A Chat With: Shash'U
I met up with Richard aka Shash'U in one of Montreal's coffee shops to look back on his past projects and his current one; Street X . The Montreal DJ, beat maker, and producer amongst other things, spoke to me more about Joy Ride Records and their involvement in the music scene, working for Rihanna and much more!
I want to go back a bit, you studied sound engineering, you played drums and danced, do you ever wish you would focus on one thing or do all those aspects help you?
Yeah, I do many things but it all involves music. If its dancing then I’m doing music for dancers, if its for artists or whatnot its still music. Sound designing for short films and stuff like that, its still the music.
You have a signature line, “the beats that got you, its gotta be Shash’U” how did you come up with it?
I don’t know, I just thought of something that could be cool and catchy. That one I did it when I was 18 or 19 and its funny, a couple of years ago I was thinking about that tag as too ‘cocky’ I guess and then I changed it and people are like “oh no you should put it back, I miss your original tag”. Right now its just a digital voice, like an android voice saying my name but I brought the original tag back in my remixes and stuff.
Also going way back, for GORILADOGZ Vol.1, what is the piu piu movement?
You’re the first person to ask me about GORILADOGZ, that’s cool! Piu piu is a beat movement that started in Montreal, in Quebec which involves beat makers who go in and do music that is influenced by the L.A. scene in a way. The sounds are similar to Flying Lotus and similar to a bunch of others. The original meaning of piu piu was sampling original Quebec music and transforming it into something else like a hip-hop influenced track. That was the original meaning of it coming from Vlooper, who’s a member of Alaclair Ensemble. For me piu piu means just like left field music, abstract music with a hip-hop background.
Is it still happening now as much as before?
Yeah, the events were held and curated by Artbeat Montreal so they still do monthly events through the loop sessions or by beat battle events or showcases where they would showcase young up and coming beat makers. So, Artbeat are the ones who take care of the whole piu piu movement.
What’s the difference between creating an EP with only instrumentals versus one where artists sing/rap on your beats?
I’d say when you’re doing an instrumental track you’re not really thinking about creating room for somebody to lay vocals on top of it, and when its instrumental you can kind of go any direction. In a case where I want vocals on top of a production, like the case in Street X, I really wanted to make songs, find new ways of making songs interesting.
And when you make songs with artists on them, do you look for up and comers and more underground artists to give them a platform?
For Street X, they’re people that I’ve worked with previously and that I know very well. Its people who I believe have great talent and I wanted to work with them, for some other people they feel that reaching for the most popular artist or what not is the thing to do, but I think creating great music is essentially what needs to be done.
Do you ever want to go with more ‘mainstream’ artists?
I mean, when the opportunity comes for sure. I’m not against it cause I know I’m very fortunate being able to still be me making music and touching different fields in music like performing at la St-Jean in Quebec with a whole bunch of folklore and rock artists or to be on the flip side doing shows with Flosstradamus and stuff like that, its completely different but I still get to be myself so I’m not afraid of that.
Talk to me a bit about the concept of Street X, how it came together?
I can tell you about the name; its a street unknown, street ‘x’, meaning unknown new sounds of Shash’U basically.
What inspired the EP?
Me wanting more. Like from the previous projects I’ve done with Fools Gold to now. Some of the tracks were actually tracks I had already started to build and use on tour to see how people would react and stuff so I think my influence is my on stage experience.
Tell me a bit more about Joy Ride Records
The essence of Joy Ride, the whole aesthetic, the whole artistic direction for it is something I tested on my own, on my side and the rest of the team liked it and went with that.
What’s the goal of the label?
For us its really to establish great music and have it exportable outside of Quebec, that’s one of our main goals. David Lee just released an EP called UP and I did the art direction for that and produced a lot of the tracks on it too and same thing for Rymz I did some production on his project too. We’re all focusing on getting the music out of Quebec, like Loud is going to perform in France which is really cool.
How do you feel Joy Ride fits into the Montreal music scene?
I think it fits well, its still young we just started but we have a lot of experience in the field. With this imprint its an opportunity to showcase what we’ve really been thinking about for a while now.
What have you guys been thinking about?
Hahah releasing more music, doing more shows and events catering to a vibe. For me one of my goals is to re-establish the rave scene, not just the club scene but the vibe of going to a party and dancing on the music more than going and drinking to look nice you know. I wanna bring the mosh-pit back.
How do you place yourself in the music scene in Montreal as a DJ?
I’ve been doing it for a long time. I consider myself one of the vets, not to brag or anything ahah just full of confidence. But yeah, I’m part of the people who’s been pushing the left field music, maybe through piu piu and DJ-ing for the street dance world which I still do. I think my role is important, I don’t think there’s other people who do it like me, I don’t know any other DJs who can produce a pop record but at the same DJ for a legit street dance battle and perform next to Diane Dufresne.
You worked with a lot of international artists, which one was your favourite experience?
I think the biggest one and an interesting one was working for Rihanna. For her Anti World Tour I did a version of her song Man Down for her performances, so she performed on my production for every city. I got to meet her musical director which was really cool! He directed Kanye West on tour and a bunch of different people. Rihanna is cool but for me the music director, the person who’s behind everybody is what interests me. I mean, when you’re a producer you’re mostly behind the scenes of how the tracks work and how you want them to be performed, to meet a peer who does that on a bigger scale is very interesting.
Listen to Street X HERE Catch Shash'U DJ sets every Thursday at Don B Comber in Montreal!
Photo credit: Manny