DJ Spotlight: Joshua Justice of Static + Distance & Beyond Footnotes!
Written by Little Squigg on May 17, 2016
What inspired you to become a DJ?
I saw a flyer and I heard the station playing in the hallway at PSU. I realized there were all kinds of musical tastes within KPSU, and whatever I’d want to do with my show, there’d be people who’d be into it. For a while, there was a show where someone was reading children’s books. I was like, “If they can do that, I can play weird music!”
Lots of freedom to do your own thing! What would you describe as your niche?
I started Static + Distance about a year and a half ago. I mainly play music from my vinyl collection and sometimes team up with other DJs. I started another show this past fall with Ryan Wisnor called Beyond Footnotes, where we bring in different historians, mostly from Portland State, to discuss their research.
There’s a couple other shows on KPSU with a similar aesthetic to Static + Distance, like Zig Zag Vinyl with Serg and Pete. I love their show. I listen to it pretty regularly. They do a similar thing, where they have a unifying theme but also jump around genres. I think one of the cool things about vinyl DJing is that everybody has a unique collection to pull from. And with vinyl, you really have to know your records.
What can you tell me about your record collection?
I got my first record player when I was sixteen or seventeen. My dad really likes to buy things from auctions just to fix them and sell them or stack them in his basement. I was into music and it seemed like a cool thing and he gave me some records. A few Romantics records. That was his favorite band growing up. They’re this cheesy 80s pop band. The beginning of my record collection was a lot of stuff like that. Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, all classic albums.
One of the first records I ever bought was Sufjan Stevens’ Michigan album. When I only had a dozen records, I’d just keep listening to that one on repeat. I’m probably close to needing to replace it ‘cause I’ve worn it down so much!
I used to listen to mostly indie stuff. I didn’t have a lot of appreciation for older stuff until my mid-twenties. A lot of my collection now is folk and soul music. And I’m really into these newer reissue labels. That’s where I end up spending the big bucks. Light in the Attic, Numero Group, Truth and Soul- all those labels are doing a lot of cool work around reissuing artists. And in town there’s Mississippi Records and Exiled and things like that.
What would you say are three of your top artists, songs, or albums?
I mentioned Sufjan’s Michigan earlier… The music is very complex and it’s the way the music all comes together. Some songs are incredibly sparse and yet they feel like these big songs. I grew up in Michigan so the album is definitely tied to home for me. It’s like an old sweater.
Thinking back across my whole musical history, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is still what I consider a perfect album. It really got me thinking about music in a different way. It’s just so cohesive and timeless. If that album dropped today, people would be raving about it and say it’s an incredibly original approach to music. He uses very simple melodies but it’s the way it’s all pieced together, the production, his bizarre lyricism, all that… It’s still an album I play regularly. I think it’s sitting on top of my record player right now. I even got a tattoo from the inside cover of an album I love.
If you asked me what album I listen to most, it would definitely be Stars of the Lid’s album And Their Refinement of the Decline. It’s a beautiful album, sort of neo-classical, post-rock, ambient. It floats between all those genres. It’s just this beautifully set album. It really makes me appreciate that something can sound so beautiful. I have these songs ingrained in my mind after hearing them hundreds, maybe even thousands, of times. I literally listened to this album every night for years. I was in this really rocky relationship at the time and this album was like an oasis. There’s not a single moment on it that’s intense or abrasive. It’s really quiet and subtle and easy to get lost in, without being boring. There’s a lot of subtle moments that come together to make this album.
When I talk about music, I’m always talking about why I like it, how it make me feel. That’s certainly way more important to me than technical achievement. I can appreciate that, but that’s not going to make me come back and listen to an album again and again.
What do you feel makes music so powerful?
Part of it is the connections people make with music. It’s incredibly subjective. It can mean so many different things to different people. One of the best things is when you find someone who connects to music in the same way. You can say the same about film or a painting or piece of art. But for me, music is the thing where I make those connections with people. My friend Andy and I have been friends since we were, like, twelve- going on eighteen years now- and the first thing we bonded over was Less Than Jake or some ska band like that. He’s one of those friends I don’t see very often, but we still have this really strong connection because we feel the same way about music. I have a lot of friendships that started that way. So I would say that the power of music comes from the connections it makes.
I feel like that’s such a common theme among the DJs I’ve talked to, and people who love music in general. It all comes back to that connection. It’s one of the deepest ways to relate to another person.
Yeah, it really is!
This interview was brought to you by Lara Lee Ingram (Little Squigg) of The Dreamers Guild!
Please check out Vinyl Wonderland, a collaboration between Static + Distance and The Dreamers Guild!