Interview: Jay Shepheard
With a steady stream of high quality house and disco releases on esteemed labels including Futureboogie, Freerange, Pets Recordings and of course his very own Retrofit Label, Berlin-based Londoner Jay Shepheard has built an indelible reputation as a talented producer and a skilful selector.
“it’s [kind of] a meditation for me”
Your most recent EP, Red Tape, came out earlier this year on Nothing Is Real, what was the inspiration behind the release and how did it come about?
It was a combination of a couple of things coming together, I had the backing beats kicking about for a while, a very direct and skippy house riff with a kind of low pass drone and sub bass that I thought could be good for a vocal or spoken vocal track. Then I was playing about with the Oberheim SEM from Arturia and got a great modulation on this really grainy analogue sound. It occurred to me the two might fit, and that was that – came together perfectly and I’ve been playing it most sets ever since.
What kind of equipment did you use for this release?
Bass is from the Moog Little Phatty, drums are a mixture of samples and hats from the Linn 900 which I’m using quite a bit. Main hook as mentioned is from the Oberhiem and the mix down on an ZEDR16 A&H analogue desk.
Is this a typical setup for all of your releases, or do you try and change it up?
Fairly typical yes, I use the odd hardware machine mixed with software plugins, quite a bit of Waves and Arturia mainly, all the sequencing and arranging in the box and usually mix outboard.
You have also released 2 albums so far, how does writing an album compare with a single or EP?
The first album I did was all home listening stuff – so quite a different process to the club music, bit more room for variation and mixing to listen at home instead of club play was also nice and a good learning curve. The second album was a double 12″ of more clubby stuff – for this one I kept a similar sound design through the whole thing as I wanted it to maintain a central theme while also being good to DJ out. Creatively it’s interesting to work on something over a longer time period, often with club music really great tracks can come together in a couple of days – but with an LP you can get more absorbed in the overall feel and concept of the project.
Have you got any plans to release more albums in the future?
I’ve been working on something lately actually – although I plan to release under a pseudonym as it’s a very different sound, won’t say too much yet but am quite excited about it creatively. As for Jay Shepheard albums, no plans just yet, pretty much in the swing of doing 12″ EPs again for now but maybe in a year or so would look at another LP project.
You have played at Egg LDN many times since it opened, what are some of your favourite memories of playing at the venue?
I actually also played for the birthday last year which was great, played in the garden room with the Willers Brothers from Beste Modus. Good times.
How does it compare to other clubs you have played in London?
As an artist, it’s a great venue to play. Good sound, nice layout, the team are super cool, up for it crowd…all the boxes ticked basically!
You already have an extensive back catalogue with many acclaimed releases, which have been your personal favourite and why?
The very early ones are pretty special to me, as these were done just when it was a hobby and purely for fun, but ended up kick starting all that’s happened since. I’ve moved about it a bit too in the last ten years or so – so a lot of releases have specific memories to where I was living at the time – for example Fuzzy Border, one of my better-known releases from a while back, was recorded just as I had returned to living London after being abroad for 3 years, and Add Arp from Retrofit 1 was when I just moved to Berlin for the first time. Also, the collaborations I’ve enjoyed, especially the Retrofit 9 EP together with the late Martin Dawson who was a great friend of mine.
What motivates you to keep producing and DJ’ing?
It’s been a big part of my life for a long time, both as a hobby and professionally – it’s something that’s been constant in my life while there’s been a lot of other changes. I love making music, creative outlets this way always gets me in a good mood regardless anything else that’s going on, it’s kind of a meditation for me I guess, keeps me sane, haha.
What can we expect from Jay Shepheard in the coming months?
Couple new release bits coming, both for vinyl only. First there’s remix for Tusk Wax which is actually out this week, and after that an EP that I’m really happy about in May, a collaboration with DJ Steaw on his Steaward label – two originals from each of us. More releases later in the year but still tidying up details. Then gig wise I’m about a bit in May and June: iBoat, Bordeaux, Egg London, Masters Zagreb, NRD Torun, Tama Poznan, About Blank Berlin, Wooded Festival Sczcin… all dates etc on Facebook!
And you will be returning to the venue for its 15th birthday celebrations on May 4th, what can we expect from your set?
Yep, looking forward! Well, I never like to plan too much ahead. I Just see what the vibe is on the night. But I usually like to mix up genres a little rather than keep it too linear. I’ve got a few new productions of mine which I am looking forward to playing out on the system there too.
Is there anyone else on the line up you are particularly looking forward to seeing?
Will be interested to hear what FJAAK are up to…and of course up for catching a bit of Radio Slave too.
What does the future hold for Jay Shepheard?
With any luck, plenty more of all the things I love the most! Music, dancing, travel, family, friends….