versus physical media?
As an avid record collector, the thing that comes to mind is scarcity. Records have made a comeback and have become collector’s items. Vinyl versus digital files? To me, the greatest selling album all time is the blank CD. You can put anything you want on it, but vinyl had this artwork, all sorts of beautiful graphic design, things that are difficult to replicate in digital files. Actually, I believe apps have taken over the role of diminishing vinyl in the culture.


Speaking of apps, you’re quite an entrepreneur in that space. What are you working on in that space these days?
Well, DJ Mixer exceeded 10 million downloads. We’ve had a great run with it. The idea of “freemium” is a very important inheritance from Napster, and streaming really inherited the idea of sharing, but it still maintains a tremendous amount of control over what’s actually happening on your hard drive. I like the idea of being able to just walk away, just grab something. Like, if I have vinyl, nobody owns it after me, unless I choose to sell it. But now, an entire generation will grow up feeling like their record collection could vanish at any time.

Not to age us both,but you’ve been a hugely successful DJ for going on 20 years now. Over the course of the last few years, DJs have taken on an even greater role in the culture of music, particularly here in America. What do you think of the rise of the Guettas and the Skrillexes of the world?
It’s a great thing to see. I think you’re going to be seeing a lot more of it, because it’s about people’s ideas and visions more than just being about “style.” Once you dig into the notion of “What is a band?”, a lot of bands exist in a realm where they’re just very specific to the style and the situation of the time. A DJ generally has a good ear and is able to hear a wide variety styles, which means they’re going to be first and foremost about information, even somebody who is very pop and commercial like David Guetta.

[Photo: Jen Marigliano/VH1]

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