Comprising the silky production talents of West London-based Simon Marlin and Max Reich,
The Shapeshifters are esteemed purveyors of big room House who have released a steady string of Top Ten hits for coveted labels like Positiva and Defected. Bursting on the scene with their #1 classic ‘Lola’s Theme’ back in 2004, this dynamic duo have gone on to throw down signature club anthems the ilk of ‘Back To Basics’, ‘Incredible’, ‘Treadstone’ and a clever reworking of The Orb’s iconic ‘Chime’. Firm favourites on the world’s premier download site, Beatport, they’ve remixed legends like George Michael, Faithless, Christina Aguilera and Moby, and regularly tour the world delivering DJ sets of distinction – including those at their latest residency at Pacha, Ibiza and their very own ‘Nocturnal’ parties which they run alongside their distinguished label, ‘Nocturnal Grooves'.
How did you first get into producing and DJing Simon?
By default really, I started running parties back in 1991. Pretty crap ones to be honest (laughs). I think the first party I did had about fifty people there but it just kind of grew from there – each one just got bigger. Then because I couldn’t really afford to pay for an international DJ (laughs), I had to start DJing myself. Then it kind of went from there. And Max was pretty similar really, he was organising illegal raves in Sweden. So just putting our own parties on.
What would you say were some of your and Max’s early influences musically?
Well Max started really young, he was DJing from the age of 14 in Spain and he was into like all the kind of fusion international sound and Fast Eddie and all that kind of Acid Thunder business. And for me it was early soul, funk – all that kind of stuff really. And a lot of the early part of electro back in ’83, ’84….that era. God it sounds like so long ago (laughs).
As a duo, have you seen your sound progress over the years?
Yeah. I think we kind of progressed as far as… it’s just kind of developed, I mean obviously people know us for “Lola’s Theme” and “Back to Basics” and all that stuff, but I think we’ve got a lot tougher, is the honest answer. And we’ve reached a bit more of a balance between vocals and the dub-ier side of things these days. But I think as an artist you always develop and you’re continually developing, no one’s ever a finished article.
And in terms of house music as a whole, what direction do you see it moving in next?
I think people are kind of going to want to get back to some form of melody. There are a lot of pretty average records out there at the moment just due to the fact that anybody can make a record these days. Technology has made it pretty simple for anyone to set up in their bedroom and make music, so I think that the art of actually making a record and producing a song has been slightly lost. But everything goes in cycles – I think it will naturally come back to that as well. I think it’s got a lot house-ier, especially over here, in the last six months. And I think that it will only continue to go that way.
You guys have done remixes and productions for some pretty impressive names.
There was George Michael, Christina Aguilera, Leona Lewis, Moby… Did you have a particular favourite to work with?
‘Empire of the Sun’ actually. That’s probably one of my favourite remixes we’ve ever done. And that’s simply because I heard it in the desert in Nevada for the first time, and was absolutely blown away by “We Are The People”. Then I asked our manager to get in touch with them, so we did it just on spec, which we never do. And it all just worked, and I think it was one of those magic moments, that I really loved mixing. So yeah that’s up there as one of my favourites.
Do you have a favourite track from what you have put out so far?
No (laughs). I’m kind of proud of everything we’ve done. I shouldn’t really sit here and pick one out. I mean obviously “Lola’s Theme” from a success point of view, but I haven’t got a particular favourite. Sorry that’s a really boring answer, but it’s the truth.
If you could work with anyone in the studio, who would it be?
Max would probably say Prince.
Who would you hold as the Dj who’s inspired you the most?
Max would say Frankie Knuckles. And at the moment for me, I’d say Luciano. He’s pretty inspiring, and he’s one of the most original and exciting DJ’s out there.
You guys embarked on a massive worldwide touring schedule this year. What were the highlights – any standout gigs?
Well to be honest with you, Summadayze at the beginning of the year was pretty good for us. We had a brilliant time there and just absolutely loved every show. Also we did a thing called Papaya, a beach festival in Croatia in July, which was just crazy. Right by the coastline, amazing people, played as long as we wanted to, didn’t want to get off-stage…all of that.
Where’s your favourite place to play in the world?
Croatia and Australia.
Well we love having you, and we’re really excited that you guys will be back in a matter of weeks. What can your Australian fans expect from these shows?
Well obviously the last few times we’ve come over we’ve done festival shows. And we specifically said, “Okay, we want to come back and do some club shows”. Because we’ve always really enjoyed doing club shows as well. But you can expect exactly the same – we don’t change our set for festivals or for clubs, we do what we do. And those who know us will know exactly what to expect and those who are coming for the first time can expect to have your hands in the air and a good energy and a good vibe. A positive vibe, that’s basically our remix, we’re not there to overeducate anybody.
What did you guys think of the Australian crowd when you came down earlier in the year?
Amazing. From the bottom of the heart, it’s absolutely amazing. We’ve got a lot of love. And it’s always a joy to play. I think the Australian crowd is still really open-minded, and can listen to Josh Wink, and then listen to Armin and then listen to Nic Fanculli and love it, which is pretty cool.
What made you decide to start your own label Nocturnal Groove?
Just because we’d always been working for other people, up to that point. And there’d been a couple of scenarios where we weren’t one hundred percent happy with the music that those people wanted us to work. And Max was working with somebody else who he wasn’t quite happy with the direction of. So we thought, okay, let’s stop moaning about it and give it a go ourselves. So we decided to both leave what we were doing and go for it, really, and it worked out for us.
And how about the Nocturnal Groove radio show – what spurred that?
Well Max has actually grown into that, he hated it at the beginning. I’ve always quite liked the radio show, and I sort of bullied him into doing it. But it’s worked out quite well because of the dynamic between us – the fact that he’s a little bit shy about it works quite well. And now he’s really into it. So it just started as one of those things that I wanted to do, but I bullied him into it (laughs). And it’s also a good way also for you to promote your sound.
That’s true. So how do you juggle it all – the touring schedule, running the label, the radio show and still finding time to work in the studio?
Well luckily we’ve got some brilliant people around us to basically run the label and make sure the radio show happens. We’re very lucky to have great people around us. It’s the only way we’d be able to do what we do.
So what can we expect from the Shapeshifters in 2011?
A lot more music actually! In 2009 we toured so much that we hardly made any music for this year. [But recently] we’ve spent a lot more time in the studio collaborating and working on remixes and our own stuff. So now I feel confident that for the next eight months we’ve got enough to put out there and I’m happy with everything we’ve done.
What would be the advice you’d give to someone just getting started?
It depends. If you want to be a DJ, start your own parties. Build your own crowd, get your own thing going on and then take it out. Too many people want to jump on the back of somebody else these days, without putting in the work themselves. So start your own vibe and you’ll last longer.
If you’re a producer, work out if you’ve got some talent. Make some music, give it to your friends, play it out… And if you truly do have some talent and you’re good enough, keep sending it to labels, keep plugging away and don’t give up, if you are talented enough, I guarantee that you’ll get heard.
The Shapeshifters - 'She Freaks' exclusive teaser
Can catch The Shapeshifters on Tour across Australia at the following venues;
Fri 12th Melbourne – The Market
Sat 13th Sydney – She Boat Cruise
Sat 13th Gold Coast – Platinum
Sun 14th Byron Bay – The Beach Hotel