How "That Subliminal Kid" Got His Name

Paul Miller is more of a nuts and bolts kind of guy, while DJ Spooky can be wilder.
  • Transcript


Question: Where did you get your stage name?
DJ Spooky:
  The name comes from well back in university I was doing a series of essays and writing about Sigmund Freud’s idea of the uncanny and I was really intrigued by this idea of “The Unheimlich”.  It’s an essay that Sigmund Freud wrote about E.T.A. Hoffman’s short story called "The Sandman" where someone mistakes an inanimate object for a living, breathing human being. And one of the things that Sigmund Freud really felt was that in modern life people assign qualities to objects around them that may not exist there whatsoever. So he called this "the uncanny" and he also referred to cities as well, like the idea of walking through the city and the way the urban landscape could lead you to a sense of disorientation and to a kind of, you know, sense of repetition. And the way a city can unfold as you walk. So stuff like that.  It was basically meant to be like when you press play and there nobody there.
Question: How is DJ Spooky different from Paul Miller?
DJ Spooky:  First and foremost one, I was never planning on doing this as a long term, so Spooky, I was in college... It was a fun name.  I thought it was you know just a fun thing.  When you say what is the difference between me and my stage name the idea is that as a musician you always think of yourself as inhabiting a certain cultural space in the kind of a cultural landscape, so when I say cultural space what I mean to imply there is that you exist within certain parameters of how people think of culture.  Downtown New York, I’m within certain styles of music and I’m also within certain cultural, you know, and literary context.  So DJ Spooky was meant to be a kind of ironic take on that.  It was always meant to be kind of a criticism and critique of how downtown culture would separate genres and styles because it was ambiguous.  You couldn’t fit it into anything and that was the point.  It’s like the iPod playlist has killed the way we think of the normal album, so let’s think of this as just saying you go into your record store and all those categories and all those different ways of segregating music have been thrown out the window, so the difference between myself in real life in that is that I’m the opposite.  I usually am very specific about how I engage information, how I engage people, what context I’m engaging and, above all, the research that goes into each of those. So, one, that DJ Spooky is a lot you know this sort of wilder persona and then Paul Miller is more of a nuts and bolts kind of person, meaning just making sure all these things work.

Recorded on April 8, 2010