We Create Music Blog
November 19, 2013

New Music Tuesday: DJ White Shadow on Lady Gaga's ARTPOP

DJ White Shadow

DJ White Shadow

Windy City beatsmith Paul "DJ White Shadow" Blair is one of the prime architects of the Haus of Gaga, the team of creative masterminds that collaborate with Lady Gaga on her music, image and persona. His multi-hued tracks have helped Gaga explore and define the state-of-the-art of pop music from Born This Way onwards. We chatted with him about their latest four-on-the-floor carnival, ARTPOP.

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As the story goes, a week after Born This Way was released, Lady Gaga hit you up with the name of the new record. How did she explain the concept in those early days?

Pretty much the same way she is explaining it now. I know that may seem hard to believe. I gotta dig up that e-mail, but the mission has always been a pretty steady one!  

Musically-speaking, how much of ARTPOP arose from basic tracks that you put together and then fleshed out? Were there songs that evolved out of conversations with Gaga, as opposed to you bringing something in? 

Well, a lot of times it happens simultaneously.  She will come up with ideas and then put them to a track I have given her. And then we change things together. She always has ideas, and we are always talking and writing, so it's a bit hard to discern. I will say that neither one of us is much of a "rule follower."

Tell me about those six months when Gaga was recuperating from hip surgery. What was your role in figuring out what would make it on ARTPOP? Were there production tweaks or new songs being written at that time?

Like I said previously, we are always working. We already started talking about the next record last weekend. We accomplished a lot during her period of recovery. I mean, after she was off the pain meds...she wrote, tweaked, we made new beats. She came to my house or I went to hers. There were not any significant breaks.

There was a host of new collaborators on ARTPOP. Was there one in particular that was an inspiration to work with? 

Will.i.am. Man that guy is a cool dude. We became friends through this process. I was introduced to Will through Jean Baptiste, who I love, and he himself is also amazing as well. I just think those guys are all so smart and awesome! It was really cool to work together. Will is inspirational.  

I love that “Venus” samples Sun Ra, who spent his formative years in your hometown of Chicago. Can you tell me what Sun Ra means to you? Is Gaga a fan as well?

I think we both have a broad taste in music and appreciate genius. Sun Ra was an electronic music pioneer and from outer space! I wish I was from outer space...

There are songs like “Venus” and “Dope” where you’re credited as a writer but not a producer. What was different about your involvement in those two? Do you see a clear dividing line between the songwriting and production for these songs?

Well "Dope" and "Venus" both started out as songs Gaga and I wrote together but I didn't produce. Production is seeing a song through to the end. It's like the difference between collecting the ingredients for the recipe and cooking the meal. I didn't cook those meals, and for lack of a better explanation, I wasn't the right guy for the job. Sometimes being good at your job is recognizing that you are not the best guy for the job.

From the outside, it seems like Gaga’s sound & image are defined as much by her collaborators as they are by Gaga herself. I’m curious whether it goes both ways though. Would you say that working with Gaga has changed the way you make, or think about, your own music?

10000000%. She is a genius. I have learned so much from her that no capital gain could equal the lessons. I am eternally grateful for her friendship and collaboration. I can't even begin to tell you how differently she has made me think about music, work and life in general.

How has ASCAP made a difference in your music career?

The people at ASCAP are incredible. I don't ask for much, but when I have, they have over-delivered. It is an amazing group of people that are truly concerned with the artists in their fold. I am continuously impressed with ASCAP and all they have done to help me. 1000 times over. Thank you so much.

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DJ White Shadow may not be from outer space, but he has an awesome website: djwhiteshadow.com