Brave New Tales – An Exclusive Interview with DJ Tidd

January 1, 2008

An exclusive interview with DJ Tidd

December 18, 2007

In the summer of 1998 while living in Fort Collins, CO, DJ Tidd Taber released the first of many “year’s best new music” CD compilations. He carefully selected the music and, with a little help, designed the booklet, tray insert, and CD label. He then distributed the disc to select friends and family members – those who were ready to hear the new sounds. Almost ten years later, the best of 2007 disc, “Brave New Tales,” is being released to the public. The recipients have changed over the years, but the passion for passing on new music remains the same. In his first-ever interview, the reclusive DJ Tidd has agreed to speak to the Spin the Black Circle magazine. Here we attempt to unlock the mystery of DJ Tidd and get a peak in the mind of the man who brought the world “Anarchistic Tendencies,” “Undiscovered Bananas,” and the acclaimed “Googlephonic Sound Spectacular.” In a signed agreement, DJ Tidd has required that the article be printed as an exact copy of the transcript so as to not be “misconstrued.” Here is the transcript.

Jabber: Why do you call yourself DJ Tidd?

DJ Tidd: Because I am a DJ. And my name is Tidd. There’s no mystery there.

Jabber: Your name really is Tidd?

DJ Tidd: Yes.

Jabber: Journalists have tried for years to find a Tidd Taber in both national and local directories with no result. No birth records. No drivers license records. Even the FBI doesn’t even have a record of a real person with that name. Are you a real person?

[Tidd slaps Jabber in the mouth with a rubber fish.]

Jabber: Hey! [rubs mouth in shock]

DJ Tidd: Did you feel that?

Jabber: Well, yeah!

DJ Tidd: Was that “real” to you?

[Jabber doesn’t answer.]

DJ Tidd: Next question. [Mutters: This is why I don’t do interviews.]

Jabber: It seems that you are a very private person. J.D. Salinger, the author of Catcher in the Rye was as well. How do you think you compare to him?

DJ Tidd: Hmmm… let’s see. Uh. I don’t. Salinger was a great writer. He created something out of nothing. I take other people’s work that I like, put in in a certain order so as not to bust anyone’s ears, and then make copies for people. At best, I am a messenger. At worst, I am a thief. He was a creator.

Jabber: Fair enough. Next years is the tenth anniversary of your year’s best CD, “Anarchistic Tendencies.” Is that why you agreed to come out of hiding and do this interview? Feeling nostalgic?

DJ Tidd: Because it has been 10 years? Sure. I like round, even numbers. They make me happy.

Jabber: Oh. [Shuffles papers for a moment.] “Brave New Tales” is your best of 2007 mix. What happened to 2006 and 2005?

DJ Tidd: I was on a sabbatical due to an illness for a few years. To catch up, I have been working on all three years simultaneously. About 500 songs total that I liked are being weeded down into the 3 years. I just happened to have the “Brave New Tales” in my head first.

Jabber: Where does the title come from?

DJ Tidd: There was a feeling when I was putting this record together that I needed to try to stay true to the best new music I really liked and not just the best new music I heard. As I select the tracks, I sometimes have specific people in mind who will receive the disc. I have to fight off the tendency to drop songs I love because it might be too much for one person’s palette or even offensive to another. While I want everyone to like every song on the disc, I know that is not possible. The distribution list has quite a variety of people on it. There is no way to please them all with every song. This was true during the recording of the Ambassador Mixes [Editor’s note: Best of 2003-2004. Limited release.] and why I ended up with a 5 CD set. Each CD has a different feel to it, and represents many different colours. With Brave New Tales, I made a conscious effort to stick with the music I personally liked. Hopefully, people will like it.

Jabber: What songs did you include on this disc that you might not have?

DJ Tidd: I’m not sure that the Cold War Kids or The Aliens or Interpol will be appreciated by all. But, I just didn’t fell right about leaving them out.

Jabber: You mentioned the Ambassador Mixes. Why was it a limited release?

DJ Tidd: I actually put it together in 2004 around the time I started to become ill. I was limited in the time I could put into it, and the recording process can add it. Funds were short.

Jabber: What sort of illness?

DJ Tidd: I had this mole on my back… Joking. Let’s just say that this has been a tough decade for the music industry overall.

Jabber: Ok. Why call if “Brave New Tales?”

DJ Tidd: As I as saying, I’ve tried to stay true to the music and let others decide if they like it or not. I am also a fan of [Aldous Huxley’s] Brave New World and [Margaret Atwood’s] The Handmaid’s Tale. I am also tempted to subtitle every CD “the best new music you haven’t heard yet.” While I have never done so, that is the one theme that drives each new disc.

Jabber: You mentioned the music industry being “ill.” What is your view on how things are going?

DJ Tidd: How much time do we have? Every major record label is struggling to adapt. They tried to punish their fans by prosecuting the furious downloaders, and it has backfired in a serious way that has hurt EVERYONE. I’m not advocating downloading songs without paying for them, but adapting to the next evolution of music technology by sending rabid fans to jail is not a sound business philosophy. Don’t get me wrong. I wouln’t have a job if it weren’t for the artists making music. I am grateful for that. Historically, it has been difficult to break into the industry and “hit it big” as they say. In all of my years of passionately listening to music, it has NEVER been easy to find music I liked. Radio has been a joke. They play a rotation of about 200 songs at any one point in the year. A fringe radio station might have a playlist of 1000 songs. My hard drive alone has over 6000 and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what could be there if I had all the money I wanted. There’s not variety on the radio. If I were to have a radio station from my hard drive and base it on today’s market, I could only play 3% of the songs I love. No way. Not gonna do it. While the Internet has provided a new tool to reach out to a wider audience and allowed for bands to stick with their own sound instead of molding themselves into the latest teen sensation created on a spreadsheet by Disney, it still remains difficult to make a sound business from making creative music. For some reason, I’ve always had this passion to find new music that people have not yet heard yet. As if I alone, could change the fortunes for a talented-but-struggling band. I could keep going, but you get the idea.

Jabber: So you have a lot of music on your hard drive. Have you gone all digital download? Do you still buy CDs?

DJ Tidd: I’ve done a little of both. At the end of the day, I’d still rather have the CD with the booklet and the art. I downloaded that latest Radiohead album [In Rainbow] – which is brilliant by the way – paid about $11 – but I sort of feel something missing. I wish I had the product in my hands. I’ve burned it to CD so I can listen to it in my car, but it still feels like a copy. But to go back to the question, I tend to buy albums on CD and individual songs from iTunes. Will that be different in a year? Maybe. But it is what I am doing now.

Jabber: Is iTunes your media player of choice?

DJ Tidd: Well, it is out of necessity. It has allowed me to organize my music collection on my hard drive. I am able to assemble many playlists. I can download songs through the program. It’s pretty nice. However, it’s like barnacle. If I ever wanted to switch programs, I can’t imagine what a process that would be. How would I convert my playlists over to a new program? They are not easy to replicate between programs which leaves me married to the program whether I like it or not. I do find the program a bit doggy. Not to mention that I came home from work one day to find that my entire playlists were wiped out. My libary was still there, but the playlists were gone. It is tragic. It’s been 2 and 1/2 years, and I still haven’t fully recovered from that.

Jabber: Well that sucks.

DJ Tidd: It does.

Jabber: What bands excite you the most today?

DJ Tidd: Radiohead – I’ve been a fan for years. I love the last Flaming Lips album. Throughout the 90’s U2 was my band of choice; I still listen to their music, but they don’t drive me the way Achtung, Baby / Zooropa / Pop did for me. Grandaddy for the experimentation. Iron & Wine for the dreary folk. David Gilmour’s solo album for the remembrance. Thom Yorke’s solo album was brilliant. Ray LaMontagne is great. Push comes to shove, though, Elbow have spent more time in my CD player in the past 2-3 years than any other band. I have lists of bands that I’m ready to check out. Been in a purchasing drought lately.

Jabber: So, where DO you find your new music? What is your source?

DJ Tidd: It is overwhelmingly through magazines.

Jabber: [Blushes]

DJ Tidd: Not yours though.

Jabber: [Flushes.]

DJ Tidd: Paste. Uncut. Q – when they feel like releasing a disc. CMJ – although my subscription lapsed for a while – just renewed. I miss Tracks. But, Paaste might be my main source.

Jabber: Let’s talk about Brave New Tales. Tell us about the songs.

DJ Tidd:

  1. Paul Brill – “Paris is On.” I’d like to hear more of this guy. The weaving of the electro-groove and acoustic pop is reminiscent of Joseph Arthur who you must check out if you haven’t. You can expect a track from him in either the 2006 or the 2005 disc.
  2. Cold War Kids – “We Used to Vacation.” This is just so raw and fresh to me. They could take some of these notes and break them up into a few different songs, but the way they use them together hear makes me grateful they didn’t. In a distant, metaphorical way the song seems autobiographical to me. For the last year or so, I feel like I have been “returning to myself.”
  3. The Draytones – “Keep Loving Me.” You just can’t go wrong here. I knew the minute I heard it months ago that it would make the final cut to the year’s best disc. I love the energy. Makes me want to dance.
  4. The Noisettes – “Don’t Give up.” I hesitated to put the Draytones and Noisettes back to back. Both are high-energy songs, and I didn’t want one to drown out the other. However, I also didn’t want to make the CD a roller coaster. So, the high energy climaxes with the track and settles into a grove with #5.
  5. Gregory Douglass – “Light Don’t Shine.” I coldn’t resist the harmonic hook.
  6. Cherry Ghost – “Roses.” More great sound from England. Sounds like a cousin to Coldplay. I actually had 2 tracks from this band in the final cuts, but this fit better than “Dead Man’s Suit.”
  7. Interpol – “Pioneer to the Falls.” It took me a few listens to “get” this song. They seem to be a descendant of the music I listened to in my good ‘ol days of The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Ministry.
  8. Radiohead – “Weird Fishes / Arpeggi.” I’ve not idea what Arpeggi are, but I couldn’t have a best of mix without a track from the best album of the year. It was hard to dissect the album and rip out a chapter from it, but this one seemed to slide in behind Interpol just perfectly.
  9. Hard-Fi – “Watch Me Fall Apart.” Can’t shake that hook out of my head.
  10. Low Stars – “Just Around the Corner.” Whoa. Did we just switch CDs? This song is a great kick off to the second side of the album if there were one.
  11. Ryan Adams – “Everybody Knows.” This guy can write some great songs with an incredible agility to change his sound. The opening 30 seconds sound like a classic.
  12. Cake – “Conroy.” Instrumental world flavored-electro-pop.
  13. Ray LaMontagne – “Be Here Now.” I would nominate him as “best new artist you’ve never heard and should have a long time ago.” The haunted vocals and acoustic guitar conjure the essence of Nick Drake. I hope this guy keeps writing songs.
  14. The 1990’s – “Arcade Precinct.” Recommended if you like Beck or Blur. 1990’s indeed.
  15. Iron & Wine – “Boy With a Coin.” If you like this song, just go buy any Iron & Wine album. You won’t be disappointed. Feels like purgatory.
  16. Elbow – “Scattered Blacks & Whites.” This groups has a great range of emotion in every album. They have been the soundtrack of my life for more than 2 years. With each album they just get better. With the first, Asleep in the Back, I found them fascinating but very heavy handed. With Cast of Thousands, they lightened up a bit, but didn’t get me over the hump. With their third – Leaders of the Free World, they vaulted into an amazing band. I was then able to hear Cast of Thousands for what it was – a great precurser to the best album of the decade so far. My highest recommendation, but not for all tastes.
  17. The Aliens – “Honest Again.” It’s 1970’s falsetto volcals meets modern indie fantasy rock. I don’t know, but I the chorus hangs with me after every listen. Hard to resist.
  18. Nina Simone – “Little Girl Blue.” Rediscover a classic from one of the most famous singers of the 20th century. A haunting curtain call.

Jabber: Thank you for taking the time with us today. Do you have any plans for the future?

DJ Tidd: I’ve got a few things up my sleeve. For 2008, I plan on “catching up” with all of my ambitious music projects. You might see a “lost tracks” CD in the middle of the year. I’d like to venture further into finding new music online. There are many sources that I’ve barely begun to check out. I am totally looking forward to the new Elbow album that is due in Feburary.

[End.]

Year Title Number of CDs
1998 Anarchistic Tendencies 1
1999-2000 Biding My Time 1
2000 Wedding Music 6
2000 Discoveries 2000 2
2001 Undiscovered Bananas 1
2002 Googlephonic Sound Spectacular 1
2003-2004 The Ambassador Mixes 5
2005 TBD  
2006 TBD  
2007 Brave New Tales 1