Label founder, internationally renowed DJ and producer, world-traveler and someone very good at spotting hot talent all roled into one. Berlin resident Shir Khan might be one the city’s hottest names. He is head honcho at one of dance music’s most consistent genre-redefining labels: Exploited. Shir Khan proves he’s as charming as he is deadly. Never expect the usual with this character. Instead he stands for dance music hybridism in all its glorious, baffling and technicolour forms, making square pegs fit into round holes.
We had a chat with this jack-of-all-trades and discussed his label, how it all started, Claptone’s inhuman touring schedule and how to stay ahead in the game.
Can you shortly tell us something about how Exploited all got started?
It was more like a hobby of mine in the beginning. I was trying to put out an official mix-CD of mine but couldn’t find any label that would license all the tracks for me. While I was digging for tracks from friends it was obvious that after the release of my mix-CD “Maximize!” I would also need to release some tracks separately, by Siriusmo or Adam Sky for instance. From there, I just got to know more and more people and it all happened naturally.
Where does the label name come from and what’s the meaning behind it?
Exploited is rooted in the history of Pop Art by Andy Warhol. We are big fans of recycling something that was already there and bringing it into new forms. Just like a collage that could have been done by Andy Warhol. Exploit Popular Culture. That’s our musical mission.
Exploited’s release by Adam Sky and Mark Stewart has put your label on the map since the beginning. I remember I was banging that tune in my house back in 2009. How has the musical vision of exploited changed since then?
I started out more electro-orientated. The Adam Sky / Mark Stewart / Crookers Tune was released in 2007 and during that time new music was discovered via online blogs. Some called it Blog House, others labeled it New-Rave. I probably was also a part of this phenomena in the beginning with the label but soon you get bored…so you change and go along with the times.
How do you keep the success formula behind the releases up to date?
Its all about timing. That’s the magic keyword to me: Timing.
What can Exploited fans expect February 14th on this Valentine’s Day event? Will Exploited be playing the role of Cupid that night?
We bring bow and arrow, play a few lovesongs for the lovers out there and then bring your heart in musical motion.
You haven’t released any new stuff as Shir Khan, although your compiled music packs such as Black Jukebox and Secret Gold, which brings more disco into people’s lives. Is this a new path you wish to follow or can we expect an EP from you in 2014?
That remains a secret for quite a long time now. I didn’t have much time the last 2 years on making my own music since I also did manage quite a few of my artists. I have been more like a compiler in the past but there is still hope you are going to hear from me. You never know..
Are there multiple people behind your label’s A&R, or do you take care of that yourself?
I am 100% the A&R myself. For a long time the label was a one-man company but now I have a labelmanager and 2 interns who help me out so I can focus more on the creative process of the label.
What was the weirdest demo track you ever received for Exploited?
We once received a lot of Italian and Russian Progressive House Demos. On the other hand I also got demos from really big names – don’t really wanna mention any names though – but I always wanted to push unknown new names.
What can we expect from Exploited in 2014 apart from the already announced EP of Adana Twins?
We have got new singles from Claptone, Adana Twins, Homework, Joyce Muniz lined up for now but also stuff from newcomers on the label such as Isis Salam, Jad & The Ladyboy or The Close Up.
Some people are concerned about Claptone’s way of touring. For instance, we saw that Claptone will be playing in the US as well on the 14th of February. Is there more than one person behind the mask?
The story of Claptone hasn’t been told yet and maybe it will be at some point once the album is done.
Who’s the funniest artist from the entire Exploited family? And who is the most serious?
The most funny couple are the Adana Twins – they are always good fun. Joyce Muniz can be pretty crazy as well! The most serious – even if it might seem strange for you – is indeed Claptone.
Which label has set the tone for the year 2014 according to you and why?
Hard to say for 2014. My favourite Label in 2013 was a small label from Berlin called Odd Socks Records – they have artists like Josh T and James Creed ect. Of course there is a comeback of Innervisions but when you ask for my personal taste…yes I still would say: Odd Socks Records and probably Aniara Records of Genius Of Time Fame.
Can you list a few golden rules for people who wish to start their own successful record label in the industry?
Be strong – believe in what you do and when you think you are nearly bankrupt don’t give up. Go out a lot and meet a lot of people and when you get there don’t listen to too much bullshit people are trying to tell you. Always stay true to yourself and the label. Go against the Grain , against the Hype. You have to create it yourself.
Do you have an interest in Genghis Khan, or did your stage name come to life in another way?
No not really. Shir Khan is actually a metaphor for the Tiger from the Jungle Book – for me the king of the urban jungle. I am a big city kid who grew up in Berlin and as you know: “It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes you wonder how you keep from going under”.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, how many love notes have you or your artists received since Exploited took over the hearts of clubbers?
We have been pleased with Lipsticks all over our faces and body’s, bras and underwear, strange parfume and gummi-bears.
Shir Khan | Claptone | Kyodai | Homework |