Can you tell us
how you got together, and how Team Shadetek started?
Basically we grew up in the same neighborhood, a block
away from each other in Tribeca, Downtown Manhattan.
We had known each other a bit from Jungle raves and
through some mutual friends, then we ran into each other
on the block one day and it turned out we were both
messing with producing 'weird music' and it just went
On your old website, you mentioned that you
both grew up listening to hip-hop, reggae and jungle.
Your music is also very electronic. When did this aspect
come into the scope?
We had both been really into Jungle for a couple of
years, but at a certain point in New York, pretty shortly
after Mayor Giuliani came into power he started to crack
down on venues allowing underage ravers, which was a
huge chunk of the scene. This really adversely affected
the party scene and as a result a lot of people started
to get into different sounds, this was about the time
of Rawkus and the whole independent hip-hop boom, with
a lot of records coming out that weren't so dancey and
were more weird and cerebral. This also happened with
the electronic music and we started to get more interested
in stuff like Autechre and Aphex, although our first
exposure to it was a little skewed because a lot of
Autechre 12 inches we got we were listening to at 33,
making it more like hip-hop tempo and mixing it with
stuff like Company Flow and so on. When we first heard
it on CD at the correct speed we were just like 'What?!
This is way too fast!'
Who were your influences when you were growing
Pretty diverse for both of us. We both were exposed
to reggae and dub pretty early on and that definitely
had an effect, and hip-hop is just pretty unavoidable
in New York, then Jungle and happy hardcore was kind
of an introduction to dance music or whatever. But we
always listened to all kinds of things, Zach used to
play in punk bands, we were both into hardcore punk
for a while, I used to love stuff like Talking Heads
and Laurie Anderson because my parents had them around...
For your fourth 12 inch, you had Swoon doing
a different cover for each of the 300 copies, which
seems to be quite ambitious. Who’s idea was it
and was it a way for you to get noticed?
We had originally planned for Swoon to do the cover
for the record since one the tunes on there was basically
written for her, Manana Negra, for a video
collaboration she and I were doing. Originally we had
intended to do a box thing with the video and a 7"
or something, but then that proved too expensive, and
at the same time she was developing her modular sticker
approach to her street art. One morning, Zach and I
were sitting on the block drinking our coffee and he
brought up the idea of having her do her sticker thing
for the cover and doing them all different by hand.
Initially I was like 'No way, we can't ask her to do
all that' but then later I mentioned it to her and being
the psycho workaholic she is, she was into it, so we
ended up doing it. It was a crazy process, a HUGE amount
of work, but in the end I think it really conveyed well
the amount of love and energy we had put into the whole
project and people seemed to get that and appreciate
it. We've got another edition coming out soon. The record
is called the Girls EP and it's 300 covers
split between 4 artists: Swoon, Mosco, Orien McNeill
and Charlie Pratt. The work they did is really crazy,
and I'm really happy with the tracks we got as well,
one from us, one from another kid from our neighborhood,
Drop The Lime, a track from our homies in Berlin, Modeselektor,
and one from this girl, Tiombe Lockhart, who sings,
which is produced by Belief from Living Legends. It's
part of a series of 3 EPs which will then come out on
CD, but probably not for a while.
You are part of the founding members of the
Change Agent art collective, which also features Swoon,
who is responsible for the artwork on all your releases,
as well as other visual artists, DJs and clothes designers.
Can you tell us more about how the collective started
and what is its purpose?
Actually Swoon has only done two of our releases, the
Swoon EP and Burnerism for Warp, which
was a collaboration thing between her and Citizen, our
graphic designer. The others have been done by Charlie
Pratt, Mosco and Citizen. Change Agent basically jumped
off as a Wu Tang type of idea, of launching a group
with all your friends which would help each one get
recognized as the others got famous and pull everyone
up together. Basically everyone we work with in Change
Agent is just our friends from New York and it all started
pretty unofficially, us asking people for record covers
and flyers and things, them asking us to play at their
openings and parties and stuff. Then we launched the
website and gave it a name and since then have been
trying to think about it more as an entity and do more
events and projects with all of us together. We just
did a group show and party at this place, Space1026
in Philadelphia, which was real fun, and we've got a
couple more things planned for the distant and not so
You are both from Manhattan, but now live in
Berlin, where you have established SHTBox, your studio.
Why did you move to Berlin?
The original SHTBox is in Tribeca, in the same building
as Zach's mom's house. Nowadays it's become pretty portable
with me in Berlin at the moment and him back in NYC.
The move to Berlin started with me coming out to check
it out, my friend Eric Laine had been telling me all
kinds of crazy shit about it and introduced me to the
Modeselektor guys, who's music we were already into.
They helped me find a place to live and so I came out
for a while, and then just basically really liked it,
Zach came to visit and decided to stay for a while,
now he's back in NYC and I'm gonna go back there in
a month or so to make the next record.
Does the rest of Change Agent still live in
New York? How does your move to Berlin affect the work
of the collective?
Yeah everybody else is pretty much in NYC. The work
goes on over the net and phones and stuff, which has
definitely made things more difficult. We're both back
in NYC a certain amount though and then we all meet
up and let each other know what's going on and things.
Basically everyone just keeps pushing their own projects
forward and then when there's something that we can
do together we link up and do it.
You released your first EPs on your own label.
How did you manage to get noticed by Warp and get them
to release Burnerism?
Exactly as you say, by releasing our own records ourselves.
We get this question a lot, my response is always: do
it yourself, don't wait and hope for someone else to
come and validate you and tell you you’re good
enough. This guy who works for them doing A+R called
Stuart Souter heard our records in a shop one day and
dug them and so he brought them to the attention of
Steve who runs the label. They sent us a mail asking
for a demo, we sent them some stuff and the rest is
Will you be releasing any more records with
We're not scheduled to do anything new with them at
the moment since our next album is coming out on the
Sound-Ink label from Brooklyn. Warp offered us this
exclusive contract but it was for like four albums.
In four albums we have no idea what we'll be doing and
if it'll still be compatible with Warp, so that kinda
scared us off, and as a result we chose not to go exclusive
with them. For example the next record is a hip-hop
record with MCs and that was something that Sound-Ink
was better prepared to hook us up with than Warp was,
and so we decided to do it with them. Also, around the
time we were figuring it all out Alex from Sound-Ink
saved my ass in a bar fight and got beat really badly
in the process, which definitely made an impression
in terms of who's really got your back when the chips
There seem to be some connection between your
music and that of Autechre in the way you use hip-hop
as the basis for your music, yet use electronic music
to destructure hip-hop conventional forms, and you have
been associated with them by some people in the press.
Do you consider this as a compliment, or do you see
it as an easy comparison?
I'd say it's both. We definitely enjoy their music and
would cite them as an influence although they are one
out of many. For a lot of journalists coming from an
electronica background, which because of the label we're
on that's a lot of who's checking it, they don't really
catch the other references and that's what they come
up with. Also because it's on Warp, that's an easy and
Burnerism is a very complex record,
which appears to work on a whole range of levels. How
do you work in the studio? Do you have specific ‘roles’
Definitely not, we both compose all parts of tracks,
sometimes together, sometimes alone, sometimes a mixture
of both. We really enjoy not having a fixed format and
are trying all the time to break up our working process
and find new ways of doing things. Basically trying
to keep ourselves interested most of the time.
Burnerism feels a
lot more electronic than your previous releases. Is
it a deliberate evolution in your music?
I wouldn't call it a deliberate evolution. The tracks
on Burnerism are basically just the ones we
made in the past two years that we thought sat together
pretty well. Also it's important to note that Warp had
a hand in choosing the tunes, which was a new thing
for us, so what you're hearing is basically the Warp
idea of what we do, the stuff that we made that both
us and Warp agreed worked together.
The press release for Burnerism mentions
that you don’t allow ‘any track to escape
[your] studio unless they’re tested and confirmed
burning hot’. How do you test your tracks, and
what confirms them burning hot?
Testing is done mostly through playing live, which we
love doing. That's a big part of our live thing, testing
out new tunes, testing mixes on big systems, seeing
what works in the dance and what doesn't, what needs
reworking and so on. More and more that's what our live
things have turned towards, doing things in a sound
system style, rinsing out our new tunes and dubbing
or versioning the released ones, getting response from
the crowd and trying to present our work in the context
that we want it to be experienced. For example live
we have the opportunity to use a lot of stuff that we
wouldn't want to put on a record, like taking other
people's vocal tracks to lace over our riddims and things
like this. I'd say our live thing is probably your best
chance to hear us as we want to be heard and in the
setting we want it to be heard: over a loud and bassy
system in the dark with sweaty dancing people. Also
as far as testing we take stuff round to our friends
and get feedback from them, mostly the other Change
You regularly play live, and have recently
completed a two months tour. Was it the first time you
played so many dates in one go, and how did the tour
The tour was sick. Really really fun. It was definitely
the first time we had done so many dates back to back.
It was pretty interesting because we were playing a
lot of similar stuff, the shows were so close together
we didn't really have time to write new things in between,
so it was interesting seeing how people in one city
or country would love one thing and not another, how
something would go down huge the night before and not
the next. It was really good with regard to tuning and
tweaking our performance, I felt like playing so often
and getting so much feedback in so short a time helped
us get a lot of insight really quickly.
What can people expect to experience when seeing
It differs. Lately we're doing more of an SHT Sound
System kind of thing of rinsing out new exclusive tunes
and dubbing and chopping on things you may have heard
to keep them interesting. Sometimes we do loop based
live composition and arranging and sometimes we do generative
sequencing stuff where we're getting on stage with nothing
pre-composed and generating all the patterns and material
on the fly in a sequencer patch we developed in Max/MSP.
Sometimes some combination of the above. It depends
a lot on the event, what's the vibe, which other people
are playing and so on. Sometimes we do things with vocalist
friends of ours, we've done shows where we got people
we met that night to come up and rap or sing, which
is fun and chaotic, all kinds of shit really. We try
to keep ourselves, and the crowd, entertained and we
enjoy making people dance when it's possible.
Are you planning more dates in the near future?
We're always planning more dates. The next string of
stuff is late September; Sept 25th we're doing a show
in Paris with Kool Keith and DJ Premiere along with
the Sound Ink crew, which should be crazy. We've both
been big fans of Keith and Primo for years, so to play
with them is definitely some kind of milestone. After
that there's a couple more dates in England and then
back to the States for a while to work on the next record,
and we're always doing DJ things and stuff like that.
I just played 2 nights ago in London for the 10-year
anniversary of the French film La Haine and
got to meet Kassovitz, the director who was really cool.
I played all this aggro London Grime stuff for this
bunch of film people which was pretty fun.
Burnerism is your
first widely available release, and you went for a format
which is somewhere between an EP and a full-length album.
Why is that?
Originally it was planned as a five track EP, and we
had it mastered and sent it to Warp and everything,
and they sent us back a mail saying 'well, we like these
so much, can you send more?' So we did, they picked
three more and it ended up in this funny grey area of
being a mini LP. I'm pretty happy with it though since
there weren't too many more things we thought were appropriate
and I hate filler on records, I would much prefer something
that leaves people wanting a bit more.
What are your plans following the release of
Burnerism? Can we expect an album soon? Can
you tell us a little about it?
Yes, the next LP (or first LP officially, although we
basically think of Burnerism as an album amongst
ourselves, regardless of how it's categorised commercially)
is untitled as yet and will come out on Sound Ink. In
terms of distinguishing it from Burnerism,
I'd say the hip-hop influence is more pronounced and
is emphasised by the fact that we're working with rappers.
We just did a track with Sir Menelik (best known for
his work on the Dr. Octagon LP with Keith) which is
fire, called I Guess It's… and we've
also got tracks done with Baby Blak who's from Philly
(that's gonna drop on single real soon), Rodan who's
from MF Doom's crew Monster Island Czars and is on some
crazy abstract shit, and this cat Rustee Juxx who's
from Crown Heights and is coming with some serious street,
gangsta shit. After that is our full length for Shockout,
Kid606's Ragga Dancehall label. We've been kind of working
on the two simultaneously since we're always producing
stuff in diverse rhythm styles and that's our outlet
for the dancehall stuff we've been doing. That one's
got vocal guest spots from Wayne Lonesome who was on
the Bug LP, Red Dragon, Johnny P and some others which
we're still in the process of sorting out. A bunch of
those will drop as singles before the LP release; the
first one came out last year, Dem Nuh Know Mi,
with Wayne over our Yoga riddim. There's another one
due out real soon, in a month or two which is called
Gal You Nah Beg and has Red Dragon over our
Balkan Nights riddim alongside two versions
of the same vocal by Drop The Lime on the flip, which
are just disgusting, crazy cutty breakcore type shit.
Email interview August 2004
Thank you to Soze.sht and Lauren