DJ Shadow’s seminal debut album Endtroducing turns twenty this year. It continues to be a touchstone record for hip hop producers today, having demonstrated that an entirely sample based album, drawing from all corners of modern music, was not only a possibility, but something that could capture a variety of styles and moods, nodding to DJ culture and forging ahead with a new aesthetic. Rolling Stone aptly described it as sounding…’like an alien spacecraft touching down on the autobahn late at night, probably to check out Earth’s used-vinyl bins’.
With an entirely sample based album being such a statement piece, Introducing knew that to flip the record live, would be an equally audacious move. They first set about doing that almost a decade ago, and now bring the project to the stage once again. Ahead of their show at Band on the Wall on 8th October, we caught up with vocalist Ollie Grig to discuss the album, their tech and their love of Mo’ Wax.
So, it’s the 20th anniversary of the release of Endtroducing in November, do you remember what you were doing at the time the album was released, and when you first heard it?
I remember it coming out – it was a massive part of my life at the time, along with various other Mo Wax/Ninja Tune classics of the same era. I’d just finished school and was a bedroom DJ so got it on vinyl – a record I still treasure! I have listened to it far too many times to count and it still surprises me too!
You first tackled the album live in 2007, how has your delivery of the record developed since the first performances? Have advances in technology helped your live show, or have you stuck with equipment of the early ’90s era when the record was made?
The personnel and equipment has changed a fair bit since we started out, with improvements in technology improving the overall sound. When we started I was using a Korg Kaoss pad for all my vocal effects but we now have a TC Helicon vocal box that (although a nightmare to use, sorry TC) definitely helps with getting the pitch and tone of the various samples as close as possible to the original. Personnel has changed for a variety of reasons but I think the band is stronger than ever now with some really great musicians in the band.
You’re responsible for all the male vocals in the performance, from the monologues to the sampled vocal content. To learn those parts, did you go back to the original source of the samples and find them in their original context, or just hear them as they appear on the record?
I knew most of the words already! When Matt Derbyshire (the brains behind the project) first started work on Building Steam, before the idea was fully formed, I just started saying the stuff over the top and it was then we realised this could be a real and viable live performance. We never thought we’d be doing it nearly 10 years later having sold out massive venues all over, though.
There are an abundance of instrumental hip hop records in the world; what makes Endtroducing so special? Would you consider it one of the finest?
It is the finest. And most original. Also unique as it was the first album ever created entirely from samples (it’s in the Guinness book of records and everything) which was where the crazy idea of playing it live with a band came from. Mostly because everyone told Matt it was impossible. Since then Madlib and Flylo [Flying Lotus] have made some great albums though, it must be said.
Have you ever met DJ Shadow?
We haven’t, sadly. We had direct contact with Mr Scruff, who’s music we did after we did Endtroducing the first time, and that was great having the support of the artist. We’ve had less luck with Mr Davis. His UK manager got cross with us for some reason last time which contributed to us stopping, unfortunately.
The music that came out on Mo’ Wax during the early ’90s really is a sound of it’s own; are there any other records you think the band could tackle, possibly some DJ Krush, or Luke Vibert’s Big Soup?
Big Soup has been a favourite of mine for years too and I’ve suggested it to the band. It’s slightly different though as it’s not all samples. I really wanted to do Coldcut’s 70 Minutes of Madness JDJ mix. That would be truly nuts. And pretty exhausting too!
What music are you currently listening to, and do you have any new artist tips for us?
I listen to all sorts – a bit of everything. Really digging Khruangbin at the moment though, as does my three year old daughter. She prefers Mr. Scruff’s Fish though to be honest.