10 years of shanking – Bom Shanka Music anniversary interview with Al Shanka
Reported by Tara
Submitted 08-11-17 13:51
Founded in 2007 by Al Shanka and Richie ‘Asimilon’ Elmes, Bom Shanka Music has morphed organically into one of the underground psy scene’s highest grade labels. The Bom Shanka sound is distinctively hard, dark and driving and over the last 10 years it’s torn up dancefloors all over the globe, from the biggest international festivals like Boom and Ozora to the most hardcore underground warehouse parties. Meanwhile the Bom Shanka stable just keeps growing, with recent releases from the likes of Chris Rich, Telepathy and Parasect ensuring they stay firmly at the cutting edge.
This weekend saw the first of Bom Shanka’s 10 year birthday celebrations kick off at the Return of the Atom 10-Year Anniversary Halloween Ball at London’s Boombox Lab, where Al and Nuky played a mind-bending foot-stomping three-hour set. This was but a warm-up however for the coming weekend’s festivities, where in conjunction with Planet Shroom Productions, the label puts an epic party to celebrate 10 years of shanking: the Bom Shanka Music - 10 years anniversary at Bristol’s Trinity Centre!
Hi Al! Thanks for taking some time out to answer a few questions ahead of your 10 years of Bom Shanka celebrations over the coming weeks.
First, congrats on Bom Shanka reaching an epic shanking 10th birthday!
Can you remember what first inspired you to give birth to Bom Shanka Al? How did you and Richie (Psymmetrix) first meet and start making music together?
Good morning! So Richie and I first met in the infamous butterfly house squat in Kent. We were both making music individually back then and when we got a booked to play a set at the Liquid Futures New Year party we listened to our solo work and knew that the set wouldn’t work… So, we decided to make a whole new set, which we did in less than a month, and out of that Psymmetrix was born.
When you decided to launch the label, did you have any idea that it would grow into such an incredible musical monster of international proportions?
Eheh, well thanks, but I feel we could have done better or become bigger. Back when we started, to be honest, no one really gave us a chance, and I guess that was fair enough. I mean how many people say they are making a label? And how many of those labels fold after a few releases? But we know that we need to stay true to our original vision of just making and releasing killer psychedelic music.
The first Bom Shanka release was the game-changing The Solution in 2007, which included tracks by Parasense, Illegal Machines, Tron & Stu and of course your very own Psymmetrix’s ‘Crack Pipes and Bongs’ becoming something of a London squat party anthem at the time. Can you remember what an impact that first release had? Or was it more of a gradual thing as you released more and more shanking albums?
I’m pretty sure not many people noticed anything about us at the start. I think it wasn’t until Nuky’s Bloodlines comp that we really started to gain international traction – until then, we were local internationals!!
With the creation of the Bom Shanka label, you actually created an entire sub-genre of psy trance, the Bom Shanka sound. Rather than me putting words in your mouth, how would you describe it?
I’m not sure if I’d say we created a sub-genre, but there is definitely a style of psy trance that’s called the UK sound or something like that now, and how would I describe it? Psychedelic dance music – that is what it says it is!
I think that we are somewhere close to the middle ground really! Imagine if you have prog at one end and hi-tek at the other, we are just at the hard end of the center ground of real psychedelic dance music is a shorter better way of saying that!
Over the last 10 years there have some been some absolutely epic releases, parties and festival sets. What have been the Bom Shanka highlights of the last 10 years for you?
Well for sure the big ones stand out, like playing the opening night at Ozora this year for example, but I’m also a big fan of the smaller gigs, like the insanely intense dancefloor of Shiva Valley. One of the best Bom Shanka highlights for me was playing a Psymmetrix set at sunrise on a desert island just off the Bahrain coast. The DJ booth was a pirate ship – complete with plank and everything – and about 200 lysergically infused Arabs were rocking till their socks fell off… later we got on a prince’s jet skis, but that’s another story.
And have there been times when you’ve got all shanked out and thought about pulling the plug and walking away?
Lots of times. In a slightly different world I own and run a restaurant that’s not only making seriously high-quality food but it’s healthy as well. I think there’s a real gap in the market for this: if you eat at only high-end restaurants you will get sick, they make food that looks good but will kill you in the end. Less cream more coconuts guys!
Running a psy trance label in this day and age is not for the faint-hearted. What’s changed and evolved over the last 10 years of running Bom Shanka and is it mainly for the better?
I think so much has changed in the past decade. When we started you had to be making CDs, otherwise you were considered amateur! Now I think we might not make any more CDs, it’s just not economically viable. It’s currently about downloads, but that’s changing as well, as streaming has become the main way most people listen to music, so let’s see what’s next. I like the techno approach where it’s all gone vinyl again, but I can’t see that ever happening in the wacky world of psy trance.
You were both successful artists in your own right before you formed Dirty Saffi. For those newer to the scene, can you please tell a bit about your backgrounds and how you first got into making music?
I’ve always flirted around bands and music. I was always going to do something with music, but when I was growing up that was going to be a hobby, that was the plan, if there was a plan.
We both fell in love with psy trance and were living the squatting dream in the 00’s, back when the pills sucked, and no-one did coke. I’ve been working at making beats since 2003 and I remember just wanting that all elusive first gig playing my own music, then I knew I’d have made it! It seemed to take forever to get that first gig.
Since meeting at a party, you grew to become the high-grade hardcore psychedelic Posh and Becks of the psy trance scene. Has moving to the country forced you to slow down a bit? Or do you have plenty of fun on the speed dial should you need it?
We moved to the countryside for lots of reasons, but not all that much has changed really. I think the reality is that we didn’t go out all that much in London. Nuky was always working or commuting and I was always in the studio. So not much has changed, except Nuky’s commute, which went from two hours a day to 30 minutes a day… that part is great.
How do you approach making a new track? Do you take it in turns to wear the pants?
Well, all tracks pop out differently, but I’m definitely the man on the mouse! Nuky is the cheese police.
What’s your favourite piece of kit in the studio at the moment?
I just brought an electron analogue keys, it’s a 100% analogue synth. I’m desperately trying to get my head around it but so far, I haven’t got too far! But in the near future, you should be able to notice this new sound coming through in the tracks. Think fat warm and analogue!
Your various sets as Alta, Dirty Saffi and Nuky were highlights of the Hive at Modem Festival for me this summer. Each of your projects has a distinctive style, but something very special happens when you come together as Dirty Saffi. Do you find it hard to things fresh with so much travelling, or do you still get excited about festival season?
Sometimes it can be hard, especially when you’ve been traveling and you have time to do the laundry, water the cat and feed the plants before having to go out again. But there are no complaints, it’s the life we wanted and it’s the life we have worked hard for 10 years to get to.
When you’re not bending the minds of dancefloors all over the world or making tunes in the studio, what do you do to have fun?
Cooking: I love it. It’s just like making music but with more tangible ingredients. Apart from that our whole life is really trance orientated – or we hang out with psychonaughts might be a better way to describe it!
What piece of advice do you wish you’d been given when you first started out?
I would tell myself how to EQ properly and how to ‘make the mix’ on a track, which is getting all the levels of the sounds in a specific track to correspond correctly with each other. It’s actually more important than EQing, but I’d like to teach myself both of those things if I could please. It would save me years of work. But having read the question correctly now, I think I’d still like to have been shown how to mix correctly. It’s so important.
You’re planning a monster of a birthday party on Saturday 11th November at the Trinity Project in Bristol, with people travelling from far and wide to celebrate 10 years of shanking. For those still to make up their minds, why should they iron their socks and dig out their dancing shoes? With so many awesome artists on the label, was it hard to put the line-up together?
For the party the line-up made itself, we just booked all the Europe-based Bom Shanka artists! Our big problem is the amount of time we have, but everyone is doing versus sets for that.
What’s next for Bom Shanka, Dirty Saffi and your respective projects for the rest of 2017 – and beyond?
So the biggest thing happening right now in shankaland (apart from the party) is our new comp that’s called quite simply Bom Shanka Music. It’s with a track from each artist on the label in celebration of 10 years of shanking. The plan was to have it finished and released in time for the event that’s on November 11th, but that didn’t happen. As it stands, we are still waiting for a few of the final versions…
Big thanks for your time Al and here’s to many more decades of shanking!
Awesome, thanks for having us!
Bom Shanka Music on Facebook
Bom Shanka Music on Soundcloud
Planet Shroom on Facebook
Bom Shanka Music - 10 years anniversary on Facebook
Images courtesy of Bom Shanka Music. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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