What’s one film you saw recently that hit all of these points well?
My favorite movie I saw recently was Gary Weis’ 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s, a documentary about gangs in the South Bronx in the late â€˜70s. What makes it amazing is they just filmed what was happening without trying to put it all into context or putting words into the interviewees mouths.
To bring things back a bit, you mentioned setting up rules for yourself before making your records. What rules were different this time around?
Well, funnily enough, you mentioned tracks like â€œSad and Lonelyâ€ and â€œRedeemed,â€ and that’s the place I try to get to first. I remember at one point I wanted this album to just be one ID. So if you bought it on iTunes, you’d literally be getting a 60-minute ID.
So like â€œEntropy,â€ only longer?
Exactly. I like the idea of forcing people to not skip through songs. That’s what I liked about cassettes–it’s kinda pointless trying to zip around them because you’re always going too far in one direction. They forced you to weather the tracks you didn’t necessarily care for, and often those tracks became your favorites later.
The really immediate stuff on the album, like â€œI Gotta Rokk,â€ are designed to be…
Right. I wrote them with a live setting in mind. And the tracks that are slow burns, like â€œSad and Lonelyâ€ or â€œGive Me Back the Nights,â€ if I can get them out of the way early on in the process, it takes some of the internal pressure off. Because I know those are going to be the harder fought tracks to make.
I’d argue that the slow songs are crowd pleasers in their own way as well because people have come to expect really melancholic music from you. Those kind of tracks kinda force you to stop what you’re doing and really listen rather than simply dance or whatever.
Yeah, it’s a dynamic. I was actually telling a friend in Chicago that I wanted to work â€œSad and Lonelyâ€ into my set and make people weep. Songs like that are rare in most shows because DJs don’t want to risk people standing still. I’m always really thankful when those moments go over well. It’s great to feel like you’re actually reaching someone. Like I’ll occasionally do a signing after a show, and I’ve had a few people say they were in tears half the time. I love stuff like that. It’s another component of other work that I appreciate–when people nail certain emotions. I toyed with that on The Outsider a bit. I really loved having an album with parts that were really raw and not dumbed down or wimped out for the sake of my audience, who I thought maybe couldn’t take it. And on the other hand, there was a song that was as soft as you could get.
People really missed that part of the album, didn’t they? It was as if the handful of hyphy tracks made most people think the entire thing was like that.
I agree. It was an easy dismissal: â€˜I don’t like that [kind of music], so I’m not going to like the rest of the record.’ Or, â€˜I heard this blogger didn’t like it, so I probably won’t.’ There’s definitely some music [on The Outsider] that I could see people discovering somewhere down the road.
Do you view that record as being somewhat flawed in the same way you have spoken about the UNKLE record in the past?
The sequencing was flawed on that record; the fact that I chose to front-load the hyphy stuff made the album seem unbalanced. I endorse all of the songs on there, though. That’s one of the nice things about putting out an album every five years–it gives me a lot of time to consider what I’m trying to say. One of the major differences in how I think about music is that I don’t just scrap something when it’s gone out of fashion. Like how people who used to listen to drum â€˜n’ bass say they only like dubstep now. That’s a strange way of looking at things. Once something enters my DNA, it’s there permanently.
I suppose you could say the influences were equally crunk, tech-step, dubstep, whatever. But I’m not a dubstep guy. I don’t have the first clue about how to make a club record so inevitably my stuff ends up sounding like a mutt. That’s nice for people who don’t define themselves by one genre, though.
I think people also assume that you’re always looking back at the history of music through sampling, when really, you’re trying to create something completely new out of it all. You’re trying to push things forward, not backward.
I totally agree. I’ve noticed a lot of perceptions about what I like and don’t like. A purist aesthetic is so far from what’s really going on in my head. But that’s fine. You can’t go around dictating what people should think about you.
Is that why the artwork for this album puts all of the negativity of the press right out in the open?
Well, that’s a broader conversation that has to do with…basically I’m trying to use satire to show how it’s a strange time to be a recording artist. You’re sort of caught in relying on physical sales to be able to justify carrying on. That’s a broader conversation, though. I’m just trying to have fun with it rather than stand on a soapbox.