Shadow Dancer are Manchester-based Brothers Paul and Al Farrier. They have been writing music together since their childhood. They have released several EPs on the Boysnoize Records label, and in 2009 the ‘Golden Traxe’ LP, which Future Music gave ‘Album of the Month’ and said “makes our ears melt in delight and hunger for more”. They have subsequently a made a diverse range of electronica, acid house and techno for a labels as varied as Unknown To The Unknown, Balkan Vinyl and Turbo Recordings. Their releases have received acclaim from Erol Alkan, Jacques Lu Cont, Funk D’Void, Dave Clarke and Laurent Garnier. They have remixed acts such as Chromeo, Gonzales, Zombie Nation, Boys Noize, Altern 8 and Damian Lazarus, and DJed at over 200 clubs and festivals around the world. In September 2014 they will release their second album, ‘Brothers In Arps’. This album has been three years in the making and reflects their continuing love of Detroit techno, house, electronica and ambient music.
FS: A few weeks ago on Twitter, you posted “RT if you can’t sleep at night for worrying whether or not the music you love is relevant.” For you, how do you think your music has changed over the years and what’s changed about the audience receiving it?
Paul: When we first started the Shadow Dancer stuff 7 years ago, we weren’t really making music for clubs. It was more of a case of throwing together many different ideas, with many influences, not necessarily with the intention that people could dance to it. I’ve always thought that music – even techno & house – should be primarily a listening experience, rather than a functional dance floor thing. Over the last few years, we have made more “focussed” club tracks when it felt like the right direction for the music but – as I think is the case with our forthcoming album – we’re happiest when producing music with a bit of substance, that people can return to again and again and discover new, tiny details they may have initially missed. I guess that comes from a love of early Warp Records and Jean Michel Jarre….”headphone music”, as it used to be known. As for the tweet you refer to, that was really a statement about how frustrating I find people’s obsession with the “relevance” of what they listen to. Reducing music to that which is currently fashionable and mockingly dismissing what has gone before makes no sense. You’ll end up writing off the music you like now as soon as the next fad comes along, which seems to be like saying “my taste is always shit”. I don’t understand that. If the music’s good enough, it should be timeless. It should always mean something to you on a personal level, regardless of how out of touch the media and marketing machine want you to think it is.
Al: I think people’s attention spans seem to have become shorter. Partly to do with the way you can just easily flick through streams of entire new albums online and dismiss them in seconds. As a teenager, when I bought an EP or LP it was a financial commitment. I had to consider what I was buying and invest my time in listening to what I’d bought. That way of listening to music seems a bit niche now.
FS: With regard to other artists, do you like the direction that this new generation of producers is taking? I mean, over the past couple of years, genres have been rehashed and reborn. The bounds are limitless.
Paul: There are always amazing artists out there, many of them perhaps not receiving the amount of exposure they deserve. Which is essentially both the up and downsides of the internet’s effect on music. It’s great to hear different styles being brought together, simply because purity and elitism can have a really destructive effect when restrictive genre conventions are adhered to for decades. There are still insular, cliquey areas of electronic music, which is a shame because – if it’s done well – mixing as many influences as possible together should really be encouraged.
Al: I’m not a big fan of genres really. I’m quite happy with EPs that have a techno track, a house track, an electro track and an ambient track on as link as they’re all good, but this seems to be a problem for some (look at the way certain online music stores do genre charts and music magazines do genre page reviews for releases). Our new LP has a lot of different ‘genres’ on it but I think that variety of tracks works well in an album context, we don’t like to be pigeonholed like that. I think too many producers play it safe and stay inside one narrow genre. I also get annoyed when ‘new’ genres emerge which are actually a carbon copy of what better producers who’ve never had enough respect were doing 20 years ago!
FS: Any particular artist that stands out to you right now?
Paul: In the past year, I’ve been really impressed by the volume and quality of productions by Vin Sol and Matrixxman. There’s a rawness and extremely evident passion in all of their music. The same can be said for the recent Tesla286 album and Deadwalkman EP on AYCB, which are kind of a nostalgic-yet-forward-looking appropriations of classic Detroit electro, and genuinely sound like labours of love. In terms of more stripped-back techno, I’ve been into Tripeo’s album, and the recent 12” by GND Records boss S-File. For the less easily categorisable, but no less excellent stuff, there’s anything from Chrononautz, Photonz, Worker/Parasite, and the One Eyed Jacks and Don’t Be Afraid labels in general. And, for me, nobody is making acid house as good as Posthuman or their Balkan Vinyl label at the moment.
Al: I love the Jokers Of The Scene LP. We’re pretty lucky in that a lot of our favourite producers we have managed to get to remix us: Vin Sol, The Hacker, Posthuman, J.Tijn, Joe Farr, Matrixxman, Photonz, Paul Mac, Dave Tarrida. It’s a dream come true to have all these talented artists remix our tracks. For our next single we have remixes by Mark Broom and Deadwalkman and they are amazing too!
FS: Let’s talk social media – it has its ups and downs, advantages and disadvantages. Of course, it’s great for marketing of sorts, but it’s definitely had an interesting impact in the DJ/Producer realm (i.e. Twitter wars, buying likes on Facebook, etc.). One can say these social venues motivate artists to do uncanny things. What do you make of all of this?
Paul: I find the most interesting thing about social media the way it has opened up communications with artists. This is not always a good thing, but it’s often exciting to “speak” to people who you once would have had no insight into beyond their records. It’s sometimes nice to find a personality behind the facelessness that is inherent in instrumental electronic music. I’m not overly fond of artists who use, for example, twitter exclusively to promote themselves and offer no actual interaction. I like being able to converse with others about anything, to joke or debate about things. It’s weird because there are some who will unfollow you saying “just talk about music”, and others who will complain “you only promote your music”. And, of course, unfollow you for not just sticking to selling yourself. You can’t please everybody, I guess.
Al: I’ll admit I never really understood twitter at first, but I am a pretty regular user now. It is a pretty good medium for sharing info about our releases and gigs etc, or just shooting the shit, any there are lots of funny people on it. It can be a strange place though, where people talk in a way that they wouldn’t in person. For example, Zomby (whom I’ve never met) tweeted that I like to masturbate over a picture of him. I can’t imagine a stranger saying that to me face-to-face.
FS: That aside, what was your original motivation when you wanted to pursue music full-time and where does your inspiration currently sit?
Paul: I really fell into doing it full-time. Circumstances changed when gigs started becoming more frequent and I was essentially left with no option but to quit my job at the time. Oddly, it wasn’t actually something I actively pursued, as we’ve been making music for more than 20 years as a hobby, while working day jobs. Music is a compulsion for me, and the income is often very low. But, if I was to return to a more stable, 9-5 form of employment tomorrow, I would never be able to stop writing and producing. First and foremost, the music is an escape….a release to channel part of myself into….and it’s always been this way for, whether I was being paid for it or not. I like to think I’m being realistic, although some might say that’s just stupid.
Al: I’d day my inspiration is with still with the pioneers or electronic music, the Detroit guys, 80s electro pop producers, the 90s Warp Artificial Intelligence crew. I’ll admit I still thing we’re all in their wake today. Their music has never been bettered for me and our album is a kind of tribute to that spirit.
FS: Lastly, let’s lighten the mood a bit. According to your Twitter (see look at you with your social media!!), you’ve been watching the World Cup! Who’s your favorite for the tournament?
Paul: Haha. I try to avoid tweeting about the World Cup as I’m aware it probably pisses most followers off. I’m not really a big football fan, but I do enjoy this particular tournament. And, really, I don’t care who wins as long as they’re entertaining and exciting to watch. So, given that, you can kind of tell I’m not supporting England. I just like to get caught up in the event, and it provides a nice alternative from the usual crap that’s on TV every night!
Al: Netherlands are so exciting to watch and Germany were pretty devastating in their first game. As usual, England are disappointing.