Interview: Five minutes with Shay de Castro

Shay de Castro comes in with a mixture of thrumming bass and melodic rhythms, creating an unusual mix that will be perfect for the dark dancefloor at 2 am. Originally hailing from the USA, Castro’s music has taken her to some of the best venues in the world, including Club Vertigo in Costa Rica, Le Salon Daome in Montreal and Santo Perdido in Guatemala.

Castro also has a keen interest in a mixture of human interest and anarchism, resulting in her starting her own podcast, “Crimethinc”. The podcast marries of some of the top artists in her industry along with more underground names in conversation over anything from modern politics to history.

Having just released her EP, ‘Watching Me‘, we got a chance to sit down with the emerging DJ.

Hello Shay, thanks for your time. How are you? What are you up to today?
Hi there, thanks for having me! I’m doing pretty great, as I’ve just drunk two coffees. It’s 2 am here, so after this, I think I’ll watch my cats destroy the house and then head to sleep. 

What inspires you to create? How do you stay motivated?
The list is practically never-ending. There’s this slightly egotistical desire to create music that people know for generations to come. I’m not at that level yet, but it’s something that motivates me to get better.

Other than that, as a human, I always have a billion thoughts and emotions running around. I try to communicate at least one of them and portray it in a way where words are unnecessary and hope someone understands how I was feeling in that moment. Maybe they’ve felt the same way. I go through phases where motivation isn’t even a concept, it’s just something I do. Other times, I really have to force myself to sit down and do something – anything. It could be I heard a track someone else made and it sparked an idea or an emotion that inspires me to create something. 

How do you relax?
Going to the gym or getting a massage! But to be honest, producing is also relaxing to me. I can take as long as I need to, and all I hear are the sounds I’m creating. No car horns or yelling from the street, I turn my phone on “Do Not Disturb”…it’s great. 

Having grown up playing the guitar and listening to grunge rock, what events or musical artists inspired you to start making the electronic music that you are now?

That’s another long list, but funny enough, most are not techno producers. DT8 Project, old Tiesto, Gabriel & Dresden, The Thrillseekers, Cosmic Gate, Orjan Nilsen and DNS Project still blow my mind. However, Nirvana has been a part of me musically, my entire life and have always lit a fire inside of me. 

Your new EP Watching Me is out now on Prospect Records. How did you approach the writing process?

I wish I could say something super technical and intriguing, but it wasn’t. I’d recorded the vocals for Watching Me a few months before and completely forgot about it. I found them on my computer later and decided to use them. When I’d recorded them I was thinking about how many people I see stare at each other at clubs and it’s so obvious they’re attracted to the other but never make a move. But when I actually sat down to use them, I kind of perceived it to be more of a creepy “Rear Window” kind of feel, so I used that as inspiration. Expect a lot of machine-gun snare rolls!

Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?
That’s really difficult to choose, as they’re so different. I love the actual process of creating and I feel mentally refreshed afterwards. It’s satisfying being able to walk away with a tangible result and to express yourself. I also am in love with being in the moment and seeing the smiles on peoples’ faces while performing. There are some feelings during a set that can never be portrayed on Instagram; you just have to be there for it, and that’s something special. 

What has been the most memorable set you’ve played so far in your career?
It was one of the first times I played in Mexico, in Aguascalientes. We’d arrived and it was freezing, pouring rain (not very caliente, am I right?). Everyone said it was some freak episode, that the weather normally wasn’t like this. Anyway, we go to the venue and it has like an open roof and the building is all stone blocks so I had to wear a parka and could see my breath. I thought no one would come, but the place filled up with people with scarves wrapped around their faces and hats fit snugly on. People were sharing mezcal and dancing, hugging, smiling. I always look forward to going back to AGS because the people are just incredible and down for anything.

For those who have not experienced one of your DJ sets before, what can they expect from you?

High energy and high emotions! I love booming, driving tunes and taking people by surprise. I don’t want to sound like a Zac Efron movie but there are times when the frequencies perfectly coincide with the mood of a room and it creates this out-of-body experience I can’t describe with words. 

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
Ear plugs and water. Protect your hearing and don’t get sloppy! Unless you play better sloppy, in which case chug that shot of Smirnoff!

What do you feel knowing that you are one of the most important techno DJs in the underground scene in Mexico?
That’s a huge compliment. I feel that Mexico has played just as big of a role in it as I have. I’ve been welcomed with open arms since the beginning, and I think that Mexicans, in particular, are very receptive to new ideas and the unknown, in terms of music. 

How important is it to have a management and agency team? We know you will have a tour of South America and then go to Europe, do you take advantage of it to work on your long trips?
I think both are crucial to the success of most artists in our current state of affairs. What artists want to work on is music. Not many of us are good at “business”, so leaving that to management and agencies can give us more opportunity to do what we love while growing our names. However, it’s important to note that your management and agency team should understand you, your music and the vision you have for yourself as an artist and person.

I do take advantage of long trips, especially by meeting up with artists and others in the industry who I know through social media. It can be fun putting in some work in a studio or checking out the local scene from someone who’s an integral part of it. 

Do you feel the dance scene is diverse and there are fair chances for everyone or is there still work to be done?
While it may be diverse compared to other types of music, a lot of work still needs to be done. Techno was built by societal minorities and outcasts, which was a huge draw for me and countless others. However, as it gains popularity commercially, I see the need for more equality and less gatekeeping. 

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

As you mentioned, I’m going to be doing a tour in South America and Europe, which should be fun. Aside from that, I have a few collaborations coming with some incredibly talented artists, as well as another EP or two and some singles.

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