By Poppy Tohill
With the release of Shapeshifter and The UpBeats EP, SSXUB, vocalist P Digsss provided some laughs, and information about the EP to me down the phone line last month just hours prior to it's anticipated release.
"It's been quite an interesting day," a cheerful P Digsss chimed, when asked how his day had been so far. "It's been all about the EP release, so we've just been doing a whole bunch of interviews, chatting to people and hanging out at the Red Bull Studios getting ready for our jam tonight," he continued.
Having released the music video for their latest single ‘Bloodstream,' just hours before we chatted, I slipped into conversation how awesome it was, and went on to ask how they're feeling now that it's out there and EP release also so close. "Thank you! it's a bit of an eye full!" Digsss laughed, in relation to the comment about the video. "It's actually a really nice feeling," he continued. "It's like a- lets bring it on/accomplishment feeling. There's been lots of effort put into the EP and after eagerly anticipating the release, it's now here and we're onto the next step, so lets get this shit out and see how people feel!" he chimed.
With five albums already under their belt, P Digsss went on to explain why they decided to release an EP now, rather than another album. "We got together with the UpBeats on the Delta sessions, so our last album," he began. "We got the UpBeats into the studio to co-produce the record with us and to see the emulation and combo kind of inspired other angles where we thought we could come with our music. But instead of just being a Shapeshifter album, this time round, it's the two of us together, so it's pretty exciting," he exclaimed.
"When you're overseas you get exposed to a lot of things," Digsss responded when asked if he believes their time living in different cities and towns overseas has had a large impact on the bands' sound over the last few years. "We also get to meet lots of other people and are exposed to other work ethics, so it has definitely opened our minds a lot more to not necessarily think inside the box all the time," he remarked. "We've released a bunch of albums previously, so now we're at the point where we really want to go exploring and push the perimeter and boundaries of the sound that is Shapeshifter. It's time to get freaky deeky," he chuckled again.
"On the EP there's two types of music, you've got some country and western," Digsss joked, before breaking out into a laugh. "Nah just kidding," he soon replied before continuing on. "I guess it's a good representation of our collaboration really. It's something that I think production wise, we couldn't really have been done by ourselves, or without one or the other by our side, so it's quite exciting. We've taken two or three different angles and I'm pretty sure the UpBeats have taken a few different directions for themselves with this too, so its quite cool on both sides of the parties," he concluded.
"The way we've been living has been the way we're happy to live, where we want to and in whatever cities we like," Digsss replied when asked about their new musical path and sound. "We're often working on music when we're not in the same room or even in the same city, so we've
been collaborating for years just by sending stuff to each other, as a build up and it's been really interesting," he continued. "
The new single, ‘Bloodstream' started off quite differently to what it is now," Digsss confessed. "It kind of went through processes where is was almost on the verge of actually not making the EP. But then I remember when I was in Japan last year they sent a new version of one of the skits to me, because the way do is by brining skits to the fold and then we'll send them back with our suggestions and go, ‘hey what about this.' So anyway," he continued, "the guys had a bit of a eureka moment, took the song and pretty much dropped a lot of the music in between and took the vocals and flipped it right around, and it was one of those ‘yee yah! let's go with that shit' moments," Digsss chuckled.
"The song itself is all about writing together, and just getting down," P Digsss jokingly remarked. "Well, I guess it's open to interpretation but its kind of all about where SSXUB is from and the emulation of forces and binding of powers," he chuckled. "Sometimes our songs aren't really too entrenched with a meaning, it's just a, ‘yeah I'm vibe-ing the collab or melody we've worked on together,' feel," he declared. "Sometimes it gets a bit deeper and we have songs about actual life situations we've had to endure, but this one just goes all out, and we're really preaching the ‘power of the collaboration, and lets of crazy on the dance floor, vibe," he concluded, laughing.
"Oh yeah, actually nah," Digsss cheekily responded before bursting into laughter, when asked if the band had much creative input into the video for ‘Bloodstream.' "We pretty much got this guy who is friends with UpBeats and has done a video for them, to come in and we told him we wanted something really crazy, and he came back with some even more crazy than the initial conceptual idea, obviously just testing to see how insane we actually wanted it, but then we told him to just let rip and go even more mental, and now- you've seen it, it's pretty crazy right!" Digsss happily chimed.
"Oh yeah, why not hey!" Digsss responded when asked if we can expect any more singles and music videos from the EP. "I think there's a couple more tunes on there like, ‘Solitaire,' will be the next one that we release and they'll be a video for that as well," he confirmed. "One of the songs from the EP we already play live too, and over the next couple of months we'll be getting in the rehearsal room and practicing more, because we really want to play ‘Bloodstream' live. Its just got such an epic feel to it, and it'd be very cool to pull off live," he concluded.
"The EP was recorded in a number of places," Digsss went on to inform me. "What happened, is two of the songs on the EP are oldies that we actually came up with a big section of, during our time working on the Delta record," he confessed. "With the ‘Delta' record, we had about 30-40 ideas, probably a bit more, that got pushed towards the album. So there were obvious ones that of course were going to make it to the album, but then there were those ones that were just on the outskirts of not quite being part of the fold of the album but still had a great feel and vibe to them.
So it was quite a natural progression for us, to play around with a couple of those songs, where the boys, Sam Trevethick (keyboards, guitar, percussion) and Devin Abrams (synths, saxophone) ended up playing around with them with the UpBeats boys. They sent me a whole lot of awesome ideas, and I'd spend my time at my home studio by Muriwai beach, working on vocals. Most of the vocals on the EP were actually recorded in my home studio," he added. "We don't tend to go to big studios anymore, because we've got some pretty nice gear here that we've brought over the years and its nice to just record with our own stuff at our own place," Diggsss exclaimed. "I've always said, ‘record where you're happy, and it feels good, because that will usually shine and come out through your music also.' But if need be, I'd go down to Wellington and record some vocals there, or Sam now has a really nice studio, in Kingsland, next to where P-Money is, so the next section of stuff that we're working on at the moment is pretty much all going to be recorded in there," he concluded.
"We're definitely going to take the EP overseas as well," Digsss confirmed. "It's going to be released in Australia, Europe and The States. The UpBeats already have a great following in the States, so it'd be silly not to follow that up, and we've also got a great fan base in Europe, so we're going to give it to the world!" he gleefully announced.
"We're going to work on a new album really soon! It's actually prime time. It's been a couple of years since we released Delta, we've got this EP out, and collaboration and production wise with UpBeats in the studio has been amazing, so its time to push and follow on up. After the tour we're pretty much going to work on some new music in the studio and also figure out what we want to do live this summer," Digsss remarked. "We've got a couple of gigs coming up in Australia in November, at some festivals, and then it's summer time baby!" he chuckled. "One of the fantastic things about living in this country is our summer time. The beaches, barbecues and friends. I cant wait!" he excitedly declared.
"Sure! There's always chances," Digsss responded when asked if there were more chances of big collaborations coming up. "We met some really awesome people in Europe that would be nice to collaborate with," he admits. "It's early days yet - but we have definitely got some awesome collabs with a few European artists, on their way. But at the moment, the stuff that we're doing with the UpBeats has been really awesome and inspirational. Both on a studio but production and live level also," he admits. "The great thing about doing an EP or an album is that you have this material that you've just produced, and now you get to test it out in a live setting. We get to see if we can pull it off as a band, so it's quite a nice way to keep the heat on," he concluded, laughing.
It was back to the fun and games, when asked who his dream collaboration would be with. "Aw yeah, Stevie Wonder or D'Angelo," he tried to get out in between bursts of laughter. "Nah, there's tons of cats out there we'd love to work with," he admits. "Flying Lotus or our good buddies ‘Netsko,' would be awesome to more music with, but yeah, I'm just going to hit up Stevie Wonder by brail email," he joked again.
When asked about his side project ‘The PeaceKeepers,' with band members Sam & Nicholas, Digsss explained, "It came about because when we're out DJing we couldn't really do it under the monarch of Shapeshifter, because we were doing a totally different thing and the music we like to play under ‘The PeaceKeepers,' isn't very Shapeshifter-y. So we created it to give us an opportunity to play live and release other music," he continued. "We go to Japan every year and do a whole bunch of gigs there as the PeaceKeepers, when we're not doing Shapeshifter stuff."
As the interview drew nearer to an end, I asked Digsss a few less serious questions, and found out some interesting facts, as well as scoring myself a snowboarding lesson from him one day!
"Probably working on my motorcycles," Digsss admits, when asked what we'd most likely find him doing when not in the studio or on tour. " I love my motorbikes, and I've got three of them, so I'd probably be working on them, racing them, or thinking about racing them," he laughed. "Everyone in the band has got houses and stuff, and I've got my three super bikes!" he chuckled.
When asked what the five top songs on his playlist are at the moment, he stated that it, "constantly changes, because I'm exposed to so much music! I love it when music just drops in your lap though, but I love listening to anything," he admits. "I was listening to this tune the other day by Q Tip and Busta Rhymes," (which he then began singing), "that just makes me go - ‘Oh Yeah!' every time I hear it," he laughed. "I got given this tune, I think it's an old one, by Pete Filley, which goes by the name Big Game. It's just classic boom bat hip hop," he happily chimed. "But I also love the new P Money and Buckshot album. It's a beautiful return to boom bat hip hop, it's just so nice, " he concluded.
"When I go on tour I usually take- Vocal Zones," Digsss admit when asked what his one must have item when on tour. "They're lozenges that every vocalist needs, they're seriously amazing," he continued, repeating the word "Vocal Zones" in a slow, comedic accent. "Tom Jones endorses them, so if they're good enough for Tom Jones, then they're good enough for me!" he laughed.
Last off all Digsss filled me in on who he'd be if he could be anyone else for a day.
"Hmmm.." he sighed thoughtfully. "Well since I'm a motorbike nerd, if I could retain the skills and everything that came with being that person for the day then I'd probably be Valentino Rossi, at a race day, or something like that," he confirmed. "But yeah, I'm really into my racing. "Or I'd just like to be able to snowboard in Alaska," he concluded. - Which then led to us spending the next ten minutes talking about snowboarding.