We had an in depth chat with Shrike, a rising drum & bass producer from Los Angeles.
The City of Angels isn’t the first place that springs to mind when thinking about heavy hitting tech laden drum & bass. That hasn’t stopped Shrike from doing his thing, and his recent releases are nothing short of BIG. A slammed collaboration with Joe Ford on Eatbrain and an energetic EP on Bad Taste have propelled Shrike and his sci-fi technical sound to drum & bass’ main arena.
It was his 'Red Smoke' EP that first turned out heads. Diving straight in with the energy the title track 'Red Smoke' is a chest thumbing bass tone on steroids. Following up is 'Friendly Fire' with an anthemic opening before an electro bleep gets twisted and mashed up with a bassline that’s primed for peak club time destruction. Closing up with 'Fast Twitch' where we get a serious heads down clanger complete with head scattering structures and sounds and a face melting edge, sure to be a savage moment on the floor. Three killer tracks, for completely different reasons.
Following the recent string of strong tracks coming from his studio, we wanted to find out more about this rising name. We’ve had an in depth conversation about his first exposure to drum & bass, what drives him and what we can expect in the future.
Hey, how are you?
I mean, how is anyone these days!? The polite, succinct answer is of course: I am well, man.
But this last year or so has been a bit of a struggle for us all, I think.
What’s got you motivated right now?
Creating. I live to create. I am a professional artist by trade, computer graphics and Visual Effects, but also creating music/sounds/noise consumes me. Music has literally saved my life.
In terms of artists or sounds in dnb that motivate me, my man Joe Ford is at the top of that list, as is The Clamps, and much of the Evolution Chamber crew - Magnetude are killing it, and the DIVIDID fam. Mark Abis is a legend.
You’ve not long appeared on the radar of the drum & bass scene as a producer, when did you first engage with the music?
This is true: I actually started DJing and making beats in the golden age, late 90's, and I first heard the genre while living in Asia. I was surrounded by expats from all over the world and once I heard the music I was instantly hooked. It embodies everything that I love in what music can do, the experience it can create. The power, the passion, the scifi skew, the heavy metal attitude. I mean, c'mon, literally Metalheadz … Goldie's 'Timeless' was an early gem for many, including me. When I first heard the godfather's of neuro: Bad Company, Ed Rush & Optical, I knew I was in love.
What were you doing in Asia at the time?
I was actually a US military servicemember, and was lucky enough to live all over Asia and in Europe at a relatively young age. I got to experience a broader worldview of the music and the scene overall than what some of my US fam at home saw. The appeal was instant to me.
What spurred you on from discovering the music to producing it?
I grew up on computers and tech, and had a strong musical background so the combination of those coming together was always something that fascinated me. From very early on I had "keyboards", but nothing too serious. I have been Shrike since 1998. We had a crew called MashUp, run by a fella named Steve Ellul, an English expat with a passion for jungle/dnb and just general laughs. Some of the best friends and memories I have ever had come from that time in my life.
Over the years I acquired more gear, more knowledge, and ramped up & down in how serious I took production. But it was always just kind of on the hobby side for me. Then in 2017, tragedy struck my life. My younger brother, 2 years my junior, whom I loved very much, took his own life. In the days that followed the immediate event, I simply laid on the sofa, whimpering like an injured dog. It was the worst pain, emotional or physical, that I have ever experienced. I was gutted and just couldn't function. We were a very close family. The only thing that got me off that sofa was to get up and make music. It was the only thing I could do to escape the pain. My brother had always supported my musical ambitions, and so I just kind of decided in those moments that I was going to set some goals and succeed at them, or die trying. Again, to say music literally saved my life is not hyperbole. I would not wish this experience of losing a loved one, especially in this way, on anyone… but I was determined to make the best of it that I could. And it has fueled me, and continues to fuel me.
I know that is heavy, but part of the way I have dealt with it is to just be upfront about my experiences. It changed me. It is part of my identity. It is part of the path of the Shrike, for better or worse.
You’ve sure making some moves since, after releasing a couple of bits on Eatbrain and you’ve recently hit us with fire on Bad Taste Music. I’m sure your brother is proud of what you’ve achieved. how did you come to working with these guys? Are they both labels whose sound you dig?
Both BTR and Eatbrain are titans of drum and bass. My taste generally tends to the heavier side of dnb and artists that have been on those labels are some of my heroes. The Eatbrain release was very serendipitous. I had taken a live masterclass with Joe, and just kind of started chatting with him after, did some lessons with him, etc. After a while we became friends. That friendship allowed me to throw new tunes of mine at him (pro tip - don't just cold call people, get to know them first, be genuine in your intent). One day, he heard one of my tunes and replied "yo I might like to collab with you on this". I. Was. Floored. Of course. So we started working on it together, throwing it back and forth, and we really got it moving. Joe shared with Jade, and Jade was into it from the jump. There was an upcoming VA on Eatbrain, and so it just kind of all fell into place.
For the BTR EP, a friend of mine, the up and coming Impex, had pitched me to the mighty Vegas. I am glad Impex did what he did. Vegas responded instantly and very positively. He played some of my stuff out as dubs. He was into it, and I was honored. Suddenly we were talking about a release, and then that turned into an EP. Vegas and the BTR crew were so nice, so kind, so patient. Joe had let me know from the outset that Vegas would take care of me, and he was not wrong. I don't think I could have asked for a better experience for that release, I am so grateful. And to be on that roster with so many legends.
How would you describe your sound to aliens?
Heavy Metal Science Fiction. That is my mantra, and has been for many years. And "heavy metal" doesn't necessarily mean guitars. To me, it is more of a mindset and a vibe.
You’ve touched on producing music since ‘97. What music were you doing then? Does this influence your sound today in any way?
I had a love for electronic music in general from the outset. I was into The Prodigy and Moby and all the early rave stuff back in the early 90's, and was fascinated by rave culture. I used to get all of the colorful UK rave mags back in the day, used to read Irvine Welsh and other non-fiction stuff about rave culture, I was just into it big time. There was a time when I was also into progressive house, during the Sasha & Digweed "Northern Exposure" heyday. I used to make some of that, proggy house, as well. There are still some pieces coming out of that genre that I can dig, but these days it's all drum & bass, all the time.
Where do you see the Shrike project in 5 years?
I will not be stopping, so in five years I plan on being on top of the game. It's what I am striving for, anyways. It's maybe a little cliche to say that, but honestly I have strong opinions about this music, and a longtime vocabulary of the particular dnb that I love. And working as a professional artist in the other side of my life, I understand how to cultivate creativity, and a strong work ethic, so I am generally never out of new ideas.
I want no money from this, nor notoriety. What I want is to be in the elite club of some of the best music producers in the world. I want to be able to exchange the Boba Fett "knowing nod" with these incredible artists, and to know that I have earned it. I think we all do this dnb ting for the love, myself included.
You’re based over in Los Angeles, how is the drum & bass scene there? Any producers/events that need to be on people’s radars?
Current world pandemic lockdowns notwithstanding, there is a pretty healthy scene over here. It's never enough, of course, but there are some shows you can find, and some down people you can hook up with who share the love of dnb. I was lucky to be able to meet and become friends with some established artists in the scene, like Gigantor and Des McMahon, as well as some up and coming folks.
As to who to watch out for? My friend Quannum Logic is just getting better and better with each thing he sends me. Many in the dnb club know of him and his music, he's been a fixture in the scene for a while, and I hope that more of the public gets to know about him soon as well.
And while not LA-based, another on stateside producer that I am constantly blown away by is my man Kumarion, up in Seattle. That dude just gets it, and has the talent to weaponize his tastes.
What artists would appear on your dream line up?
Trent Reznor. The man is a genius, plain and simple.
What are you most in love with right now?
So many things. The superlative of "love the most" will always trip me up, ahahahahah. There is so much great stuff out there!
What’s your ethos?
Make cool shit; be cool/nice. If I can manage to stick to that, day in and day out, I am succeeding.
What’s the biggest lesson in life you’ve learned?
Life is short. This can all be gone in a moment, literally. Be grateful whenever you can. Don't worry about what you don't have, focus on what you do.
If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
LOL, how much time you got?! Seriously, though, maybe I would have pushed the serious music harder, earlier. But on my particular path, I had to be a dumb ass for awhile in order to get here, to this point, right now. Like so many things in my life, I just had to do it the damned hard way. That notion is in my blood I suppose. Whatever happens, I can say that any success I have had, or continue to have, has been earned in blood sweat and tears. This music is now me documenting my life and my experiences. I have more to say, but I had to go through several trials and tribulations just to get here. I had to earn it.
What’s next for you?
In addition to just cranking out music on a daily basis (want dubs? HMU!), I also have a tune coming soon on a Korsakov VA, a release in the works with Billain & crew's label Metnem (which will come with a nice sci-fi short film, as well!), and Joe Ford and I are working on a few more collabs as we speak.
Shrike’s latest release, the 'Red Smoke' is out now on Bad Taste Recordings - Buy
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