In Conversation with SHADED

Interview by Arnold van der Walt 

When it comes to DJ’ing, it’s kind of the norm to expect a DJ to use other artists’ music in their own set; it’s simply the way it is. But California-born techno producer SHADED does not do business that way. Known for exclusively using his own original music in every set, SHADED has since grown in popularity across the globe, especially in Europe. Having been part of the SHDWPLAY duo, SHADED has since decided to go solo in what will ultimately be a very smart move. He’s done remixes for Tiga, Boys Noize, Carlo Lio, Sian, Oliver Huntermann, Dubfire and his minimal remix for Christian Smith peaked at No.2 on Beatport.

Not one to sit around, SHADED will be releasing another techno EP via Senso Sounds in September, entitled ‘Rippple’. You can pre-order it here.

Listen to SHADED’s latest track below.

Ahead of his new release, we sat down with SHADED and had an in-depth discussion about moving to a different continent, the gear he uses and how surfing is his means of escape.

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

I think it came naturally. My father is a musician so I grew up in that type of environment. Music was always playing at my house as a child, so I really was predestined to be involved in some form or another.

You take a different approach when it comes to Techno music. How would you describe your specific style and how do you get to it?

I would describe it as a mash up of all my influences whilst growing up in the Southern Californian surf and skate culture. It is Techno, but some might not feel it is, in the true sense of the word. My journey into Techno is far from any in comparison to many of my friends in the industry. I mean, in the beginning I didn’t even know what Techno music was, even though I was making it. I always enjoyed experimental and futuristic music, but I just labeled any form of electronic dance music as House. In So Cal there were not many outlets to find Techno so I never saw shows. In Newport Beach were I grew up there was nothing, literally. Once I did get a grip on the scene, I realised I had to drive to LA to see anyone playing. Being able to see international DJs in LA during this period was an eye opener, and that’s when I started to realise my music style was developing in a very organic way through my initial seclusion back home were the only influence was my lifestyle.

Growing up in California, do you feel your location had any influence on your sound?

Yes 100%. I grew up in skate culture listening to rock, punk, and rap music. Skating had a very anti-establishment vibe, and very DIY mentality that attracted me. It taught me to not give a fuck what anyone thought and just be me. This translated into my music, and still does today. The mentality of being yourself and not following trends is rooted deep. If my name is attached to a project I have to be 100% happy with it.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

The idea has always been the same; make futuristic Techno. As time goes on the emphasis on sound has taken over. I want my production to be dynamic but at the same time I want people to feel emerged in the low end experience. Like feeling as if the bass is just wrapped around the dance floor oozing between the people. I want energy and power, but not that overly aggressive dominance.

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

I always start with a direction. The idea takes shape with a kick drum, bass line, and snare drum. I think these 3 elements can make or break a track. From here on out it’s a cluster of ideas jotted down, looped, and re-looped until one sticks. Once the root idea or sound is solid, I then work around that to form the soundscape. I think every track needs that core idea for the rest to orbit around.

Why did you decide to move to Europe? Has this influenced your taste in music? Do you feel the music scene operates differently in Europe?

Europe is just such a melting pot of talent. When I first came here 7 years ago I did so to get involved in the scene. Being from Southern California you are so far away from this style of music. I saw coming to Europe as an essential for breaking through, and it opened my eyes to the idea that I could actually make a career out of electronic music. Europe is just more open minded and accepting of electronica. I remember I used to freak out hearing Techno on the radio in Spain; that never happened in the States back then.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

Sometimes… I prefer to work alone, but if it is a good friend, or someone who vibes well with me, I am keen. I enjoy working with people who are dedicated to their sound, and craft and want to bring authentic ideas to the table.

What’s on your current playlist?

Lots of random stuff actually… Spacemen 3, INXS, Fine Young Cannibals, Dr Dre and Chromeo to name a few. I tend to not listen to much electronica or dance music in general outside of making music and gigging.

You’re known for bringing a unique quality to a live performance. Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

I just try to deliver a unique show. You come to a show and you will hear all of my own music, which is about 75% of the time unreleased. I have moments where I am completely oblivious to the crowd and I am in my element jamming. But there are also the times when I take a break and interact with the crowd, and just enjoy the fact that people are actually dancing to music I made. That is still surreal; the idea that people can dance for 2 or 3 hours to my own music. When I first started I thought it would be amazing to impact 1 person in a positive way. The fact I can spread it further is amazing.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

Lots of LFO modulations and low end oscillations, as well as vocal manipulations. I enjoy synths really layered and spread out through the use reverb and chorus. I record odd sounds and warp and stretch them. I just play around for hours until all the dots connect.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

Fire up some drums and just flow. Sometimes I record some vocals then start cutting them up. It all depends, but my studio is at my house, so the moment I get an idea I go in and get it recorded as soon as possible. Some days I wake up and get right to recording, other days I stay clear of the music completely and rest. You can never force creativity or passion. it is very tidal in a way, just going with the flow.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

I was at University California, Irvine, in the engineering lab studying for a computer science exam, and I just broke down. I realised in that moment I needed to pursue music. I did end up graduating the 4 year program, but the last 2 years my mind was somewhere else. I went to school during the day, made music during the night, and worked on the weekends at a local surf shop to pay for food. It was like a moment of clarity and relief, as I knew exactly what I wanted. I had no idea how I was going to make it happen, I just knew it was possible.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set? What is some of the most important gear to create the perfect SHADED performance?

Well the computer is essential, as well as my three Xone K2 controllers. I can do a show with these tools alone (If I have to) should for some reason the airlines lose my luggage.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

I just found out about Jeremy Olander, I really like his music. TERR is another one, she has a sound that is refreshing. As I am a live artist, I don’t get promos and don’t play other peoples music, so have to rely on word of mouth or just keeping up to date online with who has what out.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Amazing finely tuned sound systems. Powerful and character filled bass lines. Purpose in the music, in a way that seamlessly goes from A to Z and just makes sense. Hypnotic and loopy, yet still tells a story. The fine line between the underground and pop with a disregard for the rules.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

I produce in Logic and play live in Ableton. I use lots of the Native Instruments plug ins as well as their hardware units. Reaktor is a priceless piece of kit that can do everything. I am a big fan of Moog hardware products, especially their semi modular line. I tend to use a solid amount of Arturia gear. Any synths that have lots of body in the low end and mid range frequencies always get me going. For drums I prefer real recordings, so I head to a friends and mic up his drum set and get all my hits there.

Any side projects you’re working on?

Nothing too relevant as of now. I have 2 projects on the side, but they are in the infant stages and I am not really sure what to do with them. As of now I am focused on SHADED material and presenting a new invigorated live show.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

I have learned so much from being involved. It is so inspiring for me to see people push the limits of electronica, from the musical standpoint as well as an engineering perspective. I have met so many good friends through music, who push my music to the next level. In the world of DJ’ing and producing there are levels. No matter what level you are on, there is always someone pushing it further to the next. That is the best part, trying to keep up.

You are quite a big surfer yourself. Do you feel this helps to clear your mind? How long have you been surfing?

Yeah it is my main escape. It is my form of disconnection. Music is so up and down, so many moods during ones career. For me surfing is a constant source of escape. No matter what’s going on in my life I can go get in the water, have a surf, and rejuvenate. Everyone needs some type of escape, especially in this industry.

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

Gigs and studio time. I am wrapping up 20 new records, and hope to find a place for them. One of those is a remix for Joyce Muniz on DJ Hell‘s ‘Gigolo’ in December. I have always loved the label and her tracks, so this one I am looking forward to. I am finalizing an EP for the Desert Hearts family which is very club style, as well as 2 more EP’s soon to be announced. I have been doing mainly club driven music, but with a few secrets up my sleeve in the realm of experimental electronica. As for gigs, just trying to stay busy and play great clubs with dope sound systems. Musically I am pushing outside my comfort zone and it seems to be getting some pleasing results.

Tell us a bit more about your upcoming releases?

‘Rippple’ is a simplistic techno cut with drive. It is heady and weird, with a massive futuristic minimalistic synth line. ‘Sumbody’ is also weird and trippy, but has more groove and slide to it. They are two tracks I have been using in my live set for a few months and it seems they are well received! I am happy they will be coming out via Oliver‘s Senso Sounds label in September.

Any famous last words?

Never stop chasing dreams. You never know how much “time” you have, so spend it wisely.

Catch SHADED in September here:
8th Sept – Senso Showcase – Istanbul, Turkey
21st Sept – Shadows – Blue Marlin, Ibiza
28th Sept – TBC – UK
29th Sept – Cafe Del Mar, – Barcelona, Spain
12th Oct – Village du Soir – Geneva, Switzerland
13th Oct – Kapitel Club – Bern, Switzerland

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