Getting to know South African DJ and producer Shane D. Shane co-hosts Grant Nelson’s world famous Housecall radio show and has worked with House Music luminaries including Roland Clark, John “Julius” Knight, Syleena Johnson, DJ Meme and Steve Silk Hurley.
It’s almost come to the point where people are emulating a so-called “South African sound” as a trend. Is there really a distinct sound to South African House or can we find the whole gamut genres being played there?
There is a distinct sound that resonates from down here, without a doubt, but because we’re such a diverse and multicultural country, we play pretty much everything within the genre, from Soulful, Deep, Tech, Funky, Progressive, Afro, right through to some of the harder stuff as well. I do know a lot of American and European DJs and labels have embraced the distinctive South African sound, which is great, and I respect everyone involved with that scene, but it’s not really the sound I’m in to, if I’m honest. From childhood, I’ve always been a fan of funk and soul, which may be the reason why my music is more popular overseas than it is here.
Are there more South African producers getting opportunities to travel abroad?
Yes, over the past few years there have been increasing opportunities for South African producers and DJs to travel abroad. Guys like Black Coffee and Culoe have become a household names overseas, which is just fantastic.
One of the first times I heard your name was via Skip (Shannon Syas) from Chicago! Tell us about your relationship with him and Steve Hurley. Weren’t you supposed to come down to Chicago not too long ago?
Yeah Chicago was on the table, but due to a few unforeseen issues on this end, it didn’t happen, but it will in 2012. Skip is one of the coolest guys I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and he’s an absolute riot to be out on the town with. Meeting Steve was a lifelong dream come true for me, because throughout my DJ career, he was the guy that I devotedly followed. If there was a new Steve Hurley record coming out, I was first in line to get my grubby paws on it! Even when I started dabbling with production, I’d try and get my hi hats to sound like Silk’s, and also fiddle around to see if I could replicate that infamous modulated sax sound he was so notorious for on all his records back in the ’90s. I never could though. It’s almost surreal to believe that today I’m remixing records for him and sharing the DJ booth with him. If people told me 20 years ago that I’d one day be doing what I’m doing now, I’d have probably declared them insane.
You often take over hosting duties for Grant Nelson’s widely popular show Housecall. How did this friendship come about? And out of curiosity, how many submissions do you guys get per week? I imagine it can be a sticky situation sometimes with what gets picked and what doesn’t.
Grant and I first met in 2004 when he came down to Durban. My involvement with Housecall came about due to Grant’s constant international DJ bookings, which saw him away from the UK for weeks at a time, at which point he asked me to fill in for him whenever he’s abroad and I’ve been doing so since 2010.
Preparing the show is quite a daunting task, especially with the sheer amount of music that’s out there at the moment, and the even bigger challenge of separating the quality from the quantity. That, I think, is the most difficult part. We get tons of music from people all across the world, every week. Grant set the standard of the show pretty high, and with Housecall now reaching over a million people across the world, it’s always been important to maintain that high standard of House Music and not get lost with just what’s new. If the pot isn’t looking too good, we normally delve into the record crates to find great records so we can fill the gaps.
I absolutely love your work, and usually when there’s a remix package with your name on it that’s guaranteed to be the best one.
Thanks! My productions are aimed at the dancefloor, so I approach every remix as a DJ first. I think about whether I would want to play the record, whether other DJs would want to play it, and whether the crowd would go for it as well. It’s a tough balancing act, which is something I think every producer faces.
Thankfully (and sometimes not so), the South African market can be quite fussy with what they hear in clubs, so they make great “guinea pigs” when testing out a new record.
Production wise, I usually start off with the drums, and making sure that by itself has a sense of motion, and then move on to the bassline, which to me is the most important part of my productions. After I get those two pieces right, everything else pretty much falls into place. Also, I don’t just take on any project. If I feel that I can’t add any value to a song, I leave it alone. Most tracks that are sent to me for remixing are already good records, so that makes my job a lot easier.
What is the biggest misconception about you?
I’d have to say it’s my race and nationality. The majority of people outside of South Africa all thought I was white, and from the UK. I am, in fact, an Indian South African. I’ve been called a snob… or a slob… either way, it’s not true. I’m quite a friendly guy, but just very opinionated.
What future projects do you have coming up?
Quite a few projects on the way, if they’re not already out. I’ve recently worked on remixes for Joe Smooth, Maurice Joshua as well as Skip’s hot new single “Show Me You Love Me”, which looks like it’s gonna be a chart topper. I’m currently working on my next single with a very talented singer from the UK, Jacqueline Reid Gilbert, on vocals. 2012 will also see the launch of my record label, Stereo Candy Recordings, which I’m quite excited about. I think I’ve earned my stripes within the industry over the past few years to pursue this path, or at least I hope I have. When I started off, my goal was to have releases on my favorite labels (like Soulfuric, Swing City, Purple Music, Look At You Records) and to have my heroes (like Steve Hurley, Brian Tappert, Grant Nelson) support my music. I’m grateful that I’ve managed to accomplish all that, and I feel the time is now right for me to take the next step.
I am definitely planning on attending the WMC. I have been in talks with a few promoters who are looking at setting up a US tour. It would be an honor and a privilege to play in the country that gave world the gift of House Music. • • •