Played Out: Hieroglyphic Being Deconstructs DJing

One of dance music's most distinct minds, Jamal Moss, describes his unique approach to DJing and why he doesn't "give a fuck" about beatmatching.
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So far in 2015, Jamal Moss has released at least three 12″s, a limited-edition CD, a cassette dedicated to the 1980s Chicago nightclub Medusa and three albums on three different labels and under three different aliases. The latest record, We Are Not the First, appeared at the end of October on New York label RVNG International under the guise Hieroglyphic Being & J.I.T.U. Ahn-Sahm-Buhl, which represents the various collaborations that feature therein. According to the label, the LP aims to “reprogram the mind,” which is the definitive credo behind all of Moss’s output as a producer, DJ and live performer. His defiantly unconventional approach to any musical endeavor makes him a truly unique subject for our Played Out series, in which DJs explain a sequence of tracks they’ve played during a DJ to excavate the logic or methodology—and that’s because his style aims to upset all logic, methodology or expectations.

PLACE: The Temple of the Moon / TIME: Opening Set

1. Excepter – “Be Beyond Me”

I used to open with this record, KA, a lot. It’s not one of those things like, “I’ll play this to captivate the audience or make them run into the room like sheep” or whatever. What I do is more like “audio texturizing.” It’s a combination of both live and playing other peoples’ music; I learned to integrate both. I’ll do edits live on the fly or play them on a CDJ. So I’ll take a beat track from a Linn drum—I’ll make one, or I’ll take an old one from the ‘80s—and I’ll hybridize the two together.

I might play two copies of KA on vinyl, and then I’ll play a Chris & Cosey industrial track underneath.

2. Chris & Cosey – “Exotika”

I might throw in Throbbing Gristle’s “Subhuman”— it just depends on the energy of it—and I’ll have that playing with Excepter. People will ask, “What track is that?” And then when I tell them that it’s an old Chris & Cosey track with a 606 running with a flange and a bassline, people get amazed. And I might have a Lil Louis track like “Frequency” playing underneath.

I have a fusion of crazy sounds going on top. I take different sounds and try to make them cohesive together, and hopefully it’ll sound like a hot mess.

3. Lil Louis – “Frequency (Hieroglyphic Being’s Live Edit)”

I might do an edit of “Frequency” without the vocals. I might take a segment and have that looped and have that play underneath. I do tape edits at home, so I’ll sit there and do this old-school way of editing old tracks that I learned from some mentors of mine. I’ll hear parts of it, just like hip-hop cats did with breaks from jazz songs or funk tunes or Latin tunes. I’ll get the conga, you know what I’m saying, or get the drum or the funk breakdown. I’ll take snippets, edit it down and loop it to a certain point and layer and overdub it so I have a four or five-minute piece, then I’ll burn that on a CD and play it on a CDJ. I might have two copies of it playing at once to get a weird type of texturization to it as well, and I’ll play it with Throbbing Gristle or Excerpter. It just depends on how demented I want to get and fuck with peoples’ heads. I want to go out and do something memorable so that people can walk away and say, “Okay, that was way different than the stuff I might have encountered in the last month of going out.”

When “Frequency” plays with Nurse With Wound, it challenges people to say “This motherfucker put some thought into it.” I do this to shock the system; cleanse the palate. People are programmed sonically in certain ways. I come in and try to flush it out.

4. Nurse With Wound – “Bottom Feeder (Hieroglyphic Being Edit)”

I’m actually working on this edit right now. I took some noise parts and a section where there was a clean rhythmic feel and put it underneath when I started to overdub. I might loop a certain part of a vocal and have it go underneath with a little reverb or gated echo going with it.

I don’t give a fuck about beatmatching, because that’s ego, you see what I’m saying? To hold a blend, have a perfect transition—that’s not about the audience, that’s not even about the song that’s being played. It’s all about the ego of me trying to prove that I can do that, and that’s far from me. I’m more into hot-mashing, so I can play five things at once and make them be fluid. If you ask me to take two records and beatmatch them flawlessly, it’s not gonna happen.

5. Pharoah Sanders – “Astral Travelling”

When you hear it bleeding through the industrial and acid stuff, through all the noise, it’s almost like a person changing the channel on the radio, you know what I’m saying? That’s the whole concept of me doing audio texturizing. You can hear this hot mess of stuff like you’re changing a radio to different stations. You might end up on a jazz station and be like, “Eh, I’m not feeling this,” so you turn the dial and you might hear acid. And through another station you might hear a disco channel, and when you change again you’ll hear the frequency static, understand what I’m saying? That’s what it sounds like when I do it. It’s a crazy hot mess, but it’s cohesive and people can get it.

Read more Played Out features with Janus affiliate KABLAM and Panorama Bar resident Nick Höppner. Cover photo by Celeste Sloman.

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