He's here. He's there. He's everywhere. Paul D. Miller, otherwise known as DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid has remixed everyone from Steve Reich to Metallica. In the wake of his Outpost/Geffen album Riddim Warfare comes Subliminal Minded: The EP, thirty minutes of radical remixes, outtakes and brand spankin' new tracks just in time for century's end. Special guests include Dub Pistols (from the UK), DJ Wally (US drum 'n' bass mixmaster), Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and the rap duo Organized Konfusion.
Standing at the crossroads of academic and pop culture, his moniker itself represents the combined inspiration of a sci-fi hero in a William S. Burroughs novel and an old commercial for Count Chocula cereal. In his written work, visual creations, DJ sets and musical pieces, he marries a highbrow wit with an infectious sense of whimsy, fusing cultures and ideas for the digital age.
Growing up in the '80s in D.C., Miller was exposed to a particularly diverse music culture, which he eagerly soaked up. "I grew up with this weird kind of cross-fusion," he says. "I was growing up with The Specials and English Beat on one hand, Trouble Funk and the Junkyard Band on the other, and at the same time listening to Bad Brains or Minor Threat. In my head, those are my core rhythm patterns." By 1988, he had launched his own radio show at Bowdoin College in Maine, where he had begun studies in French literature and philosophy. "Dr. Seuss' Eclectic Jungle" ran for four years and explored the etymology of sound, working backwards from hip-hop records and the like to expose their sample sources and original inspirations.
Constantly in-demand behind the decks, DJing has taken Miller to nearly every major city on the globe, from Venezuela and Japan to Holland and Brazil. As part of New York's SoundLab collective, DJ Spooky is recognized as one of the pioneers behind the city's experimental electronic scene that has come to known as "illbient," a musical genre that reflects the city's urban mixture of culturally diverse sounds and flavors.
Subliminal Minded: The EP is comprised of thirty plus minutes of remixes and ruminations based on his 1998 album Riddim Warfare.(on Outpost) furthur expanding on his idea of "making music from fragments of the world." For the Riddim Warfare album, armed with his portable mini-disc recorder, Miller acted as a world receiver, collecting intriguing sounds, infusing them with his own elements (such as live bass, turntables, even a nmbara, or West African thumb piano) and using them as new phrases in his aural alphabet soup to further his global dialogue.
But unlike his first album, 1996's Songs Of A Dead Dreamer (on Asphodel Records), which was essentially meant to be an aural illustration of a conceptual art project aimed at the academic world, Riddim Warfare shows Spooky directly engaging his audience, stepping into the mirror of music and refracting many of its directions.
"I had no idea my first stuff would actually sell and create a media buzz," he says of Songs Of A Dead Dreamer, which quickly made DJ Spooky a sought-after remixer; to date he has lended his signature reconstructions to artists as diverse as Metallica, Nick Cave and Sublime. "It was something I just did because I was trying to deal with certain realities in NYC: first and foremost, a deep unwillingness on the part of my fellow writers to deal with electronic music or urban music. Of course, things have changed these days and it's almost trendy to write about electronic stuff and hip-hop. But they still don't let things that are more conceptual get through. Then again, it's all about strategy: how to bypass the stale types that always hold culture back."
Music is only one facet of what drives the omni-talented multimedia artist Paul D. Miller. He is also at work on several projects that displays his talent and creativity as a fastidious writer and visual artist, such as contributions to the critically acclaimed Angry Women In Rock series and an installation at the Whitney Museum's prestigious Biennial.
Recently, DJ Spooky performed in Sao Paolo Brazil with Afrika Bambaataa, Grand Master Flash, De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, and others. He toured last February on the Sno-Core tour with Everclear, Soul Coughing and Redman and recently completed a 40-city US. tour with Kool Keith (Black Elvis Tour). His restless experimentation has also lead him to a recent joint album project with The Freight Elevator Quartet. "It's all about music as a learning process," says DJ Spooky. "Being open to the amazing amount of diversity around us and reflecting it back into the culture to create a new space for different things to kick in."