Following its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2015, As I AM: The Life and Times of DJ AM—a full-length documentary about the late DJ Adam Goldstein—finally received a theatrical release on June 14. Directed by popular electronic music documentarian, Kevin Kerslake, the film's a deep dive into the troubled life, awe-inspiring career as celebrity DJ and turntablist, as well as the lengthy struggle with drugs and alcohol that led to Goldstein's tragic death by overdose in August of 2009.
Authorized by Goldstein's estate, the doc features a variety of intimate clips, photos, and interviews from those who knew him best, including Diplo, DJ Jazzy Jeff, A-Trak, and Steve Aoki, as well as members of AM's immediate family. There's also a handful of scenes from his legendary, mash-up heavy DJ sets that helped him rise to stardom throughout his decade long career.
"Diplo calls AM the Tony Hawk of DJing. Clark Kent and Jazzy Jeff say he was the first rock star hip-hop DJ. A-Trak pegs him as the first superstar DJ, and Steve Aoki calls him The King," says Kerslake about Goldstein's legacy. In addition to airing two exclusive clips from the film—one about his first $1,000,000 Vegas residency, the other on the plane crash that nearly took his life—we caught up with Kerslake to hear more about the production. Check out the clips below, along with the Q&A.
THUMP: How did the documentary on Adam's life come together?
Kevin Kerslake: When I was directing all the films and videos for Insomniac and HARD Events in the late 2000s, I was lucky enough to have the best seat in the house at many of AM's biggest sets. I ended up dedicating THE ELECTRIC DAISY CARNIVAL EXPERIENCE to AM following his death, and after providing footage of him to his family for various tributes, they became more familiar with my body of work, and asked me to make a film about his life. Knowing that AM's demons were largely rooted in a toxic family situation, I politely declined for some time, based on the assumption that they'd want to censor anything that focused on the root of AM's flaws. Immediately after that, a friend of mine was taken down by similar circumstances, so I went back to AM's mother and said that if I got Final Cut and could be completely honest about his upbringing, then I'd be in 100%. She agreed that was the film that needed to be made, then gave me his laptops and the key to his archives. Thus began a long journey.
What do you hope people will take away from the film?
AS I AM is about a lot more than someone who just spun records, because AM was a lot more than just a DJ. He had the talent, drive, and charisma to be the best at his craft, but his life was a perfect storm of other monumental forces coming together. He was an avatar not only with regard to music, but in harnessing the power of technology to move pop culture in the Digital Age. Plus, he had a huge heart, and helped a ton of people. All this lived inside a package that was deeply flawed, and you have a tragedy of Shakespearian proportions. Tragically, the unrelenting darkness that engulfed him in his youth ended up overwhelming all the others, but the tenuous truce between those two forces throughout his entire life is what makes the story of DJ AM so riveting.
Anything else you'd like to share about the project?
On his 11th "sober birthday," AM stuck a recorder in his pocket and delivered a 40-minute autobiographical speech that ended up being the centerpiece of the film, so the story is largely told from the inside out—DJ AM in his own words. He speaks at a velocity that matches his mixing, so, stylistically, the film is constructed along the same lines: a mash-up in its own right, pinballing through AM's life at top speed.