Suite Grooves – Influential Tracks #3: Shinji
Shinji’s 10 Most Influential Tracks:
Iglooghost – Clear Tamei
Flume – More Than You Thought
Daft Punk – Encore track from Alive 2007
The Beatles – Tomorrow Never Knows
Flying Lotus – Camel (from Lotus album)
Burial – Ghost Hardware
Mad Villain – Meat Grinder
The Avalanches – Stay Another Season
Mura Masa – Lotus Eater
J Dilla – Two Can Win
Hello and welcome to Suite Grooves Influential Tracks. Our special guest for this episode is Shinji. Shinji is a beat maker from Canberra and he has released 2 albums on Cold Busted one of the coolest labels on the world. I was surprised to see an Australian artist, that I didn’t know, release an album on the label. That was when he released his debit ‘In Colour’ back in 2018. Late in 2021 he released his second album, self titled this time, so it was the perfect time to catch up again. After we did the interview he decided ‘on a whim to put out a semi b-sides collection’, his words not mine, which we will be featuring during the month of May 2022 (next month) here on Suite Grooves. You can hear him on the Suite Grooves New Releases podcast for March 2022 talk about some of the tracks that we playlist from his second album, but I also asked him if he could tell us what his Influential Tracks are. But before we get to that, I wanted to know a bit more about him and his history. I started off by asking him if it’s correct to say that he is closer to DJ Shadow in style of production than he is to the Avalaches, because there’s a track on his album called Avalanche!
Yeah, their stuff is a lot more frantic, less so on like Wildflower and their later albums, but definitely that first album Since I Left You, like I think it’s like 18 tracks or something, but no one minute of each song sounds the same. And whereas DJ Shadow is a bit more repetitive you’re meant to fall into that groove. And like, my past experience with making music has been very repetitive, like I was in the EDM scene for a while making house and techno and that sort of thing. So I kind of approached it with that mindset of make something that’s repetitive, that interesting. So you fall into that groove, but there’s lots of little flourishes and beats that you weren’t expecting. But they still kind of fall into that, that four bar loop that you’ve set up for yourself, really.
So it’s a very techno approach to making music.
Yeah, like I’d start with a loop. And then we’re like, I’d find a sample and I’m like, that sounds sick. I’ll maybe expand on it like this. And so I’ll have eight bars of something I really like. And then it’ll be a case of cool. How do I expand that eight bars into 16, 32. All right now it’s a full song. But it’s missing that thing that makes you go oh, this is like the big part, here’s the drop. Here’s the the bit where I can kind of kick back and relax while the sounds float around me until the beat comes back in.
So it sort of helped you to give it a bit more structure. I guess.
Yeah. Cuz, like I’ve given the whole ambient thing a go. It’s not really my jive. But yeah, the structure especially like when I’m doing DJ sets, or playing live or anything. The repetition kind of helps. Both me and the audience fall into a sense of, cool, this is like the bedrock of the set or the track. And if my expectations are subverted, it’s because I’ve fallen into that groove, rather than I’m being subverted because the artist felt like.
Well, um, you’ve approached so many different genres of music. You started out playing guitar, didn’t you?
Yeah, yeah. Like I’m, I’m still playing guitar at the moment. I fell out of it for a few years. But yeah, I initially started with guitar and banjo, I originally did my HSC in like, bluegrass slide, so that was pretty fun. But thinking back on that, that’s actually, it has kind of the same trappings as what I’m doing now, in that, especially with bluegrass, you rely a lot on your root notes. And there’s this repetitious bassline always going on in the background.
Well, how did you then get on to electronic music and if you started off playing the guitar?
I think was out of necessity, really, because I was super into electronic music at the time, but I was still playing guitar. But then as I progressed, very few of my classmates wanted to play with me because I was essentially just cranking the distortion as high as it would go every single time. And I couldn’t find anybody that wanted to play like super thrashy fast like punk and metal. So I just started relying on drum machines to kind of fill out the rest of the parts, like, it’s not like I’m playing to anyone, so if I just write the parts at home and play for myself, that’d be fine. And then from there, I’m like, oh, okay, cool. So there are people out there that just go hunting for records, take the drum pieces from that, and then layer that on top of their own stuff. Maybe I’ll give that a try. And then just went down this absolute rabbit hole of, oh, there’s even more things you can do with sampling. What if I took just the kick and then just this vocal part, and spiralled out of control from there.
So is that when you got yourself? The digital audio workstation and, and figured it all out?
Yeah, I think it was about 13 or 14 When I first started playing around and kind of got the hang of it by about 15. And then yeah, from there, just figuring out how do synths work, how does sampling work, like a lot of time spent just kind of fine tuning a sound until it sounded the way I wanted it to. And by that point, I kind of progressed into, oh cool. Well, if I can make this sound interesting, I guess I’d better work that into a song rather than it just sitting as like, a two second clip.
So do you get the found sounds or the ones that you’ve created, do you get them and build a song around them? Or do you start off with a beat?
I think it’s 50-50 at the moment, because sometimes like a found sound, or like a synth that I’m working on, will just kind of leap out at me with the way that it sounds. I’m like, oh, this obviously needs to have this kind of beat behind it. Like it’s maybe it’s like a vamping rhodes sound that I’ve found, and I’m like, oh, this needs like some cool little like skiddish two step, sort of beat behind it. Whereas other times, I’ll be making just textural beats for the sake of making I like maybe like a little drum and bass beat, or just something that’s got a lot of grit to it. And then I’ll keep it in the back for a little while. Six months later, I found a sample that would absolutely fit it. So I’ll have to go digging through all of my files, find the sample, bring it back in. And then the song just immediately comes together.
Well, speaking of your frantic style, earlier on the saying, you’d like things cranked up and fast. You put out a track with a label in Texas, called Praise. It’s like 144 beats per minute. It’s a bit frantic. But it’s it’s really funky. Some it’s really different to the stuff you’re putting out on Cold Busted.
Um, yeah. So originally I was going to, after that first album was Cold Busted. I wasn’t actually planning on doing anything more because the album with Cold Busted was basically, it was a bit of a meme to me, because it came around as I was just working on the beats, but I was also working on a completely different, much harsher electronic project at the time. And I’ve made all of these beats given some of them to my friends. And my friends, none of them were musicians. A few of them now are, but none of them were musicians at the time. And I kind of had to go, oh, so you can’t give me any feedback on this because you don’t know what you, you don’t know what you’re listening for. Because I was looking to improve the beats. And so I just started hunting around for indie labels that had submission files or like submission pages, and Cold Busted happened to be one of them. So I sent off a bunch of tracks that I was working on to Cold Busted with the preface of I don’t want to get signed. I don’t even care if you don’t like the tracks. Can I please just get some feedback on them because I’m really desperate for it. And they immediately send back an email a couple of days later going, oh, no, this is great. Do you want to sign this and so that’s how I ended up with In Colour. And so, as I was working on In Colour, I came up with Praise, kind of out of the blue and it absolutely did not fit In Colour’s vibe at all. It would have absolutely stuck out. So rather than even trying to submit it, I decided to just kind of keep it in the background. And then Couchloaf the Texas record label, I was chatting with some of their guys because I really liked their visual style, and they were doing a tape compilation. So I was like oh cool. Well, do you like this track? I’ll chuck you this, you can have it. And they went yeah, this is sick. Let’s put this out.
Track: Shinji – Praise
That was Praise a track that Shinji released on Texas based label Couchloaf Records. We both continued to praise Cold Busted.
Oh yeah Cold Busted I think is, it’s not one of those labels that comes up in your mind if you’re not within the scene, but the minute you’re within that you realise how far they’ve kind of spread across the the instrumental hip hop industry and like the scene as a whole because like I feel like a lot of labels they do tend to stick around to the their home country or at least like this state or something. So like, previously mentioned Couchlouf, fantastic label, don’t really do much outside of Texas. Whereas I think on Cold label, they’ve got like 15 to 20 Different countries represented across their artists roster, which is just insane for such a small label.
Yeah, I know, I’ve heard artists there from Poland, Azerbaijan, Russia, of course, all over Europe, Belgium, UK. Yeah, it’s, and it’s usually really quite, you know, quality music. You know, if something’s on Cold Busted.
Yeah, Derek, the label head has got an absolute ear for beats. And it’s also quite cool that because it’s almost exclusively instrumental instrumentals, there’s no language barrier. So they can pull in artists from whichever country they’d like of whatever style they would like, and know that it will translate to their audience.
So have you, like, you’ve covered everything, you know, you got a rock background in rock and heavy metal, blues playing the guitar, which that you know, then took you into this whole sort of indie realm and then doing EDM and techno again, to instrumental hip hop, and drum and bass. So, any other genres?
Any other genres? Ah, I mean,
Are there any left?
Are there any left? I mean, like a friend and I are quite avid music nerds. We go out of our way to try find just weird shit all the time. We’re recently we’ve been into Gabba and hardstyle so I’ve been trying to make tracks like that or like really, really disgustingly bass heavy like Trap and like UK wonky stuff. I’m also trying to do like Shoegaze and I’ve got a metal project on the side as well. Like if I can put my hand in it, I probably would.
Track: Shinji – Grand Mash
That’s Grand Mash a track from Shinji’s debut album In Colour. I wanted to know how he came up with his name. But before he tells us about that, he tells us how he gets his samples.
There’s quite a few places I get all my samples from. So kind of the start with especially with In Colour, a lot of it was sampled directly from vinyl. So I had like turntable and mixer and all that sort of stuff set up. But as I started exploring all of those vinyl, I kind of fell into this, I kind of hit a wall where I wasn’t getting the sounds that I was looking for. A lot of them were good. But the, I guess the instrumental variety that I was looking for, wasn’t there. And so I just turned to the internet and going through massive. Essentially, we’ve got these, a couple of places here in Canberra, that tips, but they’re like massive dumps. But then off to the side, you’ve got like a little shed, and it’s just full of all the stuff that they thought was kind of cool. So they decide to put it up for sale. So I’d walk into these sorts of places with $10. And just pick up as many cassettes as I could fit in my hands and walk out, sample them all. And then just get rid of them afterwards. And then combine that with just downloading 10s and 10s of gigabytes of music dumps from artists that everybody’s completely forgotten about. And people who have found old records on labels that don’t exist anymore for artists that haven’t heard the light of day it in 30 years. And just going through all of these little things, especially like the the Arabic and Hindi samples, and all that sort of stuff. Field recordings from like the 90s of a dude just going around his local neighborhood with a portable recorder and just recording various groups that might be street performers or religious gatherings and all that sort of stuff.
Well, I’m speaking of Shinji. First of all, where did you get the name from?
So when I originally came up with the name, there’s a Japanese anime called Neon Genesis Evangelion I’ve actually got a tattoo of the logo. I got the name from the main character who is also called Shinji because originally when I first started kind of taking it seriously one of my like glorified really want to do this sort of projects was to take the original soundtrack, completely chop it up and sample it into kind of like a remix album almost. Never did that, it was way way way too hard for like weird time signature orchestrated music with beat changes and there’s like country tracks in there for some reason. But for some reason the name just stuck around. Once I made that SoundCloud account and that Bandcamp account, I was just like, oh, I guess I’ll just stick with this then.
Sit Down Sun is the name of that track. Also off Shinjis debut album In Colour. The next segment is already on the Suite Grooves, New Releases podcast, but I thought it was worth repeating, in case you haven’t heard it. He talks about going to hospital and how that influenced the sound and direction of the second album.
When I was initially writing the album, it was directly after I’d finished the first one, it actually started off as off cuts and demos from that first album that I hadn’t used, that we’re not quite fitting in with the aesthetic of the whole thing. Like the first Shinji album In Colour, I’d say is pretty laid back, it falls more into that like Lo Fi, Hip Hop space, very sparse, dry beats, not very many samples going on. Whereas the demos and off cuts were very dense, they had more of, I guess, like a wonky groove going on. And so when I went to hospital, I took a break from writing, all that sort of stuff. But when I came back, I had about two months to myself where I couldn’t get out of bed, or I could shuffle over my computer chair, sit at my desk. And that was all I could do all day. So I just started looking at those demos again, with a new perspective of ‘Alright, well, I know that I can make something this dance in this complex. Why can’t I do that for more songs?’ So just start a building up and up and up and up from there.
And most people usually have their first album, their debut album, self titled. But in your case, it’s the second one. Why is that? Did you have a name already for the first one.
So the first one, I just genuinely liked the name In Colour, like the song on there, I feel represents the kind of sound and the vibe of that album. But with this one, I was really struggling to come up with a name that represented what the album meant. I put quite a lot of meaning into, not so much what a song title means for the song. But what an album, title represents for whole album, especially because like you’re imagining going through all the records in a stack at a record store. And if you know nothing about the artist, all you’ve got to go on is the front cover and the name of it, sometimes not even the name of it. And so when I was trying to come up with ideas for this, I originally was kind of pitching this whole, it’s 70s advertising. So it’s all hazy and there’s kind of no rules for what you want to do. But the more and more I got into it, the more I started to realise how much effort I poured into it and how much more I liked this album over my previous one and kind of came to the realisation that this is sort of the full realisation of what I was aiming to do in the first place. So I figured what better name to give it then Shinji and just self titled
That was Second Wind from Shinji’s debut album, but now it’s time for me to leave you alone with Shinji.
Hi, I’m Shinji and these are my top 10 Most Influential tracks. Number one Clear Tamei by Iglooghost. Super weird name. Super weird artist super weird song. This is possibly the most eclectic of the songs I could possibly recommend. But it’s also possibly the most influential song on me. This song is a cavalcade of percussion textures synths bass lines and just the most beautiful melodies and melodic riffs that I’ve ever heard in a song. It goes extremely hard, but yet can be so mellow and discreet. It’s a song that taught me how to move outside the trappings of a genre styling because this song could fit into so many is it IDM is drum and bass is wonky is a deconstructed club. It has so many little facets that add up to this larger grander picture. And this song is grand. The amount of movements that it has the softness of the piano against the absolute viscosity of the bass is just immense. And it’s a masterclass in ebb and flow. Also, the mixing on this track is just immaculate every single piece of instrumentation blossoms and blooms and no other song that I’ve ever heard quite matches the sheer beauty of the instruments and the songwriting on display here. I’d say this is possibly one of my favourite tracks if not my favourite track of all time.
1: Iglooghost – Clear Tamei
The next track is More Than You Thought by Flume. This is from his debut album and way before he was the monolith of electronic pop music that he is today. This track is super influential on me because it’s the first exposure I had to the alternative electronic scene I was still very much a guitarist at heart. And I was only really dabbling in electronic music. But this song opened my eyes to what music and electronic music in particular could sound like outside of the distorted blasted beats of four to the floor EDM. I first heard this song and a Big Day Out. And it was not quite like anything I’d heard before the beat was weird and lilted side to side and the bass was just gigantic. It filled up every single space in the arena. And I didn’t quite know what I was listening to. So I just immediately had to seek it out when I got home. And I have it as like a lynchpin in this is the kind of music I would like to make versus a lot of the four on the floor house and dance stuff that I’ve been dabbling in before then, this was the linchpin moment of this is the kind of music I always want to be involved in from now on. The sweeter lighter vocal moments of this track, really, not just disturbed but completely crushed by this massive wobbling bass that just has no place being where it is. Paired with these synths that sound like they’re about to move off key but never quite do. And the beat and the drums are just lumbering behind everything else never quite catching up but still always being in time.
2: Flume – More Than You Thought
My third pick for most influential song is the Encore track from Alive 2007 by Daft Punk. It’s a mash up of Human After All, Together, One More Time and Music Sounds Better With You. The reason I’m gonna pick this track over any of their other tracks in isolation is that one, I’m a massive fan of Daft Punk. So if you can check all of them together, I’ll happily take it. But two, no one expected their songs to work this well together in this context. They keep you on the hook for a solid 10 minutes without knowing what’s coming next, how they’re going to do it, how they’re going to transition into it. And the fact that each one of them works so successfully, they weave into each other, but when there’s a build up, you know, it’s going to be earned. It’s almost like the track is running a relay race, where each song is contributing and passing off to the next, the best elements of it. And all of those come together in just a gorgeous and beautiful way. But nothing overshadows what’s come before it it’s just this heightening of excitement. Also, I think it needs to be mentioned that the entire album as a whole gives credence to Daft Punk’s Human After All album. It wasn’t a great album. But in the context of this record, it could be a 10 out of 10. The songs were made almost like they were meant to be mixed in this way. And it’s hard to go back and listen to human after all without the knowledge that this comes after it.
3: Daft Punk – Encore track from Alive 2007
My fourth pick is Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles. This is a pretty talked about track. I think everybody has had their opinion on this one. But the early example of sampling and looping, and making soundscapes out of preexisting material isn’t just an influence on myself but every other beat maker who’s come after the 60s. This is psychedelia almost at its best. It’s so repetitious yet that groove never lets you leave. It’s always there and the vocals are floating around. But yeah, there’s no essence of reverb and delay, the vocals just move in and out of the track. Like they were always meant to be there. They’re just coming into focus every now and again. I think the most amazing thing to me about this track is that it exists at all given the recording technology available, and the climate of the music landscape. This is a super weird, highly experimental track yet by today’s standards. This is done and done classic and has been referenced on 1000 songs to come after.
4: The Beatles – Tomorrow Never Knows
My fifth pick is Flying Lotus’s Camel, this is from his Los Angeles album. Flying Lotus is the reason I am into wonky music and this style of beat making as hard as I am, this guy just has a knack and an intuitive sense for how a beat should sound and be put together. And the way that everything gets compressed yet sounds so brilliant and open is just a testament to how good his work really is. It’s a slow, lumbering, heavy beat, that just builds and builds and builds and builds, every single block just gets stacked on top of each other. The beat very rarely changes. It just becomes this bigger and grander song until it all drops down, only to come all the way back in again, ready to surprise you with exactly the same beat that you’ve heard but it just sounds fresh after you’ve had a second to think about it.
5: Flying Lotus – Camel
My sixth pick is Ghost Hardware by Burial from his album Untrue. This song is just dripping with atmosphere, all little sounds the beat that feels like it’s galloping the whole time. I’ve tried to mix this in DJ sets and it never quite works. The beat is always a little bit behind a little bit in front it’s never quite on. The vocals float on top as this beat rolls and rolls and rolls underneath. And this bass line decides to just pop its head in every now and again but when it does, it makes a statement. The way that Burial can compose all of these elements together is just so effortless and if I could ever create something half as good as this, I will be chuffed for my entire music making life.
6: Burial – Ghost Hardware
My seventh pick is Meat Grinder by Mad Villain? Mad Villain, obviously is the collaboration between Madlib and MF Doom on their legendary and only project. Meat Grinder was the first song that I’d heard off of Mad Villain and was the song that introduced me to guys like Madlib, MF Doom to Peanut Butter Wolf and J Dilla. The beat is super raw, the vocals sound like they’re almost not even mixed in it sounds like a tape has been handed off to Doom and he’s just recorded his vocals off the top. And that’s what we got given. And looking into the making of this album, that’s basically the aesthetic they were going for. They wanted a super raw and super beat tapey. This song is not influential, mostly for its sound, but for the swathe of artists it introduced me to who have become influential on my sound and my music listening tastes.
7: Mad Villain – Meat Grinder
my eighth pick is Stay Another Season by The Avalanches. As an Australian beat maker for obvious reasons, I’m going to have The Avalanches somewhere in my top 10. The way that they construct a song is less beat making and more collage work. There might be six or seven different samples playing at once but they’ve picked their moments so perfectly, that they all interweave into this one, not cacophonous sound, but one that definitely hits you from all sides with something to pick out in each little section. They’re also proof to me that an Australian producer with weird taste in music and weird music to present to the world can still make it and be successful.
8: The Avalanches – Stay Another Season
My ninth pick is Lotus Eater by Mura Masa. This is from their album Soundtrack To A Death. Compared to the pop focused Mura Masa that we know today, this sounds quite different. This is low key Trap and instrumental hip hop, written in a really sparse and vast way. The flute on this track sits far higher above the absolutely ginormous bass line that just rumbles through the speakers every time it hits. But there’s all this empty Kevin a space around it. And it just has this really minimal feel to it. But it doesn’t need anything more than that to convey its idea. And it’s the song that taught me to be restrained when I can because even the quiet moments can hit hard if they sound or alright.
9: Mura Masa – Lotus Eater
My 10th and last pick is Two Can Win by J Dilla. This is pretty obvious pick for any beat maker out there, J Dilla is legendary within the beat scene, I think he’ll be and continue to be one of the most recognised beat makers of all time. I feel like this song and Don’t Cry, the song immediately comes after it on Donuts, are masterclasses in how to take a sample and only that sample and manipulate it into something completely different. Something with new emotions new feeling, new tempo, turning a song that had context within a previous period and giving it new life and showing it to a new audience who will appreciate both the new and the old and for the old they’ll recognise it and recognise what it could be in the hands of someone completely different.
10: J Dilla – Two Can Win