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The Science of DJ Spooky

"Music is just the pen letting me write the text. The rest is up to people to actually think about what’s going on around them."
 
 
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In 2003, artist, writer and musician DJ Spooky, aka That Subliminal Kid, teamed up with the poet Saul Williams to release the Not in My Name EP, a collection of songs and poems resisting the war in Iraq and the U.S. government’s oppressive policies at home. That project has since evolved into an activist movement combining art and politics. DJ Spooky is the zone operator and editor-at-large of 21C magazine, co-publisher of the multi-cultural periodical A Gathering of the Tribes, and his writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the Village Voice. He is working on a new novel, and he recently released a book and CD titled Rhythm Science.

Boulder Weekly: What was the impetus to the Saul Williams project, Not in My Name, and how did it come together with your involvement?

DJ Spooky: Saul’s an old friend, and we just wanted to do something fun and have some kind of impact from the viewpoint of progressive hip-hop.

What is your hope for the Not in My Name project?

That it will make people realize that there are a lot of different perspectives on what’s going on in the world. That people can participate in the system and change things.

What role does or can music have in effecting politics and political change?

Everything is politics. Everything is linked. The basic thing for me is to figure out ways to get information out in a lot of different channels and to figure out how music helps people connect the dots between all of the media fragments that are floating around out there. Music is just the pen letting me write the text. The rest is up to people to actually think about what’s going on around them.

How important is the role of music and art in politics?

Life is all about communication, and music just makes it all a little more easy to understand. Things sometimes seem so complex these days; it’s hard to be able to filter out all the conflicting messages the media send us. For me, music is the best way to actually get people to realize that at the end of the day, we all are a community, and it’s so important to think about the ways things work. That means comparing information from a wide variety of sources.

How do your art and politics interact?

I live my life… I believe in multi-culturalism, women’s choice, some kind of functioning nation state where people have a choice, reform of the prison-industrial system and some kind of international consensus on how nations participate in the international community. Ask your average American on the street, and I bet a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that. But it’s not mainstream in a way that either large party focuses on. I think that it’s important to realize that there are a lot of different mainstreams. But I’m voting for Kerry because Bush really, really, really has to go.

A lot of artists speak about the need for people to take action and get involved. What can you offer as far as an action plan—in other words, what direct steps would you suggest people take toward effecting political change?

Vote, read, participate. It’s really an open system, and there’s still some kind of representative democracy, but things are really scrambled at the moment. Now is a great time to show that the mainstream can be changed and that it’s all about acceptance of different life views. Pluralism is OK.

What are your major concerns with current politics?

Totalitarianism, loss of any sense of linkage to the “real world” of the rest of the planet in the U.S. and a basic numbness toward how messed up the planet really is. Uh, I mean species are dying every day.

As a working artist, you travel a lot. What are your observations on the current political climate?

Things are, beneath the surface, in total entropy.

What are your predictions for November?

Kerry will win.

If you could have readers/listeners come away with one message from your work, what would you like that to be?

Think. It ain’t illegal yet.