The one thing I know about DJ Spooky

IN FEBRUARY 2002, I joined Creative Commons, and helped launch their first website. We had a party for our public launch in December of…

The one thing I know about DJ Spooky
DJ Spooky (cc-by photo by Joi Ito)

IN FEBRUARY 2002, I joined Creative Commons, and helped launch their first website. We had a party for our public launch in December of that year, and one of our famous headliners was DJ Spooky, aka Paul D. Miller. I was a big fan of his albums and stoked to see him perform.

I got to meet him briefly as we were setting up for the night, and when he left the room I couldn’t help but notice he smelled terrific. I don’t have a strong sense of smell and I rarely notice such things but his scent was sublime. It didn’t smell like a standard cologne or musk, but more like joy and happiness. I quickly put it in the back of my mind because he played a great set and the launch party was a success, helping get the Creative Commons licenses off the ground.

IN THE YEARS THAT FOLLOWED, I heard stories of friends meeting famous people for the first time and they often included a curious detail that gave famous people an otherworldly quality. A friend met Obama — Obama was awesome and charismatic, but also? He smelled great. A friend met Oprah, and oh my god Oprah smells amazing was their response. Someone ran into Tim Gunn in New York and they mentioned aside from being extremely nice, he smelled magnificent. An acquaintance became a CEO dotcom zillionaire and a friend mentioned the only thing that changed about him was he now smelled fantastic all the time.

What’s up with famous people smelling great? Is there a secret club you get into when you get famous that teaches you the ropes? Do they pay for custom crafted personal perfumes? Is there a whole shadow industry I don’t know about? Is smell a whole sense that no normal person has time to work on besides keeping it at minimal “try not to stink” levels?

SEVERAL YEARS AGO, a friend was running a university new media program and needed to invite speakers for events. She considered DJ Spooky, and remembering the Creative Commons party, she asked me what he was like. I said he was great. He played a set and spoke to the crowd and was wonderful. Then I paused, and said there was one more thing — he also smells amazing.

She said it was an odd detail, but thanked me for the info and booked him for the gig.

About a month later, she sent me a message saying his appearance went well, the students loved him, and also, I was right. He smelled incredible. She couldn’t put her finger on exactly what it was or why.

THIS WEEK I flew to San Francisco for meetings, and when I checked into a lunch spot with Foursquare, my old pal Jessamyn West saw it and asked if I was going to the Internet Archive’s 20 year anniversary party that night in SF. Yay for serendipity! I looked up the party details, noticed I had no plans, and so after work I headed to the venue.

It was a wonderful night celebrating Brewster Kahle and his incredible staff and the two decades they worked so hard to realize his vision for capturing all human knowledge and putting it online. I got to see Jessamyn for the first time in a couple years, got to catch up with Jason Scott, and got to hear about fun announcements like the launch of GIFcities.

To my surprise, one of the featured speakers was DJ Spooky. He spoke for a bit and debuted an original song mixed to some public domain video and we even got the song on keepsake flexidisc records pressed especially for the event.

I met up with Jessamyn after to make dinner plans. We got ready to leave as the crowd thinned, and then I suddenly spotted DJ Spooky across the party talking to people. I quickly told Jessamyn the stories above and said my curiosity was piqued — does DJ Spooky still smell great in 2016? How do I ask him? How do I find out? I didn’t want to interrupt him or weird him out but I had to get closure on this.

Before I could figure out an idea, Jessamyn took charge, moving directly behind him and started a conversation with me so we had an excuse to be near him.

WE LIVE in an increasingly complex, topsy-turvy world where you never know what tomorrow may bring. The future is uncertain to say the least.

But there’s one constant—a universal truth that stands the test of time. Fourteen years later, I can state with absolute confidence that I know one thing to be true.

DJ Spooky still smells amazing.