DJ Shadow Begins

DJ Shadow by B+

Photo by B+


As we finalize Wax Poetics Issue 66, with DJ Shadow on the cover, we offer some bonus coverage as a sneak peak of our cover story by David Ma—the DJ Shadow origin story. And don’t miss the Endtroducing box set out now.

Issue 66 also features Family Stone trumpeter Cynthia Robinson, soul legend Leon Sylvers, disco don Cerrone, Japanese beatsmith and Shadow collaborator DJ Krush, and more..for another epic issue of Wax Poetics.

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The following photos are courtesy of DJ Shadow Photos Flickr photostream. All words by DJ Shadow from the interview with David Ma.


John Hilyard and Lyrics Born

That’s [“Motorcycle”] John Hilyard in the middle, and he was a huge influence on me. That was in [Hilyard’s record store in] Merced, California. On that day, [Lyrics Born] and me cut school to go to the record store. I was probably twenty-one at the time.

[There was a guy named] Mr. Nice Guy, he ended up in Davis and was supposedly eventually tutored by the Bomb Squad. He was the only dude I knew with an SP1200, and he had stacks of 45s. When I went over to his house, I was like, “This is the type of shit 45 King must’ve had!”

But at that point, I was like, “What’s the point of 45s? They’re already on albums, and I don’t even think 45s sound as good.” And dude was like, “No way!” He was like, “Take Dyke and the Blazers, for example, they have ten songs that are only on 45!” I had never really thought of it that way. Or you take Bobby Byrd, for example, “I Know You Got Soul.” He was like, “It’s only on 45.”

And he was the first guy to tell me that there was a guy in Merced with tens of thousands of 45s, and I wasn’t too interested. It took me about a year before I took up his advice and eventually went to Merced. This is where I learned all my basic prime knowledge about 45s.

8th Wonder

That’s 8th Wonder at that same spot in Merced. We grew up in the ’80s and split our money from our ten dollars a week allowance. He’d go buy two 12-inches, and I’d go buy two, and then we’d be on the phone to make sure we didn’t get the same thing because we’d want to dub each other’s shit. [laughs] He ended up becoming a total funk 45 guy. He made that T-shirt he’s wearing in the picture—that was his shit. It wasn’t until later that I got to England that I knew anyone who was really into funk 45s. There was a lot hip-hop sample-based funk, but then there were also what would become known as deep funk. A lot of the records we found there.


This picture is awesome. Lyrics Born had a show at a venue in the city that no longer exists called the Stone. I actually still have it on video, and it was a great show. Xcel, I remember, was his DJ for his show. In the picture, we had just gotten the white labels for the first Solesides release, and I had just, I didn’t know why, we ordered like a hundred white labels, and I went to Kinko’s to make transparent stickers to put over the actual white labels. These dudes here on the right were just walking by and they randomly happen to be DJs and were like, “What are you guys doing? Can we get some of those?” That’s Jeff Chang, DJ Zen; 8th Wonder; [Lyrics Born’s] best friend, Benji. Benji was actually meant to be an artist in the crew but sadly he passed away. That’s Xcel and Gab.

Chief Xcel and DJ Shadow

This picture is from a spot in Sacramento. And that’s actually the same store where we shot the cover of Endtroducing. You also see more scenes of that store in the movie Scratch. What I think of when I see this picture is the guy who owned this store, Ed. Ed has since passed away. And actually the whole block is no longer there. That’s where they’re apparently building the new Kings stadium and they took down the entire area I believe.

DJ Shadow

That’s at the Music Exchange in Kansas City, the largest record store in America at that time. My best friend, Dante Carfanga, worked there at the time, and that photo was taken in 2003 when I was on cross-country digging trip. I knew I was going to have kids soon, and Dante called it our “Endless Summer of Records,” kind of like that surf film where you never wanted it to end. We ended up buying all the 45s from that place, 320,000, I think. I have storage, all over the place.

DJ Shadow

Rare shot of Shadow’s earliest studio, circa 1992–1993, which existed in 8th Wonder’s parents’ house.


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