DJs have always fascinated me. It’s a job that seems so easy from the outside – how hard can it be to make a playlist and crossfade from song to song? – but just stand behind a really talented DJ for a few moments and you can’t help be overwhelmed by how much is actually going on. So many moving parts that all need to be perfectly balanced lest the flow be ruined. Being a DJ is an art requiring intense concentration, a delicate hand, and real musical sensibility.
And so I asked one of the best, most diverse DJs – and perhaps the biggest music nerd I know – to see if he would be interested in spinning something together for Tadpole Audio. The result is a listening experience you’ve never heard before (certainly not at your local club or friend’s wedding) and won’t soon forget. Presented by DJ Bumbaclot, “Safe In Heaven, Dead” was recorded live in four parts (no overdubs), then combined into one track.
“The name of the mix is taken from a t-shirt that the guitar player of The Big Pink has worn every time I’ve seen them. It’s a black t-shirt with white letters that says SAFE IN HEAVEN, DEAD. So fucking awesome. I’m going to make my own one day soon.” – DJ Bumbaclot
Safe In Heaven, Dead
1. The Hundred In The Hand “Young Aren’t Young”
2. Kano “I’m Ready”
3. Boy Crisis “L’homme”
4. Radiohead “The End of Kid A”
5. The Antlers “Kettering (Bumbaclot Bonus Beat)”
6. Thom Yorke “All For The Best”
7. Florence and The Machine “Cosmic Love (Matthew Fraser Remix)”
8. Arcade Fire “The Suburbs Continued (Christian TV Remix)”
9. Gayngs “The Gaudy Side of Town”
10. No Age “Sorts”
11. Home Video “You Will Know What to Do”
12. Radiohead “Motion Picture Soundtrack”
13. Antonio Pinto “Vincent Dies”
14. Brian Eno “An Ending”
15. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross “Hand Covers Bruise”
16. Daft Punk “Adagio for Tron”
17. Aphex Twin “Acrid Avid Jam Shred”
18. Zero 7 “In The Waiting Line”
19. Nine Inch Nails “The Four of Us are Dying”
20. Working For A Nuclear Free City “A Black Square With Four Yellow Stars”
21. Longwave “Day Sleeper (Aereogramme Remix)”
22. Broken Social Scene “Pitter Patter Goes My Heart”
TA: You plan out your sets for every gig, right? Do all DJ’s do that, or at least the one you’ve spoken to?
DJB: I never walk into a gig without at least having a rough idea of what I’ll be playing. That’s just me being professional, and being prepared. All the DJs I am friends with plan, or at least think about what they’re going to play before gigs. I also know to go with the flow once I start spinning, be it taking requests or totally switching up the vibe if what I’m playing isn’t going over well. I showed up once to a gig and then the host said, “I don’t want to hear any hip-hop,” so I had to roll with the punches.
TA: Does your set change depending on the gig?
DJB: Definitely. I try to cater each set to each gig. Obviously I’ll be spinning different music for a 21st bday party than I will at a 50th bday party, or a wedding, or a protest rally, or a charity event. There are a few songs that I absolutely love and try to work into every set I can — Radiohead’s “Idioteque,” The Knife’s “Heartbeats,” Holy Ghost!’s “Hold On,” Empire Of The Sun’s “Walking On A Dream,” The Roots’ “What They Do” — but really it depends on who the crowd is and what the party is. It’s more important for me to please the client than satisfy some personal agenda to force my musical taste on the audience… I’ve learned to swallow my ego, but a little part of me still dies every time I have to play Black Eyed Peas. But if I can throw in “Idioteque” and watch people get down, then I’m droppin’ it.
TA: What inspired the theme of this mix?
DJB: I knew I had to create a mix based on a particular theme, and when I started thinking about it, the idea to create “a mix about death” came into my head rather sarcastically. I knew I didn’t want to put together a dance mix, I wanted to try something new and different. One of my favorite mixes in recent years is the mix Justice did for Fabric Live, which Fabric ultimately rejected — it’s all over the place, and really cool and the opposite of what I thought a Justice mix would sound like. Also Z-Trip‘s Anti-War mix from ’03, and his Obama mix in ’08. I saw him do it live at a fundraiser and it blew my mind. So I started thinking about what a “death” mix would entail, and stuck with it because the idea sounded intriguing and challenging. I think about death quite a bit, so why not soundtrack the shit? I came up with “Bumbaclot” while lying in a hospital bed.
TA: What does “Bumbaclot” mean?
DJB: To me, it has three meanings…
1) Long story short, I threw a frisbee too hard in 2005 and developed a blood clot in my right arm. When I was lying in bed at Cedars Sinai waiting for surgery, I had an epiphany – I had a blood clot, I’m DJ Bumbaclot – and since that moment, I have been.
2) “Bumbaclot” is like “bloody” is in England, so “Bloody hell!” is akin to “Ah Bumbaclot!” It’s a cry of frustration, and that’s all it has been since – one big frustration.
3) When my best friend was over in Iraq, I only got to talk to him a few times when he could hook up minutes on a satellite phone. He was never allowed to talk about what he was doing, where he was, or even really how he was doing, so at that point, I just used those precious minutes to try and make him laugh as much as I could. We would do a Jamaican accent back and forth, biting quotes from Eddie Murphy’s Raw, and yelling “Bumbaclot!” and it was hysterical. Sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh. I guess it’s ultimately my self-deprecating way of owning the medical bane of my existence. My buddy Aaron told me I should unjinx myself and starting going by the name DJ Good Health.
TA: Maybe I’m wrong, but to me this seems like a serious undertaking – almost an hour of continuous music recorded! How did you go about creating an opus like this?
DJB: Once I figured out the theme, I started pulling tracks I thought would be appropriate. There were some more instrumental/orchestral tracks I liked, and there were some darker tracks, and haunting tracks, and just through the course of playing with them all, I began mapping out the mix in its entirety.
I originally conceived the mix to be five parts, but it ended up as four parts. I thought it was important to have something that launched the listener on their journey, so I wanted the first part to be akin to live fast, die young. “Young Aren’t Young” has such a youthful and energetic groove I wanted to kick it off with that, and came up with Boy Crisis‘ “L’homme” to end it. I’ve always liked that track, it sounds like overdosing in NYC — so I played around with the tempo, slowing it down then jacking it up really fast, then killing the turntable power to grind it down to a halt, like the mix’s “life” was grinding to a halt as well.
The second part was like on your way into the white light. “Kettering” just slays me every time, and so does “All For The Best”. All the rest of the tracks just fit the vibe of this section, ending with “Motion Picture Soundtrack” and I will see you, in the next life.
The third part is the void, and the fourth part is like that Milton quote: Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light. One of the freedoms I found while putting this mix together was the ability to have a huge chunk of score and instrumentals, while still trying to tell a story. It gets really dark for a while and then lightens up at the end with a Broken Social Scene ditty that brings it all home. The fifth part would have been an epilogue of sorts, but I scraped it — it was a Bjork remix, some M83 and other instrumentals, and a remix of The Beatles‘ “Good Night” to end it.
TA: Does this reflect how you personally feel about death and the afterlife?
DJB: No, but I think it reflects my romanticized idea of what might happen after we die. I’m basically an atheist at this point, and there have been a few times where I thought I was going to die and made peace with it. No idea what happens once this human form ceases to function anymore. But there better be music.
TA: Would you ever play this in front of a crowd? What kind of crowd / type of event might this cater to?
DJB: I don’t know if it would go over well, and I would love to try it. I could see spinning this mix at an art gallery downtown or Echo Park. I think now I have to try doing it at least once, just to see what happens. Scratch in some quotes and sound bytes too. And throw down the epilogue too!
TA: What is the overall impression you want listeners to take away from this?
DJB: Life is beautiful and short, so live it.
I really don’t know what people are going to think about this mix. Should be interesting…
(I like it, so fuck the haters.)
Much love, Tadpole Audio.