|> Neural Magazine|
Dj Spooky interview.
by Alessandro Ludovico
Sampling and mixing vast quantity of information is a 90's peculiar activity. Do you think this will be an attitude for the new generation?
Everything is open at this point. I think of what's going on in Japan as a template for how the electronic culture will change and become an ever dispersed sitution: people are already using i-phones that let you check out different websites, send wireless communications etc etc and this is just the beginning. Virtual pop stars, completely self-contained cities, bio-technology: all of these point to different ways of reconfiguring the human species that we've just barely begun to understand. Sampling and mixing is now the paradigmatic model for almost all information culture. For me, hip-hop and electronic music is a way that my generation is using to reconstruct "identity" from the ground up. I look at it as a kind of social mirror for the real world. It's a strange world, no doubt....
In our digital present, music is more and more a volatile type of information. Does the ownership (or the collecting) of media (cds, vinyls, videos) still make sense? Is it important to reconstruct the original meaning of a soundscape, or it's just fetishism?
The notion of ownership, for me, doesn't really reflect what's going on: we're in a world that simply creates new platforms and electronic simulations as a natural phenomenon. It's like us being mad at plants for creating oxygen... in the future information will be just as part of the environment as oxygen or the blood that runs in our veins... who owns that? Fetishism is how we give meaning to music and the people who create the sounds we like. But the same logic applies to art and other "social identification" markers like advertising and movies. Identification and association: information moves through these landscapes like so much water through a pair of cupped hands. There's no way to control how it will flow. But you can direct different aspects of how it gets generated: the machines do that for us though....
Imagine you could simply code (in minutes) a piece of software. What it'd be supposed to do?
I'm into creating software that somehow would be able to mimic alot of my basic choices. Neural routing, synaptic correspondences, patterns of thought... for the most part alot of this stuff can be modeled and recollected. Average stuff like you consumption habits and patterns are already pretty decent indications of how you think. For the most part, if you could create a search engine to model its search patterns on yours... you'd be able to sit back and see what it would come up. That's what I'd try to do.
If (vinyl = analog = organic) and (cd = digital = synthetic), is their market and target-consumer conflict a metaphor of what is changing in our life?
There's a lot of room for debate on this topic. I'm not sure how to figure out the paradox because it's what makes alot of the ball game interesting. Vinyl has so much historical weight that in essence, it's been one of the things holding collective memory together for the last century or so. Digital culture moves really fast and will probably catch up pretty quickly, though. Artificial? Natural? t's all blurring, and that's a good thing.
What kind of uncommon sounds you've simply 'found' (experienced) in everyday life?
One of the strangest sounds I've heard in a while is simply the sound of a bus stopping. The inertial drag of the brakes, the sense of weight shifting... it made a really weird hollow sound that reminded me of when your stomach is clearing itself of alot of food and your intestines shift around alot. Movement inside your body that sounds like abus. Very funny. Very weirdly biological, but in the middle of daylight in a NYC rush hour moment. Very funny. Very weird.
Please, tell me a silent object (e.g. a stone) that you'd want to generate sounds, and wich type of sounds you'd like it'd emit.
If you think about it, there really is no silence, just layers and layers of differentiation. I'm into frequencies and how they can come from anything. Stuff like atomic particle structure to the sound of a fart coming out of your ass. It's all equally interesting. But within the framework of your question, I have to admit, I'd like to see what the actual sound of celluloid film would be. It's a substance that's influenced almost the bulkof the human species from a rather privileged position, and I think it's about time to make the visual and the sonic elements of our culture become co-equivalent.
Tell me something more about one of your upcoming books 'Flow My Blood the Dj Said' and 'And Now A message from Our Sponsors', your next science fiction novel based on dj culture...
I've been strapped for time for a while now, and music takes up more and more of my time. I really can't breathe that much becuase I'm travelling alot and I'm working on alot of different projects. During the interim I'm Editor-At-Large of "Artbyte" (check out the website, www.artbyte.com, or my website, www.djspooky.com). Artbyte is a magazine that focuses on digital culture issues from a more conceptual viewpoint. I always like to look at it as a kind of cross between Artforum and Wired, but with alot more flavor than both of them combined. But, yeah, I definitely need some time to finish up my work. I can't believe that this much time has passed since I started my book projects.
If language is a virus from another planet, are samples the basic symbols of a complex, infinite and universal new language?
This is the old premise from William S. Burroughs on up to Laurie Anderson. But if you look at hip-hop and electronic music in general, they are all based on manipulation of code. If anything, I think that almost everything we are made of (hydrogen particles etc etc) is made from different forms of cosmic matter... there's so many different ways to look at sound and memory and all the different situations that make up how we live and speak and think. Personally, I think of humanity as the "insane animal" - our obsessions and calculations will probably cause so much havoc over the next couple of centuries that almost all aspects of how we communicate will probably change beyond even our wildest dreams. I guess by that point, everything will probably seem like it's from another planet. But yeah, if you look at ancient philosphers (you're writing to me from Italy for example), there's always been some amazing ways to look at the way we create communications systems. One of my favorites, Giordano Bruno, was burned at the stake for looking at language as a system of signs and symbols, and some of my favorite recent artists like the Italian futurists (not for their political stuff but for their ideas around language), you get the idea that we can always deal with some word play. Sampling is just the current game. There will be more.
Once you said that "Sound is representative of a certain person... So (DJing) you're recombining one person's expression with your own." Should we compare the Dj to the European mediaeval alchemists or more to omnipotent plastic surgeons?
I guess I'd look at sampling at this point as a kind of time machine for creating alternate sound patterns in your memory. We are creatures of habit, and basically there's always something that allows us to absorb new infor: people tend to simply re-cast previous information and stop creating all together. Maybe that's why so many people look alike these days and listen to the same music and use the same software. Very boring, really. But at the same time, if you can flip things around and try to create new forms of listening, then that's a way to use the same forum to create and demonstrate new forms of sound and hearing, and that's what I try to do. I guess at the end of it all, I'm an idealist and I always have some kind of hope in the human race. Mix culture and multi-culturalism. Form and function: that's what dj culture is all about for me. Showing people that they can and should check out different cultures. It's that simple.
Imagine to be able to recombine a piece of New York symbolic architecture, even adding sounds. What you'd like to change and how?
Personally, New York's streets are way too thin. I'd like to add alot of room for people to walk and ride bicycles. I guess that would add some extra sounds to a landscape impoverished by too many cars and people who live and think in shells. Get out into the air, see the sky before our pollution kills everything. That's what I'd change about NYC: a sense of openess, burn it all down and make it green again. The social architecture of biotechnology will probably do this in a while, but the sounds are already telling us that this is what seems to be in store for us. NYC is the global reflector site for things that change all the time. No more, no less. Just a city on the edge of time.