June 26, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

DJ SHADOW
Splice Boy

Age 27 Why him? Constructed entirely from samples, Shadow’s 1996 Endtroducing….. album dropped sound-collage hip-pop on the masses. Work habits The Davis, Calif.-based Shadow (a.k.a. Josh Davis) starts with a slew of used LPs. “I’ll make a tape of the records I just bought, and when I’m driving around the next day doing errands, I’ll hear things and go, ‘Wow—this fits with that piece I’m working on.'” Influences “Some people grow up hearing a guitarist and thinking, ‘That’s who I want to be.’ For me, it was DJs. People like Afrika Bambaataa played rock for a street crowd and hip-hop to a new-wave crowd. He challenged people’s conceptions.” Next? An album with his side project U.N.K.L.E., featuring Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft.

DAVID HOLMES
The Scorin’ Irish

Age 29 Why him? On last year’s Lets Get Killed, the Belfast DJ brought the noise—and the funk, grime, and cinematic dialogue — to trip-hop. “An idea can come from anything. Watching a movie. Being held up. Getting the s— kicked out of you.” Work habits Using the most obscure used LPs he can find. “I’m delving into weird ’60s-electronic music from France and Germany. To me, buying a record you can sample is like buying a new piece of equipment.” Most surprising influence The film scores of John Carpenter. Next? His first U.S. soundtrack, for Out of Sight. “We’re doing stuff I never thought I’d see in a Hollywood movie—rough, dirty funk, and hip-hop. To have [producer] Danny DeVito come to the studio and say, ‘Guys, this is superb’—it was grrreat.”

ARMAND VAN HELDEN
Remix Master

Age 28 Why him? When everyone from Sneaker Pimps to the Rolling Stones wants tracks remixed and reassembled for the club crowd, Van Helden’s the man. “The word is reproduction. You keep the melody or the voice and lose everything else. You want a completely different song.” Work habits Forks over as much as $100 a pop on used vinyl in Jersey shops, then holes up in his home studio in Times Square. “I don’t have to look pretty for anybody. I roll out of bed and I’m working. My deli delivers everything, even toothpaste.” Creative crutch “I’ll go out to a regular club, see what people groove to. It clears your head up.” Next? An all-house album to follow up his hip-hop-rooted Enter the Meatmarket.

JOSH WINK
Big Bad Philly Daddy

Age 28 Why him? As DJ-artist, producer, remixer, and label owner (the Sony-distributed Ovum), Wink keeps American electronica alive and throbbing. “Friends ask my parents, ‘What does Josh do?’ I say, ‘Tell them I make electronic experimental compositions spanning all styles.’ And their friends say, ‘So he doesn’t just play records?'” Work habits “I might be in the mood to create a wild, pulsating ambient rhythm, but it may turn into hip-hop. The state of music in this field is awesome. There are no rules, no boundaries.” Weirdest career moment Deejaying at a clothing store, where he was approached by Oasis’ Noel Gallagher. “I thought he was going to say, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ But he said, ‘Do you know where the fitting room is?'” Next? The just-released HEREHEAR album.

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