Interview: Shades Of Gray
Shades Of Gray are a producer/DJ duo comprising of Czech native Michal Schwa and Australian Nick West. After having met in 2005, it was clear they shared synergy in their love for electronic music and were soon enough both fronting the ever-growing Beef Records. With house music as the base of all the music they produce, they garner support from the likes of Miguel Migs, Jimpster and Laurent Garnier, to name but a prolific and weighty few; the same kind of support was carried over to their January 2012 LP Soul Machine. newsicmoos took the time to get to know them a little better...
newsicmoos (ns): Hello guys – How are you both? First let us delve in to the past week of what’s been going on...
Shades Of Gray (SOG): I have been working on several releases that will come out on Beef this year and also finalizing some tunes for King Street recordings. Nick has been working on some ideas for Vincenzo and Nikola Gala remixes that we have to deliver soon.
ns: How would you best describe your sound to any newcomers?
SOG: It's hard to say exactly but we use house music as a playground for ideas and as a medium to experiment with. Each time we sit down to write a track there is no road map. We let the machines do the talking. Of course our influences with soulful yet powerful and danceable music keep us centered but there is plenty of scope to head down a new path and see what emerges. Often we are surprised by the results.
ns: Let’s take it way back. Individually, where did your musical journey’s begin? Can you remember the first records you bought? How have your tastes developed in to what you produce together today? Why did you start to produce and DJ?
SOG: I have started Djing about 12 years ago. I started listening to techno music and my main influence was Radio 1 a Czech Djs who use to play at Radost FX club. The first records I bought was by Percy X on Soma. Then I got into psytrance music and few years later I got into house music. Nick has also trance/progressive background. He started Djing while he was living in Japan many years ago. Since 2007 we are producing together as Shades Of Gray. As SOG we only play live shows but I still keep Djing under the Dj Schwa moniker.
ns: As a duo, how do you work together? You released your debut LP earlier this year – what is the creative and studio process of producing something like that? Is it a case of try and test or is there a logical process? Have your home cities influenced the way your sound works together at all?
SOG: I guess by not setting to many boundaries in our process we ended up with an album that is quite diverse. There is still that common Shades production that threads the album together but it doesnt sound like one bass line rehashed 10 times if you know what we mean. We also use a lot of analogue synthesizers and that creates an organic loose sound that helped to define the final product. We are both influenced by the cities where we live. I am in Prague and Nick lives in Sydney at the moment. Both cities have very different music scenes and we blend both these influences together.
ns: How did you go about choosing producers to remix the album?
SOG: We decided to mainly approach people that we know personally and that we already worked with before. We have been touring a lot and we were also organizing events in Australia. I have also been working for a booking agency in Sydney. Throughout all these years in the scene and running Beef records we have established healthy relationships with a lot of amazing musicians and producers. It's always better to work with someone who you know personally.
ns: Tell us a little about your label Beef Records. It recently turned 6 years old! How and why did it begin? From its humble beginnings, how, if at all, has the mission statement changed or progressed? Any news regarding new signings? What connects the releases on Beef?
SOG: I have started Beef records in 2006 and Nick joined me in 2007. The main idea was to release music that we like and believe in. I used to work for Tribal Vision records before but I was getting bored of the progressive sound so I decided to do my own thing. Working with Nick is easy because we have a very similar taste in music. Our mission statement didn't change that much. All about great music, unique artwork and lots of hard work. We are now focusing on pressing 12" vinyls again and so far it's going great. Soon there will be new EPs by Nikola Gala, Carlo and Moodymanc.
ns: With new labels popping up every day, how does Beef stand out from the crowd?
SOG: We operate as a family. All the work being done is inhouse. From artwork to mastering and promotion. That's why we have full control of the final product. We are trying to cover all platforms (CD, vinyl, digital) with the best possible products by working closely with the artists we choose.
BUY DIGITAL HERE
ns: You’re about to embark upon your European tour. Talking of gigs, can you remember a particular favourite as Shades Of Gray? Is there anywhere on the forthcoming tour you haven’t been to before? Where are you looking forward to playing?
SOG: We just come back from Honduras which was an amazing experience. Talking of Europe we will perform in Barcelona as part of Sonar Off at the time of the Sonar festival. We will play live at the Lost My Dog label party at The Family Music Club. We are super excited about that one. After that we have gigs in Berlin, Prague and some outdoor festivals in Czech. Great summer ahead indeed!
ns: Aside from the gig, the summer is almost upon us (in the UK anyway!). What’s in store?
SOG: Well, for me summer is about gigging. If I manage to find some spare time I will definitely spend it in the mountains here in the Czech Republic. Nick will be joining me in Europe in about 3 weeks. When we don't play we gonna be locked down in the studio in Prague. We only have 3 weeks together this summer so we gotta get the most out of it!
ns: Any final words or shout outs?
SOG: Keep it real and don't believe people who tell you that something is not possible. Everything is possible in this world.