In conversation with Shifted about his early days and running Avian
Shifted has been a prominent figure for UK techno for quite some time now, between running Avian, his destructive live and DJ sets and consistent releases he has rightfully earned his place. Before his show in District 8 Dublin last Friday, we caught up with Shifted for a quick chat about his roots and what he’s been getting up to.
Q: Why did you decide to start Avian and what was the original motive?
A: When I started it, it was at a time when I was writing loads of music, it was probably the most productive period time of my life, it was really a practical decision, and I just wanted somewhere I could release my stuff quickly without having to wait for other people schedules. I started it really as an imprint for myself and then it grew quite beyond that quickly. I started hearing things from mates and friends were sending me things. Now it’s gotten to the stage where I’ve started up another label now, Drifting Over, which is just for me so I can do the same thing again because now if I want to put something out on Avian I have to wait like 9 months or something. It was just a practical decision.
Q: How come you decided to release Appropriation Stories on Hospital Productions and not Avian?
A: I’m just friends with the guy who runs it, Dominick. He’s been a good friend of mine for the last few years, my last album before the most recent one I also did through him but it was on a sub label which was originally supposed to be the techno off shoe of Hospital Productions and I think that’s kind of fallen by the way side now. When it came around to do another album Dom asked if I wanted to do it on Hospital Productions and thought it made sense. I think it’s nice when it comes to a bigger project like an album project to collaborate with someone else and get someone else’s feedback on it, because usually it’s me and I look after the artwork and everything so it’s nice to collaborate with someone else for that process.
Q: I read that you used to make drum n bass under the alias Commix, do you think it has much influence on your productions now?
A: I don’t know, I sometimes think that it doesn’t at all then I listen to things we did as Commix and there where elements from it, there were certainly techniques that I learned when I was producing drum n bass that carry over. Really when I started the Shifted project it was meant to be a total clean break from that but I think it’s impossible to not be influenced by things you’ve done in the past.
Q: Do you find it hard to keep on top of Avian whilst also being a touring DJ?
A: I find it impossible, I think last year it was really slipping because I had too much going on and I couldn’t concentrate on it. Now I have a label manager and he deals with all the stuff I’m incapable of doing, booking mastering dates, uploading the digital files, speaking to the artist everyday etc. All I really do now is choose the music and the artwork.
Q: How did you first meet SHXCXCHCXSH and how did you get them to come to Avian?
A: They were actually the first people I ever signed that weren’t friends of mine, everything else up to now has just been pretty much through mates. I got sent a promo from them off a Spanish label called Subsist. They put out some really cool stuff in the past and I always check out what they’re doing because they have a really good catalogue. But I got this promo through and I was like what is that name I had to check it out, I think within the first bar I thought that’s really interesting.
I kind of worked out they had something to do with this label that was going on at the time called ‘Hem’. I emailed Hem and asked about them, they sent over some tracks they done an EP and immediately after the first EP I asked them to do an album. It seemed obvious they’re kind of album artists.
Q: You’ve played in Ireland a few times, how do you find the crowd here?
A: Yeah I love it here, I suppose the first few times I played in Dublin as Shifted was at the Twisted Pepper which was one of my favourite spots, I remember really getting choked up in there from how responsive the crowd is, you’d play things and people would go mental. Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that the clubs close at 3 am and people are only getting on at 10 pm but yeah there’s something about it here, seems to be a lot of energy.
Q: What do you think of the techno scene at the moment in general, do you think it’s headed in the right direction?
A: I started putting out records six years ago and there has been a lot of change since that, just the popularity of it as a genre has really spiked, maybe were at time now where it’s reached like a plateau. It is saturated like there’s no doubt about that and I think it’s becoming harder and harder to become an original voice. It’s good in one way because it makes people work harder but it also means you have to separate the wheat from the chaff and spend more time looking for what’s good. When I was buying records in like 2010 from like Juno, I’d be into 8 of the 10 records that came out that Monday and now there’s about 500 records that come out every Monday. It just becomes harder to find the good stuff.
Q: Do you think growing up in Cambridge had much of an influence on your music?
A: I don’t know about that! It’s like a really quiet town, there’s not that much going on. When I was there I was fully settled down I had a long-term girlfriend for about 8 years or something so I didn’t really go out very much. I think I was probably more productive than I am now living in Berlin where this always something going on. I’m not sure it’s nice to kind of be like outside the hub of the scene so even if I’d of been living in London at that time I think things would have been different. Really in Cambridge there was like nothing so I spent my time smoking weed and making music. I think that period of incubation is necessary for anyone for not just musician’s even artists, it’s important to have this time where no one bothers you, you don’t have any distractions and you’re learning to do what you do.
Q: Do you have any upcoming projects in 2017 that you’d like to mention?
A: I just put out the album and its always best to leave a bit of a gap after that but I’ve already got the second 12” on my new label sorted, that’s getting mastered in a few weeks so I guess there’ll be a new 12” in maybe March next year and then I’ve got an idea for a bigger project that’s not actually an album but I’m not going to say too much about it in case in doesn’t happen.