On the surface, DJ Spooky's new collaboration with Slayer's Dave Lombardo is just the latest example of his try-anything aesthetic, which has produced avant-garde turntable symphonies alongside dancef
On the surface, DJ Spooky's new collaboration with Slayer's Dave Lombardo is just the latest example of his try-anything aesthetic, which has produced avant-garde turntable symphonies alongside dancefloor-fillers.
But "Drums of Death," due April 26 on Thirsty Ear, is more than Spooky cutting up rhythms from one of metal's greatest drummers. With its cameos from Chuck D and covers of vintage Public Enemy material, the album also functions as a sort of homage to Def Jam's pioneering rock-rap fusions of the '80s.
"Basically Def Jam is kind of like the Motown of our current moment," Spooky tells Billboard.com. "They are the empire. But I look at when Rick Rubin was producing bands like Slayer, Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys as a kind of template for a lot of the things I'm into now."
Thus, "Drums of Death" offers new versions of Public Enemy's "B-Side Wins Again" (featuring guitar from Living Colour's Vernon Reid), "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" and "Public Enemy No.1," alongside equally hard-hitting originals like "Quantum Cyborg Drum Machine."
"I really wanted to do more of an old school-oriented scenario," Spooky says. "Me and Chuck have known each other for a while, and basically he's into a lot of the same issues I'm into: some kind of progressive and dynamic hip-hop, a critique of our current political situation and its relationship to history."
"And of course, those [Public Enemy] records were slammin', and I wanted to bring a fresh perspective to them," he adds. "C'mon -- Chuck has one of the most recognizable voices of the 20th century. I wanted to bring that vibe into the 21st, with break beats that reminded me of when I was listening to P.E. back in '86-'88."
The beats come courtesy of Lombardo, best-known for providing Slayer's punishing thrash-metal pulse. However, Spooky says "Drums of Death" also demonstrates Lombardo's "amazing precision" and funky drumming chops. "I didn't need to get Dave to flip hip-hop," he says. "He can play any style, and that's what made this mad cool to check out."
The idea for the project, Spooky says, came after Thirsty Ear label head Peter Gordon proposed he attempt another jazz-oriented project, like 2002's acclaimed "Optometry." Wanting to try "something a little wilder," Spooky suggested instead cutting up "a drummer like Slayer's, and a light went off in my head."
Spooky co-produced "Drums of Death" with Meat Beat Manifesto's Jack Dangers, an old friend and collaborator. Assembled during Spooky's world travels through "lots of phone calls and file exchanges," the album also features an appearance by underground hip-hop act Dalek on "Assisted Suicide."
Although Spooky is currently busy promoting his first book, "Rhythm Science," and first film, "Rebirth of a Nation," he is planning some shows in support of "Drums of Death," believing its politically charged theme is a timely antidote to mainstream hip-hop.
"I really think we need some different perspectives these days," he says. "'Drums' is kind of like propaganda for a different world."