An Interview with DJ White Shadow

PropaGaga Interviews DJ White Shadow

PropaGaga contributor, Marc spoke with DJ White Shadow in New York City about Lady Gaga's new single "Applause" and her upcoming album ARTPOP. He was more than happy to stay and chat and had some really great answers to many of your questions! Check out what he said below:

How much has the change in the sound of Top 40 influenced the choice of single and the sound, and to what extent the need to get airplay and hits define how you and Gaga approach the writing/producing of songs?

Most of these songs were written like 2 years ago, you know? So, we didn’t know what was going to happen this week two years ago. I mean, we just wrote songs that were fun. We weren’t necessarily trying to go for anything. I made all kinds of crazy shit, I’d throw it at her and see what sticks.

Did you bring Gaga any material similar to the work on your Pussy Drugs Fear EP?

We all listen to fun music all the time. That’s my personal preference of shit that I like. All of it is like a big mixed bag, so you’re going to hear a lot of those things intertwined with each other anyway. We didn’t try to make a trap record, but there’s stuff that’s all over the board. I just try to mix a bunch of stuff together and see what happens.

How much has ARTPOP evolved since 2012, when Gaga said it was done? Did you guys write new material or re-work any older songs to keep them fresh during Gaga’s gazing period and rehabilitation?

A little bit of both. Like I said, we had written for 2 years. When she said it was done we already had the feeling. We might’ve changed a couple tracks back and forth, or done different shit, but for the most part when she said it was done it was like “Oh, shit, we got what we’re going to do for the record.” It wasn’t like we had every song done and ready to go. Things change and evolve a little bit, but things are pretty much the same feeling they were when she said it was done.

Out of the 70-100 songs you guys created, do you know if fans will hear more than the 15 that appear on the album through the app?

Yeah, I mean, in time I guess we’ll see what happens. We wrote songs that could make it on the next record. It’s like the “Cake Like Lady Gaga” thing, right? We made that as a joke, just fucking around. So many people liked it and I wasn’t going to put it out again. I had finished it. I was done, but maybe we'll put that somewhere else. The new version is actually really good, it’ll make it’s way to the surface, and so will a lot of the songs that we’ve done.

What’s different now, working on ARTPOP, compared to the process behind Born This Way?

It’s a lot different for like 25 billion reasons. The last record was a different time and we were trying to do something different. Fernando oversaw that, and I over saw this record. You’re going to be able to tell the difference, just based on the fact that two different people had a different role. “Applause” is the kind of music that I make, and we started with a lot of that on Born This Way and then it found its way into being more rock influenced, just because that was where Gaga’s head was and Fernando was producing. This time around it’s a different style of production, more the way I do things.

What’s the difference between how you craft a song for yourself, versus how you do a track for or with Gaga?

That EP is like – I have 50 of those things sitting around on my computer. I make music everyday and, really, not all of it is intended for any specific purpose. Sometimes you just try to push and push to see what you can take and make a song that’s fucking crazy, but still palatable to individuals. That EP, like, I don't expect a pop singer to come sing over one of those songs [laughs]. I love trap, like that’s my shit. None of those songs that you heard on the EP were intended to go on ARTPOP or any other persons record. Doing those kind of things makes me better at doing pop because I learn tricks while I’m trying to push stuff forward. If I sat around all day doing the same thing over and over I’d just get bored.

Were you a fan of Gaga prior to working with her? Has working with her helped you respect pop music more?

She was such an overpowering force when I was a DJ and playing her remixes. She was just everywhere. I’m not a huge pop music guy. I respect her, she’s the hardest working person I've met in my entire life – a fucking genius. For lack of a better word, she’s just a G [laughs]. She works non-stop. You have to respect that. I don’t think people give her enough credit for how hard she works and how she tries to do stuff that is different than everybody else. It would be really easy to make another “Just Dance” and I’m sure people would love it and we’d sell a ton of records. Neither one of us wanna do that. We want to make stuff that people like, but it’s for you guys first. We never sat down and were like “let’s make this song so we can sell.” I think we both see eye to eye on that and she works hard to make sure it’s good music.

You mentioned that you oversaw the album, but how much of ARTPOP did you produce? And for “Applause” did the instrumental or lyrics come first?

Usually when we work, the instrumental comes first, it’s like a business transaction with me and her a lot of the time. It always works different. A lot of times I will come to her and be like “here’s this track” or “here’s this idea,” and she’ll be like “oh, cool I have this idea” and then I'll go do something to the track and then she starts writing to it and then it flip flops and then she will help me with the track and I’ll help with the writing.

Where in the world was the crowd from “Applause” recorded? Do you remember?

I don’t. The funny thing is that I was recording all of Starlight’s shows from the board and a lot of those are from the people talking and crowd stuff. I really don't know where they are from, because I literally recorded all of her [Starlight's] shows because we were going to do something fun with that – we still are. So I have like 50 of her shows recorded.

What was the inspiration behind your new EP, Pussy Drugs Fear?

I just wanted to do something that I thought was just fucking weird. I don’t have a lot of time to do stuff on my own, and I don't know why I was just sitting around and I just like, I’m going to make a couple things, and I looked back on it and I finished them. I have a bunch of them and I was in a meeting with one of my buddies, Peter from Decon Records, when I was working with Ninjasonik and I played it for him and he was like “what the fuck is this?” and I was like “oh its just stuff I made,” and he was like “do you want to put it out?” and I was just like “sure.” I'm not the kind of person who’s trying to be an artist all the time. So, for me, I don’t make things to be an artist. Maybe I will at some point, but it’ll be so weird.

Did you produce anything on ARTPOP that is similar to “Government Hooker”? Anything with a darker tone?

Everything I make starts out with a darker tone. I love that song and I made a lot like that.

Who or what inspired you to be a DJ? When did you decide it would be your career?

When I was a kid, I used to just buy a ton of music. When I moved to Detroit from Ohio, there was actually like DJs on the radio playing live. I used to listen to that all the time. Then, I would go to techno parties when I was like 16 and see the DJs. It wasn’t cool to be a DJ back then. You were a turd if you were a DJ at that point, because everybody else was partying and drinking and you were just standing there. I liked music so much that I just wanted to play what I thought was cool. I used to go around and stand behind DJs carrying crates and doing whatever I could back then. I didn't really decide that I wanted to be a DJ, I started DJing in school, paid my way through school. Then I got a job, I graduated with a degree in education and I was teaching English and Japanese. I did that for like a semester, and then I had a realization that I was only 23 years old and if I was going to do something with DJing, I might as well do it then. I grew up in a blue collar family – I was the first person in my family to go to college, I paid my way through and my dad is a bit of a stern man at time and he was super pissed that I wasn't going to teach. I had no clue how I was making money playing records. I always thought I was too old to be a DJ, so I did it for a while and saved some money, bought a couple bars, I was DJ’ing in the bars and doing some productions. When you love something so much you don’t choose your path it chooses it for you. I still love DJing. I might get back into it if I decide to release more music, but being an artist isn't super high up on the rankings. Maybe in 2014.

They asked for me to open on the Born This Way Ball, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t think it was appropriate. It takes a lot of time to do that. I’m not a very ego driven person and I don’t need the adoration of somebody saying “oh, that’s a great DJ!”

Gaga said that ARTPOP is a start to finish album that you could play at a club as a full set. Does that mean it’s like a continuous song?

I wouldn't say that you could play it at a club as a set, but it definitely all has a logistic storyline. It’s all kind of a package. Personally, I would not go to a club and play any CD all the way through. It isn’t a realistic thing to do. But there’s a lot of good club songs and a lot of… other stuff.

Is the album radio friendly?

I still can’t figure out what radio friendly means. I would say that everything we made, we tried to make fun. I’m not a big formula guy. I don't do the run-around where I try to get on 500 people’s records. As a producer, I like to work with one artist and create a total package and I think that’s what we did with this record. Like with Ninjasonik -- we crafted an entire record, Evan Ross -- we made an entire record. Those records will see their way out after this one is over, because I have to finish a bunch of stuff, but they are whole records. That’s the way I grew up listening to music; you bought a fucking record and you listened to the whole record. I’m not the kind of producer who is just going to run and try and make something that I think fits someone. I'll leave it up to the listener to decide if they’re going to play it.

How did you guys end up choosing “Applause” as the first single?

It was hard because there were a bunch of choices. We played it for certain people that count and they made their judgment and we had our judgment. There’s a lot of people that have a say.

Gaga mentioned that the track almost didn’t make the album...

The funny thing is, when you go through records, you finish or you don’t finish them and this record was there and it was awesome. We have like 10 more of those and we just finished it. She was recording her vocals with Zedd and I had my own studio in another part of the building and I was just going through stuff and I was like “Oh, this song is killer! I’m just going to work on this a bit” so we worked on it and we just stuck it in the pile. I don’t even think I had an expectation for any one of those songs. You make the music and you’re kinda like “Hey, here it is! What do you think?” and that’s what happened and everybody said it was a great song.

What do you think about the leaks?

So fucking terrible [laughs].

What did you think about “Aura” leaking? Do you fear the album leaking early, since they have access to something like that?

I don’t include myself in how they figured out how that happens, but they’ve already figured out how and are dealing with that. That day that happened, especially “Applause” – “Aura” was just in one shot and it wasn’t the single, but then right after “Applause” started leaking in pieces and I was like “What is going on?” it’s like somebody breaking into your house. It was a big deal. She [Gaga] was like "get over here now!” so we went over and sat trying to figure out where it got posted first by reading people’s tweets and Facebook posts to see if we could stop it. Then we figured out it wasn’t going to stop, so we figured we’d put out the real version and not some piece of shit version, especially since people are so negative nowadays. It’s insane. It’s like crazy, like people would rather read about people tanking instead of somebody doing well.

Like when people were judging the demo for “Aura”.

99 hundred million times out of whatever, people are going to pick up something, and say "Lady Gaga sucks" because that’s a great story for whoever is writing it trying to get attention for themselves or their site. But you can tell where somebody comes from. The internet is so transparent now, everybody lives in a glass bubble now. I mean, that’s how you and I found each other, right? I can read somebody’s critique of a song and see that they if they are a fucking hater or I can read something and be like “oh, I fucked that up" and take the critique. I appreciate being critiqued. I take it all in stride. With “Applause” coming out, I’ve been really happy, because it’s what we intended for it to do. We didn’t intend to make a song that was going to be number one the first day it came out. I Like “Roar” and “Blurred Lines.” I love those songs. I’m a huge fan of those songs. I bought both of those songs. If I’m fine with it, and I made Applause, why are you guys fighting over these songs? You can like “Roar” or like “Blurred Lines”, all those songs are great songs. Everybody picks out dumb, stupid, and negative shit to fight each other about and certain people have the ability to amplify that negativity and that isn’t why I got into doing this kind of work. I got into this to make people happy. I became a DJ so I could make people happy. So I could play music and people get drunk, smile, have fun, make out with whoever, make bad decisions and have a great time. I didn’t make a song so people could fight each other about who’s song was better. That’s dumb.

Will there be a second single before the album is released in November?

I’m not with Interscope, so I don't know what their plan is [laughs].

Gaga mentioned that she’s performing six songs before the album is released at the iTunes festival in September, and said it is hard to sell something when people don't know what the songs sound like.

Here’s the thing: Nobody goes out and plays all new material for people, but we live in a crazy world and its crazy times and honestly, nobody knows what the fuck they are doing. If you look at how things count and how things are changing, you can’t keep up with it. You can’t keep up with how people access the music. When we put out the last record, it was a whole different set of problems; VEVO couldn’t even be watched on your phone. Different things happen all the time. She made a bunch of new songs and wants to play them. They are her songs, so let’s play ‘em. I can’t wait for you guys to hear it. It’s not like we’re going to stand up on the stage and play the record, there are live versions of the songs. It’d be a different story if we were two months before the record coming out and go to London and press play on a CD player.

Thank you DJ White Shadow for taking the time to talk with us! We love you!

If you guys haven't picked it up, you can purchase Pussy Drugs Fear on iTunes and don't forget to catch DJWS opening for Lady Gaga at the iTunes Festival on September 1st!

  • Eric

    LOL at this guy thinking it’s so easy to make another JD; the pretension.
    The “haus” needs to stop pretending they don’t care about success.
    Gaga, please if you read this don’t go as a clown to the VMAs.

    • ARTPOP

      I take his word over how easy it is over yours, to be honest……Like, who are you? Lol, how do you know it isnt easy after all Just Dance was as generic and mainstream as it gets…If Katy Perry and Brit can do it over and over and over again.I’m sure Gaga can

  • AJ


  • Luke

    Loved it.

  • sorra

    very drab interview,im so over all this “up to interscope ” crap…

  • affection

    Nevertheless, this is a great Interview. Honestly guys, you should learn from Paul and give this Interview constructive critic if you don’t like it! Paws Up!

  • Trueblue711

    Jealous much?

  • Trueblue711

    Paul’s answer to the DJ question was terrible. He’s says he’s not an artist, not a DJ, not a producer, then what the hell is he? He clearly makes songs for a living, so I think that counts as an artist/producer.

  • gagafrontrow

    Cool stuff. Thanks.

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  • schlobetta

    this guy is wicked cool 😀 great interview!!