Shadow Child is a mainstay of UK club culture and has been at the forefront of house music both in Britain and worldwide for over a decade. Moving into a new phase of his lengthy career, the UK-based producer re-emerged in 2012 under his new guise, with debut release String Thing - an immediate house classic released on Claude Vonstroke’s Dirtybird imprint, and supported by the likes of Eats Everything and Annie Mac. He’s since carved out a huge new status in the new era of house music, developing a sound that brings together the roots of his years in the scene – early rave, house and drum n bass – and the current wave of house. His busiest year yet, 2015 saw him tour relentlessly, with a string of US dates, sets at Amnesia and Sankeys Ibiza, high-profile festival appearances including Hideout and Parklife, and a selection of UK and European shows to end the year, to name just a few highlights.
Most recently, with his collaborative production with Ben Pearce, remixes for the likes of The Prodigy, The xx and Hot Natured, and his regular Rinse FM show, Shadow Child has continued as one of the house scene’s most prolific and most respected.
“There wasn’t ever any plan with it. I just stumbled on doing what I’ve ended up doing with it. I think there’s a lot of people who just follow what others do, so it’s nice to have caught the wave early and showed my roots. I just brought my influences into one pot, and I’ve ended up with a new project. Everything was under my nose really, and that’s what Shadow Child is.”
The Shadow Child name began as he became eager to change his style, and was increasingly inspired by the way house music was experiencing a rebirth, returning to the grittier, underground sound of “small warehouses, basements of buildings, abandoned places” that had birthed his earliest love of dance music.
“I didn’t even really know what the DJs were playing at those parties, but I knew that it was house and very stripped back, with a completely different vibe. It just felt like I could actually be creative over there rather than where I was at the time. You’ve got to give yourself space to be creative, a bit of freedom... The more boundaries you have, the less creative something becomes.”
Since the release of String Thing, Shadow Child has continued to develop and grow his sound, owing to an open-minded willingness to experiment with new influences, and thanks to the almost polar opposite worlds of his DJ sets, both at “forward thinking” underground clubs and huge mainstream festivals – “where people come with a particular expectation”. While the low ceiling clubs and warehouse raves of the underground scene have continued to inspire his Rinse FM show and the output of his Food Music label, the festival circuit and his experiences in America have grown his sound to incorporate the new mainstream house audience. His sets now flit from “big basslines and beats from the old skool” to “tracks that aren’t really overproduced and trying to do too much; big moments, but quite modest in some ways”. That dynamic, of peaks and teases, and a carefully curated “shape”, have made his sets some of the most eclectic, individual and gloriously unpredictable on the scene.
That eclecticism extends to the studio, where his constant search for new sounds has seen him collaborate with other producers and writers, most recently Ben Pearce; an impromptu back-to-back set at Dublin’s now defunct Twisted Pepper led a meeting of minds in the studio, and the release of Nothing Ever Hurts, featuring the vocals of rising UK star Laurel. One of 2015’s standout house tracks, the track marked a new direction he describes as a “sidestep” from his usual approach; “I can’t quite put my finger on why but working with Ben... it was just a really good thing to have done.” That experience of collaborating with Pearce has even sown the seed for a new project, set to be unveiled in 2016; “I’ve done a few other collabs, and now I’ve started a new album project, the essence of which will be collaborations. That record is a knock- on effect of the work with Ben; it put some confidence back into working with other people.”
The collaboration with others continues on the other side of the production desk, with the running of the Food Music label alongside Lewis Darvill, of Kry Wolf. Responsible for releases for A1 Bassline, Boxia and NT89, the label has become renowned for its varied, eclectic ethos and the pair are set to take their output up a level in 2016 while remaining true to the label’s principles of supporting and providing a platform to new producers.
And as if producing, DJing, and running a label wasn’t enough, Shadow Child’s weekly residency on Rinse FM has become one of the station’s biggest. Presenting worldwide every Wednesday night, Shadow Child’s two hour show has given him another platform to share some of the most exciting new dance music, and the classics that influenced them.
“I think people listen to radio quite differently to how they consume music in a club. The way I put together the show is to showcase an hour of new, upfront stuff, play some tracks that are something really different, and bring in a guest that can be someone established or a new up-and-comer whose records I’ve heard and that I want to support. And then I’ll bring out some old stuff - old house, rave, or whatever. There
are so many tracks that people don’t know are out there. This current crowd, it’s a clean break from the rave generation. This is a generation with fresh ears, fresh ideas, and it’s about bringing something to them too.”
Shadow Child’s Rinse residency perfectly exemplifies his approach, bringing together his meticulous knowledge not just of the best new music, but of how the scene has changed, and continues to...
“I’ve seen a complete transition in the last ten years. It’s been a really interesting few years and I take a lot with me, but I appreciate the adjustment you have to make to the way people want to experience music now. In the UK, we’re very used to specialist shows having big audiences but abroad this explosion of music has been on Soundcloud and social media, so people have a different idea of how they expect to hear new music. I’ve grown up with the traditional way of doing radio, but I’ve had to get used to how those new listeners, who fuel the fire and allow me to do what I do and travel like I do, want to hear stuff. I have to come around to their way of thinking... otherwise you’ll just become stale, with your way of thinking.” !