SHOCKONE Follow the leader


Perth producer and dance floor smasher ShockOne has been one of Western Australia’s leading drum and bass artists since he emerged with his first EP back in 2009. Now having recently launched a banging new single Follow Me, and his own label Dark Machine Records, he’s looking to bring more artists from his corner of the world on the journey with him. GISELLE NATASSIA spoke to ShockOne to get his thoughts on social media, the future of the scene and how his young daughter feels about his music.

What was the impetus for creating Dark Machine Records?

We have a strong bass music scene here in Perth and always have. New Zealand bass is popping, there’s some amazing bass music producers in Japan, there’s great things going on in Brisbane and Sydney, but it felt like there was no one connecting all the dots. There is not an organised label or community to feed people this rad underground music from Australia, New Zealand and Australasia.

A record label needs to be a community now. The traditional record label system doesn’t necessarily work these days where streaming services reign and therefore the community becomes so important in order to support one another through label nights, touring and allowing artists to be nimble and constantly changing.

Building a community around a record label, where listeners can use the record label as a funnel for finding music – that’s the kind of record label I would like to build. I see it more as a partnership between label and artists, where we will handle promotional, admin and getting their music to platforms so their brand is presented in a professional way and the artist can just focus on making music.

My job as A&R is to find the music, make sure they are happy and their vision is realised and represented in a way they want. Dark Machine Records is a way to get their music out to the world. It’s motivated in the sense that remixes and collaborations for the label can happen too. It is very exciting being able to do those collabs without worrying about who is signed to who and instead make music with whoever you want. I find that inspiring.

What is something you look for in artists you look to curate for the label?

I first think, “would I play this in my set? Would it bang in a set?” If I think it would, then I probably want to sign them. Does it move me? It’s as simple as that.

If I love it, I get excited about it and think “how has anyone not jumped on this person yet?” That’s exciting. For example, take Lee Mvtthews. I’d go to New Zealand and I’d hear about them and see the massive following, but they weren’t heard of here or in the UK, and you think “how is no one on to this?”

I am excited about getting in on the ground level with artists so you can grow together. I want to bring music to the scene and say “look, here is some great drum and bass.” In Perth alone, there’s a wave of bass music, particularly drum and bass, with Confusious, Flowidus, Ekko & Sidetrack, and you feel it in the air. It’s a movement of music happening and it’s very exciting to be a part of that and help that move forward.

But if I am sent a tune and my mind is blown, I become excited and it’s a double bonus when they are rad, friendly and you have a rapport and there’s no ego, it’s great! I’m not a businessman, I’m not interested in working with pricks. You can make a sick tune, but if you’re a dick, it’s not going to be fun to work with you.

Artists who are passionate about the craft, making music regardless, and not looking for music to hit Instagram followers – their motivations are in the right place and we are going to vibe. Being here in the room making the music, that’s what it’s all about. 

Is that what your new track Follow Me is about?

Follow Me is about the fact that it feels like we have this overarching new religion that is a new metric of power. The number of followers someone has somehow became this social measure, which I find both bizarre and interesting. I started thinking about it, the concept of the follow button, and how many times you see the follow button every day on every platform.

If you take a step back, there’s this weird digital god running the show. There’s a feeling of losing touch of what we are doing in life and suddenly your sense of identity is tied up in social media. I’m not a fan of social media. I don’t think it’s good for my brain and we are all addicted to it in some sense. If you say you’re not, you’re probably lying.

It feeds into my fascination with dystopia as it feels dystopian right now. It is cool because it feels like a continuation of the dark machine world. I keep writing dark stuff. Maybe it’s my way of dealing with how f’d up the world is right now and it’s my subconscious venting. What is it to be human?

Do you consider yourself to be a “dark machine?”

The dark machine is representative of my subconscious. Anyone’s subconscious. The album was a conversation between the subconscious and the self, where the lyrics were developed with Reija Lee.

Essentially, there’s events in life that create trauma and we all have these that impact our subconscious deeply, influencing decisions you make in life. I can’t address them as they’re my subconscious. I find that concept interesting and frustrating, almost as if there’s an invisible puppet master pulling the strings and without delving into it with psychology or hypnotherapy, we are all algorithms running round with our past shaping us and not even aware of it.

The album starts with a protagonist running with an impending sense of doom and they do not know why. What they’re running from is the dark machine, their subconscious and they think if they stop something bad will happen, but all the subconscious wants, is to be seen, to be realised. Self-exploration within your psyche is so important. We all have this shadow following us influencing our decisions. The album was a way of me starting to have conversation with that part of me.

For instance, as an artist dealing with an element of self-loathing I realised I may have had a hard time being bullied high school, and I potentially carried that with me forever. I failed music in a specialist program, I was a bit of a shit, but a competent drummer. Hell, I even failed the music program. I was failed because I didn’t play what was required in the school band. I wanted to play Nirvana and he failed me and kicked me out. I still have the failed report card, but I’m still here!

Maybe you should frame that. What is the biggest lesson you have learned on your musical journey so far?

Managing and getting better at self-talk, just being kind to myself. What makes any creative endeavor hard is the neuroticism and self-motivation. Is this good enough? Am I good enough? Understanding and recognising roadblocks as opportunities or knowing when to go to sleep and have a break is so important.

Producing music is so solitary. Half the battle is understanding where you are at in your process and recognising what that is and that what you are doing here is not your identity. ShockOne is something I do but it’s not who I am.

If your creative endeavor isn’t going well, you intrinsically feel like shit. There is a constant battle because you put so much of your emotional self into it. Learning to separate those two things has taught me, not to be reactive, stop and take a breath, be present. Being in the moment and present with yourself and others is important. 

Does your daughter Willow enjoy dad’s beats?

Sometimes! A couple of times, she has just said “no.” That’s a little disheartening. She doesn’t like dubstep, but she doesn’t mind drum and bass. She has good taste in music. I caught her bass facing in the car the other day to some 140bpm tune, during the breakdown build-up, it dropped, and she just lost it. That was pretty cool. She definitely loves bass.