Saturday, February 20, 2010

LWE Podcast 42: Anthony “Shake” Shakir

Podcast 42: Anthony “Shake” Shakir
By now, any techno head should know that Anthony “Shake” Shakir was one of the music’s creators. It’s hard to resist mentioning that he had a track on that first Detroit techno compilation, that he put out a record on Metroplex, and so on. But the recent Frictionalism compilation on Rush Hour demonstrates that his significance doesn’t stop there. While Shake’s profile may not have blown up like some of his neighbors, his recorded output has arguably been more consistent than any other techno producer. Remarkably, his approach to production remains as singularly brilliant as ever — edges have not dulled, colors have not faded. Shake is one Detroit techno legend whose entry in the history books cannot yet be written; too much lies ahead. For instance, catch him DJing at the Bunker on February 12, as part of New York’s Unsound Festival, along with DJ Qu, Petre Inspirescu, Eric Cloutier, and schoolmate Mike Huckaby. Those unable to attend need not worry — LWE’s 42d Podcast is an exclusive mix straight from Shake’s decks. The urbane Mr. Shakir also took the time for an expansive discussion with LWE, on subjects ranging from Motown, to MIDI, to Mel Brooks.

01. Patrice Scott, “Do You Feel Me” [Sistrum Recordings]
02. Norm Talley, “The Journey” [Third Ear Recordings]
03. Marcello Napaloteno, “Amici” [Mathematics Recordings]
04. Mike Huckaby, “Jupiter” [S Y N T H]
05. Scott Grooves, “Only 500″ [Natural Midi]
06. Disco Nihilist, “B2″ [Love What You Feel]
07. Billie Jewell & Peven Everett, “All The Time” [Trippin Records]
08. Confetti Bomb, “Fladdermus” [Autoreply Music]
09. Jolka, “Dreamful” [Sect Records]
10. Jeff Mills, “Rich” [Axis]
11. Wax, “No. 10001-A1″ [Wax]
12. Unknown artist, “Untitled” [white]

Download: LWE Podcast 42: Anthony “Shake” Shakir (44:59)

Have your friends always called you Shake, or do you just use that for your music?
Anthony “Shake” Shakir: Oh, I got a line for this. My name is Anthony Shakir, but my mother calls me Tony. She tries to call me Shake but I don’t like her to do that. I got the name Shake because in 1978, as a black Nation of Islam Muslim, Wallace Muhammad, Elijah Muhammad’s son, who had taken over holding the reins of the Nation of Islam, said that all Nation of Islam Muslims should get rid of their slave names to get closer to who they are. We don’t know who we are as blacks in America, that’s a longer story. So my parents chose the name Shakir. I remember that because I was in fifth grade, and I was ten years old. I didn’t like the name when I got it, but I was like, alright, whatever. I didn’t like it till girls started telling me, oh that sounds like a pretty name, I’m gonna name my baby Shakir. So then I was like, it must not be that bad. But kids couldn’t pronounce it. They’d be like, hey Shaky! Hey Shocker! So they started calling me Shake. It became a shield for me, like I had a different personality. Like in The Beatles’ “Hard Day’s Night” movie, there’s a character named Shake. There’s a joke in “History of the World Part 1,” the Mel Brooks movie, where Harvey Korman says, “Wait for the shake!” So after a while it stuck.
So the Frictionalism retrospective set just came out. What made that project happen?
I’d been wanting to put out an album. Kenny Larkin put out a record for R&S in the early nineties. I saw this album, and I’m thinking like, wow, we can actually make albums with this music. I was trying to make 12-inches, because at that time I still didn’t even own equipment to make music. So I’ve always wanted to do an album. But this, for lack of a better term, was a “retrospective.” I’d rather call it a retrospective than “best of,” because that’s like, it’s already done, that’s it. All those records on there, with the exception of two or three came out on Frictional, which started as an idea in 1992. I started putting records out in ‘94. I finally got confidence in what I was doing by about ‘97.
As for Frictionalism as a title, I remember a jazz album, by a great saxophone player named David “Fathead” Newman called Newmanism. So I thought, I’m gonna call it Frictionalism — like it’s a cult or something, or just an idea. Even before I hooked up with Rush Hour, my whole thing was trying to get an album out in Europe, so it could bounce back over here. But what happened in the process of me doing it that way with Rush Hour was that the market for that stuff over here really died.
Does it bug you that there’s a market for what you do overseas, but not as much here?
Nope. I’m glad it’s like that. I’m glad they don’t like it here. The thing about techno music in Detroit, Detroit gets the credit for inventing it, which we didn’t do. I would say Kraftwerk kind of invented it as a pop music form. All we did was put a black face on it. That’s part of what enables it to still thrive to this day.

What did Detroit add to it?
I know what I did to it. I applied a hip-hop approach to the music. So technically if you take Kraftwerk as a basis, look at Afrika Bambaataa and Soul Sonic Force with “Planet Rock,” which took two of their songs and combined for that electro record. But I applied that rap musical idea to techno music. I think that’s what helped me set myself apart from everybody else I was working with.
One of the most original things about your body of work, which really stands out on the Frictionalism set, is how diverse it is. You’ve got a lot of different styles, different speeds.
That’s funny. Dan Bell would always say, your records be jumping all over the place! It’s not one specific sound or style. I told him, man that’s how I listen to music. I never liked to listen to one particular thing.
What do you listen to besides house and techno?
Jazz music. Soul music, definitely. Motown, definitely. Cartoon music, definitely. Movies. People.
Being someone whose music is so diverse, do you keep up with all the subgenres dance music has split into?
I listen to all of it — and if it’s funky, I’ll play it in my set. I like dubstep. I liked drum and bass, the Reinforced crew and all of them. I liked them, they liked us. I like anything that’s got a groove to it. I like a good song here and there. I like Johnny Cash! He’s a country guy, but country was too small a label to stick on him. His music was beyond that.
So as someone who likes a good pop song, do you hear the influence of Detroit techno on pop music?
The closest I can say to that is Radiohead’s Kid A album. They deliberately took an electronic approach. I think that was more based on what was happening in England, but at the same time, what was happening in England was based on the kind of stuff we were doing already. I look at it like, everybody uses machines to make records. So it’s all techno to me!

What machines do you use to make your own records?
I used to say, every record that’s ever been recorded is part of my music. Because I’m a sample guy. Any record that’s been put out, I can find a way to make it sound like me. That’s the beauty of MIDI instrumentation. If it wasn’t for MIDI, I don’t know if I could do music, because I didn’t have the patience to practice acoustic instruments when I had them around. So because of MIDI, you can cut and paste, copy, start over, you got everything you need.
What kind of stuff do you sample? Anything that would surprise us?
For “Fact of the Matter” that came out on Seventh City, on the EP Tracks for My Father, I sampled the drums from Tyree Cooper’s “I Fear the Night.” I remember when that record came out — it was a funny record to me, but I liked it. That’s when the Chicago thing was happening, it was ‘85 or ‘86. These kids, they couldn’t sing. They just wanted to make records! So the girl who’s singing on the record, she can’t really sing, but you can’t tell that she can’t sing, ’cause she’s singing! It worked. The thing I liked about the track was it had a nice pop to it. A snap. When I sampled it, I put it together like a hip-hop record. Not at a hip-hop tempo, but at a club tempo. For the next Frictional record that’s coming out, I sample “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” the Sergio Leone movie. When you hear it, you might be able to pick up on it or you might not. That’s my next record that’s coming out.
So you’re playing in New York in February, at the Bunker for the Unsound Festival. Do you play out much?
I’ve been playing out recently, since last November. I played out a few times earlier last year, but my main thing was, I didn’t want to play out unless I had something new out. Now I’ve got this compilation album and this 12-inch, and I can get back to work.
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