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Mophono's Late Night Tales

California based artist Benji Illgen welcomed us to his universe, where he shared with us his family history, rave scene years, music influences and about how he got started. From there, he embarked on a journey creating his own imprint CB Records, developing new DJ techniques and aiming at transmitting his love of the art. Over the years he managed to work with his favorite artists like Egyptian Lover and DJ Shadow. It’s now time to change the beat...


Mophono in 2020
Mophono in 2020
 

Jon

Can you tell me where you were born and where your family is originating from?


Benji

I was born in 1976 at home in Sonoma, California. My mom is German Russian Jewish from Brooklyn, and my father is born in Oakland and he is German Scottish. His mother came from Indiana where her family ran Shirley Radiator Works. My grandfather is from Oakland and he used to worked for my grandmother's family at The Burman's tow truck company. The tow truck company would make money by bringing the cars into the shop, but because my grandfather was such an honest guy and working on cars was second nature, he would blow people's mind by fixing the cars on the road. He was the best guy on the team and was the talk of the company, so my grandmother wanted to meet the young hot shot.


Years later, they got into a mess where they broke down in Oildale Bakersfield, California, and a corrupt tow truck place was holding him and my grandmother hostage and trying to steal his tools as collateral. My grandfather went back to the place after hours, fixed the car himself, got it off the blocks and they safely left town. They both returned a decade later on the way to the Long Beach Grand Prix and saw that that same guy was still working in the oil pit...


Charles Burman's personal Peerless "Green Dragon" booklet, 1905
Charles Burman's personal Peerless "Green Dragon" booklet, 1905

Charles Burman with mechanician Bill Staring in the Peerless that won the 1905 National Championship Race in Cleveland, OH
Driver Charles Burman with mechanician Bill Staring in the Peerless "Green Dragon" car that won the 1905 National Championship Race in Cleveland, OH

Later they helped start what is known as the SCCA [Sports Car Club of America]. My grandfather was a Lead Turn Marshal and part of the first flagmen on the race tracks. He pioneered safety on the tracks by inventing a flagging technique that all race tracks still use today called the Buddy System, where you have two guys back to back. Charlie Burman was my great grand mother's brother. He assembled the first 3 speed transmission in America, and in 1904, while teammates with my great uncle and driving the Peerless Green Dragons, Barney Oldfield was the first to drive 60 miles per hour on the track (aka a mile a minute). So race car driving is a big part of my family heritage.


Jon

Could you relate to the music that was played at home when you were a child?


Benji

I think so. My father was in SF and Oakland in the 60s and was a wild hippie who was marching and speaking out as part of the civil rights movement, and all of this stuff that we are proud of in the Bay Area. He was hanging out with all of these poets and he was part of the beatniks. He and his friends introduced me to a lot of psychedelic rock and folk stuff, and songwriters that had something different to say with valuable lyrics like Richie Havens, Bob Dylan and the early Van Morrison stuff.


Richie Havens "Electric Havens" (Douglas, 1970) - Bob Dylan "The Times They Are A-Changin'" (Columbia, 1964) - Van Morrison "Astral Weeks" (Warner Bros. / Seven Arts Records, 1968)
Richie Havens "Electric Havens" (Douglas, 1970) - Bob Dylan "The Times They Are A-Changin'" (Columbia, 1964) - Van Morrison "Astral Weeks" (Warner Bros. / Seven Arts Records, 1968)

Then on my mom's side, she was embracing like Talking Heads, Grace Jones, Laurie Anderson and this sort of New York art party music. So there was always this sort of real creative strand, like music doesn't really need to just be only one thing, there's a dynamic range of expression in there that it can be. My mom is a crazy creative visionary artist who's very comfortable with dark stuff, and blood and weird looking bones and muscles. She does surreal art, so she was definitely a part of introducing me to the positives and negatives of being an artist.


 Grace Jones ‎"Nightclubbing" (Island Records, 1981) -  Talking Heads ‎"Remain In Light" (Sire, 1980) -  Laurie Anderson ‎"Big Science" (Warner Bros. Records, 1982)
Grace Jones ‎"Nightclubbing" (Island Records, 1981) - Talking Heads ‎"Remain In Light" (Sire, 1980) - Laurie Anderson ‎"Big Science" (Warner Bros. Records, 1982)

But my brother too. He brought The Clash, Eurythmics and OMD home and he loved the 80s punk and synth-pop and so he introduced me to Art Of Noise and Yaz [oo] which was huge for me.


 Yazoo ‎"Upstairs At Eric's" (Mute, 1982) -  Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark ‎"Architecture & Morality" (Dindisc, 1981) -  The Art Of Noise ‎"Who's Afraid Of The Art Of Noise" (ZTT, 1984)
Yazoo ‎"Upstairs At Eric's" (Mute, 1982) - Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark ‎"Architecture & Morality" (Dindisc, 1981) - The Art Of Noise ‎"Who's Afraid Of The Art Of Noise" (ZTT, 1984)

Jon

I guess that it can be uncommon for a kid to listen to this variety of music, is it something that you could share with your friends at school?


Benji

Not until high school did everybody really jump into music, and by that point all the guys we related to were in bands. When I was really young, my cousin made me a mixtape with bands like Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys and Tone Loc, like party raps. And then I got into EPMD and the whole Eazy-E stuff. And when I turned into a teenager, Public Enemy was like my favorite thing on Earth for sure.


Jon

Usually youngsters are into hip hop or rock or electronic music, but rarely all at once because of this need to belong. And at this age, music is usually a way to identify who you can affiliate with.


Benji

When I grew up, we started going to raves and then it was crazy. Then what we realized is all of the friends we had known through graffiti culture and hip hop were going to these parties too. Everyone agreed that it was a good music thing, but with the raves it felt more like DJ culture and our community above. It was primarily house music here in the Bay, so me and my crew were some of the first people to play bigger events where we’d play hip hop or break beats and b-boy jams on the dance floor.


AIR "Casanova 70" (Source, 1996) - Funki Porcini "Hed Phone Sex" (Ninja Tune, 1995) - Junkwaffel "The Mud Skipper EP" (Cup Of Tea Records, 1995)
AIR "Casanova 70" (Source, 1996) - Funki Porcini "Hed Phone Sex" (Ninja Tune, 1995) - Junkwaffel "The Mud Skipper EP" (Cup Of Tea Records, 1995)

We were playing underground hip hop, instrumental beat stuff, Ninja Tune and Mo Wax stuff a lot, and we played a shitload of French stuff actually too, like Source [label], DJ Cam or Air. We'd have people dancing to 60 BPM stuff, like Funky Porcini's first album [Hed Phone Sex / Ninja Tune, 1995] or Shadow's first 12"s. We'd be playing a lot of Cup Of Tea [Records] that was really chilled out. They had Purple Penguin, Monk & Canatella… And even though I don't like it as much as the other stuff, their first record has a Portishead remix on it [Junkwaffel’s The Mud Skipper EP / 1995]. Pussyfoot [Howie B.’s label] had a lot of stuff that was humorously chilled out where you're like, "What the hell? So calm!"


AIR "Le Soleil Est près De Moi" (Source, 1997) - Blackalicious "Melodica EP" (Solesides, 1994) - Headz 2B (Mo Wax, 1996)
AIR "Le Soleil Est près De Moi" (Source, 1997) - Blackalicious "Melodica EP" (Solesides, 1994) - Headz 2B (Mo Wax, 1996)

But we always put something gnarly and heavy in the mix intentionally. Like "Crash" by Skull [Headz 2B / Mo Wax, 1996], EL-P aka Indelible MC's "Fire in which you Burn (Instrumental)" [Official Recordings, 1997] or Blackalicious' first EP [Melodica / Solesides, 1994] have a super slow half tempo song. Or like that Air Automator Remix ["Le Soleil est Près de Moi "/ Source, 1997]. There's so much stuff! Almost everything we got was UK imports.


Jon

Is it when you started connecting with music?


Benji

I would say when I started to connect with music was when I would be in the kitchen as an eight year old and just sitting there focusing on doing the dishes. My brother and I would mess around with him recording and things like that. So that's when I realized that there was sort of a playful integration happening. I viewed it as this thing that could be malleable or played with. But I feel like when my friends and I started scratching with Beastie Boys, Brand Nubian and EPMD records around 92, only then did I feel like it was something that I could be a part of.


Jon

How did you discover scratching?


Benji

So we were into graffiti and we were into hip hop too, and so it was like we were learning about it all. So we can DJ and do graffiti and rap and make music, and it was all kind of coming in at once. But the Beastie Boys, De La Soul's first album [3 Feet High And Rising / Tommy Boy, 1989] and all the Def Jams stuff were definitely like early on for us, because we're hearing all of these little things that were happening. That kind of only made sense with records.


De La Soul "3 Feet High And Rising" (Tommy Boy, 1989). Design by Toby Mott & Paul Spencer (Grey Organisation)
De La Soul "3 Feet High And Rising" (Tommy Boy, 1989). Design by Toby Mott & Paul Spencer (Grey Organisation)

And when you think of graffiti we weren't 18 yet. We didn’t have money, so my buddies and I are getting into stealing, honestly like a bunch of shit! We’re stealing tons of paint cans, that was really easy. It wasn't about the expenses, it was about the size that you could fit. So if we could go for paint cans we could also shove records or tapes.


We were little kids and we were trying to branch out and do something new. So it's like "How do we do this?" And later on my buddy and I got arrested so it was like "We're either thieves till the end through and through. And everything is just stolen and that's how the fuck we live, or not!" So we realized we had to make a decision… And that same year my buddy got a job and then I got a job too, and we all started to realize "You know what? We're not thieves, we're just fucking around!"


Jon

As a teenager did you have access to MTV, or maybe specialized magazines like Dave Paul's Bomb Hip Hop Magazine?


Benji

We didn't really see all of that until later. [In fact] I associated rap with New York because when I was a kid throughout the 80s, my mom would take me there almost once a year. I was exposed to breakdancing and b-boy culture at a very young age, I was seeing boomboxes and all of that. And so to come back to the Bay and have nothing like that around except for electro breakdancing, I was pretty aware of the East Coast style also.


In the Bay Area, we had Too Short, breakdancing and popping crews, but the sound of Souls of Mischief, Hiero and Solesides wasn't really available over there before 92.


DJ Benji live mix in 1996 (age 20)
DJ Benji live mix in 1996 (age 20)

So not until later on did we start seeing it on television and start going to graffiti conventions or meetups, and connecting with all the local dudes. But it took a while for all this to start settling in or becoming available in California. It wasn't very easy to buy rap records in stores, because it was full of classic rock, and then the rap section would be extra small. It would be mostly some kind of goofy commercial stuff and disco raps, like Sugar Hill Gang.


That summer there was a general sentiment from a lot of our friends, "We don't want to hear any of that party shit, we want that underground sound!" Like all that Souls Of Mischief, Del Tha Funky Homosapien, De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Gangstarr... All that stuff was just exploding in our brains and that's all we wanted to hear.


Jon

Before you became a DJ, I guess that you were appealed by a certain aesthetic of sound, so what was it for you?


Benji

One of my first favorite songs when I was 8 years old was “Egypt, Egypt” by Egyptian Lover [Freak Beat Records, 1984]. His tool the [Roland TR-] 808 is legendary, it's a really powerful machine with a distinct sound. I've always loved electro and old school rap from when I was really young. Stuff like that where if you get a feel for it, it's unmistakable and it's also undeniable.


2nd pressing of "Egypt, Egypt" by The Egyptian Lover (Freak Beat Records, 1984)
2nd pressing of "Egypt, Egypt" by The Egyptian Lover (Freak Beat Records, 1984)

When I was young, I realized that producer DJs were integral in the sound that I loved most about hip hop. Like Dust Brothers with the Beastie Boys, and DJ's like Prince Paul created De La Soul's sound. With all of these weird samples and cool ideas, they sort of entered an alternate universe. I think that kind of created my attraction to sample music and sample culture, and that also dictated my approach and my value system.


It’s not just, "Okay, I want that to happen," and you just go do it. I think anyone who tries to make music finds out very quickly that it isn't really that cut and dry. You start really getting into this world of like, "What is that?" And the answer to that question is where it becomes a personal journey. And that's why I think I don't like talking about equipment too much, because the answer to that question is everyone's own personal journey.


My personal journey started with my friend Shoam and I. We had an 8 second Roland sampler and we had a [Boss] DR660 drum machine. The hi-hat and the kick were alright, but everything else was terrible! And so I learned how to make samples last, speed them up and then slow them down in the sampler, things like that… And I learned really quickly what was valuable and how to process things so that we could make what we wanted to make.


But when it came to my own studio, the real beginning of the larger creations was after I left my little sampler on my DJ Mixer and bought the MPC2000. It had just come out [1997] and had more sample time than just 8 seconds, so I thought “This is the one to get.” I struggled, struggled, struggled and finally bought it, then started digging super hard for records and drum breaks, sampling and making beats. And it's been nonstop since then.


AKAI MPC2000 sampler (1997)
AKAI MPC2000 sampler (1997)

Jon

How would you determine what you were going to put after the sample that you’d just entered in the machine?


Benji

We would be looking for something that had an energy or a vibe to it, something that would click. It would always be a CTI record [jazz label] when I was younger. And it was more often the way you heard it than what it actually was, so you don't really know what it is that's going to do that or why it's going to do that.


We'd be picking through, picking through, picking through, "Oh my God, there it is!" And it's like, "Okay, what does that have in it? How do we use this?" We would both agree, then throw it in the sampler, start choppin' up, truncate, get rid of everything and then it's like, "Okay, now we have this moment." Then we would loop it or trigger it and just add drums. And if you had a nice sample with some drums that had a little bit of bass in it, then you're pretty good.


When I got my MPC my process became much more in depth. I was like, "Okay, you can do this sort of programming," but for the most part it was like finding a little musical loop. And for us back then, it was always beautiful acoustic/analog sounds. Because of the texture, this indescribable chemistry would happen, and then we’d drop some drums over it.


Jon

Would you say that you had mentors or people that galvanized you when you started to make music?


Benji

So I think of my old partner Shoam. It was the two of us and the act of us experimenting and being genuinely excited to create something new, and not be fearful. Just pushing the boundaries as far as we knew, as far as all of our friends knew, and as far as anyone we knew had seen or shown us. And push it to that place where we knew we were finding something cool, new and interesting, unique and uncharted. So more than a person as a mentor, it was that actual act that represented a mentor to both of us. We then created a crew together called ARM [Ace Revolution Mechanics] and slowly added our peers who were the most talented DJ's with the highest musical standards in the Bay Area, at the time.


Mista S.C. (Shoam) Meets Centipede (Benji) "Night Predators Vol.1" mixtape (ARM, 1996) and flyer. Sleeve by Shoam
Mista S.C. (Shoam) Meets Centipede (Benji) "Night Predators Vol.1" mixtape (ARM, 1996) and flyer. Sleeve by Shoam

Jon

You have released a mixtape called Mophono in 96 [under his name Benji] where ARM is mentioned and there's this sort of mecha on it. Were you into Japanese culture at the time?


Benji

Oh yeah, so that was the first mixtape and it's kind of an interesting story behind the cover art.


When I was a kid, I would save up all my money and buy Lego. So when I was about 8, my first large purchase was like 100 bucks, which is a lot of fucking money as a kid! I saved up my money until we went to this wonderful place called Mr. Mopps in Berkeley. It's a really cool toy store where you could find toys that weren't usually found in the Bay Area. There, I found this big ass box of Japanese robots that you could all stack on top of each other. So I'm like, "This is the shit!" I bought this thing called Blockman [In 1985, Takara sold the license of Combination Warrior Blockman to Revell in the USA which they rebranded Robotech Robolinks].


The Blockman C Series was the visual inspiration to create the 1st Mophono mixtape (Takara, 1984)
The Blockman C Series was the visual inspiration to create the 1st Mophono mixtape (Takara, 1984)

Later on, when I started going to parties I remember going to this guy. I was like "How the hell did you make this fucking flyer for this party?" And he's like, "Kinkos!” My buddy and I were like, "What the hell is Kinkos?" And then we went there. It is a self-serve copy place where they used to have these counter cartridges that would count your copies. So you'd walk in, grab a cartridge, plug it into the copier, copy, and then you'd bring the cartridge up to the register and pay. After a little bit of time we realized how to rig the system. We just stole one of those cartridges. So you'd go in, you'd grab a cartridge, plug it in, put like 10 copies on it, then secretly put the stolen cartridge in and put like 100 copies on, then put their cartridge back in again, and then do another 10 copies, and pay for 20 copies. It's fucked up, but it made it so that we could just give mixtapes out and make flyers and everything super cheap!


There's a whole bunch of tapes that aren't up on Discogs. One of them was Mista SC meets DJ Centipede. [At the time] my buddy was like, "What's your favorite video game?" I said “Centipede" [shoot'em up released by Atari in 1981]. He's like, "That's your DJ name!" I'm like, "What the hell?" That’s where I got the DJ Centipede name, and so that was the very first time I used the name DJ Centipede was on that mixtape.


Centipede arcade game's marquee on Atari. Design by Dona Bailey & Ed Logg, 1981
Centipede arcade game's marquee on Atari. Design by Dona Bailey & Ed Logg, 1981

Eventually, my partner and I had made a bunch of mixtapes. I was like, "Okay, this one's gonna just be me, it's gonna be my first mixtape." I put all this energy into that mixtape and I dug that back out, so the cover is actually a Kinkos scan of the [toy box] cover. And then I had hatched together on top with scissors, I repurposed it so that it did not say "Blockman" but "Mophono" because I just thought that would be the name of the cassette. I put my pager phone number on it and I recorded it in three takes. I did the first take, didn't get it, did the second take, messed up, and then the third take is the one that the mixtape is from all the way through.


[Benji shows me this huge pile of stickers that you put on cassette shells]. All of these are unused and come from the mixtapes that I made in the 90s and gave away or sold. Whenever I mark a record for the DJ stuff, I use one of the label stickers that came with them. So that's a lot right there and of the Mophono [tape], I easily did more than 500.


Benji's first solo mixtape under his Mophono moniker (ARM, 1996)
Benji's first solo mixtape under his Mophono moniker (ARM, 1996)

Jon

That Mophono tape is essentially a mix of Ninja Tune and Mo Wax tracks. Back in 96, both labels were already famous all over Europe but maybe not in the States, so how did you discover them?


Benji

Well, they were a little bit bigger than the rest of the stuff that we got. When we started record shopping we were playing dance music, and I remember the last time I went record shopping for dance music and this was a big memorable moment.


It was at Tweekin Records about two blocks from where I live now. They had a little back room where they had all the imports and that's where we'd find Cup of Tea, Ninja Tune, Mo Wax, Wall of Sound, Pussyfoot, Warp and all the crazy shit. Basically, I listened to like 150 dance records and didn't buy any of them. Palm Skin with the Autechre remix, was the best thing I found and I ended up buying this record only [he shows me Palm Skin Productions ‎– The Beast (Remix) / Mo Wax, MW029R, 1995] and a repress of Tribe Called Quest. It was very apparent that all I wanted to hear was abstract experimental and downtempo music.


Palm Skin Productions "The Beast (Remix)" (MW029R - Mo Wax, 1995). Graphics by Swifty. Scan by Rob
Palm Skin Productions "The Beast (Remix)" (MW029R - Mo Wax, 1995). Graphics by Swifty. Scan by Rob

When I had a landline and this came out [he shows me RPM – 2000 reissue / Mo Wax, MW018, 1994], I bought it and I called Mo Wax. Because I'm like, "Okay, these guys are the best. Maybe I can tell them how much of a fan I am," cuz I loved their records and I was just starting to see things happen. but I think I just ended up leaving them a voice message [he laughs].


Jon

What's the meaning of the Mophono moniker?


Benji

So it's a lot of records like this and you will like the French stuff too [he shows me a bunch of records including La Funk Mob, Mighty Bop, MC Solaar, DJ Cam, Source Lab, Daphreephunkateerz...] and Mo Wax, Digable Planets and Jazzmatazz, you know what I mean?


There was this whole movement with jazz and hip hop, and all these beautiful designs and labels. It was like an attitude and a whole mindset, everybody put "Mo" in front of everything and I decided to add "Phono" for that mixtape. So I just put Mophono as kind of an expression of what it is: more records.


And only in 2000 did I come back to the name of that mixtape. I wasn't really releasing music under my own name so then I was like, "Oh, I'm gonna put my record out, what do I call myself?" Shadow actually has some early demos of mine that I gave him before I used Mophono, called Phono Constructions. There's some stuff in skate videos with those but they don't have that early name, it's all just under Mophono.


 La Funk Mob ‎"Casse Les Frontières, Fou Les Têtes En L'air" (MW023 - Mo Wax, 1994). Grafix by Swifty. Photography by Will Bankhead. Scan By Rob
La Funk Mob ‎"Casse Les Frontières, Fou Les Têtes En L'air" (MW023 - Mo Wax, 1994). Grafix by Swifty. Photography by Will Bankhead. Scan by Rob

Jon

What's the difference between Mophono and DJ Centipede sonically?


Benji

Ten years ago if I did a Mophono DJ set it would primarily be really obscure, awkward, crunched out, aggressive, fucked up and definitely not in the main stream. Whereas nowadays, if I'm playing even slightly left of center shit, a lot of people act like I'm a weirdo!


But it's also sort of contextual. Like, for example if I'm playing at a Z-Trip or at a Cut Chemist show and I go into an original breaks and beat set, that's not really going to turn any heads per se because people would probably expect that sound from me in that setting... But each show has a space where if you try, you can really stretch out and take people with you into a different world.


So it's kind of like, with DJ Centipede, I pay a little bit more attention to the job of the DJ. It’s full freedom, play anything whatever the fuck it is, have a strong effect on people and really have some motion in the crowd. But If I'm doing a DJ Centipede set and no one's dancing, I'm like, "Let's break something out to really make a move."


Mofoko: first ARM weekly @ Your Mama's Cafe, Oakland, 1996
Mofoko: first ARM weekly @ Your Mama's Cafe, Oakland, 1996

Whereas with Mophono, I'm not really gonna meld directly into the listeners comfort zone like people in their 30s or 40s and play exactly what makes them fucking dance... I'm not going to do that. It's more like, "Come on, look at what I'm doing!" I'm going to do something that no one else can do on the planet, and I'm going to try and enrich your life with something that hopefully isn't too far from your musical spectrum. But also bring something really entertaining and interesting either on just the turntables or with a full live analog performance with drum machines and synths and crazy skipping records and weird noises, you know what I mean? So that’s kind of the difference.


Jon

To me the Bay Area is more of a hip hop music incubator, and when it comes to the electronic music revolution it’s more the likes of Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, Moroder or Vangelis who are all from Europe. So what can you tell me in terms of electronic music acts over there during the 60s/70s?


Benji

That’s basically the question that I asked myself early on in my career. "Was the only way to party in the 60s to play in a rock band?" And I slowly found out that it wasn't. There was this guy Don Buchla who created the Buchla Box in the 60s, which was this gloopy thing that he could play with at parties where everybody was doing drugs and hanging out. And so I also got answers finding out about people like the San Francisco Tape Music Center, a super important hub of experimental music from 62-66, with people like Steve Reich and Terry Riley.


Don Buchla (1937-2016) in the late 60s and a price catalogue of the Buchla 100 Series modular synthesizers
Don Buchla (1937-2016) in the late 60s and a price catalogue of the Buchla 100 Series modular synthesizers

And then it was like, "Where does psychedelic music and electronic music cross paths?" Because I was kind of caught up in a lot of that. And I realized that there was more to this Bay Area electronic scene of music concrete and weird experimental stuff. There's this guy [Stan Shaff and his partner Doug McEchern] that ran this place called the Audium with this surround sound system with like 60 speakers, and there he would play weird tape music. You'd go in a circle, you'd sit down, close your eyes and listen to the music concrète as a sonic musical art piece.


So there was a lot of experimental stuff going on in the Bay Area obviously, especially when I was a kid. And my mom often took me to crazy art shows, cool performance art shows and a lot of museums too. That was my main outlet until I really started experimenting on my own as a teenager, partying and doing acid, and throwing my own events and art shows.


Jon

Did you take piano lessons as a kid or are you mostly self-taught?


Benji

Definitely self-taught. I think I always approached it from a sort of experimental place, and I learned early on that there is something that occurs when you're just playing around. But there's also a value to understanding the musicality and how things go together, and understanding context and composition.


So I am basically constantly learning, which also creates a little bit more of a timely process. Sometimes I'll learn a piece upside down before I actually perform it, and it's helped when I've worked with other musicians in terms of really appreciating their craft. Because just having another person sometimes can act as a counterpoint or re contextualize a piece. And transcribing an otherwise simple part can completely come alive, and that is a huge value as well.


Audium theatre in San Francisco. Photography by Joe Fletcher, 2014
Audium theatre in San Francisco. Photography by Joe Fletcher, 2014

When I work with other musicians, I always learn new things. It's almost like this discovery thing where we learn about what we gravitate towards and I'm always like, "Why do I like this so much?" My buddies Joe Cohen and Young Aundee are musicians that spend a lot of time in my studio and often help build some of these killer compositions.


Joe Cohen recorded with me for definitely more than 10 years, and he'll come over and I'll show him something that I'm playing with and I'll be like, "I don't know where to go after this. I keep going to a happy place but I don't want it to be happy, or vice versa." And he'll show me different ways or we will play with some cool ideas, and I'll modify them. I usually say things like, "Let's slow it down a little bit, or find ways to parse ideas into compositions or flip things around and just have fun.”


Jon

That's interesting because I think many artists keep their work for themselves, they don't really share their compositions before it's done.


Benji

When I was a kid, DJs would bring their records out, but they would have them covered up so no one could read the labels and find out the songs. And so I'm also definitely of that private and secretive old school ilk.


But I've seen so many artists who create something and it never gets seen by anyone else, and I don't want that to happen to my music. Every time I change into a different kind of technique or new style, it takes a little bit and then I completely understand it, and it's not about me anymore after that's done. I really want to have it be seen and I'm not making it for myself because I know what I can do, I'm making it for everyone else, like DJs and lovers of the art and music.


Mophono in the mix, 2010
Mophono in the mix, 2010

I think somewhere about 10 years ago, it was like I wanted to create something that may change people's ideas, like chemistry. My utility isn't just "I want people to dance, I want DJs to play it, I just want to have music that people can sit and listen to." Because if it was the only focus, I would definitely make different stuff [he laughs]. What I feel is more important than just filling the void or demand, is to have an effect and to curate some sort of value in my community. My hope is that if it affects them, it will then affect everyone else. So it's this ripple thing that goes out.


Jon

So basically, you don’t like to have unreleased tracks?


Benji

Yeah, it's really hard for me because it feels like I'm not keeping my word. I feel like I owe it to the art, I owe it to the voice of the piece that I create, and I also feel that I owe it to the people that support the art, you know? Not just because they support me, but also it's like I have the luxury to create and put all of this time and energy into it. In a sense there is that process. Whatever happens after it is released is not really bad, because I know that I gave it the best shot at being seen and heard. The most important thing is I really want it to have an effect on people.


Jon

As one switches between styles, I feel like to master them you have to follow a process. Maybe tryouts and sketches are a prerequisite until you feel comfortable enough to release the track that you wanted, having learnt from your previous mistakes?


Benji

It's a good point, from one thing to the next. What I think you're uncovering is this idea that "Is everything worth presenting?" I mean, the tragedy of not releasing it comes from the fact that everything I release right now, I have about 10 times that that I'd like to release! Every release kind of represents a variation of the best I could do at that expression.


CB Records logo (Benji's imprint)
CB Records logo (Benji's imprint)

What you hear a lot in my music are these moments where I fit a lot into one little piece, and what that references is that I have so much more to say in these releases… I feel like it is a real shame to have tons of finished material and it's all ready to go but no one ever hears it. I think that part is the hard part.


Though I would agree there's a lot of ideas and sketches that I have recorded that kind of takes me from one place to the next, I wouldn't really quantify that as finished material that should be seen.I think it's more like "Listen to this idea." And I think there's ways to share that, it comes across when you see things like those beat battles or those how-to videos. I think things like that where people share their process are really interesting.


Jon

Is it not a pressure for an artist to have their studio at home?


Benji

It's actually a question in my life for the first time in 28 years, is to have a studio out of the house or not. And there's been times in my life where I've seen a real benefit, like when I was part of bands or when I was working with a bunch of different artists and we'd go to a place, make music, then go eat and go home.


So a big part of what I do by collecting all of these records, there's so much in it that's personal. And I'm like, "There is a level of it in physicality. Right now I can record it, I can have the waveform, I can have the lossless, I can even probably find an original recording of the digital and have it be even more crystal clear. But it's not the same!" And so that's the hard part. And this very physical thing, that's what I associate with having an effect. So there's some part of it that I appreciate so much. And to act like that doesn't exist, I think is also a pretty hard one for me too.


There's this Buddhist mentality where you don't have desires and people say "Oh, it's unconditional, everything can come and go," but I'm not into that.


My early career started in chill rooms, in raves, and our best sort of use and utility for me and my DJ crew was to basically make it easy for people to chill out. So scientifically the most chilled out thing unfortunately would be to have no music on, and then you would have zero effect, in other words pure silence. So it was probably 94-95 when I realized, "I don't want to be background" and it's problematic because then it's conditional.


Flyer for Planet Rock, San Francisco (July 18, 1998) where DJ Benji played
Flyer (front) for Planet Rock, San Francisco (July 18, 1998) where DJ Benji played

And this is where you start running into those ideas like, "If I have no desires or anything then nothing needs to happen. But for that to happen I don't need to leave the house. I can just get rid of all my records, I can have no music and I don't do anything." But what I actually want is much different than that, what I want is people to have more in their life and I want more for my life too. That’s why I perform and entertain people by bringing something unique and interesting to the table.


Jon

It sounds natural to me to think that an artist needs to evolve.


Benji

I mean, if you think of the Bay Area in the 90s, all the parties I was going to were the people that were basically inventing the Internet. They were those kinds of nerd tech, hip hop b-boy, drug rave, forefront of sexuality, art and culture. Like reflecting the hippie culture, but moving forward and trying to expand their minds and humanity all at once. I would be DJing to them, and it was a wonderful experience. I would be dancing at underground parties and fashion shows, graffiti events, b-boy events and weird art shows. I even played at a circus with robots and all kinds of crazy dynamic events.


We quickly realized that we were different from everybody else right around 95. If you looked across the board at what records were available, all of the vinyl we were buying and using in our sets, you’d see really high quality stuff with labels like Mo Wax, Warp, Ninja Tune rise pretty far up to the top. My friends and I were putting so much into it because we expected high results and had super high standards of talent. And skills reflected also in the records played from all of us in the crew. This mentality and style that we built stayed with me from then all the way til today, but modified more into an overall expression and manner in which the music is delivered above just selection and skill.


Flyer (back )for Planet Rock, San Francisco (July 18, 1998) where DJ Benji was the supporting act for De La Soul and The Alkaholiks
Flyer (back) for Planet Rock, San Francisco (July 18, 1998) where DJ Benji was the supporting act for De La Soul and The Alkaholiks

As far as evolving, I have found a balance to this approach where I try my hardest to push the art forward and challenge the culture, while creating high quality recordings, records, mixes, parties, performances and shows that all stand on their own as musical art pieces above the way they were made. But also not dependent on arbitrary things like corny tricks, corrupt bullshit, or reliant on cheesy cool guy social media campaigns and stuff that detracts from the impact of the musical and creative statement. Ultimately, I just want people to love my music like I do, and see what I see and love so much about it, so I can keep making killer shit.


Jon

In 2005, you released a 12" EP, called I Cry on your own label CB records. It was mostly instrumental hip hop à la Tommy Guerrero, I find.


Benji

So the first time I released I Cry it was a 3" CD, and then I released the 12" EP later [CB Records, 2005]. Tommy Guerrero got a copy of the 3" CD and it was after he had released Junk Collector [Mo Wax, 2001]. He said, "I want to get you a Mo Wax Japanese distribution for this project" [through Toy's Factory who was also distributing Mo Wax back in the days]. And this changed my life, because even though it didn't happen, the fact that the San Francisco musical skateboarding legend Tommy Guerrero liked it and wanted to help me, that meant the world to me.


Scarce Mophono's "I Cry EP" 3" CDr (CB Records, 2001)
Scarce Mophono's "I Cry EP" 3" CDr (CB Records, 2001)

Jon

I think this EP was widely embraced by the skateboard community. Why is that?


Benji

One of the reasons why I released that EP was because the title track, “I Cry” was used by Transworld [discontinued US skateboarding magazine and video production company]. Things were very different back then. This guy phoned me and then I mailed him the physical CD. He called back, long distance on my landline and said "This is the one I like." They paid me and just put my email address in the end credits of the skate video. I didn't know what would happen next and I literally started getting all of these emails from all over the world. Everybody wanted it and I'm like, "What the hell is going on?"


In the meantime, I got another song in another skate video and another song in a surf video. And with the help of a few friends, I got sponsored by the classic surf company, OP (Ocean Pacific), so when I put out the EP with all those songs on it, all I had to do was put their logo on it. They used the material in a few more videos and it was great. Through these friends I eventually started working with a local crew called Judah Skateboards. They were doing killer videos of all different secret legendary skate spots around the world, and so I would make a bunch of beats for them, and that helped my momentum and kept me inspired a lot.


Benji holding the "I Cry EP" (CB Records) test pressings, March 19, 2005
Benji holding the "I Cry EP" (CB Records) test pressings, March 19, 2005

Jon

In 2011, you released your LP Cut Form Crush [CB Records] which was an experimental kind of hip hop blended with electronic music, with even this 8-bits video game touch. That sound reminds me of DJ Krush that you have actually supported in 2012 for his 20 Years Anniversary Tour [February 25 at Mezzanine, SF].


Benji

Oh yeah, this was a good moment [he shows me a signed copy of the Strictly Turntablized LP / Mo Wax, 1994 as well as a signed test pressing of The Sinicism EP / Bastard Jazz Records, 2006]. When I first met him in 2005 as I shared the bill with him in San Francisco, we sat backstage and his manager was translating for us. As a kid I learned how to write my name in Kanji, and DJ Krush said it means "study" and "happiness". Then he wrote a translation for it into the different Japanese [syllabaries] and I've cherished it ever since.


But yes, my Cut Form Crush album is definitely inspired by my predecessors. I really tried to get aggressive and bold with the drums while also highlighting the synths and weird rhythms to the sound of instrumental hip hop beat music by performing often with artists like Dabrye, Eprom, Hudson Mohawk and Madlib, and then collaborating on a song on the project with Flying Lotus. I really tried to bring something new to the spotlight but also add diversity to the modern collective sound that was growing as well.


Mophono opening for DJ Krush @ Mezzanine, San Francisco (September 29, 2006)
Mophono opening for DJ Krush @ Mezzanine, San Francisco (September 29, 2006)

At that point I was starting to embrace that I had a super eccentric record collection of obscure artists who mostly performed in small clubs where I could actually meet them like, "Oh yeah, I'm seeing them, love them more than other artists that everybody else loves," so it got me started. I'm seeing them in the clubs and they're walking by. I met Autechre, DJ Food, DJ Vadim, Luke Vibert and got their signatures. I have a Squarepusher signature and rare signatures of guys that are very weird and esoteric.


Which reminds me of the first time I brought something to get signed by Shadow. It was at one of the 45 sessions with Cut Chemist right around 2001. He recognized me because we had talked and met a whole bunch through the 90s. I brought him the first Solesides cassette [Send Them / Entropy by Asia Born / DJ Shadow And The Groove Robbers, 1993] and also the Dark Days 7" sleeve [MCA, 2000]. What happened was I brought it to that show, I had the record jacket and cassette cover under one arm and I was passing out flyers with the other hand. At the time I was throwing my own release party later that month, somehow it dropped without me noticing, and when I looked down it was gone!


"Send Them / Entropy" by Asia Born / DJ Shadow And The Groove Robbers (Solesides, 1993). Artwork by The 8th Wonder. Photography by Mariella Petralia
"Send Them / Entropy" by Asia Born / DJ Shadow And The Groove Robbers (Solesides, 1993). Artwork by The 8th Wonder. Photography by Mariella Petralia

So that was a shitty moment for me. But I decided to approach the situation differently and try to grow from it thinking, "I have to start focusing on myself, visualizing myself being in these environments and really pushing for myself instead of worshiping others first.”


Jon

In 2012, you played at The Depot in Salt Lake City, Utah, supporting Josh on The Less You Know, The Better Tour. But how did you discover Shadow's music in the first place?


Benji

What happened basically is I got the original Solesides cassette and I just played it until it melted in the back of my car, so all I had was the cardboard. And then I realized I could take the cassette apart and put the actual tape into another cassette housing. So I did that and I played that forever until eventually my car got broken into, someone took all my tapes and that too. But I still had the melted cassette case with the cardboard in it, and so that's what I brought for him to sign that day I lost it. Interestingly I met this guy Gary Rivera at the show, he started booking me for events and booked me for a tour in Europe in 2002. I played in Paris, then London and I played a killer show in Spain.


Mophono opened for Shadow during the Shadowsphere Tour event at The Belly Up, Aspen, CO, April 19, 2012
Mophono opened for Shadow during the Shadowsphere Tour event at The Belly Up, Aspen, CO, April 19, 2012

The point of this story is highlighting a few landmark moments that happened all in one day. My buddy, as a gift for my birthday, got me this [he shows me a ticket stub] to go to a show which was De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, Souls of Mischief and Alkaholiks. It was November 26, 1993 and it was a good show. [Back then], you wouldn't really see underground hip hop like that, it was very rare.


Flyer for the show where Mophono went, at The Warfield in San Francisco, November 26, 1993
Flyer for the The Warfield show in San Francisco, November 26, 1993

Before the show, we met up with this guy named Sha-One [Shen-na Smith] who was like a Bay Area graffiti legend in the North Bay. His hip hop crew out of Santa Rosa, used to make rap beats, did tons of graffiti, and always had killer black books. And so we go to Santa Rosa to pick them up and then head up to San Francisco where we run one more graffiti errand to the only place in the entire bay area to get Fat Caps, the legendary Doug One's Shop. It was just a sliding glass window where he would sell random graffiti paraphernalia under the table, and supply everyone who knew all our illegal painting needs.


Finally we head over to a place called [Dave Paul’s] The Bomb Hip Hop shop [formerly located in the Civic Center area of SF]. It's like records, DJ stuff, Mixtapes and stuff on the wall. There was this guy hanging out there who ended up drawing in my friend's black book for a few hours and shooting the shit with us the whole time we're there. [At the time] we were all doing acid and shit, out of our brains and stuff, and they put a cassette on like, "What is that? That's fucking amazing!" It was the Solesides EP cassette and so I bought a copy of it. That one day changed my life forever because I bought Shadow's EP, saw De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, Souls of Mischiefs and Alkaholiks all for the first time, and the dude writing in my friend's black book ended up being Safir From the Hobo Junction.


Benji's vintage ticket stub of that night at The Warfield
Benji's vintage ticket stub of that night at The Warfield

Another aspect of the show was pretty mind blowing. To set the stage, my understanding was these De La Soul/Native Tongue guys were like hippies to me, talking about peace and love and flowers and daisies and stuff. There was one guy dancing on the speaker mocking them with his friends, and about 20 of them broke in through the back door and bum rushed the show about a half hour earlier. They fucking hit him with a mic stand, pull him off the speaker, and it ended in a huge brawl right on stage! I watched them get in a fight on the stage and beat people up. I saw Q-Tip knock some dude off the stage, Posdnuos had some guy in between his legs and he's punching him in the face like that. Like, San Francisco was a really rough place back then too. I listened to an interview with them recently where they talked about early moments in their career, having to fight a lot because everyone would check them as they thought that they were not tough or whatever...


And so this [Solesides EP cassette] I knew and loved, right? But this was like an underground tape from the Bay Area, and I had the 12" as well. Something confusing happened later when I bought this import 12" [What Does Your Look Like / Mo Wax, 1994]. I was like "Oh, there's two DJ Shadows. There's the guy from the UK and then there's the guy making rap beats locally." So in my mind they are definitely two different guys, you know?


DJ Shadow's "What Does Your Look Like" (MW027 - Mo Wax, 1994). Design by Swifty
DJ Shadow's "What Does Your Look Like" (MW027 - Mo Wax, 1994). Design by Swifty

During this time, no one really was playing his stuff and nobody was talking about him, and I remember it took years! I feel like Midnight In A Perfect World [Mo Wax, 1996] it was like, "Oh, shit!" Of course Blackalicious [Melodica EP / Solesides, 1994] and Latyrx [Latyrx / Solesides, 1997] came out, and it was like "Okay, this is some real hip hop shit!"


Eventually, I realized the two DJ Shadows were one and the same guy.


Jon

Was Josh already famous in the US when Endtroducing was released over there [FFRR, 1996]?


Benji

So when Preemptive Strike [FFRR, 1998] came out that's when everybody talked about him and they thought that was his second album. It's a compilation and I'm like, "You don't understand, this is everything that came out before so it's called pre-emptive." It was really frustrating as a fan to have all this time going by and then finally people giving his art attention, thinking the music was new.


Shadow signing Benji's copy of the DJ Krush / DJ Shadow "Kemuri / Lost & Found" split (MW034 - Mo Wax, 1994), while at a DJ Krush show at the Bluebird Theater in Denver, CO, October 2, 2015
Shadow signing Benji's copy of the DJ Krush / DJ Shadow "Kemuri / Lost & Found" split (MW034 - Mo Wax, 1994), while at a DJ Krush show at the Bluebird Theater in Denver, CO, October 2, 2015

But when I saw him open for UNKLE that was the first time I'd ever seen him perform and live in person. Everybody was talking over his set, and it was crazy to me how few of us were there to see DJ Shadow. But then after 98, that's when every single person was talking about him, including people that didn't really know anything about hip hop, DJ culture or beat music and it became super obnoxious at one point. Looking back, that's the beauty of being die hard about a sound and feeling like you are the only fan, you feel like nobody gets it but you.


I remember promoting music in the industry around 99, and for that entire time until maybe five years ago, everybody would just compare everything to DJ Shadow. Like right around 2005, if your music had a kick and a snare, then the conclusion was it's exactly like DJ Shadow and RJD2. At that time it was great that the industry was changing, and I was thankful it was coming around to our direction and speaks to the power of Shadow's original work. People always look to his influence as a point of reference and he’s a familiar point of comfort for many.


Jon

In 2015, you released an EP called M.O.3 [LA003] on Liquid Amber which is Josh's imprint. What's the title about?


"M.O.3 EP" by Mophono (Liquid Amber, 2015). Artwork by Meegan Barnes
"M.O.3 EP" by Mophono (Liquid Amber, 2015). Artwork by Meegan Barnes

Benji

So I was gonna create a completely new alias for all this electronic, low budget, minimal, low fidelity drum machine sound that I was creating. I had this folder with all that shit, then this other folder of big live drums with synthesizers and baselines, and then a 3rd folder of live horns and drums. And I'm like, "I'll just give him [Josh] all of this so he knows what I'm doing." And then he's like, "Let's do that stuff!" It made no sense to me whatsoever.


If you know me as a producer, you know that I am generally a perfectionist and my vision of what sound I want to put out is super deliberate. But you know if Shadow is saying "I like this, I want you to do this," I'm gonna listen. It was a great honor to watch him dig through my catalog and cherry pick a sound that he and I both gravitated toward. I also really value the fact that he and I have a deep historical connection to record digging culture that has only been learned from digging in deep dusty basements for break beats and samples.


I don’t know if I ever told Josh, but the funny thing is REQ [Ian Cassar] did the sleeves for Shadow's three blue 10" [What Does Your Soul Look Like / 1995] on Mo Wax and I really loved his music, especially his first album [One / Skint, 1997] And so that guy was a big inspiration to me, like all the early punk and low budget raw sound that I loved so much as a kid.


REQ's first LP "One" (Skint, 1997). Design by REQ and Red Design. Photography by Simon Thornton
REQ's first LP "One" (Skint, 1997). Design by REQ and Red Design. Photography by Simon Thornton

Jon

There's a huge gap between being a fan going to shows, and then being given the chance to release something on this artist’s imprint, so how did it go?


Benji

Every time they'd do a Solesides anniversary I'd be there, and I'd give them all my latest cassettes or CDr's. And then between 2005 and 2010, every time he'd [Josh] be somewhere, I'd show up and give him one of my new records.


At the same time I was going to shows, I was also putting on my own shows and creating my own record label. I started a party called Change The Beat [January 2006] with Citizen Ten and Gaslamp Killer. About a year before GLK moved to LA and started Low End Theory, and as a CTB Resident, he would come back and play for us often. That's how we started booking Samiam and all the Brainfeeder artists, and we also booked Flying Lotus for his first show in San Francisco. I played at Hudson Mohawk and Rusty's first show in SF and all these guys that were coming through. The beat scene that I had helped build, consisted mostly of these young guys that launched us off into their own stratosphere.


So I was kind of known in the Bay Area as this guy who helped curate a specific sound. At the time I called it dirt wave and thug jazz. There was a laptop-SoundCloud-dancefloor-bangers scene growing, but at Change The Beat we were very specific. We only booked the upper echelon of that era and we collected people through our various established and respected channels. For example, we booked performers who used actual drum machines or artists whose music we already played at the party. That kept us connected with the actual talent instead of getting lost in a genre filler, like so so many promoters of that time.


Mophono and Gaslamp Killer at Low End Theory, San Francisco, May 18, 2011. Photography by Julián
Mophono and Gaslamp Killer at Low End Theory, San Francisco, May 18, 2011. Photography by Julián

Basically from 1995 till 2019, I ran one weekly party or another. It just happened to be that because we didn't play quote, unquote, "party music". Tuesdays were always what venues were offering us. The sentiment from the clubs was like, "Well, if these little motherfuckers can fill Tuesday, we'll give them the night."


Before all that, our first weekly was actually at a place called Your Mama's Cafe in Oakland (every Tuesday). It was a sandwich place that a lot of hip hop acts would shoot videos at, and it was one of the first public places with turntables in the Bay Area. Right around that time in 94, my friends who played jungle and break beats also ran all the local sound systems for a lot of the outdoor parties. With him and other friends who played more electro and IDM like Sutekh [Seth Joshua Horvitz], we all formed a crew and started a party called Static which was at the first DJ bar, before DJ culture was sort of embraced. We ran that for about 10 years, and then I moved on to throw many weekly parties getting known as a San Francisco mainstay of more eccentric and experimental beat music.


Right around 2015, I started seeing Shadow coming to some of those shows, and I said to myself "I'm one of the few guys that knows you’re not just a superstar DJ, but an OG underground producer." We played a bunch of shows together and it was a sort of mix-mash thing. Like, "I might be this guy that a lot of people look to for a certain thing, but that doesn't mean that I don't respect and understand where I come from, and I also have strong roots in the past."


And just like in hip hop culture it's about knowledge, wisdom and understanding and community, so I expressed to him, "You're a major asset to us here in San Francisco and in the Bay as a whole." So we began sharing a bit more of our ideas and reflections of current music and sounds, and he was asking me about a bunch of different artists. We were sharing newer unheard artists and guys we were each finding out about at the time. It was this sort of exploratory sharing thing and we shot the shit about starting a record label together. That's when he was starting to build a bunch of ideas and revamp his website.


Mophono and Shadow at the closing of the Village Music record store in Mill Valley, CA, September 30, 2007
Mophono and Shadow at the closing of the Village Music record store in Mill Valley, CA, September 30, 2007

Then he asked me about releasing some stuff and I sent him a bunch of material. He wanted that 10" EP sound that I gave him because we were both gravitating toward this electronic sound. I felt like I added a sort of lo fi-like hip hop legitimacy to the roster. And I'm sure we surprised a lot of people, because when they think of me and Shadow, they think of big loud drums that are really killer and undeniable.


Before that time, 90% of my releases sounded different than this 10", so it's kind of cool to twist people on their heads, which I saw as his excitement when he called me the "Dance floor Disruptor". I'm sure in years and years and years we will be able to look back and fully grasp his vision, but at the time, it was like, "Well, I love this shit, he loves this shit, let's do it".


Jon

To be very clear Liquid Amber is only Josh's imprint, is that right?


Benji

Yeah, we talked about something that we were both going to do but we didn't go beyond that, and then about a year later he started Liquid Amber. He was putting a bunch of songs on his mixtapes by myself and artists that were primarily self released/digital. Like the music I gave him (that didn't have a home yet), he put some of those songs in one of his live performances. He's like, "Hey, just so you know I put some of that song in one of my shows that I did on Tour, are you okay with that?" I'm like, "Fucking of course I'm okay with that!". And the funny part of the story is, my music was part of that legendary DJ set that he did in Miami that got him kicked off the turntables for being "too future" [@ Mansion Nightclub on December 15, 2012].


He's always been one of the most genuine honest guys I've ever met, especially in the industry. And he's scratching over my shit and I'm like, "This is fucking awesome." That stuff is still unreleased which is unfortunate, but he and DJ Food both put it in DJ mixes. And so when he came back around it was like, "I want to release some stuff. I'm going to create a label where I can release some stuff from people who aren't being heard." And it was like, Bleep Bloop, G. Jones, Noer The Boy, DJ Harrison, Ruckazoid, Eprom, Lunice, and me. And then there was a bunch of other digital releases too.


If you hear his mixtapes from around that time it was very much in that exact vein of things. It was a really good experience for me and it represented a certain time in my life. It represents him saying, "Put everything you do under the name Mophono because you don't want to keep confusing people." At the time I was helping all these different people, so he's like, "No one cares anymore, it's not like the 90s where like, you create an alias and record all different stuff, everyone wants to hear everything you want to do."


DJ Shadow "The Liquid Amber EP" (Liquid Amber, 2014). Artwork by Meegan Barnes
DJ Shadow "The Liquid Amber EP" (Liquid Amber, 2014). Artwork by Meegan Barnes

Jon

The first record on the label [DJ Shadow's The Liquid Amber EP / Liquid Amber, 2014] was only available for one hour on a specific day, and again in the same fashion six months later. But after that, every time a release came out on the label it was not advertised for, like a total surprise.


So initially I had the impression that Liquid Amber was meant to be a sort of stepping stone for young artists to present their experimental music, whereas now I'm thinking it's meant to be a place for established artists to reach out to new fields.