Having forged his reputation as one of the founders of the Mo' Wax label (trip-hop provocateurs) in England in the late '90s and as a member of the remix team known as U.N.K.L.E., Tim Goldsworthy has had a big hand in remixes for the likes of Radiohead, The Verve, Folk Implosion, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Tortoise. But something happened on the way to the airport, because upon finishing the album Bow Down to the Exit Sign for artist/DJ David Holmes, he decided to remain in Manhattan and get busy once again. The result was the creation of The DFA with Brooklyn studio owner and drummer, James Murphy. Quintessential remixers to the stars and a record label, The DFA resides in a large three-story walkup on 13th Street, with the Plantain Recording Studio neatly tucked inside. Recent activity includes remixes for Le Tigre's "Deceptacon", BS2000's "The Scrappy" [featuring Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys] and Primal Scream's "Blood Money". Their work for Zero Zero, Radio 4 and The Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers" was making waves in nightclubs and radio here and in the U.K. the week of this interview.
Tim, you were working with David Holmes, yet when his album was finished you stayed. What changed your mind?
Tim Goldsworthy: There were a lot of factors. First of all, I kind of fell out with David a little bit, just slightly. [I] also kind of got out of the rut I had [been in] in England, like the huge albatross of trip-hop hanging around my neck and being the programmer for hire. It wasn't very satisfying. I tried always to do what I wanted to do with the music because it's very important, because music is what I love and it had gotten to where I was just a programmer/producer for hire and doing lots of things for the money, which I'll wait another ten to 20 years for. [laughs]
James Murphy: It's a hard thing not to do.
TG: Until I've lost it and then do that kind of stuff. New York is like the mythical Mecca of all the music I was into, like from the hip-hop and the funk stuff. The idea of what New York is, musically, is basically the reason I do music. And also coming here to this fantastic studio and meeting James, who is from a totally different world, musically, background-wise, and connecting. When you do music and you connect with somebody on that kind of level — well we should do stuff. So yeah, I stayed. And the food is good and it doesn't rain that much.
How long in New York for you?
TG: Three years.
Tell me more of how you met James.
TG: Well, we came here with the David Holmes experience with James as head of the studio and another guy...
JM: Who we'll call TB.
TG: What's that?
JM: TB, I think that's what he wants to be known as.
TG: Okay. It was just one of those small world kind of things where David knew Marcus, who had first come here DJ'ing and building the cabinets [in the recording studio].
JM: Marcus [Lambkin] had made a big record release party for David because nobody had really known about him and I guess that's how it all came about.
Remixing is a very unique field. Who are your inspirations?
TG: Oh, blimey!
JM: Blimey is good.
D.J. Blimey wasn't it? [laughter]
TG: Basically, how I got into doing the music stuff was by being a young kid with James Lavelle hanging around at the record companies and going, "Give us a remix, give us a remix," because we really couldn't write our own stuff. We didn't have a clue, and we really didn't really know how to use any equipment or anything like that. The whole remix thing is my starting point of how I make music. Old hip-hop mixes are where I come from — trying to get the hypnotic thing going on in remixes.
At the same time, is that how did you got into drum programming?
TG: Yeah, because I'm not a musician. I can't play a thing. I'm tone deaf. [I] really don't have the patience to learn how to play anything. I get very frustrated when I try to work something out on the keyboards. If I can't get it done within, like...
JM: Thirty seconds.
TG: Thirty seconds. [laughs] So drum programming is where I started and what I love doing because it's such a random thing for me. And I really don't know what I'm doing. You do something quite stupid and people go, like, "Wow... yeah, okay." [laughter]
I actually heard about you getting your first proper laptop computer. It was something like 4,000 quid at the time?
TG: Yeah. It's about working in the technology side of things, keeping up with the latest trends you always get really burned. When I operated from the old kind of 808 and 202 and 950, again the S3000, and a Macintosh 540C — kind of state-of-the-art at the time. That was probably, like, five grand or something.
I heard you paraded down the street with it.
TG: That was my little signature thing: being able to turn up to sessions with two briefcases — one with the sampler in it...