Spotlight On: Shawn Michael

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July 18, 2011 by DJ Elroy

The musical experience is never-ending. As listeners we’re always hoping to find something new, something memorable, something that will knock our asses on the floor in amazement.

Here at the Digital Dancefloor I’ve been searching out new music by new names. Sure, I’ve still got mixes from the heavy hitters in the underground dance industry, but where are the new faces?

My call for up-and-coming artists starts in New York with DJ Shawn Michael. I had a chance to check out some of his past mixes (including some Proton Radio spots) and just had to find out his story…

Right now I’m jamming to mix you put together for the Digital Dancefloor’s “Spotlight On” feature and am really enjoying it. You’ve definitely got a natural flow going for you. How long have you been mixing?

I’ll technically say about two years ago, but that first year I spent trying to “find myself”, you know? Just learning the gear and the basics. I didn’t really get serious about DJing until last summer.

So you missed the “good ol’ days” of vinyl. What gear are you rocking at the moment?

Two Pioneer CDJ1000s, a Pioneer DJM600 mixer, Pioneer EFX500. I try to keep it simple. No DVS systems or computers or anything in my setup.

And do you produce too?

Naw, not yet. I’ve toyed around with some of the production software – what DJ hasn’t? – but I’m not ready to make the jump yet. There’s so much I still have to learn about DJing; I really want to focus everything there right now.

Let’s step back for a minute; what got you into the scene in the first place?

I had a friend that used to make mixes back in the day. I was really impressed with the things he could do, the way he could make the music his own. I thought, “I can do this!” I picked up some ideas from him, but have really learned just by watching other jocks play, listening to mixes and deconstructing them, and experimenting.

Any bumps along the way thus far?

Not really anything that threw me off track. I’m still trying to find “my sound”, you know? My style has changed quite a bit since I first picked up the headphones. I used to be big into the electro house scene, back when it was peaking. But I lost interest in that pretty quick. It all just started to sound the same. Nothing new, nothing fresh. From there I moved in a more progressive-house direction. Not what I play now; it was the older, more trancy stuff. I stayed with that for a while but it just didn’t feel right, so I decided to step back and re-asses the direction I was going. I spent some more time studying up on everything, the different genres and whatnot. Here’s where I put in all that time checking out different DJs and their mixes to find what worked and what didn’t. Most people don’t realize how different one DJ is from the next

So are you happy where you’re at now?

Yes, I think so. I’d been bitten by the house bug, but like I said, it took me a while to find my groove. I opened up a bit and listed to what was out there, and then one day it just clicked! Now I’m a mixed bag, I do a bit of straight house music, some tech-house, deeper stuff, proggy stuff… Well not really the melodic trancy-progressive anymore but the more housey side of it. I’m influenced from a few different directions. Lately I’ve been diggin’ guys like Luke Fair, Gabriel Sordo, and Balearik. A typical set for me will start off with some slower deep- or tech-house, and then gradually build up into more big-room, progressive, and “normal” house sounds. I like to try bring everything full-circle; towards the end I’ll bring things back down a notch and try to tie everything together. You see a lot of kids just slamming the “peak” parts of the songs and cramming as much into an hour as they can. I’m not like that. I like to make sure each song has room to breathe; I’ll let them play out a bit more if that’s what works for the set. I’m not always in a hurry to get to the next track; for me it’s quality over quantity.

And where do you hope to go with this?

Oh, wow. Where does everyone hope to go? I would like to tour the world and play at clubs in different countries.  I’ll be completely honest though, I don’t need to be a superstar DJ selling out stadiums based on my name.  That’s just not me. I’ve always thought the smaller venues are more intimate. What I would like is to have a decent following of fans that really care for the music; fans that trust my song selection and style. For now I’d be happy to find a solid opening gig. I wouldn’t mind finding a mentor, a bigger name DJ or something, to kind of learn the ropes and maybe do some shows with. There’s always stuff to learn, and not all of it is about the music itself… There’s the biz side of things, too. But for now I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. No use worrying about the future.

Let’s get a bit more specific now. Any big gigs or accomplishments so far?

Gigs? Not really. I’m still trying to break out, and the scene in my area isn’t really looking for my style of house. But the web has opened up some doors for me. I’ve done a few guest mixes for Proton Radio have gotten strong support with those. I also do a weekly mix for every Saturday night. I enjoy doing the show because it gives me the creative freedom to play what I like. The show has a decent following and the fans have been really good to me so far. So much in fact that I’ve been contacted by some bigger, more established shows. Can’t say much more than that now, but stay tuned!

Any place else you like to hang out online?

I don’t really spend a lot of time on the ‘net aside from checkin’ emails and finding music. Boring stuff like that.

So the scene in your area sucks. What do you think of the underground dance music scene as a whole?

The scene is so big it’s hard to say everything is going in the same direction. Some things are definitely heading down the wrong path, but there are plenty of things to be happy about. Like the genres… Take the “progressive house”, for example. It seems to have gotten steadily worse over the years. Everything sounds so recycled now. To me it peaked back around 2004-2006ish when it had that soul, that feeling! Now it just feels played out, diluted, and really drained of emotion.

On the other hand, tech-house seems to be heading in a better direction. A lot of the recent tech-house productions have been blowing my mind. It’s finally broken the old-genre constraints and it’s really grown into something new.

Any final words of wisdom before you go?

“You make it happen” – something I was told by a big name DJ a while back. You can wait around for the right moment to come, or you could go out and find it yourself.

July Top 10 – Shawn Michael

01: UBQ Project – When I Feel in Love
02: lil Louis – French Kiss
03: Deetron – Starblazer
04: Azari & III – Hungry for the Power (Jamie Jones Ridge Street RMX)
05: M1 – Feel the Drums
06: Marco Bailey – Bill the Trumpet Player
07: Wehbba – Technocolor (Peter Horrevorts EMX)
08: Vadim Yershov – Cottage Industry (Dave Angel RMX)
09: Laura Jones – Love in Me
10: 9West – Chasing Demons

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