Slacker, the Memory Man

With more than 16 years of experience in DJ-ing, Shem McCauley AKA Slacker continues to be on the cutting edge, with a reach far beyond most of his contemporaries, a history spanning numerous musical genres and a sundry checklist of fans throughout the business. Owner of the record label Jukebox In The Sky, he created a hybrid of his own funk roots with more contemporary house sounds under the moniker of Slacker.

Jukebox In The Sky continues to go from strength to strength with the recent launch of a comprehensive website and webshop. With a mixture of influences, Slacker is known now as a juggler with synths and samples, building up a unique and eclectic style. Fruitful producer, he created together with his partner Simon George over 80 remixes during this period, for artists as diverse as Sister Sledge, Armand Van Helden, Lightening Seeds, Quivver and Boy George. Currently Shem is back on the road and covering the globe with more than ever to offer, not only as a DJ but now also with an exciting laptop live show.

Beat Factor had the chance to talk to Slacker recently and find out what he likes, what are his plans for this summer and his thoughts related to music industry.

Finishing an album would however give me most satisfaction, since that would be the next step as a producer.
Beat Factor: Hi there, how is the start of the spring finding you?

Slacker: Very good thanks, I am busy with a lot of studio projects and still playing gigs all over the place. The sun is out finally in the UK, and that always puts a smile on Londoner's faces.

BF: You have recently released a 2 tracks package on your own Jukebox in the Sky. One of them (Memory Man) gained a place on Dave Seaman's latest compilation for Renaissance. What was the main idea that pushed you to write not only the track itself, but particularly the lyrics?

S: I often start with samples and work from there, taking inspiration from a few initial elements and then working things into a final track. The bass line was originally from a very well-known funk record, but we (well, Simon Rogers who co-wrote the track) replayed it on a synth. The vocal sample is also from a very well know artist from the 60s (I'd better not say!) and that inspired the mood of the record. He kept a tape-recorder diary every day because he never remembered anything from the day before... I find myself returning time and time again to vocal samples that are atmospheric and emotive, which often deal with confused mental states – it's something that interests me a lot.

BF: Does the release reflect in any manner the actual or further state of your career?

S: Do you mean the vocal line? I often feel like I have no memory, and life is kind of loopy (as in mad and circular) but then the other side is called 'free man' so I'm hoping to escape one day! Musically... see below.

BF: You have a strong musical background. How would you say the Slacker sound has been developed to this point?

S: Musically, Slacker has always been about a mixture of influences, styles, organic samples, thoughtful vocal samples etc, while always keeping the funk in the rhythm department. Also not being too serious, dark or stripped down. That's just the kind of music I end up making time after time. Obviously one has to move with the times, and sounds have progressed in the ten years Slacker has been around. I think a lot of the remixes we did in 99/2000 proved we had very high and forward thinking production values, and then when I worked with Andy Page in 2001/2 we came up with some rather exciting new sounds and tracks. But I have a bigger ambition ultimately - I am planning an album for early next year, which will have wider influences, and will mostly be non-house.

BF: What future projects are scheduled in the Jukebox?

S: Lots of things this year, all collaborations with Simon Rogers –
Currently out is Slacker-Resist, to follow will be Skystate-Soundflowers EP, then the next Slacker single-Let Me Stay, and a Steiger tune Pixelbird, with a Slacker remix, all before the summer.

BF: What about your personal projects? Do you have plans for any collaboration or you prefer to work on your own?

S: I am going to remix and re-release my favorite Slacker track 'Scared' this summer, and I have had a vocal done by a great singer called Joe Cang. I keep meaning to work with other people, but I keep forgetting.

BF: Being a dj and producer for over a decade, how do you prefer to be recognized by the public – as a DJ or as a music producer? Which segment of your career gives you more satisfaction?

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Slacker, the Memory Man

May 8, 2006 at 8:46 PM CEST


Beat Factor

S: Six of one, half dozen of the other. Both are very important to me, and both feed each other positively. Finishing an album would however give me most satisfaction, since that would be the next step as a producer.

BF: Is there any specific festival or event that you're excited about this summer?

S: I played at an amazing party in Madrid last week, Goa, a monthly Sunday day-party outside the city. It was in a hugely impressive venue, the production was spectacular, 6000 people going crazy in the early evening. And the new Madrid airport is a very sexy building. I am playing at a festival in Brazil in July –that place is awesome; I have been there a lot recently. The Brazilians really know how to have fun. There is an amazing airport building in Brazilia also.

BF Do you think that smoking should be banned in clubs? Why?

S: Yes. It stinks, and more to the point, it kills people.

BF: Besides electronic music, what other interests do you have?

S: The usual I think... I listen to a lot of non-dance music at home, old pop, chill out, jazz. I love films and trips to the cinema. And reading. And bed.

BF: In your opinion, is still the UK the 'pest hole' of modern dance music and clubbing?

S: Do you mean the breeding ground? We still have a lot of talent here, but dance is now truly global, and there are amazing producers and clubs in every corner of the globe.

BF: As a label manager and music producer, what newcomer do you think that created a buzz last year and why?

S: I have liked recent stuff from The MFA, Austin Leeds, Ricky Ryan, Chris Lake, Trentemøller, Luke Dzierzek, the Great Stuff label in Germany... so many to mention. They are not all newcomers, but they are all making wicked music currently.

BF: Can you tell us about a recent gig of yours, a specific place that you visited and did some damage?

S: Madrid, see above.

Pacha, Buenos Aires last month was a crazy, electric atmosphere, and it remained completely rammed till the last tune at 8am. That place has been going for decades, and it's still rocking.

Lima, Peru never fails to amaze. I played there for the 14th time on New Years Eve just passed, at 'Home' by the beach, and it was as off the wall as my first party there 6 years ago.

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