The 1990s saw music diversify more than it ever had before; in the musical maze of the ’90s, you could fill your ears with Britpop, grunge, hip-hop, trip-hop, shoegaze, and a galaxy of other sounds born gradually over the course of the previous 30 years of music. Although my opinions are subject to drastic change, I often arrive at this decade when thinking about the best music we’ve had since the dawn of recorded sound.
The beauty of 1990s music comes from the diversity that was available. While you had Britpop groups like Oasis and Blur battling it out for the higher echelons of the charts, there were several more quietly influential artists making moves in the final decade of the second millennium AD. Among these were experimental electronic artists such as Aphex Twin, Autechre and the king of the sampler, DJ Shadow.
DJ Shadow (born Josh Davis) rose to prominence in 1996 with his debut studio album Endtroducing……, since its release, countless artists have used his innovative sampling and electronic production style as inspiration for their own work. Among these was ‘90s alt-rock masters Radiohead. But it appears that Radiohead have also had an impact on Davis in return.
In 2020, Davis was interviewed by Pitchfork; he was asked to discuss the albums that meant the most to him. For one of his selections, he chose Radiohead’s 1997 classic, OK Computer. “I was living in England part-time and doing all this production and having some notoriety,” Davis explained.
“And I had met Radiohead in late ’96 or early ’97 when we both ended up doing a free gig for this magazine, Dazed & Confused. I didn’t really know much about Radiohead other than hearing a couple of their songs from The Bends in the air, and really liking them. I had seen the video for ‘Creep’ and really liked that, too. When I met them, they told me they were really huge fans of Endtroducing….., and that was surprising to hear, because at that time rock and whatever we were doing didn’t mix all that much.”
He added: “James [Lavelle] and I were already working on the UNKLE record [1998’s Psyence Fiction], and he really liked Radiohead. I remember us driving from Davis to the Bay Area and listening to this advance cassette of OK Computer, and we both were like, ‘Oh, this is it. This is what we want to do.’”
Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke was vocal about his electronic influences in the late 1990s following the release of OK Computer. Following the OK Computer tour in 1998, Yorke was worn out and somewhat disillusioned with traditional guitar-based rock music. He had become increasingly interested in blending what he had heard from the likes of Aphex Twin and DJ Shadow into Radiohead’s sound. The fruit of this was the avant-garde electronic rock heard on 2000’s Kid A and 2001’s Amnesiac.
While Davis’ music became a proliferating influence on Yorke, It seemed that the influence flowed in a two-way symbiosis over the late 1990s and early 2000s. Davis concluded: “They started doing interviews and going on record saying they were inspired by Endtroducing….. and then they asked me to open for them in the UK. So when I think of 1997, I just really think of that album and what it meant to James and I. It gave us this aspirational challenge: Can we make music and videos that are this evocative? For a few years there, it felt like a genuine camaraderie between what we were doing and what they were doing.”
The creative relationship between Yorke and Davis was highlighted in 1998 when Yorke collaborated with Davis to write ‘Rabbit In Your Headlights’. The song was part of the UNKLE album Psyence Fiction. The album also included a collaboration with The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft.