The 24th October sees two of the UKs most exciting acts play together on the same bill. In a one off special at Londons Oval Space, Shadow Child curates a night of musical peers, collaborators and fresh talent.
From humble beginnings in the late 90s with the massive clubland anthem – Sincere, MJ Cole was the blueprint for the UK garage scene of the early 2000s. With 2 albums, and a raft of chart topping singles (including Crazy Love which peaked in the top 10) he set the bar high; most failed to make tracks as good as his. Then almost over night, UKG was out of favour and the pop charts pushed on with a new sound. This didn’t seemed to faze MJ at all, who continued to produce away from the spotlight. In 2009 as a guest on BBC Radio 3’s Private Passions, he laid bare his musical journey, and only one short year later, produced Example’s second album “Won’t Go Quietly”.
UK based Shadow Child aka Simon Neale, made his debut via the mighty Dirtybird early in 2012, mostly thanks to the EP’s lead track “String Thing” dominating Eats Everything’ and Claude Vonstroke’s DJ sets, the World over.This new alias for one of House music’s already known names has turned down an exciting path with underground bass-led grooves plus all the quirks and depth you’d expect in the cooler rooms around the globe. Remixes and DJ dates are filling the diary as a new musical dawn begins.. the Shadow Child is no more a ‘side-Project’, it’s here to stay.
A&R Simon Huxtable revisits his past and looks toward the future with MJ Cole & Shadow Child.
Hi Guys, so glad you’ve found the time in your busy schedules to chat to us at Decoded Magazine. So first up, can you tell me about this one off gig? And, have you guys played together before?
MJ : We’ve played together a couple of times at festivals but purely by chance. I’m pleased to say this one was arranged by Simon himself, so pretty chuffed to be on the line up.
SC : Yeah we’ve played together a few times, most notably XOYO.. always great fun and love hearing some of MJ’s dubs on big systems.. still so good.
I’ve heard from a range of sources that East London is a really happening area of the city. What attracted you to Bethnal Green in particular?
SC : There’s just generally great things happening in London, and Oval Space is an exciting venue to do something different. I’m buzzing to put this party on and can’t wait to hear Mella Dee and Benton do their thing too. They’re both doing exciting things musically that touch on my roots; rave and techno. They’re both hugely pushing that 90’s vibe in their music but with future twist too. Always excited to hear what they’re up to next, and so happy they’re part of it.
MJ, Are you surprised UKG has become a popular sub genre of House music again with the likes of Disclosure, the brief resurgence of 2 -step and so called ‘Future Garage’ (which seems to be a rebranding of Dubstep). Having been so involved in the scene for so long now, what are your thoughts on how things changed over time?
MJ : I’m constantly hearing that there’s a resurgence of Garage / UKG / 2 step. It’s always good to hear. I think it’s always been there – it just got a little burnt by the bright lights for a while. It’s great that young producers are able to be inspired by some of the original material and make it their own.
I guess the bookings picked up somewhat too since 2011? Whats been the most unusual booking you’ve ever played?
MJ : I played a gig half way up a mountain in Austria a couple of years back. First time I’ve had to get a cable car to the stage!
Hahaha, I saw a recent line up where You were headlining a room Dave, and Shy FX and DJ Fresh were in other arenas. MJ I saw one where you were playing a festival on the Hospitality stage. Do you find you get booked for these cross genre gigs often, and are they better than single genre gigs?
MJ : I love to play in cross-genre environments. I deliberately try to seek them out. It’s really refreshing to play with other artists who all come with their own vibe. It keeps everything interesting and makes the transition from one style to another an exciting journey.
SC : People just want to go and party, the sound really crosses over a lot for ravers again at the moment which is exciting. Sometimes 7hrs of similar Dj’s playing similar music doesn’t work in all venues so it’s important to get that right, so I feel lucky to always be asked to play event’s that are musically versatile.
How was Ibiza this year for you both? Is there any credence in the “Its not as good as it used to be” comments that seem to occur every year? What were your highlights?
MJ : I played at Relight at Sankeys a couple of times over the Summer. Had a great time in there – amazing system. I think Shadow Child is better qualified to comment on the overall Ibiza vibe as he seemed to be there every other night!
SC : It was great.. but I hear it’s just generally so pricey for punters that’s all, which is why Croatia and even Malta can be more appealing options for people. We did some Food Music parties with Doorly and Ibiza Rocks at Sankeys and they were ridiculously good though. I also played for Defected at Together in Amnesia. I like playing for them in Ibiza, and I find the two rooms compliment one another so well at Together.. all my gigs there were pretty sick this year!
Lets move on to your respective production careers. MJ, we understand you wrote “Sincere” all those years ago on your home computer in your bedroom. As many producers now call that the norm, can you talk us through the challenges you have at the time with technology, and getting the track signed?
MJ : I found the original DAT recording to Sincere the other day – it was recorded directly out of one output of my AKAI sampler. I wouldn’t say I found the technology challenging then – you just got going with whatever you had. Production was as exciting as it is today – you just got more time to reflect whilst saving on the Atari! I did take Sincere into the studio I was working at to add a few bits and mix down. The sampler version sounded pretty similar though.
Talk us through the construction of a skippy garage beat. Is it all about the placement of the hats and snares, or does the groove come from a deeper place?
MJ : There’s no magic formula here. If your head is bumping you know you’re onto a winner.
Simon: Of course, before Shadow Child you had another identity. Do you feel the experience you had going into the Shadow Child project was of benefit to your success from a business perspective? What lessons did you learn from the rebrand?
SC : There was no plan with it. I just started making music that didn’t go with what Spoon was about and then the Electro House thing turned into EDM, which I couldn’t stand. I could have gone on and on with the project and probably done well in the States or whatever, but starting fresh on music I believe in has been an amazing journey. I never hyped it, or went on about the fact it was ‘Dave Spoon’s new project’, I just let people discover the music before knowing I had a history in this game already. It’s been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, much more than any kind of money.
Whats new from you respectively, and are there any plans for a collaboration between you should the stars align?
MJ : We’re one day deep in the studio already. Watch this space!
SC : …actually, the ball is in my court to develop the track some more though, so we’ll get back together soon after that to finish it. Look out!
How do you guys see the development of House music over the next 5 years? Where are you finding the freshest music these days?
MJ : There’s so much music around these days. I’m still a big listener to other people’s shows on Rinse / 1xtra and the various pirates which bounce in and out of the airwaves. Shazam is the tool to glory.
SC : My weekly radio show on Rinse FM really helps to find new music, and artists.. so much freshness every week which helps me with new stuff to play out too every week. The radio show allows me to play some stuff that I wouldn’t play out too though, but it all inspires me to keep doing what I do.
I recently wrote an article regarding the role of the warm up DJ after the twitter comments by MistaJam. How do you guys find younger DJs react to warm up sets, and are there any DJs you would consider to be expert warm ups in your travels?
MJ : This has been a hot topic of late. Residents at clubs I visit always seem to be very on top of their game. It’s great when they play both before and after your set – I think it allows them to save the high energy stuff for later and really just tickle the crowd beforehand. Yes, I’ve experienced guys tearing it up at full gas playing all of my productions just before I come on too. Cue the slow jams hehe!
SC : There’s clearly plenty that know exactly what to do.. but it’s always the odd one here and there that make it seem worse than it is. It’s a hard job, but there are some that have no clue about the general etiquette in the DJ console, and some of those are people that are making a name for themselves too – not just residents. It’s never just about me though, even if I headline.. it’s about the whole room and the people who have come to experience a party. I’ve had all sorts of daft things happen over the years.. DJ’s smashing the place to pieces at 10.30pm, everything fully in the red on the mixer, other DJ’s playing my tunes and remixes 10mins before I go on with no clue, I don’t know.. but what I do know is the other 90% of them deserve huge respect as often it’s them pushing the main guests music week in, week out to the crowd that buy tickets and buy our tunes.
Well guys, its been a pleasure to meet and chat. Just to finish up, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
MJ : Well it’s my favourite time of year – studio season. I have a record coming out on Redlight’s Lobster Boy Records and am working on new material for my label Prolific Recordings which is about to awaken again. I’m also writing and producing with a handful of emerging and established UK talent such as Frances, Rae Morris, Rae, Lianne le Havas, Dua Lipa and Jimmy Napes. S’gonna be a good one!
SC : Nappies, sleepless nights and mopping up puke.. gonna be a Dad for the first time so that’s the main thing and I can’t wait!! but other than that I’ll still be playing and can’t wait to do this one with MJ, Benton and Mella Dee at Oval Space! You can buy tickets here.