Shonky: From maths lover to international DJ
Late last year I interviewed Dan Ghenacia and Dyed Soundorom but missing from that interview was their friend, and third piece of the puzzle, Shonky. Just like Dan and Dyed, Shonky is someone I rate highly for both his dexterity as a DJ and the music he makes, too – there’s something about his production style that is so easy to identify, it’s what I call the ‘Shonky sound’. After seeing him in action at WMC in Miami earlier this year, I caught up with him for a chat and he handed me an exclusive mix, too.
Firstly, where does your name come from?
It’s a nickname from school. I was a bit weird, always in my own little bubble and studying maths. Of course, over the years I’ve changed quite a bit! But the name stuck (anyway my real name – Olivier – was too common to be a DJ name).
Where are you from in France and how much influence do you think your city has had on your musical direction?
I am from Paris. When I started to go out in ‘98, deep house was huge in Paris with DJs like Jef K and Dan Ghenacia. I was hanging out at the infamous after-parties at Batofar where they were playing only this sound. I was there where I met most of the crew from [French record label] Freak n’Chic and I think this time had a really big impact on my musical direction.
Did you always want to be a musician? Are you trained in any instruments?
Not really, I was always interested in music and listened to a lot of music when I was younger, but one regret I have is that I never learned to play an instrument. My sister has been playing the piano for 15 years and every time I come back home and see her play, I think how I would love to be able to do the same.
When did you decide “I want to be a DJ”?
The process came slowly. I bought my first pair of decks when I started to go out in ‘98, just as a hobby, because at this time I was starting my studies in Mathematics. I got more involved in the music scene and started to play records in clubs around 1999, then started to experiment with producing a couple of years after. It wasn’t until I had graduated that I decided to give this desire for music and DJing a go.
How did you make this dream come true? Can you remember the first time you played to a crowd of people?
Thankfully I decided to go to sound engineering school after finishing my studies. For me, it was really important to be a producer in order to have more gigs. If I wanted to be well known and play internationally, I felt I needed to make a name as a producer first.
As for the first time I played for a real audience, it was in ‘99 when my friend Dyed Soundorom was promoting the best parties in Paris. He offered me my first gig and I opened up for Dan Ghenacia – I remember being really stressed! But Dan happened to be a bit late, so I had the chance to play longer and ended up getting really into it.
Did you ever imagine you would traveling the world as a DJ?
If you would have asked me in 2000, I was only dreaming about playing in Paris. When I started to get gigs around Europe, and especially when I did my first American tour, I fully realised that my effort in following the musical direction had been really worth it.
Production-wise you have a very definite sound, (the ‘Shonky sound’) – how would you describe your music?
The main element for me is the bass line, I always try to work around that. It’s my skeleton and then the rest follows.
What are the key elements that make up a Shonky track?
I’m trying to use more and more pads. I need my MPC3000 my SH101 and the JUNO106, I feel really comfortable with this equipment.
What inspires you to carry on making music?
Everything I am listening to in my surroundings. I am always paying attention to see if I can get some new ideas or cool sounds to use, or be inspired by a sample. I listen to a lot of different types of music, not restricted to one style, so I like to try to combine different roots in my tracks.
Which do you prefer, making music or DJing and why?
The two things are completely different and give you different emotions. When you DJ you get instant feedback from the crowd which is really invigorating. Producing is about trying to express all that you have inside – it’s a good way to learn more about yourself. I enjoy both but if I had to choose I would probably pick DJing because I like to party.
You now have your own label, Apollonia. Can you tell me about your plans in terms of releases and parties?
The next Apollonia Showcase will at fabric, London on 2nd June. We play together in Room 1 all night long – I’m really buzzing for this one! For Sonar 2012 in Barcelona we have the Apollonia VS Visionquest party at Mac Arena Beach, which also promises to be crazy. During the summer there are many other Apollonia dates planned, including of course DC10 Ibiza. Super excited!
For Apollonia releases, the second EP ‘Close To The Edge’ from Dan and myself, with a remix from The Mole, is out on vinyl now and on digital mid June. Then later in the year there will be a solo EP coming up from Dyed and another from Dan.
You’re playing the DC10 opening and Apollonia also have a showcase there – what can we expect from you at both parties?
We will perform a few times at DC10 this year as Apollonia. The concept is to play back-to-back all night long, with Dan Ghenacia and Dyed Soundorom, playing one record each. We already performed like this a few times and it always brings a really nice vibe. Coupled with the magical environment of Circoloco I hope it will be the bomb. We actually I’m pretty sure about that.
Can you name some of your most memorable DJ gigs so far… and what was so special about each one?
My favourite gigs are the ones with my close friends. And I have to say I’ve had a lot of great experiences at Panorama Bar and Circoloco, DC10. I played with Dan and Dyed for Cassy’s birthday at Panorama Bar last November and it was really special to play 9 hours back-to-back – it was the first time we did this together. Also the party with all the LOLA ED crew last year for Dyed’s birthday at DC10 was amazing! The Freak n’Chic showcace at Fabric was also an unforgettable one. I played back-to-back with Dan and Dyed for almost 7 hours and it was the last Freak n’Chic showcase as Dan had to close the label. It was a great final party and very poignant.
What’s been your highlight of the year so far?
Recently I played a 12 hour set back-to-back with Dan for a Sunday night at Panorama Bar. This was epic. We played from 7pm till almost 7am Monday morning. And the crazy thing was we weren’t even tired at the end. We wanted more! Those great times are unique and you need to enjoy them as much as possible, this is why I’m doing this job.
How do you spend your time when you’re not making/playing music?
Well it’s hard to get away from it because the schedule is pretty hectic. During the week I need to buy new records, make more music, listen to promos, then at the weekend I am away for gigs. When I am at home I try to relax for the next weekend or party with friends.
Finally, in terms of your music, what’s your ultimate dream?
To make music and play with my friends all around the world as long as possible!apollonia, Dan Ghenacia, Dyed Soundorom, France, paris, Shonky
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