It’s not often that you find someone who not only has a twice-backed world championship title, let alone one who has it in DJ skills while simultanueously being able to hang a Harvard degree above his other awards. Enter Shiftee. Adjuct professor at NYU, sandwich connoisseur, a director at Dubspot, and a bass DJ with the best of them, it appears as though Shiftee can do it all. Judging by the interview I got to have with him, he does it all with an unassuming and enjoyable taste and personality. He’s been doing some rad work with Traktor lately, and you can check the newest video he’s done with them right here:
With SXSW just starting to kick off, he’s delivered us a hefty mixtape full of powerful jams and all uniquely twisted into a bass/party/grime vibe all Shiftee’s own. As much as I could go on and sing my praises, I really don’t think I’ve received or even read a better, more cleverly written, entertaining and generally hilarious interview from a DJ. So I’ll let him tell his own story.
Be sure to download his mix, which he created specially for the upcoming festivities and musical plethora that is SXSW. You can peep his dates out in Austin below and get additional free tunes by liking him on Facebook here. Shiftee, here’s to you. Next time you’re in LA, sandwiches on me.
How are you man? Gearing up for SXSW, it seems? What will you be doing out there?
I’m doing peachy and swell. Staying very busy with gigs, music, and my love for Jeremy Lin.
I’ll be doing a bunch of stuff at SXSW, including: the big Circle Talent Agency showcase (3/15), the Sub.Mission showcase (3/16), The Good Life turntablist showcase (3/13), Dubspot workshops at the Gear Expo (3/14 and 3/17), and vivacious ahi tuna po boy eating (3/13-3/19). All of them have lineups heavier than the cast of Heavyweights.
Tell us a bit about your “Breakfast with Champions” videos with Native Instruments. How did that come about, how long have you been using NI equipment, etc, etc.
I’ve been working with Native Instruments and their gear for about 3 years now. The relationship is built entirely on a video I sent them of me dancing in my apartment. Seriously. It’s the main reason I’m now one of their endorsed artists and product specialists.
The Breakfast Of Champions video was put together to promote a scratch-friendly vinyl collaboration between Traktor & Q-Bert/Thud Rumble. One side of the record is the Traktor tone signal and the other is Scratchy Seal scratch samples. Rafik (also a DMC World Champion) & myself flew into San Francisco to film at Q-Bert’s legendary Octagon (For the non-turntablists, trust me, this is cool). We had one day to compose/practice and one day to film. I will go on record and say: we cut it up fresh.
What element do you think having skills recognized under the DMC World Championships brings to your production? Has producing maybe helped or influenced your DJ style in any way?
Well for one, almost all of my tracks have a bare vocal or synth line without drums at the intro. This is so I can scratch in my own music. On the flip side, producing music has helped a lot with how I execute blends. I think my use of EQing, filters, and overall frequency interaction in DJ sets has improved with an increased understanding of mixing down songs in the studio.
I will say my style of DJing is usually way different with my own music. If it’s someone else’s song, I’ll usually chop it up, throw it in layers upon layers of blends and samples, or even play it for like 10-20 seconds. For my own tracks, that’s my baby! I don’t touch it.
Any studio or pre/post set rituals?
Pre-set: watch the NBA. Post-set: watch Law & Order. I live a wild life.
Honing world-renowned DJ skills while earning a degree from Harvard in mathematics are two socially far cries from each other. Did you run into any hurdles doing so? Any funny anecdotes?
Yes, sleep was a big hurdle. I didn’t get a lot of it. I’m not sure if the following anecdote is funny so much as cautionary, but once during finals/exams, a friend and I ordered a box of caffeinated Jolt chewing gum from www.gumrunners.com (a site I’m not surprised seems to now be out of business). Jolt gum had just hit the market, and we were pumped to stay caffeinated without wasting valuable time picking up cups. My friend got 6 packs (12 pieces per pack) and I got 6 packs. I paced myself: a piece here, a piece there. I made it last. My friend however, chewed all of his portion within 12 hours. 1 piece = half a cup of coffee. 6 packs = 72 pieces = 36 cups of coffee. In 12 hours. By the end of it, he was delirious. He’d look you straight in the eye with the utmost conviction, and say things that made absolutely no sense . Ah, college!
You’re a self-claimed sandwich connoisseur. What would you make for us at Media Contender? (SERIOUSLY THOUGH!)
Sometimes simplest is best. Let’s start with a basic ham and swiss cheese sandwich on wheat bread. Pretty tame so far, I agree. But hold on, what am I doing? Is that spicy deli mustard, hot sauce, and tomato sauce all being whipped together in a frenzy over a BUNSEN BURNER!?! Am I then placing the special sauce bread first so that when the cheese heats it entraps our concoction in a holy marriage of flavor? Whoa hold on! Is that a panani press? Wait wait wait! My panini press is a BREVILLE!?! The Breville with 1500 Watts, 2 sandwich capacity, adjustable height control, and a dual plate design? Oh wow! Is the sandwich sizzling upon contact? Are my taste buds dancing in a frenzy!?! Noooooo! What’s this? Am I removing from my fridge a sacred 50 year old pickle slice I procured from a wise man in the HIMALAYAS!?! Does this pickle reveal the true meaning of life? Yes.
Apart from your upcoming tour dates, what’s up next for Shiftee?
I’ve got new music coming out, particularly separate collaborations with Rx (on Seclusiasis and Hot Mom USA) and Badman Shark (TBD) and then also remixes (Dutty Artz). Watch out for a new mixtape I’m doing with the immensely talented singer Carrie Wilds, shooting for a May release (with MISHKA). My next main focus is going to be a solo EP, hopefully for summer. Also it looks like I’m joining a new super band that will be playing Europe in June, more info coming soon. Otherwise, stay tuned for Native Instruments videos, lots of Dubspot work (where I’m active as their Director of DJ Curriculum), new routines & mixes, and overall tomfoolery.
Lastly, what have you provided everyone with in this mixtape?
A varied array of some of my favorite 140bpm bass music jams. We’ve got my own music, music from friends, xxxclusives (cue Funkmaster Flex Bomp Drop), set staples, dubstep, 4×4, hip hop, and grime (if you can’t tell from the track list, I’ve become grime-obsessed), all put together with no regard for human decency. I do horrible things to these songs. Horrible, horrible things.
1. RAAAAAAAANDY Intro
2. Swindle – Ringworm [Swindle Productions]
3. Rx & Shiftee – Act Out! (Mr. Mitch Remix) [Hot Mom USA]
4. Zeds Dead – In The Beginning [Inspected Records]
5. Rx & Shiftee – Space Ace (Wonder Remix) [Rad Summer]
6. PLS DNT STP ft. LAZERlibby – Raise The Temperature (Shiftee Remix) [LU20]
7. Chimpo – Blowfish [Estate Recordings]
8. Trolley Snatcha – Make My Whole World [Dub Police]
9. Spooky – Wavey Riddim [Ghost House]
10. Pharcyde – Passin Me By Acappella [Delicious Vinyl]
11. Sinjin Hawke – Crystal Dust [Pelican Fly]
12. Siyoung – Cautious Careless [Seclusiasis]
13. Wale – Bait (Shackles Remix) [Unreleased]
14. Teddy Music – Slug [Teddy Music]
15. Carrie Wilds – Somebody Save Me (Rx Version) [Mishka Carrie Wilds x Shiftee Mixtape]
16. Carrie Wilds – Somebody Save Me (Joker Version) [Mishka Carrie Wilds x Shiftee Mixtape]
17. 12th Planet, Skrillex, & Kill The Noise ft. GMCFOSHO – Burst [Scion A/V] // Shiftee Swag Beat Juggle
18. La Da Boomman x Tity Boi x Yo – Up In Here (Mayhem Bootleg) [Self Released]
19. Wonder ft. Trim – Something You Should Know [Wonderland]
20. King Yoof ft. Jay Mirikle – Warrior Charge (Hellfire Machina Remix) [Sub Slayers]
21. Xcuse ft. Ayarcana – All Right (Shiftee Remix) [Deepsession]
22. Udachi – Shaolin Slum 2000 [Party Like Us]
23. Soloman – She’s A Bitch [Unreleased]
24. Shiftee & Badman Shark – EKG Riddim [Unreleased]
25. Preditah – Circles [Earth616]
26. Plastician – Hard.Kore [Terror Rhythm]
27. Silkie, Distal, & Mite – Something Wrong With Daisy [Unreleased]
28. Unknown Shapes – Used To Give A FK [Self Released] vs. Trick Daddy – Shut Up
29. Carrie Wilds – Stay (vs. Lunice – Juice) [Mishka Carrie Wilds x Shiftee Mixtape]
30. 123Mrk – Weird (Kastle Remix) [Squelch And Clap]