This week On Oct. 4, DJ Shadow will release his fourth solo studio album, The Less You Know, The Better. Featuring cameos from Little Dragon, De La Soul, Talib Kweli and Tom Vek, Shadow insists that the album isn't just a snapshot of where he's at as a musician in 2011, but also something that will satiate long-time fans that have been hankering after a spiritual sequel to 1996's much-loved Endtroducing. So ahead of the new project's release, we caught up with Shadow and asked him to take a quick trip down memory lane and run the rule over his own esteemed long-playing discography.
"How Endtroducing came around was, I sat down with the label Mo' Wax and talked about doing an album for them. So I started in the summer of '94 and I was 30 minutes into it and all of the sudden the braintrust of Mo' Wax asked me for a single. I'd just finished this opus, "What Does Your Soul Look Like," and it was 34 minutes long and I intended it to be one side of the album, but they wanted it as a single. It kinda seemed like a big sacrifice to put it out and start over on the album, but that's what I had to do. So in late '94 I started over and finished the album in the spring of '96.
"Looking back, I think that the break helped in the sense that as a piece of music, I still think that Endtroducing is as cohesive a thing as I've done, and I'd glad that it's been able to live on its own. It might have seemed strange with six other songs following something like "What Does Your Soul Look Like" -- although it would have been interesting had I continued in that really dark style that I was on at the time and seen what sort of album would have come out.
"I was also really gutted at the time with the delay that this involved. I can laugh off the whole 'trip-hop' thing as a media gimmick now, but at the time it seemed that there was so much heat around groups like Portishead and Tricky that came out in late '94 and '95 and I felt I missed the boat and my album could have really been a zeitgeist thing, even though I had nothing to do with that scene. But now, it was probably to my cause and career that I didn't license songs to all these compilations that were coming out like This Is Trip-Hop Volume Two!"
Psyence Fiction (1998)
"The people always have a tendency to jump right over UNKLE and act like it took me six years to make another record, but UNKLE was definitely another album that I would consider part of my history. It's 65 minutes of my music. The project had its roots as early as '94, so before Endtroducing came out, and obviously James Lavelle and Tim Goldsworthy were UNKLE at first, but James was enamored with the work I was doing for him for Mo' Wax and really wanted me to contribute to this UNKLE album he was planning.
"There was a tense situation when we were making part of it, which is something that was really awkward to me, but I enjoyed the chance to make this album and the opportunity to work with all the people we just really, really wanted to work with -- like Kool G Rap and Badly Drawn Boy and Thom Yorke. Then there's also Mike D on there, too. I consider this record a big part of my history."
The Private Press (2002)
"I had massive sequencing problems with this album. What I remember was, I had what I thought were 11 or 13 or however many it was awesome tracks, and I'd lived with them and everything for the right amount of time, but I had problems putting them together in the order that I wanted things to sound. And when people heard it, I think that there was definitely a sense that a lot of people were just expecting me to re-make Endtroducing, which was something that was never going to happen and was never my mindset to do. It seemed to receive a strange reaction."