DJ SHADOW with LATEEF THE TRUTH-SPEAKER at the Kool Haus (132 Queens Quay East), tonight (Thursday, October 12), 8 pm. $25.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
This is DJ Shadow's last interview of the year, he says from about 500 yards away from the New Orleans Superdome. He sounds relieved.
I understand. Since July, the hallowed hiphop producer's been balancing a vigorous international tour with a series of painful discussions with the media.
But that's what happens when you betray your fan base by defying all expectations -- in the bad way. Enter Shadow's third LP, The Outsider (Universal).
It's 70 minutes charged to his creative carte blanche, dragging listeners through a turbulent journey from delicate live retro soul to Dirty South, John Cage-based instrumentals, metal loops, trippy Tori Amos-like folk, spoken word, a number that sounds like Broken Social Scene sung by a guy named Chris James who sounds like Chris Martin, and a handful of tracks in the flamboyantly tweaked-up style of Hyphy (the Bay Area's regional rap "movement.")
This is the sound of a man trying to find himself musically, and everyone's invited to join him on the ultimately fruitless quest.
"I don't want anybody to have the perception that I'm actively trying to annoy people or actively trying to not do the music so many people wish I would continue to do," says DJ Shadow.
"The fact of the matter is, if I'm bored when I'm making music, then I can't do it. I stop."
So DJ Shadow is no longer excited by the symphonic, sample-intensive technique that won him pioneer status in 1996 with his first album, Endtroducing, okay?
Furthermore, he explains, rehashing that aesthetic instead of evolving like a true artist would be an act of condescension to his listenership.
Finally, he was wary of making any predictable moves, especially at a time when the genre-melding he'd been doing 10 years ago had reached its zenith with groups like the Gorillaz and Gnarls Barkley. So he focused on making credible, not fashionable, music.
"When I made the Hyphy song 3 Freaks, I wasn't trying to shock anyone. I just wanted local Hyphy radio to play it," he explains. "And then eventually people found out about it and got all up in arms. But all I wanted to do was help contribute to that scene.
"I wanted it to be a credible Hyphy song. I didn't want it to be a Hyphy song with, you know, Robbie Williams singing on it or some stupid shit like that. Or the guy from Bloc Party singing on it -- whatever hipster thing, you know what I'm saying?
"I didn't want it to be rap songs with the girl from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs singing on it just to make it hipster.
"It's just a different way of thinking about things."