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Shed: second skin

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  • Techno visionary discusses his new LP, jungle, Pet Shop Boys and learning what 'Shed' means
  • published
    21 Jul 2010
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Substance – Relish (Shed Remix) [Scion Versions, 2009]

As you’ve already touched upon, one of the things that gave hardcore of both the UK and German variety its wildness and its energy was the use of samples. Does sampling appeal to you as a producer? How do you introduce melody and harmonic structure into your productions?

“In a way. I only use samples which are from the early days. For breakbeats it’s still one record from the Knite Force label – there are 50 drum loops on it or something, I don’t know which Knite Force it was exactly. But yeah, I’m still working with that…[laughs]

“As I said, I try not to sound like old breakbeat records, I try to alter the structure. The same is true of techno. These days techno from Germany it’s very, very structured, rigid – I’m getting bored of it, because it’s always the same structure. The tracks are always sounding like a bad live act, if you know what I mean? No? It’s techno that sounds a little too German, if I can say that [laughs]. Very organised.”

“There are two ways that I begin making tracks – sometimes it’s with the rhythm, sometimes it’s with something harmonic, a synth line or whatever. When I start with a rhythm section it’s always a very dance music kind of track, but when I start out with a hookline, it’s always possible that it will head more into the area of listening [as opposed to dancing] music. But I always want to have something melodic in my tracks; I don’t want to do this purely rhythmic stuff, it’s not interesting for me. Sometimes it’s OK, but I always want to have a melodic side to my tracks.”

“These days techno from Germany is very, very structured, rigid – I’m getting bored of it.”

I think that’s true of the Equalized and WAX records, there are strong melodies in those, even though they’re intensely stripped and clipped.

“Sure, but really those tracks are just for the ‘floor.”

Shedding The Past felt very much like an exorcism, a clearing of the decks. Is that fair to say, or am I just letting its title colour my judgement?

“There was no grand reason for the name Shedding The Past. I was looking for an artist name; I didn’t have one at that point. My first release, the Red Planet Express 12″ for my own label, there was no artist name on it. When it came to the second record, someone at Hard Wax was asking about an artist name, and suddenly my name is Shed – simply because I had that phrase in my mind, ‘shedding the past’. That’s why my artist name is Shed. And that’s why the album is called Shedding The Past. Then I went to the UK and soon realised that the name Shed is a bit ridiculous there [laughs].  Calling myself that was not the best idea.”

There are worse names than Shed…

“Yeah, but I have to live with this one now…that’s why I’ve started to do other things like WAX and Equalized [laughs]. I wanted to drop the name Shed, but I decided to give it a chance by calling the album Shedding The Past, and so at least explaining the context that the word came from.”

Why exactly did the phrase ‘shedding the past’ take hold of you? And how did we get from there to The Traveller?

“The phrase ‘shedding the past’ had to do with me being very sad that [the quality of] techno music was going down, that everybody was listening to it. It was very special to me, but I didn’t want to think about it anymore because  the whole scene had gone down. It was boring and I wanted to get over it.  The Traveller? That was quite a quick decision. It was the name of a track on the album, and that’s it, I thought it was a good name for an album [laughs].”

It’s no secret that dubstep is a big influence on you as a DJ and producer; what about Jamaican dub and dancehall?

“It’s all because of working at Hardwax. I’m not into reggae, I’m really not. But being at Hard Wax eight hours a day, one day I couldn’t help but here this stuff. It was always when new reggae records came in, the guys would be listening to them, and sometimes there would be a particular record which I was interested in. That’s it.

“Three years ago I was not into dubstep at all, only into the Burial, really But as a result of working at Hard Wax, I’m into much more now. It’s something fresh for me. And since I began seriously buying dubstep records, I’m not so into techno anymore. When I buy ten records these days, nine are dubstep and  one – maybe one – is techno. Which is why it’s always difficult to play as a DJ – because you’re from Berghain, everyone thinks you have to play hard techno music, but I can’t [laughs]. I really can’t. That’s why I did the Panamax Project – it isn’t very successful, but I do try to bring it forward.

“I went to the UK and soon realised that the name Shed is a bit ridiculous there [laughs]. Calling myself that was not the best idea.”

Will you release more Panamax Project records?

“The last one wasn’t that big a record. It’s hard to break even. Also because of the pound and Euro exchange. The last record is not going very well, so I have to think it over.

What about Soloaction?

“Soloaction’s time is over. I don’t do any more records there, it’s history.”

But Subsolo will continue?

“Yeah, hopefully. I’ve got two new remixes coming, I don’t know exactly when, maybe in September. But I honestly don’t know if I’ll do any more Panamax records [pause]…actually I will, of course I will. Because there I can do bass music. When I do a WAX or an Equalized record I can’t do this deep sound,  because of the bad PAs over the world.”

Does the dubstep you’re into now in any way remind you of the early jungle that you were digging back in the 90s?

“It’s the same thing for me. When I think about it, I’ve always been into the dubstep which has some breakbeats in it; that’s why it’s interesting for me. I’m not so into the full-on ravey, wobbly dubstep stuff, that’s not for me at all.”

There was always that breakbeat element to the best UK techno as well…

“That was a big influence, yes, up till 1998 it was all the Birmingham techno – Surgeon, Regis.  I also like that Blueprint stuff, James Ruskin and so on.”

How have your live sets been going? Are you happy with your set-up at present?

“Well, I was – up until last week.  I was at a festival and it was raining, and there was no roof on the stage – and that’s why I lost my 909. Before then I was very happy with my set-up but now it’s over and I have to find something new – I can’t justify repair because it’s more expensive than starting fresh. I reached a point where I was very happy with it. But I have to change it anyway because when I do live sets supporting the new album I don’t just want to do gigs at clubs. It’s always a problem when I play in clubs, because people are there to dance, understandably, and they always want the straight bass-drum. I want to bring in more effects, I want it to be possible to play a track without a drum or bassline for fifteen or twenty minutes, and I just can’t do this in a club. Hopefully with this album I’ll be able to do some shows in contexts where I can better explain my music.

“Clubs are better for DJs. Some live acts – a lot of them in fact – use only a laptop, but it’s hard for me to find enough space on the stage, and sometimes it’s not even possible to put all my equipment on the desk. Venues aren’t set up for that because all the other guys are only using a computer with Ableton or whatever; I really play live, while some other people just press a button and that’s it. So it’s hard work, and anyway, techno is better suited to DJ sets. In a club people just want to see you put your hands in the air. It’s ridiculous. I want to play [laughs].”

Kiran Sande


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