Interview: Top Electronic Producer, Shao

By Andrew Chin, March 29, 2016

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Previously known as Dead J, the producer has been paving roads around the world thanks to his tense tracks and intoxicating live A/V show. As the first Chinese artist to join the revered German Tresor label, Shao will be playing his first show in Shanghai in years as part of his Doppler Shift tour, as well as a trio of shows in Beijing. 

It’s very exciting to hear that you will be playing in Shanghai and Beijing. What can fans expect from the set? Do visuals play a role?

Thank you. Yes, my visual partner Wang Meng will play together with me, and the visuals will be much different than before. For the music part, all the music are based on my new tracks from Doppler Shift Pt.1 EP and the unreleased tracks prepared for the full length album. 

Can you give us a preview of the new album?
I've been working on it for a long time. Since 2011, I've been more and more influenced by techno music. My interest is to put some experimental elements into a techno structure, creating some fresh elements in this music form. The new album is more external and rhythmic. The album's Chinese title is “光衍”, which you can literally translate it as “diffraction of light. It’s basically inspired by light. I want to express different forms of light in the tracks, and to me, light has some kind of spirituality.

You’re well regarded as one of China’s top electronic producers. How did you first get started?
I started making electronic music in 2002. Back then, I didn’t feel like there was an electronic music scene - just an undergroud where music hadn't been divided into specific genres. Musicians like me were playing shows with rock bands. It wasn't until 2007 when White Rabbit opened that underground dance events began to be held regularly.

How did you link up with Modern Sky on your early releases?
In 2004, they were planning to release an electronic music compilation, which included a demo of mine. (Label boss) Shen Lihui listened to my other demos and decided to sign me. My first album Mental Imagery was released by Modern Sky in 2005.

And now you're the first Chinese artist signed to famed German label Tressor. How did you get together?
I played a music festival in Berlin in December 2012 and Tressor boss Dimitri Hegemann was there. After the show, he talked to me about cooperating.

How has the reception been to Doppler Shift, Vol. 1?
It's been good. I've received a lot of good feedback from artists I really respect like Speedy J, Chris Liebing, Efdemin, Rrose, Marcel Fengler…

What is your relationship with Fake Music? 
I met Helen and Nova Heart in Switzerland in 2011, when we played the same event in Zurich. Last year, Helen told me she was doing this new music label and ask me about cooperating. I thought they’re more professional for my kind of music than any other mainstream labels in China. Since then we started to work together more often.

The label has been getting a lot of attention in Europe - do you find international audiences are more receptive to music in China?
There are still lots of cultural difference between international audience and Chinese audience. There are fewer nightlife and club culture for Chinese people, but Chinese young people are becoming more receptive these years.

There’s quiet a lot of young talented Chinese producers like Howie Lee coming up. As a veteran in the scene, do you find that there’s a unique style to the type of electronic music being produced out of China? 

It’s certain that the place and nation you’re living in influences and inspires your creation, as well as form your taste and aesthetics, but it's the same everywhere in the world. I don’t like to use “Chinese characters” too much to define or describe the works from Chinese musicians, especially for electronic music. For example, no one is expecting to hear about English bagpipe in UK’s electronic music. But for sure you can experimenting traditional element in a unique way.

You’ve performed at a lot of prestigious institutions as well as clubs. Do you have a preference between the two?
I actually didn't play clubs too often in my early years, I usually performed in art spaces and galleries. It's a totally different audience and crowd. With clubs, the crowd is more passionate. I love the feeling when my experimental sounds work in a club and I get that response.

Following these China shows what are your plans for the year?
I have some shows overseas in the first half of the year and I will go to Berlin in the summer for the final mixing of the new release. Maybe, there will be a European tour but I haven't confirmed the date.

Shanghai: Apr 3, 10pm-late, RMB80. Arkham, see event listing.
Beijing: Apr 9, 10pm-late, RMBTBA. Lantern.

Beijing: Apr 23&30, 9pm-late, RMBTBA. Yugong Yishan.

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