DJ Behind Hit 'Stranger Things' Mixtape Says Show "Wears Its Influences on Its Sleeve"
DJ Yoda's 52-minute recording has racked up over 100,000 plays online in less than a week, winning fans including members of the hit show's cast, although he's heard nothing — yet — from Netflix.
The current talk of the TV world, Netflix's Stranger Things has in just a few weeks become a word-of-mouth success, hailed for unashamedly parading its '80s influences, the likes of John Carpenter, Stephen King and early Steven Spielberg, and boasting a retro soundtrack to match.
One of those taking note was Duncan Beiny, better known as DJ Yoda, a British turntablist and sample specialist who has repeatedly dipped into the same pool of movies and TV shows used by Stranger Things creators The Duffer Brothers in his music.
Having burned through all eight episodes, Yoda hit the studio, putting together a mixtape featuring not just sound clips and music from the show but other influences he believed helped bring it together (basically, lots of Carpenter music). He's made similar mixes for over a decade, but in just six days his 52-minute Stranger Things recording has become one of his biggest online releases to date on SoundCloud, a viral hit almost as big in the U.K. as the show itself.
Speaking to THR, DJ Yoda talked about his love for each and every strand of '80s DNA that went into Stranger Things, the positive responses he's had from the cast and how Netflix has, so far, been conspicuous by its silence.
Congratulations, you’ve just gone past 100,000 listens on SoundCloud. Why do you think people have taken to the mix so well?
Thanks, the feedback has been amazing. But I think I’m attributing it all to timing! It’s just a really well-timed mix. It’s the kind of mix I do all the time. It’s difficult these days with Netflix and the way people are watching TV shows, not everyone is sitting down and watching at the same time, so trying to pinpoint the right time to drop a mix like that can be wooly, but this just worked. I managed to nail it around the time most people were either into the show or finishing it and I guess before a soundtrack has come out, especially when you’ve got a program with such good music.
It was actually your mix that first drew me to the show...
Yeah, I’ve had a lot of people say that. Some are even saying that they’re just really enjoying the mix and have no intention of watching the show!
When did you first watch Stranger Things?
It’s so crazy how fast things move these days. Yesterday I realized that it had only been 10 days since I even sat down to watch the first episode. I had three people recommend that I watch the show, three people whose taste I really rated. So I sat down to watch the first one and was hooked immediately and had to finish them all as fast as possible.
And when did you realize a mixtape was in order?
Funnily enough, the idea for a mix didn’t come until last Wednesday. I’d been tasked with making a themed DJ mix for a magazine last week, but that wasn’t really coming together. And then I just had this light bulb moment. Normally, I sample when people say “Yoda,” and they mention Yoda a few times in Stranger Things. I don’t know why at that point it didn’t click to me to make a mix. Maybe I was just enjoying it so much. But afterwards I had this light bulb moment where I just thought that the music is so good, and it’s what I play and do, and there are all these samples that are relevant. So last Wednesday I spent a day researching, thinking about the influences that went into the show, not just music but other movies, TV programs, styles, themes, listening to stuff on YouTube, just trying to focus it all. Then on Thursday I spent the day recording. I got the whole mix done in a day, which is really fast for me.
There are plenty of shows set in the '80s. What is it about Stranger Things that makes it so special?
For me, I’m kind of thinking about it in the same terms as some of my favorite Tarantino films. It’s the same reason I like hip-hop a lot, because it wears its influences on its sleeve very proudly. I like it when culture does that. And I love it when those influences are just bang on the things I love as well. That happens in Tarantino films like Kill Bill…he’s so obviously showing you his influences, he’s sampling other movies. It’s the same in hip-hop. When De La Soul sampled Hall & Oates, that was a moment for me, because it was like, 'Oh, hip-hop can sample 80s pop.' I just think with Stranger Things, the influences that it wears on is sleeve are all things that I love so much. The Goonies is one of my top three favorite films, it’s so obviously inspired by that. And there’s E.T., all the John Carpenter soundtrack stuff.
Have you heard from Netflix at all?
Netflix have been conspicuous in their silence. Their silence speaks volumes to me! But what has been nice is that some of the cast members have been tweeting me over the last day, which is really cool. I’ve had Mathew Modine, who I think is an amazing actor, say "Great job," and the guy who plays the Sheriff Hopper, he tweeted about it too. It’s really great that they’ve picked up on it. But nothing from Netflix officially, though.
Are you at all concerned about copyright issues, given that you sample the show a lot?
That’s the story of my life! It’s a day-to-day worry for me, and today is no different.
You mentioned on Twitter there might be plans for a downloadable version of the mix. What’s the story?
I don’t want to ruin it yet, but it’s pretty obvious what I could do with this in terms of physical copies. Hopefully very soon – I’ve realized that speed is the key here.
And could this be released with or without Netflix’s blessing?
That’s another question I can’t give an answer to right now. Maybe in a few days' time I can give you a very definitive answer on that one!
Are there any other TV mixes in the works?
The key for me is that I only really work on stuff that I really love, because I think when you work as a DJ or producer, that kind of passion comes through to the listener, and I think it comes through on this. I wouldn’t do a mix just for the sake of it. It’d have to be something I’m really into. So a Game of Thrones mix is not going to happen.