Minneapolis has a very diverse music scene. How does your hometown influence you?
More than anything, I learned a work ethic from my city. There are lots of opportunities for growing as an artist in Minneapolis, but we're not an industry town with a built-in template for success or people you're supposed to rub shoulders with. The musicians who really find success in Minneapolis are hungry as hell and they tour constantly. Also, because we're not a huge city, there's always a lot of cross-pollination between genres, a lot of blurring of those lines. And that affects all of our sounds.
How did you hook up with MF Doom, and what was that collaboration like?
I toured with Doom back in 2004, then DJed for him the next year at the Rhymesayers 10th-anniversary show. He was originally supposed to be on my 'Rádio Do Canibal' album alongside [Atmosphere's] Slug on a song called 'Blood Drive.' The timing didn't work out, so he got on this instead. He's an unbelievably creative artist, and I feel really honored that he was a part of this project.
The album is only available on iTunes and vinyl -- was that a personal choice of yours or a label decision?
That wasn't an idea that I had while I was putting the music together. But once the EP was all mixed and sequenced, it just seemed obvious to me that this should be a limited run of vinyl only, like a little secret. When I was a kid, only the really tuned-in folks had a KMD record [with MF Doom]. In the '60s and '70s, Arthur Verocai produced and arranged hundreds of brilliant records in Brazil, but his name was virtually unknown. Helcio Milito produced for a major label, but chose to back bizarre releases by obscure artists, so his masterpieces slipped through the cracks. I wanted this to be a record that only the few people paying close attention would be quick enough to pick up while it was available. There's an iTunes version for those without a turntable, but the record is proof that you were in on our secret.
Why did you decide to do a remix album? Which remixes spoke the most to you or seemed to "get" what you're aiming for the most?
When Benzilla and I made the 'Rádio Do Canibal' album, we were taking records from Brazil and making something completely new out of them. Once that project was finished, it seemed obvious to me that I should let other people do the same to our music (especially some artists from Brazil). One of my favorite songs on the original album was 'Tema Do Canibal.' I had constructed it by assembling a sound collage out of 24 different snippets of drums and percussion, then teaming up with a nine-piece brass band called the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble who wrote and performed over it. After all that work assembling it, I took it all back apart and gave the pieces to my guest artists to make something completely new with. I purposely picked artists from very different backgrounds, and I made a point of not telling them what to do. I love all the remixes that I got back, but my favorite has to be the Arthur Verocai track. It's just a tremendous honor to have such a brilliant man -- whose name is on the back of half of my favorite records from Brazil! -- write, arrange and perform a reinterpretation of one of my songs.
What do you make of other artists trying to bring different flavors into their music, such as Diplo and Major Lazer's dancehall/electro/reggae sound, for example? What responsibility does an artist blending the music of multiple regions have to the sound of each individual region?
It's tricky business adopting other cultures into what you do (especially as a white man in a culture of privilege). You need to be sensitive and respectful, but also careful that you're not fetishizing the culture you're borrowing from. You owe it to the people you're influenced by to try and learn as much as you can about what they did and why they did it. And more than anything, you need to acknowledge what you took and who you got it from. On my 'Rádio Do Canibal' album, I included a number of interviews with older Brazilian musicians as interludes, trying to draw parallels and pay homage. On my new EP, I reached out to a couple of my heroes from Brazil (Arthur Verocai, Helcio Milito and DJ Nuts), and asked them to help me represent what it is that I love so much about their music and culture.
Talk a bit about how Brazil influences you -- why do you feel such a strong connection with artists from that country?
After traveling to Brazil and learning a bit about the history and culture, I started seeing such strong parallels with what I was trying to do as a DJ. Listening to the records I brought home, I heard influences from Africa, Portugal, England, the West Indies, the U.S. and more. But it never sounded like they were doing covers of other styles -- these artists combined their influences in creative new ways and made them into something that was all their own. In the '20s, a Brazilian poet/philosopher named Oswald de Andrade referred to this as cultural cannibalism (which is where the title of my album comes from). He said Brazil gains its strength by absorbing the best parts of everything found outside its own culture, then synthesizing it all and making something brand new. That's what the best DJ's and producers have been doing for over 30 years (just look at Afrika Bambaata). And if that sounds like a bulls--- college answer, then here's another one: The music, people and food are absolutely amazing. Enough said!