Shapeshifter – Exclusive GIGsoup Interview

GIGsoup had the pleasure of attending Hospital Records’ one-day extravaganza, Hospitality In The Dock. Whilst there, we caught up with Digs, Sam, Nick and Dan of Shapeshifter, a live drum and bass fusion outfit straight out of Christchurch, New Zealand. Their special genre-bending sound has gained them a worldwide following, and they are currently fully involved with their latest European tour.

Are you having a good day so far? Have you had the chance to catch any acts yet?

Nick: Yeah it’s been pretty crazy, we got the chance to catch Fabio and Groove Rider, but mostly we’ve just been cruising around really, schmoozing.

This is definitely the largest drum and bass group we’ve ever seen, usually its one man, or two man…

Digs: We’re actually missing our drummer! We play live bass, keys and percussion, so we need the numbers. We also have a sound guy that brings it all together. That guy is our wizard; he wires things up for us  in a way that we didn’t even know could be done. It really is a multitude of people that allow us to do what we do though.

You don’t seem to get many live drum and bass acts. The only other that springs to mind is Pendulum.

Digs: There are a few out there, there’s Netsky for example. London Elektricity has his own big band too. But we’re full time, we don’t do anything else, apart from side projects really.

Would you say that live music is your thing?

Digs: Yeah, well we grew up in bands. Prior to what we’re doing now. In a mixture of funk, rock and country and western bands actually. Metal, rock everything really. Dub also.

Nick: Drum and bass has always been an a massive influence for us. Thousands of people go to drum and bass gigs in New Zealand, so we thought we’d just give it a go.

Digs: It was a natural progression of what was happening at the time. You know; we were all young and going out to clubs, listening to the latest styles of music. We all grew up with different styles of music, and being so far away from the rest of the world, it really caused us to dig deep and find our sound.

Tell us about the music scene in New Zealand.

Nick: Jungle was massive there in the mid 90s, and that was a huge influence on me. I feel as though jungle is a whole mix of different types of music together. Jazz and heavy hardcore were also big on the scene at the time. It was a time of amalgamation and sampling.

Digs: What we do now is the same kind of thing, we put a lot of different inspirations and influences in our music. It’s a natural progression.  Actually if you look at it, drum and bass could be seen as the metal of dance music. There’s a time and a place for every kind of music for us.

Do you tailor the kind of drum and bass you play for certain occasions?

Sam: Yeah, it depends on what time of night you’re playing. If it’s a festival, like this one, then we’ll play a different kind of set to one that is just our own. Today for example, I reckon we’ve taken some of the more freaky songs out of our set. The music that is being played here is very drum and bass; it’s very jungle and we have some songs which are outside of that and a bit challenging. So we’ve kind of tailored our set today- it’s more in line with what’s going on. We’d usually play lots of different tempos and genres, but today we’ve made it more Hospitality. England is the home of drum and bass after all.

 You mentioned that your own sets are quite varied.

Digs: When it’s our own shows we have a load of variety. Some stuff that’s not drum and bass at all. Its still very bass orientated obviously. For stuff like this you have to cater your set. We’ll be doing it tonight.

 Can we ever expect a rock or funk band side project from you guys?

 Digs: There’s always side projects going on with us.

Between 2013-last year you were on a bit of a musical hiatus, doing your own sort of thing… tell us about that.

Nick: We weren’t touring for the most part. We were in New Zealand for a lot of that time, doing a few gigs. Then we sort of re-grouped to write this last album.

Digs: We had a few changes in the band in that time also. The management changed. There was a natural growth and evolution towards where we are now. At that time we couldn’t really take off and gallivant around the world. We were just settling down and getting ready for our new album.

Nick: At the time it was nice to just sit down and enjoy it too. It gave us time to ask us why we were doing it too.

How does touring suit you guys? Are you more at home in the studio?

Sam: We love touring, we’ve been doing it for years. Having not toured for a while, it’s been refreshing to come back to it. If we had been touring for the last three years it would be a different story I think.

It’s great to see other parts of the world, especially London which is so rich in history, culture and music. For us it’s the best place-so many things we’re influenced by are here and it’s constantly evolving as well. It doesn’t stop. We’re still being influenced and inspired by music from this part of the world.

Digs: We love coming here. It’s a great place to test out things; see if they make sense. Jump on stage and play a few numbers. Sometimes it works and sometimes it really doesn’t. The important thing is to keep testing if your writing and performing skills are up to par. Mainly though it’s great travelling to new places.

Sam: We’re coming from New Zealand, it’s long way and…. Holy fuck, the people playing here! Just in the last half hour. They’re idols from way back.

Digs: Here we are schmoozing…

Like Childhood heros?

Sam: More like heros from our 20’s, so manhood heros.

Whose your biggest manhood hero who’s here?

Sam: Remark, he’s playing on the same stage as us and he’s OG jungle. One of our key influences. Groove Rider was on just before as well, he’s one of the main inspirations for us that got us to start a band. Hearing Tony (London Elektricity) play the old Hospital classics, the old high contrast material. A lot of this is like a soundtrack for us, it’s inspirational.

Have you had time to explore London?

Digs: Well we’ve been here heaps of time. Sometimes we get to explore and cruise around and sometimes you do the gig and then you’re out.

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You have any time this time round?

Digs: No not really. Half the band have a bit of time to cruise around. On Sunday though Sam and I are going to Zurich to play a Hospitality gig with Fred V & Grafix. Then after that its Amsterdam, Berlin.

Which is your favourite country you’ve been to?

Sam: Czech Republic is going to be hard to beat. We lived in Berlin for a summer, which was very cool. It’s hard to choose really.

Digs: Canada is wicked. Just going to new places really. One of my highlights was going to Serbia. We played Exit festival, it’s just awesome to have the opportunity to travel, play music and be free. 

Do people like you there?

Digs: Yeah we were giving us love, though it’d always be good to get a bit more…

What can we expect from you next?

Sam: We have a few collaborations to come I think. We’re at the start of the big discussion, we only released our album a few months ago. We’ve been concentrating on releasing and touring that. Now it’s time to start the next cycle.

It’s the great thing about being part of the Hospitality family. There’s a lot of very talented people involved and lot of interesting conversations being had.

Who are you listening too at the moment?

All: Kaytranada’s brother. He’s just released an album. Really liked the Drake album before last. It clicked a lot. We all listen to of very different music. A lot of drum and bass of course.

Digs: It’s kind of our job to listen to as much as we can, be exposed to as much as we can.

Sam: It’s always good to listen to a lot of different music. Get out of the studio.

Last question: drum or bass?

 Nick: Bass.

 Sam: I’m going to say bass.

 Dan:  Drum.

 Digs: I’m all about the drum.

You can purchase a digital copy of Shapeshifter’s new album ‘Stars’ on their bandcamp.

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