|Birth name||Joshua Paul Davis|
|Born||June 29, 1972|
San Jose, California, U.S.
|Origin||Davis, California, U.S.|
|Years active||1989–present|
Joshua Paul Davis (born June 29, 1972), better known by his stage name DJ Shadow, is an American DJ, songwriter and record producer. He first gained notice with the release of his acclaimed debut studio album, Endtroducing...... He has a personal collection of more than 60,000 records.
Early years (1989–1995)
DJ Shadow was experimenting with a four-track recorder while in high school in Davis, California (a college town near Sacramento) and began his music career as a disc jockey for the University of California, Davis campus radio station KDVS. During this period he was significant in developing the experimental hip-hop style associated with the London-based Mo' Wax record label. His early singles, including "In/Flux" and "Lost and Found (S.F.L.)", were genre-bending, merging elements of funk, rock, hip hop, ambient, jazz, soul, and used-bin found records. Andy Pemberton, a music journalist writing for Mixmag, described the single “In/Flux” as "trip hop," a term that had already been attached to Bristol, England-based groups Massive Attack and Portishead and the Bristol scene in general in June 1994. He has cited Kurtis Mantronik, Steinski, and Prince Paul as influences on his sample-based sound, further claiming that "lyrics (...) were confining, too specific." His music rarely features more than short clips of voices or vocal work.
During 1991–1992, DJ Shadow remixes were released on Hollywood BASIC, a short-lived rap/hip-hop subsidiary label of Hollywood Records. Notable amongst these is a 1992 compilation release titled "BASIC Beats Sampler", which features a remix of "The Real Deal", a song by Lifers Group, as well as a 12-plus-minute "Mega Mix" of the rest of the album, including tracks by west-coast underground hip-hop act, Raw Fusion and east-coast acts, Organized Konfusion and Zimbabwe Legit. Also in 1992, Shadow contributed scratching and production work to Sleeping with the Enemy, the controversial second release by rapper Paris.
Early in 1993, Shadow was a part of the creation of the Solesides underground hip-hop label, in conjunction with Blackalicious and Lyrics Born (whose stage name at the time was Asia Born). The first 12" release on this new imprint was titled "Entropy," with the A-side containing the Asia Born track "Send Them" and a dub rendition of the DJ Shadow track "Count and Estimate," and the entire B-side consisting of the 17-plus-minute title track. Rapper Gift of Gab is featured in the version of "Count and Estimate" that appears in Entropy. Shadow continued to participate in releases on the Solesides label for years to come, until the label was disbanded in favor of Quannum Projects.
Also in 1993, Mo' Wax's James Lavelle contacted Shadow about releasing "In/Flux" on the fledgling imprint. The association with Mo' Wax was a productive one; his tracks "In/Flux" and "Lost and Found" made their way onto some releases over the next few years. Shadow also worked with DJ Krush during this period. On a 1995 visit to the Mo' Wax Studios in London, England, Shadow was recruited to perform scratches on a Lavelle and Tim Goldsworthy mix of the Massive Attack song "Karmacoma".
Endtroducing....., UNKLE and Scratch (1996–2001)
Shadow's first full-length work, Endtroducing....., was released in late 1996 to critical acclaim. Endtroducing would go on to make the Guinness World Records book for "First Completely Sampled Album" in 2001. The only pieces of equipment Shadow used to produce the album were the AKAI MPC60 12-bit sampling drum machine, a pair of turntables and a borrowed-by-visiting Pro Tools setup from an early adopter of the technology, Dan "The Automator" Nakamura. In November 2006 Time magazine named it one of its "All-Time" 100 best albums. In November 2014, automobile maker Chevrolet used a sample "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt" in a Chevy commercial.
In 1998 Shadow released Preemptive Strike, a compilation of 1993–1997 singles released on Mo' Wax. Later that year, he produced Psyence Fiction, the debut album by UNKLE, a long-time Mo' Wax production team that featured guest appearances including Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Richard Ashcroft (The Verve), Mike D (Beastie Boys), Kool G. Rap, and Jason Newsted (Metallica).
Around 2000 he produced the score for the documentary Dark Days filmed by British director Marc Singer. This film is about a community of transients who live underground in a subway tunnel. It has six award wins in various competitions. Shadow also starred in the 2001 movie Scratch, produced by Doug Pray, alongside Z-Trip, Grand Wizard Theodore, Mix Master Mike and DJ Qbert. He makes multiple appearances during the turntable and digging sections of the movie.
The Private Press and Live! In Tune and on Time (2002–2005)
Nearly six years after his debut production album, his second album, The Private Press, was released in June 2002. A video for his track "Six Days" was also released in 2002, directed by Wong Kar-wai.
In 2004, Shadow's first feature-length DVD, Live! In Tune and on Time, was released. It features a live performance in London that combines tracks and samples from past albums as well as his work with UNKLE and Quannum, and emphasizes visuals, with the help of Bay Area projection artist Ben Stokes.
The Outsider and Diminishing Returns (2006–2009)
In 2006, he signed a deal with Universal Records, on which would be released The Outsider, on September 18. A special edition CD box set was also released containing The Outsider, the album on CD and a DVD entitled Tour Visuals. This album, which prominently featured several artists from the local San Francisco Bay Area hyphy hip hop movement, got a mixed welcome among Shadow's fans. Responding to criticisms, the DJ/producer explained on his blog why he made no apologies: "Repeat Endtroducing over and over again? That was never, ever in the game plan. Fuck that. So I think it's time for certain fans to decide if they are fans of the album, or the artist."
Throughout 2007 and 2008, DJ Shadow toured with fellow DJ Cut Chemist in support of their The Hard Sell mixtape, released in January 2007 and recorded during the reheasals of a June 2007 show. The duo had already produced several mixtapes in the past, most notably Brainfreeze and Product Placement, mixing jazz, funk, and soul. The were joined by Kid Koala, and the rehearsals of this tour spawned The Hard Sell (Encore), a "refined" version of the duo's set.
Diminishing Returns was a 2-hour DJ Mix originally broadcast as an episode of the Essential Mix on BBC Radio 1 on March 29, 2003. It was released in 2003 on CD in a pressing limited to 1000 copies on the Reconstruction Productions label. On April 1, 2009, DJ Shadow announced on his Facebook page that he was working on a Diminishing Returns re-release. Reconstruction Productions reissued the album in 2009 with a sticker stating "official, last chance limited edition, re-release".
The Less You Know, the Better (2010–2013)
On March 7, 2009, Shadow announced that he was working on new music. Though no release date was given, he assured, "It will sound different from the last one." In September 2010, DJ Shadow released a single with two tracks called "Def Surrounds Us" and "I've Been Trying" and taken from the new album as a preview. While on the 2010 "Shadowsphere" tour new songs began to emerge, although he stated that a new album was not yet ready and that he would continue working toward having it ready in time for his 2011 tour.
On May 10, 2011, Shadow confirmed via his Facebook page and official website that his new album, titled The Less You Know, the Better, was finished and that it would be released the following September on Verve/Universal. The same day, he also released an EP called I Gotta Rokk featuring remixed tracks from the forthcoming album. A second single "I'm Excited" was also released, featuring Afrikan Boy, on July 7, 2011. However the single was pulled because of copyright infringement. The infringement also delayed the album's release. Another song from the album, titled "Warning Call," featuring Tom Vek, was released on 7 September 2011, and was featured as a free download on the official DJ Shadow Facebook page. Shadow announced on September 30, 2011, via Twitter that The Less You Know, the Better would be released on a 3xUSB format.
Liquid Amber (2014–2015)
On August 12, 2014, Shadow launched his new record label imprint Liquid Amber, releasing The Liquid Amber EP for streaming in accompaniment. Other acts signed to Liquid Amber include Bleep Bloop, Noer the Boy, Mophono, and Ruckazoid.
In April 2015, a group called Nite School Klik released a single called "Posse" on Liquid Amber. In May 2015, Shadow revealed to Billboard that the group was in fact himself and trap producer G Jones working together. The first self-titled EP by Nite School Klik was released on June 9, 2015.
The Mountain Will Fall and The Mountain Has Fallen (2016–2018)
In April 2016 Shadow announced a new album entitled The Mountain Will Fall, which was released on June 24 via Mass Appeal Records. A music video for the album's lead single, "Nobody Speak," featuring rap duo Run the Jewels, was released on August 24, 2016.
In collaboration with a Los Angeles record store, Shadow held on September 10–11, 2016 the "First Annual DJ Shadow Storage Sale," selling duplicates in his collection, and limited editions of his "The Sideshow" track. It has been an annual event since then and ran until 2019.
On April 20, 2017, a new collaboration between Shadow and Nas named "Systematic" premiered on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 radio show. The song was revealed to be part of HBO's Silicon Valley soundtrack. Later that year, in June, Shadow released the EP The Mountain Has Fallen, featuring "Systematic" and "Horror Show," a new single featuring Danny Brown. 2018 saw the release of Live in Manchester: The Moutain Has Fallen, a nine-track live album recorded at Manchester's Albert Hall on October 5, 2017, as Shadow was touring in support of his previous album and EP.
Our Pathetic Age (2019–present)
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed DJ Shadow among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. He later announced a double album entitled Our Pathetic Age that was released November 15, 2019. This two-part release includes an instrumental section and a vocal suite, featuring returning collaborators Run the Jewels and Nas, and artists such as Ghostface Killah, De La Soul, and Raekwon.
Shadow was approached by Deftones to contribute to their White Pony 20th anniversary re-issue remix project, Black Stallion. Singer Chino Moreno explained that they originally wanted him to remix the whole album, citing him as an inspiration at the time they recorded it. He ended up remixing "Digital Bath", alongside other confirmed producers such as Trevor Jackson and Clams Casino.
Studio and equipment
The book Behind the Beat documents Shadow's home studio (named "Reconstruction") through photos and a brief description (as of 2005). It is "nestled within a leafy San Francisco suburb" and Shadow apparently moved to the area "to be closer to the local record store". It also states that "Shadow only keeps a small selection of vinyl at home with the rest occupying storage units around town". His equipment as of 2005, according to Behind the Beat, consists of two Akai MPC 3000s and a Korg Triton. His album Endtroducing was "created on an AKAI MPC60 and an ADAT".
DJ Shadow's work involves manipulating samples, taking rare and seldom-heard pieces of music and reworking them into parts and phrases for his songs. Many of his tracks feature dozens of samples from a wide array of styles and influences including rock, soul, funk, experimental, electronic and jazz. Shadow famously sampled American composer David Axelrod on his collaboration with DJ Krush, "Duality", sampling Axelrod's "The Warnings" (Part 1). The piano in "Midnight in a Perfect World" from 1996's Endtroducing was originally recorded for Pekka Pohjola's "Sekoilu seestyy." Although Shadow currently uses fewer samples than on his earlier albums, several examples feature on his 2006 album The Outsider. His collaboration with David Banner, "Seein' Thangs", features a synthesizer and vocals from Cecilia's "Crimson Red" and "Outsider Intro" includes an excerpt from Ron Geesin's "Concrete Line Up" from the 1973 album, As He Stands.
- The Private Press (2002)
- The Outsider (2006)
- The Less You Know, the Better (2011)
- The Mountain Will Fall (2016)
- Our Pathetic Age (2019)
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Our initial idea was we're going to get the masters of the 'White Pony' record and we're going to put some money in a briefcase and the masters in a briefcase. And we were going to go to DJ Shadow's house and were just going to hand it off to him and say like, 'Here man, remix this record.' And we wanted to call it the 'Black Stallion'.
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