Creative Strategies w/ Matt Shadetek: Slow Down

In this creative strategies article, Logic expert and Dutty Artz label owner Matt Shadetek explains that you don’t need to try and keep pace with the social media world when your aim is to make art. 

Creative Strategies With Matt Shadetek - Slowdown

Slow Down

Music seems to be happening faster than ever. Trying to keep abreast of all the new music coming out with the latest stylistic developments and mutations often feels like drinking from a fire hose. If you’re like me and remember the vinyl era, you would go to a shop and there would be maybe 10 new records in your favorite genre that week. You’d check them out by listening in the store, and buy a few that met your standards. It felt possible to keep track of the ongoing conversation in your musical realm spending a few fairly relaxed hours a week. Today this feels completely impossible.

Now that high quality music is so cheap, fast and easy to make using modern digital tools, there’s exponentially more of it getting made. Combine this with platforms like Soundcloud and YouTube and you can instantly create, upload and add something to the conversation in a matter of hours, if not minutes. Back in the pre-Internet era we’d have to make and mix the track, which took longer because software was slower and less developed. We’d then send it for mastering, then make changes, then send it off to the record plant, get a test press which we’d send it to the distributor. Then they’d send it to shops and it would enter the musical conversation. Keep in mind there were also lengthy waiting times in between each step of the process. On one hand, this was a pain. Lots of time, expense and effort went into this process that would have been more fun to spend on making new tracks or doing pretty much anything else. However, there was a plus side to this process, a side that seems to become more and more important the further we go down the Internet music rabbit hole.

When you knew that you were going to have to invest a bunch of time, effort and money into bringing these tracks to the public, it caused you to slow down. You had to really think, and if you had a collaborator you had to have a lot of discussions about it. Is this the record we want to release now? Are the tracks really up to standard? Do they fit together as an A and B side, or as a four track EP? What kind of art should it have? Do the mixes sound good? Is this going to be weird coming out after our last record?

When I ran my first label, Shadetek Records along with my then-collaborator Zack Shadetek (who was half of our group Team Shadetek), we used to do a LOT of this. We’d sit on the roof of our studio, drink, and argue for hours about every one of these questions. I look back on those years fondly now. It felt much more possible to be two guys running a small independent label with limited time and money and produce impactful work. We put a ton of care into every aspect of what we did, even if at times it was lo-fi and somewhat unpolished. We’d do things like making unique hand made artwork for 150 of 500 records, or hand folding and numbering the Xerox inserts for 500 7” records. Every aspect was a decision, an intentional move, and was considered.

The dominant wisdom now is that if you’re not pumping stuff onto the Net at break-neck speed, you’ll be drowned out and forgotten. And there is some truth to that. I’ve watched contemporaries of mine churn out remix after remix of each month’s RnB hit, giving them away online and seen their bookings and fan bases explode. It’s an approach that works. I’ve heard industry professionals, like booking agents, say things like, “You should be releasing something once a month to keep on people’s radar.” And with the modern digital tools and platforms, this is totally possible especially if it’s a remix, mashup or edit you’re not writing from scratch. Part of me really regrets this shift, because there was something that I really loved about the slower, more considered process of the earlier era.

If your goal is just to be an entertainer, to have some commercial success and have fun, then the new approach is fine. It’s a formula that works. Release often, keep on the stylistic pulse and make more noise louder and more frequently than the next guy. If the goal is to express something more personal, to communicate an artistic idea, you may need to do something different. Originality is hard to initiate on a schedule, and part of doing something fresh is carefully thinking and talking about it, which takes time.

There are a few ways to look at this. A lot of people just want disposable entertainment or an endless supply of novelties. It doesn’t really matter if the new remix of the new Rihanna song this week is kind of repetitive and badly mixed. We’re only going to listen to it a few times until the next one comes out. It was exciting for 15 minutes and that’s fine, because it probably only took 16 minutes to make and there’s plenty more where that came from. Maybe my idea of taking time to craft something will die out like the dinosaurs. I hope not.

My hope is that eventually people will start to recognize the hollowness of this cycle of musical junk food and get hungry for something a little deeper. I know some people who stop listening to new music as they get older, and instead just listen to their tried and true favorites from past decades. I hope this is not the only solution we can come up with. It’s possible that the cause of the problem, the speed of communication and interconnectivity of the Internet, may also help to solve it. It seems to be truer and truer now that when people make good things that resonate with people, the Internet helps them to bubble to the surface through all the noise. Listeners and artists manage to find each other in spite of the digital tornado of rubbish we’re all swept up in. People producing heartfelt, original and well thought-out music can find their tribe.

Because I often try to offer something helpful in these articles and not just complain, here’s my advice to you: make a decision about which of these paths you want to take. If you want to entertain, dive into the tornado and surf. If you want to make art, try to create a space where you can close the storm shutters and focus quietly. In deciding, commit to the specifics of your goals and process. Trying to move a little bit in each direction results in going nowhere at all.

 


About Matt Shadetek

Matt Shadetek is one of New York City’s most exciting producers. His live sets encompass contemporary Dancehall, UK Funky, and Dubstep, all delivered with Shadetek’s unique production voice which bridges the underground-mainstream divide. He’s one of the rare DJs who can rock a crowd with sets composed solely of his own dancefloor bangers and remixes.

Matt’s early love for Hip Hop and Dancehall along with edgy electronic sounds led to his Warp Records debut album Burnerism as part of the duo Team Shadetek. While Matt was living in Berlin and touring Europe, the followup LP Pale Fire was released, featuring the underground hit “Brooklyn Anthem”. The hit song kick-started a dance craze in the Brooklyn reggae scene (leading to over 100 fan videos of kids dancing to it).

Returning to NYC, Matt founded the Dutty Artz label/production crew with DJ /Rupture. Shadetek produced Jahdan Blakkamoore’s debut album, Buzzrock Warrior (!K7), pioneering its signature Reggae-Dubstep-Rap sound. In 2009 he also teamed up with Rupture to release the mix album Solar Life Raft (The Agriculture). His latest release, on Dutty Artz, is Flowers, an effervescent solo instrumental effort that references dubstep, UK Funky and Garage. He has toured internationally both solo and accompanied by Jahdan as vocalist.

Connect with Matt on Twitter | SoundCloud | Website


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