DJ Yoda opens up about new album, Breakfast of Champions, ahead of gig at Zero Gravity
When I call up DJ Yoda, he’s late to the phone and I land on his voicemail. It might be the best voicemail message I’ve ever heard – legendary American rapper Biz Markie rapping about how I have indeed reached DJ Yoda, but he’s not there to take the call. Only it sounded a lot better than that.
When Yoda – who is also known as Duncan Beiny – calls me back a few minutes later, I’m almost disappointed. I want to call him back and hear the voicemail again.
The phenomenally technical British DJ is known for his nimble hip-hop scratching and raiding a scattershot treasure chest of samples, dropping everything from bluegrass and swing to weird sci-fi film dialogue into his frenzied sets. Here are a few highlights from our wide-ranging chat.
Tell us about your forthcoming album, Breakfast of Champions.
It’s the first album I’ve done with a band, as opposed to by myself. The opportunity came about due to an artistic residency I have at a venue in Manchester. We basically put adverts out saying “who wants to be in a band with DJ Yoda?” and after hundreds of submissions, I had this X Factor-style whittling down and got to basically create a band from scratch. Obviously I met quite a few nutbags along the way.
You’ve been to Dubai stacks – how did you find your last gig, the P7 car-park party in 2013?
That was amazing – what a wicked venue. It was the first time in Dubai I’d seen something with that feeling of subculture, something a bit more alternative. I was really impressed that something like that could go on there.
When you play, there are a lot of people watching your tricks and audiovisual show, rather than dancing. Do you ever feel like a museum exhibit?
I kind of like that and prefer it, I do find that people watch me DJ in a different way to how they might watch, for instance, David Guetta. In my head, the two things are not the same skills set. Putting on a big EDM show is a whole different world to what I do, which is much more about the art of DJing. It’s something I’ve spent years crafting and practising, so I do get it when people want to watch what I’m doing rather than dance, and that’s cool, as long as not everyone’s doing that.
Back to the album, the name ...
I’m inspired by breakfast cereal – it’s my favourite meal of the day and I just genuinely quite love breakfast. Nothing deeper than that.
You mean it’s not named after the book?
Someone said to me last week: “You’ve named it after the book” – by Kurt Vonnegut, is it? – and I didn’t even know that book.
You can’t name an album after a book you’ve never read.
Well, I have done it – too late. It sounds like a really good book, too – it sounds like if I did read it, I’d want to name an album after it.
Where on Earth do you find all those samples?
Over the years I’ve developed a mode that I’m constantly in, where if the radio or the TV is on and I hear something cool I just go “click” and I have to get hold of it. I can be quite a stressful person to watch TV with. That was how I saw hip-hop from the start – you have the ability to sample anything that you think is cool and rearrange it and make something new. The thing that you end up making out of it is an amalgam of all those influences, and if producers and DJs all worked that way and were honest about their tastes, everyone would come up with something completely original and unique.
Quickly – as an unashamed fan, thoughts on the new Star Wars trailer? We’re quite proud of it being filmed in Abu Dhabi.
Actually I thought it was really good – I’ve got quite high hopes for this next round of Star Wars films. It wouldn’t be hard for them to be better than the last round, which were terrible.
• DJ Yoda performs at Zero Gravity on Thursday, January 22. Free for ladies before midnight and men before 10pm, Dh100 after that. Breakfast of Champions is out on March 9
Updated: January 21, 2015 04:00 AM