Decoded caught up with SHADED after his incredible show at The BPM Festival in Playa Del Carmen. The conversation touched on West coast rave culture, his love for hip hop, how he initially got signed to SCI+TEC and finding his unique sound. With a March full of gigs, his latest release, Creepy Fingers out now on Tiga’s Turbo Recordings, as well as more EPs, remixes and other surprises on the 2016 schedule, this year is looking busier, and more exciting than ever for this Newport Beach native.
Thank you for being here and taking the time to talk to us here at DMNA.
No problem, thanks for coming all the way to my weird hotel haha!
It’s gorgeous! How did this all start for you and what was the progression essentially to where you’re at today?
My dad always played music, he was a musician, classic rock, so I always heard him play. I got into playing electric guitar and fumbled around in bands when I was a teenager. I was really into rock, like hard heavy rock, a little bit punk rock, was in some bands that failed miserably and I just kind of got over the dynamic of a band. I actually work better alone so..
My friends were like, “We’re going to go to this rave,” it was in San Bernadino. I’d never really been to a rave, I wasn’t really into it but I was like whatever, I’ll go, you know? It was in this really seedy area and there was a place that held raves, like real raves, like people sucking on pacifiers and tripping out and e-puddles and stuff like that. I went, and I forget who was playing, but the sound system was insane, like, mental. I’ve never even heard anything to this day that compares. I wasn’t on any drugs or anything but it was just stacks, like, it was too much.
The music was really good, I got really into it and I came back, got into sequencers and sythesizers and realized that I could make music. I didn’t start making electronica, but I realized that I could make songs by myself, without other people. Like, I could record this, this, this and put it all together. So I started doing that with ambient breaks and stuff. Kinda hip hop-y stuff, just instrumentals and then slowly it got faster and faster. I didn’t know at the time that it was techno.
I was just living in Newport, going to these parties and didn’t really even know who the DJs were. And I’d be making my own tracks. Then one day I met my old partner, and we did a project called SHDWPLAY. She was more of a DJ and I was more into making music and we just kinda hit it off, made some stuff, and kept making stuff. It just all came together. We gave a demo to Dubfire, and eight months later he hit us back. He was like, ‘Dude these are all sweet, send me more, send me more” and all those tracks that we sent him got signed, and from there stuff just kept getting signed. As SHDWPLAY I think we signed five more EPs and then we split up just because of different life paths, and I started Shaded. So, Shaded is what it is now.
And what year was that?
I think it was 2011. It was the first summer I moved to Europe. I had a bunch of friends out there in Barcelona, like five years ago. And they were like, “Dude just come out.” I really had nothing else going on because I went to university, finished, got a job, and quit after a day. I was like, I don’t want to do this so I’m just going to do my own thing… So, yeah, that’s the long short version!
You have California roots. Can you tell us about the West Coast vibes and how that’s influenced you and your work. We’ve sort of touched on that already, but is there anything else that you want to add to it?
I feel like it’s a lot more laid back. I grew up in Newport. I mean it’s very relaxing if you’re an older person. For me, living there is cool because I’m on the road a lot so I get to go and do other things, but if you’re there all the time and you’re trying to pursue something it’s a little tricky because it’s so chill.
You can find yourself waking up at like 10 every morning and just going to get a breakfast bagel and coffee, and before you know it you’re on your bike and then it’s four in the afternoon and you’re like “I haven’t done anything today”. It’s such a cool place and so relaxing but I mean in terms of music there’s not really a scene. It’s getting better now but I remember when I started it was like, I couldn’t talk to anyone. I didn’t have anyone to ask, “Oh this is cool what is this?” or “This is garbage, what are you making?”
Have you seen shift in techno’s presence in the West coast over time?
Oh definitely. In terms of LA, they’ve always had their parties. There’s always been the original guys like John Tahale and then Droid Behavior, they do a party, it’s Drumcell and these guys called Raiz (Vangelis and Vidal Vargas), and there are a couple other dudes. They do these Interface parties and they were bringing hard techno around 10 years ago, maybe longer. Those were the first parties I went to in LA. They would bring Chris Liebing and no one was doing that in LA.
But recently it’s shifted to being more popular; deep house. People got over EDM, and deep house kinda took it’s spot, like pop-y deep house. I think right now people are really getting over that and they’re getting more into real house music, real techno music. I don’t know if it’s a trend, like the cool thing to do because LA is very based on that. But hopefully it just stays.
Can you talk a bit about your creative process as a producer?
Figuring out my sound, what I do now, took a really long time. Because I always had a specific vision of what I wanted to make, but I didn’t know how to get there at the time. I was like this is what I want to do and this is what I want to come out of the speakers, you know? And only in the last, I think it’s been ten years since I started, probably 12 years since I first got into synthesizers, that I finally am at a place where I’ve found the sound that I like to play.
I always knew what I wanted to get to and right now I think I’m kind of at it. Well, it always changes. But in terms of the creative process, I just wake up and go surf. Or if I can’t, if I’m in Barcelona I go get a juice or something. I’m mostly gigging when I’m in Europe so I don’t have a proper studio over there. Whenever I come back is when I start banging out music. I usually just wake up, I go surf, come back, just get in and go from there. There’s really no process it’s just – if I’m feeling it I’m in, if I’m not I’m like, “I’m not making music today, I’ll do something else.”
And what about creative flow as a live performance artist?
It’s very different than DJing. I think at least. Especially if you’re really actually doing a live performance. I don’t really consider mine a ‘live’ performance because in comparison to other genres of music, live is actually like you’ve got a bass player and this and that. But mine is live in that I’m actually creating the versions of everything on the fly, and it’s composed of anywhere up to fifteen to twenty pieces all going at once, so in a way it’s like having fifteen CDJs.
I used to have synthesizers and I’d bring them but right now I’m just taking a bunch of pieces and remixing a bunch of my music differently every night in a different way. It used to be kind of nerve racking because people might not be familiar with your music and it’s not like a DJ set where you can save the night by playing one bomb track. But now I’m at the point where I just do what I do and I’ve been lucky enough that it always seems to work.
I find the sounds you use in your productions are distinct and recognizable, and so what inspires you and how is your sound evolving?
My number one rule is to never sample. I do a couple bootlegs every couple years with some of my favourite vocals, like hip hop samples. But that’s just a one-off thing. I mean everything from recording snares and hi hats, so it’s all unique, so it’s all in a big creative box that I can reach into and take it so no one else really has it. That’s my main concern making music. And I spend a lot of time designing sounds. I’ve never taken a sound and just put it in like “Ah, this is cool,” and put it in like a pre-set. I’m very anti-that. I think everyone should be anti-that but unfortunately they’re not! But yeah, I guess I’ve kind of achieved my style.
What have been your biggest influences in the past, musical or beyond, that have had an impact on your career?
Well, my first influences were punk rock stuff. I was really into the Dead Kennedy’s. In a way it’s kind of techno-esque because it’s like four on the floor. It’s very driving. I look back at all his old basslines and his old punk songs and some of my older stuff, even my newer stuff, have very similar resemblances. They’re pretty pumping but they have groove to them and that’s all from the old punk records I used to listen to. And then in terms of electronica my favourite artists were Air, I listened to a lot of Air. So, between that and that I kinda like formed an idea of what I wanted to go for. And then I listened to some old techno records and stuff, like minimal stuff. Those are the main influences.
What do you think has been the key to your rise and success to date?
I guess I had an idea and I listened a lot. Before I became known I listened to a lot of techno music and a lot of it to me was a little formulaic. I mean some of the older stuff is crazy, like some of the old minimal techno. You knew that they were the first guys doing this. It was like I’ve never heard this before. But I remember going to parties and there were certain records that popped out and I was like, “Oh my god this is cool!” and I’d find it and look into what it was all about. I always looked up to those dudes who had a sound that you knew right away. I was like, this is the shit right here, you know? I’ve listened to so many techno records that I could not tell you who it was. There’s a handful of guys that are so distinctive now, I think that’s what everyone should strive for. That’s how I hope my music comes across.
What excites you most about this industry now and where it’s headed?
I’m excited that this big room EDM is finally.. I think it’s going down hard. I’m not saying that I’m excited that these guys aren’t getting love, I’m just saying it took over for a couple years and a lot of the general public associated everything under dance music with that. In North America, it’s like they have this perception that a DJ is someone like this on stage [hands in the air] throwing cakes or whatever which is embarrassing. It’s sad too.
But I think finally people are over it and that’s exciting because I have friends that’ll like hit me up and they’ll be like, “Oh have you heard of this guy?” and they were people that used to go to raves and EDC main stage, but now they’re educating themselves and getting more into it and finding out who Richie Hawtin is. The gateways are slowly opening to the real, to where it all came from. I think that’s the most exciting part right now. I just think it’s good for everyone.
What do you like outside of music in your spare time?
I just surf. Skate. That’s pretty much it. It’s the first thing I do every time I get back from a gig or tours. If I have time I go surf, you know? And then recently like in the last year I’ve gotten really into like Bikram Yoga.
We caught your performance at the SCI+TEC Showcase last night here at BPM – the party had an incredible vibe through out the whole night, and you did an impeccable job of warming it up and setting the tone which is a really important role, so how was that for you?
It was actually really cool because I never get the chance to play opening. Unless actually BPM, BPM I’ve warmed it up twice. Because I’m live, I usually get slotted in between the headliner or whoever’s before, and because I play one hour usually my sets are just power sets like, you know just go go go, but yeah, I found out I was opening.
It’s a cool chance to play stuff I never really get to play, and play a lot slower bpm. That set I put together on my flight over from LA. I was on the plane and I was like, I wanna play some old and new stuff, and a lot of it was on the fly. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go and it went really well actually.
Yeah, it was a really nice vibe…
I just tried to keep it extremely mellow. A couple tracks kind of went a little too fast so I slowed it down but it was really fun. And then Oliver [Huntemann] played perfect after me, then Hot Since 82 started slowly so it was like perfect climbing the whole time. I felt like when Ali [Dubfire] came on he brought it down and then back up, so yeah, it was perfect.
So what’s next for you in 2016 in terms of any new EPs, remixes, releases?
I have an EP on Turbo, Tiga’s record label, coming out Creepy Fingers (out now) and then I have a SCI + TEC EP the end of March and then I just finished an EP with my buddy Harvard Bass, which came out really nice. Then I’m doing two remixes for some good friends and I can’t say who. Then another EP that I am working on right now. And then I’m doing a mega mix, like a really long long live mix that’ll be put into a few pieces and released every couple of months. A lot of music. Much more music this year coming out than last year, on different labels too, so that’ll be good. It’s going to be a busy year.
And finally, as a music-maker – who are you listening to today in terms of producers? Do you just focus on your music or do you listen to others much?
The only time I really listen to techno or house is at the club when I’m playing with other people. The only chart I only ever really check is the Beatport top, the first one, because I just want to see what the general public is listening to. And more recently you see more house records and cool labels actually in the overall top ten.
But, in terms of listening, I listen to a lot of rap. I listen to so much rap. Literally in my car it’s just rap. Rap or like ambient stuff but I don’t really listen to that much rock anymore, even though I really love it. And then I make my own music. I feel like it helps me like not be influenced by anything. And it’s not that I do it because I don’t want to be influenced by anything it’s just because I’d rather listen to rap in my car. Haha, old school hip hop!
Well that’s a great place to close it all up here, we really appreciate your time.
Ya that was nice. Thank you for coming by.