DJ Spooky

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Paul D. Miller (born 1970), known by his stage name DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid, is a Washington DC-born electronic and experimental hip hop musician whose work is often called by critics or his fans as "illbient" or "trip hop". He is a turntablist, a producer, a philosopher, and an author.

  • "Drugs are definitely looking at the idea of man/machine interface and conditioning the meat to be able to deal with the machines. At the end of the day, it's all on the screen. Drugs are like a graphical user interface. I can almost tell what substances people are on depending on what mix they're doing. There's the herb mix, there's the acid mix, there's the Ecstasy-style mix. Each of them gives a certain kind of interface quality. They summon up different kinds of psychological projections when you hear them. Depending on what kind of substances you've done yourself, the sounds might evoke those same memories. Or they might even be able to give a foreground/background kind of thing, where you're looking at the psychology of the listener being bounced back off the environment that the creator has made. You can think of it as a subtle psychology of industrial culture -- what I like to call the archaeology of the subconscious. Somehow the technology has conditioned the very way we communicate. It's like a different kind of language. A lot of times people use dead words, so to speak, and that's when a mix doesn't work. What you do as a DJ is to breathe new life into it and see what happens, and that's what sampling's about. It's speaking with the voices of the dead, playing with that sense of presence and absence. If the mix doesn't evoke something, it doesn't work."
  • "I feel like psychedelic culture flows through white America and black American culture along different vectors. I'm a product of Washington D.C., and African-American culture in D.C. is highly segregated. When I did my first series of psychedelic interventions, I was a teenager, college age. Some of my weirder experiences were staying up all night and just walking around Washington, D.C., and seeing all the weird monuments. Class and social hierarchy issues are just etched like a rubber stamp on the whole zone. Seeing African-American kids playing plastic buckets in front of the White House, weird shit like that, that's what D.C. is about. There's more Haitians and vodoun kind of scenes in D.C. than in the South."
  • "In the '60s, with psychedelic culture, you saw this first burst of trying to break out of that. The drugs shattered people. They took acid and said, Holy shit! Psychedelic culture disrupted all the regimentation and let all this new energy out. Now you have multiculturalism, you have respect for diversity of sexual orientation, of women's rights, all these things. After the '60s, mainstream America viewed that as a problem or a mistake, whereas it's just about being human instead of being some weird, programmed android. When you look at Ginsberg and all those 1960s and 1950s guys, they were like neo-Romantics. But in literary or musical circles these days, there's just a deep confusion about how to break out of the system and really be outside of it. The Matrix - that's one of my favorite parables around. It's the whole Plato's cave thing, where you see the shadow of the projection of reality and you take that as the basic rhythm of what's going on."
  • "With drugs, there is no one answer. It's all dualities, paradoxes, twisted involutions. In a way, it's healthy, but as human beings we also seek standardization. It's like a hive thing. We're more insects than the insects perhaps. I remember reading the other day that they found a huge ant colony that stretched for like 3000 miles. You could say the same thing of the East Coast megalopolis - stretching from Boston down to Atlanta... We're the same thing. I don't think the drugs clarify anything. I think they just diffuse the interface a little bit and allow you to see the cracks in the system. But unless you can walk through those cracks, or think out of the cracks, you don't know if it's just another illusion."
  • "I've kind of distanced myself from the psychology of psychedelic culture. I DJ'd at Burning Man last year and took some DMT. I felt much more disassociated than before. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about: the logic of things, you do A thus B happens or C happens. But psychedelic culture breaks those associative chains, and makes you feel like everything's without cause and just floating. When I did that heavy psychedelic at Burning Man, I actually felt like my brain had gone past the point of no return. I mean, everything's already fragmented, but it feels like if I touch this stuff ever again, my brain will just fly to pieces. In general, I haven't done anything over the last year or so - I've had some coffee, some wine. The more I've actually pulled back from stuff, the more it feels like the entire planet is psychedelic -- like the geometry of a city seen from above, or seeing ocean waves just near the Mediterranean. Monaco looked like a Walt Disney recreation, but then you realize that Disney is just recreating that weird palace vibe. We live in a culture of relentless quotation. You see something, you absorb it, and it pops up unconsciously in your next thing. After the last time I did DMT at Burning Man, I felt like my brain became Time Square, a kind of boring, rushing collage of conflicting images and ideas, each one demanding its own time and space in my brain."
  • "I think a lot of this stuff is psychologically corrosive. To get any work done, you can't think like that, because you're just outside of any notion of normal language and being able to communicate and deal with things. It takes a lot of psychological integrity to be able to balance between psychedelic culture and being able to maintain and build a normal world and still have that sense of overview. When you talk to some executive guy, they've got just a one-track mentality, because that's what allows them to do their thing. Anybody who wants to do something has to compress. Once you've done X amount of some substance it actually remodels your perceptions, the architecture of how you experience stuff. You do the drugs and then the drugs do you. When you look at a computer screen, synaesthesia is just there on the surface, like when you touch it and you see little waves bubble away. There are special effects at every level and from every angle. As an artist, I'm at a paradox, because part of me has that urge to trip. But there's always the sense that once you go past that point of no return, you're in a universe of one, because you're your own language structure, your own mentality. At the peak of any trip you sometimes feel this inability to have any sense of real language. That's what Burning Man felt like: that sense of linguistic loss, of not being able to enunciate normal words or the flows of how you would normally put sentences together. It's post-linguistic or something."