By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
That's what I've set out to do all my life, and it's just tough because people nowadays are so used to having a DJ just be this one thing that when I come along, they're like, "No, that's not what we expect a DJ to do, we expect you to play some music we can dance to, maybe play some trippy visuals." But as a performer, or as a DJ as "a band," which I'd like to think of myself as, people [nowadays] aren't always ready to experience that.
What kinds of performances are the Sound of the Police shows?
There are screens, and there are cameras on my foot [next to the loop pedal] and on my turntable, and you get to see everything that I'm doing and you get to see exactly how this music is being made, right there in front of you. It is captivating to watch, but it's also dance-friendly. That's something I also try to do: When I perform I'm not trying to make something you can only watch. If you wanna turn your head, that's fine. However, there are moments when I'll stop you dead cold in that dance and tell you, "Watch this — you're gonna trip out. This is something to focus your attention on," and then we'll start dancing again. So it kind of goes back and forth.
How did you get interested in African and Brazilian music?
It all started with Ozomatli, the band that I was in. Being Latin and sensitive to world rhythms, they really turned me on to the culture and what it took to make Latin music. And once I started getting into stuff like [Latin-jazz giant] Ray Barretto and [Nuyorican great] Willie Colón, and really loving that type of music, then they started playing with African rhythms. Ozomatli was great because any rhythm that they didn't know that they found challenging, they would try to implement in their repertoire. I got to witness that and appreciate it as well.
So I took that inspiration and started traveling around the world with Jurassic 5 and having that sensibility when I collected and bought records and having an ear for that type of stuff. I developed an ear for African and Latin music and really started to appreciate it and appreciating people who appreciated it. I became friends with people who were going to Africa, buying that kind of music, and they'd turn me on to this stuff. That's how I built my arsenal of African records.
And then going to Brazil — I bought a lot of records there. I went to samba schools and played with musicians there, really got into it down there. That was a big part of the inspiration for Sound of the Police.
How many records did you use?
Shit — I didn't count this time! Usually I count for all my mixes ... mmmm [thinks], I don't know — over 30? Something like that. [See sidebar on the four crucial records that inspired Sound of the Police.]
Have you considered trying to replicate the set with a live band, like Flying Lotus did recently with Cosmogramma?
It's tough to re-create electronic music with a band. I'm most of the time not impressed when bands try to re-create sample-based music. There are exceptions, of course: Connie Price and the Keystones, they backed Big Daddy Kane and they were great. The Rhythm Roots Allstars, they backed De La Soul. Hey, I mean, the Roots! Those are my top band experiences.
You swiped the Police logo for the cut-and-paste-style cover of the CD, right? When I first saw it, I thought it was one of those Starbucks compilations of world-music bands doing Sting covers!
That's good! That's exactly what it should feel like. I'm very much into punk rock, cut-and-paste-looking art. Plus the nature of the CD is like that: It's Third World, cut-and-paste, low-budget, kind of burnt, so I thought it might be fun to rip off the Police logo. I wanted to make it something noticeable.
It's called Sound of the Police for three reasons. In Ethiopia, many of the bands were made out of military personnel. Also, it has an obvious reference to hip-hop culture, the KRS-One song Sound of Da Police, which is not featured at all on this record. Just to let people know, "Hey, I do still recognize hip-hop culture, even if I'm doing this other thing."
And, I haven't said this in any other interview; I feel that in this realm of DJs, I am the police — I'm here to kind of let you know what's done and what's not. There's so many DJs, I feel I've earned my stripes, so run it by me. I don't go out there saying that, but for five seconds that's how I felt, and that's also what it means.
Are you also the Police of DJs?
Haha. "I am Stewart Copeland!" — that would be a little too egotistical.