D&B comes in a number of shapes and sizes, all different but all managing to impart a similar feelings of passion and positive energy. Even the murkiest D&B tunes have an undercut of emotive expression encompassed within the rawness, a clash of vibrant elements working both together and against each other, epitomised in its fast pace and ability to get people moving and smiling.
The takeaway from that is all strands of D&B have a shared focus, even those in which speed isn’t present. Danish producer Shield is more aware of that than most, his halftime-orientated sound maintaining that focus on energy, oozing groove from every syncopated breakdown and sunny sample. After his superb EP on Ivy lab’s 20/20 last year, singles on Vandal Records, CART and even Blackout, we thought it was appropriate to get to know this relatively unknown Scandinavian upstart.
Talking to Shield is almost like talking to D&B itself, he stumbles over sentences in quick succession in a rush to get to the end simply to make points that he clearly loves making, like a conversational version of the drop. Written words don’t perhaps portray his unbelievable passion for music but it’s more than clear in the productions he’s churned out so far, which to a tee represent the version of music espoused below. Read to find out how the Dane went from playing drums in front of 4000 people, to mixing with friends, free parties in Copenhagen and finally releasing through some of the scene’s best outlets.
What’s the summer like in Denmark?
It’s pretty similar to the UK actually, it’s grey and then it’s sunny and then it’s shitty. Back and forth like that really.
That sounds exactly like the UK. Is the drum & bass scene just as similar?
In Copenhagen, where I’m from, the scene isn’t really there. It was pretty good from 2008 till 2012 with everyone coming out to show their support, but I think that that generation is now working or travelling, and there isn’t really time for these ‘young things’. I’ve given up on Denmark really, I have some gigs every now and then but they’re rare and the fee is nothing compared to in the UK or somewhere. So yeah, I wouldn’t say the scene is alive anymore.
That sucks. How did you get into the music then?
It started off when me and a good friend just started looking for stuff and found that Calyx & TeeBee album, Anatomy, which was around 2007 I think. We were stoked when we heard that and it was our first proper bass album, there was all this dubstep going on but we were the rebels listening to drum n bass – that’s what we wanted to listen to. No one was really playing it out, so we just started collecting vinyls and mixing ourselves.
Do you have a first rave memory?
That’s a difficult one. It all started in Copenhagen for me, where we had all these pirate parties with people calling each other up and borrowing generators to power our own sound systems. We did that a lot, it started out with 10 people and escalated from there to a few hundred.
What about actually making music? How’d you get into that?
I’ve been playing drums since I was six and I was lucky enough to have a professor from the Royal Academy of Music as the drum teacher I started out with, he saw potential in me and so asked me to apply for this musical pre-school, which was specifically for the Royal Academy of Music. I did an audition and got through, so that’s where my roots as an artist are.
The biggest memory I have of that era is this Danish percussion group, Safri Duo, who made The Bongo Song which went worldwide. I got to play with them at a concert in Denmark when I was only 10, I did a solo on the drums and they were playing alongside in the background. I was fucking nervous, it was in front of 4000 people, I was only 10 and I’d never played a big concert before, so I was on the verge of puking before I went up.
That’s crazy intense for a 10-year-old, what about electronic production?
I got Reason when I started my bachelor at the Royal Academy of Music in 2008, just fucked around with it and got into making beats. I then found out that bass music was a lot more fun to make than regular hip-hop and went with that instead.
But it was when I started at the Academy and heard Calyx & TeeBee, all this Neurofunk and also the early jump up from that 2005-2009 era, Full Cycle etc that I began making it a lot. I still absolutely love jump up, guys like Annix I see as the real innovators in that area so I look up to them a lot.
That’s an excellent era, how did you develop your current sound out it?
That’s the interesting thing, yeah. I do a lot of music with my friend Black Daniels and we were talking about the musical path you want to go down, because when I produced Jump Up I began to feel like I couldn’t move forward as a producer, I was stuck in a similar sound. He’s an MC, so we started doing more and more Hip-Hop stuff together and it just inspired me to go back to the roots, guys like Dilla, D’Angelo and Dr Dre. Listening back through all those beats was just really inspirational and now the beats stuff amazes me every day.
How would you characterise your sound at the moment, then?
I like the phrase as wonky, I always like to produce something that is a little bit out of grid, with the snare a little to the left or to the right. I can’t really put a word on it, it just has to have soul, grit and energy – it’s always about energy for me. I do a lot with Jon1st now, we’re working on a variety of different tempos and chilled stuff too so the music I produce doesn’t need to be hype, but it has to have energy, with constant variations and changes.
Which release would you say was the one that made you start to think about music more seriously?
I think it definitely has to be My Flava, the EP I released through Ivy Lab’s 20/20, which was also the biggest turning point in terms of focusing on the beats side. That’s when I got properly hungry for the first time, writing loads of tracks every week and sending them off to everyone, it’s where it all changed for me. I owe everything to Ivy Lab, for sure.
What’s releasing on Vandal been like, with Skippy Vinyl?
Vandal and Skippy Vinyl was actually a funny one, it came out of a sample which I found on this Youtube sample channel, really, really liked, and so worked in the drums and other elements. It’s actually like a year old, but it never got to the stage where I wanted to release it or play it out. I sent it to Julien over at Vandal and he was like “bro, this is a melody soul anthem we have to put it out” and so he kind of forced me to finish it. Shout out to Julian and I’m happy it turned out as well as it did.
In Skippy Vinyl you incorporate both light and dark shades of the halftime sound. How do you mix them in your sets?
That’s something I think about a lot and I always prepare my sets with that in mind, not in terms of how I do the transitions, but like to open with something light and try to tell a certain story. You have to surprise the crowd, you could have similar sounding tunes back to back where only the bassline varies, but I like to switch it up so in an instant. So, you might have something cool and wavey, but then you quickly cut it into a really quiet, downtempo tune. That’s what I like to do, make a trip that goes on a bumpy ride.
Let’s talk about some of the gigs you’ve played this year then, what’s been your favourite so far?
That has to be Tipper & Friends, a festival in Florida, which was another turning point for me because I always thought that if I did that, I’d definitely have to call my mum.
But no, that was the best. It was eight or nine thousand people in this big amphitheatre. I’ve played in the UK quite a few times now and I love it, but you guys are spoiled with music, you know your music so well and you have the best fucking music in the world. I think they have the same tastes in the US but in the US, they seemed to really listen and try to hear what was going on in the tune, instead of just going crazy.
What’s coming up in the rest of 2017 for Shield then?
Coming up is my Canada tour, which I’m super stoked about. It’s from the August 3 – 29 and I’m playing at Shambala which is going to be huge. I’m playing at eight or nine other venues and I’m actually going with the GREAZUS guys who sorted it all out for me, so a massive shout out to them.
Releases are a bit more random. I have some 20/20 stuff coming up, I think it’ll drop next year rather than this year but we haven’t spoken about release dates or anything, the Ivy Lab guys are busy as you can probably imagine. There’s also a few collabs coming up which I can’t really mention, but there’s one with Signs from France which is mental and going down very well in the rave.