DJ Shadow made a name for himself by digging through record crates to create eclectic mixes for the last two decades. His fourth studio album, "The Less You Know, The Better," combines the different energies, as well as samples, we've come to expect from him.
"When I started working on the record, I went off and sort of secluded myself," says the producer and DJ. "I really felt like I needed do that to relearn to how to structure my day in a way that isn't dedicated to constantly answering emails and checking my phone and all those distractions that we all have now."
DJ Shadow explains that the record's themes reflect these communication anxieties: "The messaging I get as a human being every day is that my life is incomplete unless I have this new phone or this new app... Maybe that's not the healthiest message to be receiving on a daily basis."
We sat down with DJ Shadow to take us, track by track, through "The Less You Know, The Better."
1. "Back To Front (Circular Logic)"
"[This song has] one of those... beats that come on and you want to start nodding your head instantly. It's not hitting you with something really left-field, out of the gate... it's just to calibrate people and remind them where I come from."
2. "Border Crossing"
"This is a track that has its roots all the way back in '06. I always really liked [this] track ... and within two hours, I found all the elements I needed to finish it."
3. "Stay The Course" (feat. Posdnuos and Talib Kweli)
"[These are] two MCs that have a timeless quality to the way they approach their craft... On this record, that's all I wanted to have: people dedicated to their craft."
4. "I've Been Trying"
"I actually mixed [this track] at home. When we took it in the studio...[producer Jim Abbiss], after about six hours of beating his head against the wall, said 'It's fine. I'm not adding anything to this. It's mixed.'...I still feel like there's a lot I need to learn, but that was a nice validation."
5. "Sad and Lonely"
"My favorite thing to try to achieve on any record is having moments of real intense darkness and also really intense beauty, and I think this track really fulfills the latter."
6. "Warning Call" feat. Tom Vek
"As much as I wanted it to be instrumental, ['Warning Call'] wasn't going to be everything it could be without vocals ... I feel like I made all the right decisions; I very rarely feel like I couldn't have done better at some point, but this is one that I wholeheartedly feel I couldn't have done better than [this]."
"During the course of the record, there's a lot of songs that have fairly conventional kind of arrangements. I like that it kind of comes in and for two and a half minutes and just meanders. It feel like it opens up some space on the album."
8. "Enemy Lines"
"['Enemy Lines'] is really slow and dirgey and heavy. This is one of the rare example where I'll sample a known act; [the act is] a heavy metal band from the U.K. called Nazareth."
9. "Going Nowhere"
"[This track] really summarizes the first half and introduces the second half of the record."
"[I wanted] a different energy so that [the album] doesn't start feeling too weighed down by any kind of pretension or by my own rules."
11. "Run For Your Life"
"I think, in the past, I would have tried too hard to put my 'producer stamp' on [a song]. I've learned, through the years, to put a lot of energy into other facets of the arrangement, and just let it breathe."
12. "Give Me Back The Nights"
"The depth of despair on the record... If I play it to one person, they almost start laughing...but if I play it to more serious music-heads, they look at me and say, 'Whoa, this shit's crazy!'"
13. "I Gotta Rokk"
"I think ['I Gotta Rokk' combines] just the right amount of progressive and just the right amount of heavy."
14. "Scale It Back" (feat. Little Dragon)
"I had met the [Little Dragon] lead vocalist, Yukimi Nagano, years and years ago when she was singing for another band. Fast forward a couple of years: I went to a record store and bought a bunch of music, and my favorite thing was a 45 that they did... So when they came to San Francisco the next time, I went out to see them and introduced myself and we hung out."
15. "Circular Logic (Front To Back)"
"It's kind of a good [vehicle to say,] 'Here's what I stand for in 2011.'"
16. "(Not So) Sad and Lonely" [Bonus Track]
"[It's] a remix one my best friends did of 'Sad and Lonely'... I thought it was a really nice final touch. It leaves [the record] on a really nice exhale."