What are you listening to at the moment?
I'm listening to a guy a few tables over say, "um, huh, uh, uhuhh, I'll see what I can do....uhuh, okay, I'll call you later...." on his cell phone. No, seriously, all sound is interesting to me, from the way the ceiling fan makes an interesting rhythm because it's slightly lopsided and squeaks a little bit to a big lightning clap, to someone laughing. Musically, I've been loving Bombino, whose new record is coming out on Cumbancha. Also, Cila do Coco e Seus Pupilos, and Samba de Coco Raízes de Arcoverde -- really loving me some Coco these days. Mostly, I enjoy listening to 100% non-electronic music when I'm not working.
You play everything from hip-hop to jungle house. Where have you found people open to all types of music?
Everywhere and nowhere. Whether people are open to hearing and enjoying music that is unfamiliar to them is unrelated to culture, geography, race, religion, language -- it's up to the individual. Some of my best and worst gigs have been within blocks of each other. I've had great gigs in Montreal, Barcelona, Addis Ababa, New Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, New York City, and San Francisco!
What's the oddest place you've ever recorded, since you go from motel rooms to million-dollar studios?
Probably doing some sort of clandestine recording -- you're not allowed to record audio inside the Taj Mahal, for example. Or, someplace in difficult conditions, on a small river somewhere near the border of Venezuela in Guyana or on the back of a truck transporting goats in Sudan. Yesterday, I recorded a commercial for CNN at a sound studio in Manhattan with some very famous people [whose names] I didn't know. That was weird. It paid well though.
The artwork on your releases is quite amazing. Where do you find the artists? What role do you play in the design?
Most of the art was either by my friend, Steven Miller, who is a photographer and designer, or by Eric Schockmel, a designer I met online. As most of my work, the art has been very collaborative in nature, often starting with rough ideas and photos of mine, which then took shape and gained sophistication with the help of these guys who are very talented and professional. I'm very lucky to have had them involved on these projects.
And if you could set your music to a painting, what would it look like?
It would look like lots of very small pieces all set side by side, each piece being the detail of something greater. Perhaps the juxtaposition of these smaller pieces would create another image. I'm not sure what that image would look like -- I think it will take many more years for that to take shape.
Please indulge us in your one of your craziest DJ moments.
Wow, where to begin ... should I tell you about not getting paid in Milan? Or the guy in Chandigarh who told me to stop playing because I wouldn't play house music, but then still wanted a photo of me, the foreign DJ, for the alcohol sponsor? Or sleeping on a cardboard box in Madrid because I missed my train and had no money? Or playing in a bar in Dakar for prostitutes who starred at themselves in the floor to ceiling mirrors lining the dance floor? Or clearing the dance floor in Zanzibar because I didn't play "pure" hip-hop or reggae? Or setting up a guerilla sound system on the street in the middle of carnival in Rio powered by splicing into a power line deep under a manhole cover? Maybe that's for the next interview.
What's going to feed your belly in San Francisco?
I need a Mission burrito and some Vietnamese food! Not at the same time of course!