DJ, producer and A&R extraordinaire Simon Shaw has been making waves across the underground ocean for many years now, playing intricate sets at some of the biggest venues in the known universe and has grown so rapidly that there’s rumours he even has intergalactic sets lined up, but we will get to that at another date. Simon, who is an artist in every sense, has mountains of experience when it comes to hunting down fresh new music and groundbreaking artists. That experience, garnered from being A&R at Defected and now at Kerri Chandler’s Madtech and Madhouse, has seamlessly streamed this experience into his own label and party, Sense Traxx.
Simon’s infectious enthusiasm is enough to inspire anyone. The party began for Simon in his own home, where he started to entertain guests with intimate parties which really left their mark on the people who came. Through word of mouth and experience, these parties grew at a rapid rate, until there were over 150 people showing up at his door! This is when things really took off for the Sense crew and now, we can delve in and discover the deeper meaning of Sense.
Hi Simon, thanks very much for chatting with us! How are things?
Hi guys, everything is going great here thanks. Thank you for getting me involved!
Sense has a very broad horizon and is more than just a label and an event. Can you tell us, what does the ‘brand’ mean to you? Is there a message you are hoping to get across?
The word ‘Brand’ for me means a lot – one of the key things I feel is important is having an identity, but a brand consists of many things. Image and a meaning behind what you do are two things I ensure Sense is known for. It’s very difficult to stand out from the crowd and to be taken seriously by this industry, so ensuring that your business cuts through the rest and makes its own impression is vital if you want to survive. We make sure that everything from the music, to the artist, the wording and the position we place ourselves in all lines up to create that one succinct branding image. Everything, right down to the smallest detail is looked at to make sure that our followers, customers and fans know exactly what they are going to get.
All parts of Sense Traxx work in harmony with each other and the result that you get from this can have a huge impact in everything we do. The main aim is that when someone looks at us on a store or events listing, our image, or branding as you would call it, stands out and can be recognized against the thousands of others. Also to the professional way we speak to clients or customers.
Let’s talk about those infamous parties at your home. Were they like a project X type party? I can imagine, they must have been wild?
For many years the parties in our home town of Southend, Essex have been the bread and butter of Sense and have played a huge part in not just pushing the movement and scene that we resonate in, but also the key to driving the growth of the brand. When I started, it was not even a named event, just an annual house party that I held in the garage at home. After a few years, things got a bit much and the number of people that were turning up was out of control. I moved the party to a local bar and from that it I realised that besides loving being the host and seeing everyone having a great time, there was a chance to push this a lot further.
Did you ever have any problems with the neighbours or authorities?
I have always been professional and tried to respect the local councils and authorities where our events have taken place. I always find working alongside people like this and building a proper relationship will only help and benefit you in the long run. After all, I don’t ever see what benefit you are going to have by getting yourself a bad name with people that can ultimately control the future of the brand, especially if you want to expand and take on bigger projects.
At what point did you come to the conclusion that Sense would need to move to a bigger venue?
I think it was an obviouse step to take; like any business, in my eyes, if you are not moving up or forward then you not really achieving anything. It’s fine to just sit and keep rolling things over, but if you don’t push to take on new challenges and test new things, how are you ever going to develop yourself and your business? When we were reaching capacity with our local parties we knew that we should be looking to move to the next stage and to take things further. We were always the underdog in our area and where others stuck to the same cycle, we looked for the opportunity to do things differently and to try something new.
Do you still get the same faces turning up to your events now?
Even after five years we do still have some of the core followers that have supported us from the very start, but like any business you can’t expect things to stay the same forever. Most people who run events are fully aware that it is important to get in with the new crowd, so I am always on the lookout to tap into new markets to ensure that we stay current and do not fall behind and become dated. This is certainly one of the key things we focus on, but as mentioned it’s still nice to see some old faces still enjoying and supporting the label and the parties.
How important is face to face networking when running a party?
I don’t feel it is vital – as everyone lives such busy lives and has their own agendas, it’s often difficult to meet people in person, however I do always like to try and make the effort to introduce myself and put the face to a name if we have been working together or dealt with each other on email. I always do my best to make time for everyone, even if I am running around like a headless chicken at an event; first impressions are important for me so shaking someone’s hand, smiling and having a conversation is important. As I always say, you never know where or what a hello could do for you.
Josh Butler got the ball rolling when he was the first headliner. Do you think you’ll have him back any time soon?
Josh was indeed our very first booking; back then he was literally just starting out and I believe had only had a few releases under his belt on some smaller labels. To this day, Sense has always been about watching out for the newest emerging talent with House music, so if we feel it’s a name that people should know about we will be trying to involve them with what we do as best we can. Josh actually played for us at our 4th Birthday alongside Riva Starr too, since we booked him we have stayed in close contact and also been able to work on other projects together besides Sense. He has become a very good friend and we will always continue to support and push him with everything he does.
You obviously have a lot of experience when it comes to A&R and a fine ear for detail. What skills have you brought across from this experience into running your own label and party?
I like to think that I have a good ear for A&R, but others may say otherwise. At the end of the day music is an amazing thing because what I like may not be what someone else likes, and I appreciate likewise for myself. However, over the years I have learnt a lot working with different people and labels and I do understand a lot more of the business side to it – that there are certain things to look for in a record, not to mention the endless list of other things that add up to a record being successful in today’s industry.
I am very much a quality over quantity guy, which means that a good song will always stand out if it connects with you on an emotional level. When you find a track that does that, you know you have something very special. As I develop my skills – and by no means do I think I am the best at what I do, I know there are some extremely talented A&Rs out there who have signed some of the biggest records of all time – I would dream to one day sign big records, but for now I keep my head down, work hard and learn as much as I can about the industry I am in.
Do you think if you didn’t have this experience, you may have struggled more than you did?
I don’t really think I would have struggled as it wouldn’t stop me from signing music I love and pushing a sound I feel I wish to share with others; however, I do feel I have been fortunate to work with some of the best in their game and from this picked up some key skills, not to mention had a better understanding of running a record label and event.
Can you introduce us to the Sense team? What skills do each member of the crew bring to the table?
Of course, we have an amazing team, they are hard-working and I can see that they really understand that with hard work Sense Traxx can break through and become the next success story. Over the years I have forged my way through some of the most difficult situations, but from this built a team around me that are now integral parts of the label.
Finch Hare has been there since day dot, he has supported me and always been there to help making tough decisions for the brand when moving to the next level. He has a good ear for music and now helps with A&R on the label, not forgetting being a resident for the parties.
Three years in and we discovered a young man called Tom Jay, we knew this guy straight away was going to be a key member. He used to play for a few events around the area, but struggled to find somewhere he fitted in. We got him involved and ever since he has been growing with the brand becoming more and more of the foundations. He is a great producer and has released with us, and he is one of the main people when it comes to the visual image of the brand; he handles our artwork for events and releases, not to mention bringing an extremely high level of commitment, creativity and attention to detail.
Then you have myself. I have dedicated six years of my spare time investing into this brand, pushing it forward and making sure that one day it will get to where it should be. Nothing is easy and I have learnt a lot, but I am grateful for all the support we get and hopefully we are going to get there together… as a team! We have got a team of local promotors which are just as important in their own way, and it is important that they are treated just the same whether they work on the day-to-day running of Sense or just with our parties. Sense is built on a team and everyone knows the importance of their efforts – be it pushing on social media, direct marketing, setting up the club before and taking down after, or just being a resident DJ and selecting the best music for the crowds to enjoy.
It’s been just over a year since Sense Traxx launched. How has that first year been?
I must admit, it’s really blown me away with the growth that Sense has enjoyed over the past year. The sales and charts successes that the releases have been having especially, and anyone who knows how difficult it is to break a new label, let alone as artist, will understand it’s very tough. But after finding the right music and working with the right partners, the label is growing from strength to strength with each release.
Do you think you’ve achieved what you set out to achieve in the first year of the label?
We exceeded expectations, certainly – but we have a long way to go still and if Sense is to be able to stand on its own two feet, we are going to need to invest a lot more time and money. But I believe in the brand and I know that with determination we will get there. As they say: it’s a marathon this one, not a race, and where other people may pop up and disappear, we will still hopefully be here doing our thing. We are overwhelmed with the support and the success of the label in the first year it definitely launched to a stronger reception than we originally anticipated, but now it’s about thinking what the next move is and how we can keep making Sense Traxx a household label, one that some of the big names will be releasing on.
Did the label come naturally following on from the events?
I always said that one day I wanted it to become a record label along with all the other things we want to achieve, but when we launched it felt like it was the natural progression for the brand.
Tobias recently made his label debut with the Funkin ‘Fiya Bun’. Can you tell us what your first thoughts were when you heard these tracks?
The first thing was that it stood out from the rest of all this saturated Tech House; although as a label we lean more towards House, Sense is about quality music. Regardless of what genre it is, if it’s a good record and we can make it fit then we will make sure we give it the full amount of love it deserves.
Every release has broken the Traxsource top 30, including Julyan Dubson’s ‘Made A Thing’ which got to #1! That must have been an incredible feeling? What was going through your mind when this happened?
That’s correct, we work extremely hard on the promotion for the records and with us being a smaller label we will give 110% into each release to make sure it gets the results. When we first heard that track, I knew that we had something very special. I never thought that it would hit the top spot and hold there for so long when signing, but I did believe with the right push we could make it into the top 10. To launch a record label and go to #1 within just 3 releases was a rare thing.
So, you’ve hosted parties from London to Luxembourg and more. Are you planning on venturing into new territories any time soon?
We are trying our hardest to expand the brand name and we have already got interest with requests to do parties in Thailand and Eastern Europe. Also, next year I aim to try and look at some parties based around ADE, and hopefully we can look at something in Germany.
And finally, you’ve had some massive headliners controlling the crowd in the past. What is the strangest rider request you’ve had?
Fortunately, the riders have all been pretty normal; I do hear of some crazy lists, but others tend to just be the usual drinks and towels!
Thank you very much for chatting with us Simon, it was a pleasure! Anything you would like to add?
I would just like to say a massive thank you for all the continued support over the years, and for everyone that has bought a track, ticket to an event or even listened to the radio show. Your support means a lot and is what drives us forward to keep growing. This year we celebrate our 5th Birthday on the 2nd December and we would love for you to celebrate with us.
Thanks to the team at Decoded for having us in for the interview.
Peace & Love, Simon
Decoded Radio hosted by Ian Dillon presents Sense Traxx with Simon Shaw.
Decoded Hot Picks Chart Countdown
#4 Tim Engelhardt – Maks (Original Mix) [Vivrant]
#3 Bedouin – Guacamole (Original Mix) [Crosstown Rebels]
#2 Guy J – West On Mars (Original Mix) [Bedrock Records]
#1 Sasha – Trigonometry (Original Mix) [Watergate]
01. Felix Krocher – Back Fast (Original Mix) [Filth On Acid]
02. Ran Salman feat. Maor Nawi – Shallow Water (Original Mix) [EIN2]
03. Luke Santos & Arturo Hevia – Nymphlight Playground (Marcelo Vasami Flutes Remix) [Asymmetric Recordings]
04. Orsen – Wakey Wakey (Original Mix) [Replug]
05. Hans Zimmer – Time (Tale Of Us edit) [Unreleased] [Free dl at Tale Of Us Soundcloud]
01. James Curd ft Fuzzy Cufflinxxx ‘Balloon Talk’ [Sense Traxx]
02. Julyan Dubson ‘Make A Thing’ [Sense Traxx]
03. Tommy Vercetti ‘Killa’ (Click Click Remix) [Sense Traxx]
04. Alex Ranerro ‘Hard Case’ [Forthcoming Deeper Traxx]
05. Simon Shaw ‘Deep Within My Soul’ [Sense Traxx]
06. Tom Jay ‘Strings Of Noel’ [Sense Traxx]
07. Kalyde ‘No Sleep’ [Forthcoming Sense Traxx]
08. Simon Shaw ‘Sine, Square & Saw [Sense Traxx]
09. Kalyde & Youth ‘Tied’ (Rich Wakley Remix) [Sense Traxx]
10. CASSIMM ‘Never Mind’ (Greco NYC Remix) [Sense Traxx]
11. South Royston ‘Work It’ [Sense Traxx]
12. Kalyde ‘Eighty Nine’ [Forthcoming Sense Traxx]
13. Kalyde ‘Eighty Nine’ (Forthcoming Tommy Vercetti Remix) [Sense Traxx]
14. Tobias ‘Fiya Bun’ [Sense Traxx]
15. FreedomB ‘If You Believe’ [Sense Traxx]
16. Tom Jay ‘Chicago Love’ (Mattei & Omich Remix) [Sense Traxx]
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