WHT SHDW (DJ White Shadow) Interview: Creating Consumable Art And Lady Gaga’s “Next-Level” New Music
WHT SHDW steps into the spotlight.
WHT SHDW steps into the spotlight.
The superstar producer is widely known for his immense talent on Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and ARTPOP albums, but the complex hitmaker has finally decided to release a body of work of his own.
Later this year, WHT SHDW (real name Paul Blair) will unleash music he’s worked hard on (and in secret), including original songs with Lady Gaga for the A Star IsBorn soundtrack, as well as his debut solo album – a body of work that reflects his roots and rise in the music industry.
WHT SHDW granted BreatheHeavy an interview to talk about what’s to come, Gaga and what ever-changing success looks like in the biz.
BH: What’s your mindset looking like going into your new album?
WHT SHDW: “For my stuff personally, I gear on the side of weird sometimes… all my stuff that I’ve done in the past has been kind of like, ‘you know what? I’m just going to make whatever the f–k I feel like.’ You have so many worries when you’re making commercial records, producing for other people, commercial artists. There’s all kinds of weird expectations. When you just create something to create it, and you don’t give a f–k what it sounds like, as long as you like it… I don’t care if it gets played 10 million times or 10 times. For me, I have no… in the past at least… no anticipation of things becoming ~commercial.~ As a matter of fact I tried my hardest to get as weird as humanly possible.”
“I started off as a DJ playing hip-hop, playing house, playing stuff that people could go bonkers to in the club. That’s what I’m hitting at this time. I’m discovering new talent. I’m not going to go out and grab every one of my big artist friends and go through the whole major label process. I found a team of like-minded people that see my vision. It’s a work in progress, but it’s a lot of gutter hip-hop and dirty house music – really raw emotional stuff that’s playable in a nightclub (where people are sweating and drunk *laughs*).
By not hitting up your A-list friends for this record… does that alleviate some of the pressure?
“It’s a roller coaster ride… this business. One day you’re a new artist, and you’ve got the biggest song in the world, then your second song doesn’t do so good and nobody hears from you for years. For me, I just want to make stuff that I really, really like, but… more mainstream stuff that I really, really like. Instead of trying to make a clusterf–k of different sounds that I thought were cool… [I’m making] consumable art.”
When people consume your new music, what do you want them to take away from it?
“Over the years, when people hear, ‘oh this is DJ White Shadow,’ the next step is like… Lady Gaga. She’s one of my best friends. We’ve done so much awesome s–t together, we continue to do stuff together, and we will continue to do stuff together until nobody gives a s–t anymore. That’s already something that I’ve done. But nobody knows… when I used to DJ Wednesday through Sunday every week, it was straight gutter hip-hop. That’s the essence of Paul Blair. Me, as a person. I wanted to make a stride to get back to that. What my natural go-to thing is in my brain – where I start.”
What’s the biggest change in your mindset now versus your earlier days?
“That’s the funny thing. There is no change in mindset. It’s just perception from the outside in. It’s not so much a change from myself. I’m still the same person I was for as long as I can remember. I want to be able to release something that… my name’s going to be on this. I want people to be like, ‘holy s–t Paul knows some fu–in really hard mother–ers and this is the hardest s–t… shootin’ up a gas station s–t.”
It sounds like instead of a change from outside in, it’s more of a change from inside out – how you perceive your music.
“Yea, listen, I was the first person to fly Lil Uzi Vert to LA. When Gaga wanted to meet with some superstar rappers – like rappers that were on the come up – I suggested ScHoolboy Q and Kendrick before Kendrick was anybody. I’ve been on the forefront of it. That’s what I listen to when I get in the car or I’m running. I love pop music 100%, but I’m not going to throw in the new Taylor Swift album to go running to. That’s not my main drive. When I’m listening to stuff, it’s like real gutter, real angry stuff. I wanted to make some stuff like that.
So speaking of Gaga…! What’s one of the biggest takeaways from recently working with her?
“Every song that she has in [A Star Is Born] we did together. Last year was kind of wacky because you’re not writing songs with Lady Gaga FOR Lady Gaga. You’re writing songs with Lady Gaga for the character she’s playing in the movie. It was a third element that was a little different than the way we normally work together. Man, it was super fun. I’m so stoked about this movie and this soundtrack. It’s next-level s–t! For [this soundtrack], we got to delve into a lot of emotions. I’ve seen the movie so many times throughout the edits, throughout the shooting, to try and get a feeling for what the story was and who the people were, and write to that. It was a unique, grand experience. And to be able to do that with [Gaga]… it’s always incredible. I couldn’t be happier.
I imagine writing songs with Gaga with her character in mind was a unique challenge for you.
“When you’re with your friends and the people that you respect, and to be able to write with writers that you love, and to be able to have creative control over stuff… it’s like a super blessing. A lot of people that are way more talented than me don’t get the chance to do that, so I feel really fortunate.
Fanbases of pop stars can be pretty… intense. I’ve seen some crazy things said about/at you. Is there any misconception that you’d like to clear up?
“I think the people that have met me, or know me personally, can attest to the fact that I’m probably one of the nicest people in the history of planet Earth. And you know what? To be honest… none of that s–t upsets me. I understand… I understand. I was a fan of a bunch of people, and if I could’ve talked directly to Quincy Jones when Michael Jackson put out Thriller, I would have totally been freaked out and geeked up. When somebody’s like, “f–k you! RedOne’s better!,’ I’m like, ‘cool, I like RedOne too. He’s great’ What am I gonna say? ‘No he’s not? Or yes he is?’ Say whatever you want. I think it’s a cool thing people get to yell at me every once in a while.”
What do you consider being successful in music means?
“That’s a f–king great question… I feel like anybody that answers you is bullshi–ing you. There’s no goal. If you set out to be a Navy Seal, and you become a Navy Seal, then you’re a Navy Seal. If you set out to be the President of the United States, and you become the President of the United States (which, by the way, f–k that motherfu–er), you change your goal. The music business… I don’t care who you are – if you’re an artist, you’re a manager, you’re a publisher, you’re a whatever, it’s a moving target all the time. Some times you get close to the target, and some times you’re really far away from the target. Success is that you’re allowed to run. I feel blessed to be allowed to run.