I often get asked how I fell so in love with hip-hop; it’s not what people expect me to say when asked about my tastes and profession. I didn’t exactly grow up surrounded by the music or culture – I grew up in Leicester, U.K. – and for the most part it wasn’t the music being played by my family or friends.
I trace it back to the first CD I bought with my own money when I was 11 (or maybe 12?) : The Avalanches’ Since I Left You. A true masterpiece, and probably the most key record in my collection.
Having heard the dreamy title track and been captivated by the music video, when I saw the nostalgic album cover sitting on the rack at Virgin Megastore one Saturday afternoon while mooching around shops with a baby-sitter, I knew that all my pocket money was going on it. Who knows what I thought it would be like – perhaps just an album’s worth of similarly pretty songs and uplifting melodies? I had only heard “Since I Left You,” “Frontier Psychiatrist” had yet to be released. But for sure what happened when I pressed play on that CD for the first time was not anything I was expecting. It blew my mind and forever changed the way that I see, listen to, and appreciate music.
Theatre clubs and watching old movies was my thing as a kid – I dreamed of acting and making movies – and loved escaping into my imagination or some grainy black and white bygone world. And suddenly there was this CD that had snippets of voices from those films cut in with the most whimsical and playful sounds, an explosion of inspiration and emotions. Essentially, Since I Left You was my introduction to the beauty and art of sampling. I felt like I’d chanced upon a secret goldmine, and it made me so excited for the future. Maybe one day I would catch a flight to Honolulu! Or hear a rap group live in Paris! Or nonchalantly bid somebody “Bon Voyage!” … It stirred a feeling that so many moments and adventures were out there.
After that I began to seek out more sample-based or at least sample-heavy records, but it was pre-internet back then and I was pretty clueless about it all. I remember being in a record shop when I was 13, browsing the indie/rock sections as you did, when the opening of DJ Shadow’s The Private Press, “Letter From Home,” came on, and I practically ran to the desk to ask what it was. Samples of old-sounding shit was like crack to me back then. I remember I didn’t have the money to buy it there and then, but they agreed to hold a copy for me, and once I saved up enough pocket-money I returned one sunny weekend and got my first DJ Shadow LP.
Through finding mix-tapes such as DJ Yoda’s How To Cut & Paste, I started to learn the names of rap groups I liked the best (Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest etc..) and buying their albums, and the rest is really history.
The announcement in 2016 that the Avalanches were finally to release another album was music to my ears! And it was the coolest thing (ever?) to get to interview Robbie Chater for Wax Poetics that summer, and, to get to see them live in Paris last year. Peep the feature below :
Interview originally published in Wax Poetics Issue 66 (DJ Shadow/David Axelrod) – buy it here!