Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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The Shapeshifters: The Futures Shaping Up Nicely


The Shapeshifters are Max Reich and Simon Marlin the DJ duo that catapulted themselves to the dizzy heights of stardom in 2004 with their No.1 hit Lola's Theme.

Now they have signed to Defected they tell us about their new single ‘Chime’, why a change of record label feels good, why Knuckles and Morales are such good mates and how mixing the next in the Defected In the House compilation series makes them feel.  

“Chime - a few people may have felt you cannot touch that record, that it is sacrilege but Orbital love it and that means more to us than anything else”.

Max Reich: To start can you tell me a list of the DJ’s and Producers that you are particularly feeling at present and those giving you a run for your money?

Max: A really good DJ and producer who is also a very good friend is Martijn ten Velden. He is a very talented individual.

Simon: Yeah Martijn is right up there on our list .He has also just remixed our latest release Chime. He did a fantastic job on that for us. 

Max: Laidback Luke is pretty hot at the minute and is also a very talented DJ and Producer.

Simon: Axwell is also doing really well, very talented, and probably one of the best producers.

Simon: Joey Negro has also been consistently delivering on all levels over the last few years. We’re lucky enough to have Joey as our special guest at our In The House launch party at The AKA in London in September
Can you give me three records that recur in your sets that are not your own?

Simon: Quite a new record for us is Dirty South’s remix of John Dahlback’s ‘Pyramid’, I think Glamour Boy’s edit of ‘Freaks’ needs a mention, as well as hammering ATFC’s edit of I’ll House You.

Max: Just don’t tell him that!
Are you both SCI FI freaks and is that why you choose your name?

Simon: Our name is partly due to the fact that we’re Sci Fi fans, though that is not the only reason. I’d say I’m more of the Sci Fi freak, we both like it but I am definitely a bit more of an avid fan. I’m a big Battlestar Galactica follower; I love both the new and the old series and have seen everything there is to see on it. I’m so much of a geek the interview has now gone into Battle Star Galactica!

Max: It’s like soap in space.
You have known each other for a long time I bet you feel like brothers now, but what was life like before the Shapeshifters got together?

Max: I didn’t have a life (laughs)

Simon: He didn’t know anybody before he met me!. No it’s funny I guess we do have a brotherly relationship. We work and travel well together, but we have our own set of friends, and lead our own lives without being in each other’s pockets. It’s a pretty good balance actually if I think about it.

Max: It’s healthy balance and probably a testament of why we have been together for twelve years. The life before the Shapeshifters we were fairly successful individuals, I was releasing a lot of Techno and Electronic music and we were both DJing over in Europe. So it’s not like we came from nothing and then suddenly did Lola’s Theme.

Simon: We both worked really hard and then reached a point where although we knew each other and worked together decided it would be a good idea to go into business and make music together. That was the difference in 2003 and it was the best thing we ever did.
How would you best describe your sound in the DJ booth?

Max: House Music, next question!

Simon: What I would say is we are not genre specific and we are not bandwagon jumpers, people put themselves into genres whether it be minimal or shminimal, whatever. If we like something, the groove of a tune whether it’s a progressive record or a hands in the air happy clapper record we will play it and are not ashamed to. As long as it feels right…..and after all house is a feeling ….(laughs)

Max: Its so important to see the crowd having a good time as well; sometimes it’s the DJ’s playing their set and they don’t even acknowledge the dancefloor and what’s going down.

Simon: They probably can’t see it because they can’t see past their laptop.
Is it fair to say that you were unknown before Lola’s theme, as Producers and DJ’s and can you explain how your life changed after releasing the record?

Simon: I don’t think it’s fair on Max, from an unknown point of view or from a musical point of view because Max had released a ton of records on labels like Bush and some big German Techno labels.

Max: I had made three electro albums on Millennium records and a lot of other tracks with different labels. I was pretty well established on the techno scene. When I moved to London I was signed to Sony for three years and released an album with them. Obviously these days we are better known, 

Simon: I had been promoting and Djing since I was really young. I also ran a couple of labels. That’s where I met Max, I signed him!!!! But as I said earlier it wasn’t until we started working together that things really started to gel. We have found though, that our past experiences, both good and bad have stood us in good stead for what we are going through right now in our careers and help us stay focused and grounded.

What is the pressure like for you now you have had various hits and are your intentions always to make big radio records for your fans?  

Simon: we are just going to make the records we want to make. It’s that simple.  If something slips over into the more commercial side of things that’s fine. We don’t knock commercial success because what is commercial success, it just means it’s something popular that people in their thousands enjoy, but for some reason in dance music it’s frowned upon. I do believe that there are people out there making records for the masses …that’s not we want to do but if then the masses end up liking it what we do anyway then that is very cool with us. That’s pretty much how it was with Lola…we didn’t set out to make a huge record…. We just knew it was good.

Max: We feel if we do something in the studio that has commercial potential Defected is capable of delivering it. If we do want to do something like Chime just for the DJ and the dance floor the label can also deal with that scenario as well, so it is a perfect for us.

Simon: Pressure wise I don’t think we are under much pressure today – if you are going to be releasing good dance records we don’t need to make tracks with a format song verse bridge chorus it’s just going to be a good dance floor track. We love writing songs, but after writing so much over the past few years, it’s natural for us to go the other way for a while and it’s in our time rather than the record company’s. Saying we need this track now for the radio is when it starts to become wrong to us and you begin to think hold on a second who are we making these records for, us or the company? 

You have said many times that Frankie Knuckles and David Morales are big inspirations to you, do you look at their careers in order to guide your own?

Simon; Ironically Frankie has partly helped from a guidance point of view and is more of an inspiration to us. We love what both of them have done and you just have to look at some of their achievements; it’s mind boggling. Not many people have done more for the scene than those guys have, so to have a friendship out of it by default is great and we feel very privileged. 
What does having your own record label enable you to do better?

Max; What it enables you to do is get stuff out and have the freedom to choose whatever you want to release, because it’s your own choice to sign whatever artist you believe in.

Simon; In terms of opening up avenues you look at labels like Defected, Toolroom and CR2 they have the 360 models, but for us we just want our label to be a vehicle to push the music that we hear and like.   

You have recently remixed Orbital’s ‘Chime’, of all the big rave records why did you choose that one particular record? 

Simon; we had been toying with the idea for a while so one day we just did it. Then it turns out to be twenty years of acid house this year . I believe that record sums it all up; it’s euphoric with a great hook and a great record to remix – one of our favourites, which made it an easy choice to make.

Max; On the whole the reaction has been brilliant and more people are beginning to recognise it now. In the beginning when we first played it I think people thought yes this is a good record, but now each time you get more and more reaction and I think it’s because more people are playing it. A few people may have felt you cannot touch that record it is sacrilege but Orbital love it and that means more to us. 

Your mixing the next compilation of the series Defected In The House, does that make you nervous?

Simon; We only to want to do a great job, but then you always want to do the best you can, however sometimes it’s down to what material available and what you can get licensed. We are very happy with what we have now and we will have it finished this week. I believe the compilation sets out our stall as to where Shapeshifters are at right now, musically and the groove we are on, for that reason alone I am very excited for the release.

Max: There are three CDs one is up-tempo, one deeper and the third is a reflection of tracks that have inspired us over the years.   

You must have some selections that particularly stand out in the new compilation?

Max: There’s that ATFC bad habit 2008 remix, it’s a brilliant mix which we are pleased to have and also The Fedde and Funkerman track that is a big peak time dancefloor record. Also we are quite proud of the remake we have done of Lola’s theme - Lola 08. 

I hear that you had difficulty getting some of your inspirational tracks for CD3?

Simon: There were a lot of records which we couldn’t have which was disappointing. When you start thinking about tracks you love and were inspired by over the years the list gets pretty long and you want to share them with other people. Your inspirations are like a window to our own soul so to miss out on certain ones like Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean one of the first records I ever brought was a shame, but hey there’s still some amazing records on there. We got the likes of Look What You’ve Done For me’ Al Green it’s just one of my favourite, favourite records - the soul in that record just jumps out of you and sonically it’s stunning. There’s also Tears for Fears - Head over Heals which was from my school days and I just love the piano line in that record, it’s phenomenal.

Max: The one think I should say and will be mentioned in our sleeve notes is that EMI won’t let us clear the Original Johnny Taylor – What About My Love. Obviously that was the basis for Lola’s theme so we are very disappointed about that and I think people will see our inspirations and think where is it? For the record, we tried it was first on our list, but due to politics and red tape it doesn’t look like we are going to get it.

Are there any particularly amazing DJ experiences that you have had that really stand out?

Max: I feel Global Gathering on the main stage where there were about 10,000 people in front of us going bonkers was pretty special. Our own stage at Global this year was a day to remember too.  Eastern Europe is always pretty amazing.

Simon: The first time we played in Pacha, (Ibiza) especially sticks in my mind too. It was the first time we had a shared a dj booth with Frankie, the crowd were amazing and we closed that night. It was one of those moments you step back and take in the surroundings and think yes this is what is all about and realize how privileged we are.

You have become a must see at Global Gathering. How does that feel?

Max -Amazing actually. Three years on the mainstage and then we were lucky enough to be invited to host our own Nocturnal Groove stage. We’ve done this for two years running and we have had some truly special moments. This year the weather was amazing and neither the crowd nor us wanted it to end.

What does the future hold now for the Shapeshifters?

Simon – Does anyone know what the future holds….all we know is that right now it feels good and it’s funny because It’s kind of been quite a seamless transition into our new home with Defected and we feel more inspired now than ever before and we are looking forward to getting back in the studio doing some more work.

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