DJ Rashad: Interview
“[Footwork]’s still growing, but it still hasn’t grown outside the same box that it’s been in for the last five years, as far as a Chicago underground culture.”
Spinn, I remember a comment you made off the cuff in one of the Just Jam footwork videos that really stuck out to me. I think it went something like, “Chicago is a town with a lot of talent, but it’s also a town with a lot of haters.”
S: [Laughs] It’s true!
What do you guys think about the state of the Chicago footwork scene right now? I know you’re moving around a lot, but what’s your impression when you get a chance to go back?
S: Well, since we’re moving around so much, on tour and other things, we haven’t been around a lot. But we do get to come back and check out the footwork nights, and it’s a little different from when we were around. It’s still growing, but it still hasn’t grown outside the same box that it’s been in for the last five years, as far as a Chicago underground culture.
R: I think it’s still on the rise. It should have gotten even bigger than it is by now, man, but there’s a lot of shit going on in Chicago. You can’t throw these parties anymore because of the police, man.
S: They’re scared of it.
R: Yeah, it’s like they think somebody’s gonna get shot or something. So if you can’t throw the parties, it’s hard to make the shit grow.
That seems ironic, because at least in my eyes, footwork seems like more of an outlet.
R: Exactly! It’s an outlet, man, that’s the whole thing. But the police don’t give a fuck. [Laughs]
S: Yeah, they don’t care, man. They just think we’re out here getting money and shit. [Laughs] But we were just trying to make a little money to keep it going, so that we can have an outlet to perform in Chicago for the people that mess with our music.
I wanted to talk about the new record, Double Cup. This is your first LP for Hyperdub, and the main thing I’ve noticed listening to it so far is how soulful and smooth it is compared to some of the really gritty, in-your-face tracks you’ve made in the past. Is that part of a deliberate style choice?
R: Yeah, man. With Double Cup I wanted to get into the other side of my music. Not just typical Rashad, but a new twist. I also wanted to collab with the rest of Teklife — instead of just me, Manny and Spinn, we tried to get everyone on the album. Also, we just wanted to show people that we don’t just do footwork; we can do drum ‘n’ bass and trap, too. Spinn’s album, the next one coming up, will probably be back to the harder footwork shit. But for this one, we just wanted to have fun with it.
You still have an interest in making hard battle tracks, though?
R: Oh, definitely. That shit’s never gonna stop. [Laughs] But yeah, with Double Cup, I wanted it to be more like, say, a downer version of my shit rather than hyper battle tracks.
S: It’s like you off the double cup listening to it. [Laughs]
I wanted to ask you about the cover art for the album — it’s a really striking image. That’s the Chicago skyline, correct?
R: Shit… we actually got the artist right here; let’s just ask her. [Calls offscreen] Yeah, this is Ashes57.
Ashes57: It’s actually an image from a satellite. I wanted to represent a little bit of the feel of Chicago with the image, and a satellite image seemed like the best way, since I couldn’t actually go there.
As long as you’re here, I wanted to ask about some of your work. It seems to me from that videos you’ve done that you’re really in tune with the spirit and the gestures of the music — how did that relationship come about?
A: I’ve been touring with Spinn and Rashad [throughout the several European tours they’ve done], and a lot of times they’ll be producing tunes while sitting right next to me, so I got to know the music really well. We bounce a lot of ideas off one another, and I guess it just happened naturally. It’s been really awesome working with them.
Cool. I wanted to ask you guys about your process when you’re making tracks. I’ve heard that it’s something you’re constantly doing — what’s the mental process like? Do you get ideas and then try to translate them into songs, or is it more just messing with stuff until something sounds right?
R: Both. Definitely both. Sometimes, like you said, I might get an idea in the head and come back to it, or it could be, just like you said, fucking around in the studio and you catch an idea from that and just run with it, put some other shit with it.
“Everybody” off the I Don’t Give A Fuck EP, where you sample the “Best Cry Ever” YouTube video, is really striking to me because the source material is so absurd and sad, but in the context of the track, it’s actually kind of touching.
R: [Laughs] Thanks, man. That video is sad, but the cry is so fucking funny.
S: It’s the fakest cry ever. [imitates cry]
R: We were just all high, in the studio watching the video and we were like, “Shit, let’s just fuck with this.” [Laughs] But yeah, that was just following an idea, fucking around, and it did turn out nice. It wasn’t planned.
So y’all are in Europe right now. How many times have you toured there?
S: Yeah man, I think it’s our third year here — I don’t even know how many times. [Laughs] Every spring and every fall we come over here.
R: [Laughs] No, we definitely haven’t been to Stonehenge as much. But no, when we’re here, we might be at the studio [in London] or out playing shows; to be honest we don’t really get to chill much. When we’re out touring, we’re really working. But when we come back, we do like to smoke a lot of weed and kick it, for sure.
S: The worst part of everything is probably airports.
Real talk, we must’ve been like four years old when Run DMC came on.
R: At the end of the day, it’s a job, but it’s something that we love to do, you know?
At this point, you guys have sort of acted like ambassadors to the whole Chicago juke sound, bringing the idea to a lot of different places and different minds around the world. Who are some of the people whose takes on the juke sound have impressed or inspired you?
Have you heard any of the juke stuff coming out of Russia?
R: You know, I’ve heard it, and we met two of the guys, but they didn’t give us none of it! [Laughs] We didn’t get none of it, and I guess we might get an email from them. They played some of it briefly, but we wish we could’ve got some.
How about Japan?
R: I’ve gotta give it to them, man, I’ve seen videos of the parties and that shit’s crazy. They’re dancing too, and they’ve got that shit down to a science.
S: They’re having, like, circle parties, man.
R: Traxman and AG have both told us about when they’ve been over there, I haven’t been yet, but I think we’re about to go real soon. It’s fucking amazing, though, man, people like BootyTune; they’re just taking the culture and embracing it. It’s cool.
I just have one last question for you, Rashad — in a lot of Teklife shit, but specifically in your work, I notice a lot of extremes. Some tracks start out hard and brittle and then by the end they’re breezy and sublime, but it all feels like part of the same organism. Why do you think you are drawn to such sonic extremes?
R: I don’t know, man. I think it’s just a vibe thing. When I go in the studio, I don’t plan anything. Shit just happens. The best tracks just be happening, you know?
Word. So what’s next for you guys after this record? Any immediate plans?
R: Yeah, yeah, actually we do got some plans. We planning on putting out some unreleased shit towards the end of the year. Spinn’s working on his album — so a new DJ Spinn album. DJ Earl’s got a record coming out. The whole Teklife camp has a lot of shit coming out; we’re just getting it prepped and ready, you know? 2014, man.