Following the release of his debut album, Have You No Burden, Shadient took the time to chat in a candid interview. In Behind The Project, we aim to highlight the individuals behind the names we see on our screen. Too often as listeners, we condense a great amount of music into streamable commodities, hopping from one song to another. However, there’s always an individual or more working endless hours to put something out into the world for us to possibly connect with.
With that in mind, let’s get to know the person behind the project in the interview with Shadient below.
Hey Shadient, thanks for taking the time to chat with me!
Shadient: Thanks for your time too!
After hearing your album, I internalized ‘Have You No Burden’ in a manner I have not with other music for maybe a few years. It holds this very special emotional spot for me because of the sound it has.
S: Awesome. F***ing hell. Crazy. I was kinda trying to strike on a raw theme.
I think you hit the nail on the head for that. particularly for me was ‘Dancing Alone Again’. It really is one of my favorite songs of the year because of the feeling it gives. I would throw a** to this while crying.
S: Yeah that is exactly the feeling!!! In my head I just imagine it would be the most beautiful woman in the world, whose just heard the worst news ever, and is just trying to bear the slightest smile while completely losing her s*** dancing. So she’s going crazy dancing but is f****** bummed out facially. She’s like “aww man” and the fact that you just said that is…it’s everything. It’s like when someone gets it, it’s better than a Grammy honestly.
The way I would say your music sounds to me as an individual is that it’s abrasive, gritty, distorted, and kind of imperfect and dirty but that’s kind of where the beauty of it lies and that’s where the emotivity of it kind of exists for me. That’s why I resonated with your dislike of sound design and mixing comments on your music.
S: Yeah because that’s not the intent. You know it’s like when I have spent so long making music that emphasized and embraced sound design and mixing and technical proficiency, I think that just became second nature to me whenever I make music now. I became so accommodated to making music, that I thought; well what if I retargeted it in an emotional way, you know? What if I put that strong abrasiveness that is often used to convey energy, and I used it to convey emotion instead, you know? That was like my initial seed for the whole album I think.
If I looked at your previous work, I was always a fan of what the Shadient project was, and what you did with it. Over time, I think what I enjoyed the most about seeing your project develop, was seeing how you refined yourself as an artist as opposed to sound, which is rewarding as a listener.
S: Definitely, yeah. that is the whole thing, and it’s just a natural diversion or subversion even for an artist. I think if you’re an artist that gives a single s*** about what you are doing, you will be tired of doing the same thing for a particular amount of time. For me you know, I’ve not put that much music out as Shadient, but made easily like 20,000 ideas, songs, whatever, music, over the past 12, 13 years that I’ve been doing it. The past 6 years have been me trying to make the most aggressive thing possible. Listening to my own music, I’m kind of fed up with it but there’s also the prominence of dubstep and all this other stuff coming back from 2012. Its just I feel like a part of a big pond when I have always wanted to be in my own pond you know? I don’t wanna be with all the other fish. I want to be in like a weird little puddle that someone finds and says, “oh s*** there’s a f****** crazy thing here like I’ve never heard anything like this.” It doesn’t have to just be sonically, it can also be, like as you said, emotively or how it portrays something.
So the whole point of this Behind The Project series is to look behind the way art and artists have been commodified, and diminish the veil of branding and personas. When someone is truly themselves on social media, they risk seeming “too honest,” abrasive, or risking their brand.
S: It’s truly sickening, the commodity of music in 2021. Every ten years, you think it won’t get any worse, and it so f****** does (laughs). It feels more and more hopeless, but that’s what being an artist is for. To be the difference and change that you want to see.
That’s rather existential. It’s not just about being the difference you want to see. Everything is so momentary, and you must wonder whether one can actually make a difference. Granted, this is a cynical point of view. However, through art, you could influence a few people who are going through something or growing up. It’s like, at some point, somebody might come along and tell you that your music is meaningful to the equivalence of what inspired you or Skrillex at youth.
S: It can seem impossible, but I think it’s less the notion of actually doing it, and more the desire to do it. Whether you do or do not make a change, it doesn’t f****** matter. The fact that you wanted to be different, to subvert societal expectations, the fact that you wanted to do it, says a lot to the world, whether you actually do. It’s just something I’ve realized over the years. It extends beyond music. It goes to any career or path you want to accomplish in life. The fact that you want to do it, and do one thing different than yesterday, you’re on the road as opposed to not trying. At least someone is trying. Doing it for the culture, for what you care about.
I was quite interested in the title of the album. It’s direct, and addresses. Is the title ‘Have You No Burden’, to you, a question or exclamation pointed out toward people? Based on the album, I picked up a tone of both, as sometimes it’s bombastic, while at others it’s lonely, introverted, vulnerable, and caring. Gives me a Burial-esque walking down the streets late at night feeling.
S: F****** hell, that is like the nicest…that’s exactly what I want people to hear (laughs)! That’s exactly what I had in my head! Touching on the meaning of the title, again, what you said was so perfect about it being ambiguous. I love ambiguity. The general gist of it is that it’s a hopeless feeling of someone clawing going like: “please, how the f*** are you not seeing this? How are you not seeing the reality of the situation?” Also at the same time, it’s someone climbing up a mountain and just screaming at the top of their lungs to a group of people that are machines. I love mystery, I’ve always loved ambiguity. Even when I was making hard-hitting DJ tracks, I love subverting expectations and not always doing the obvious thing. That extends to not just the actual music itself, but also the name of the art and artwork. What does this mean? What could this mean?
To me personally, originally, there were four different ideas I had for what it could mean. Initially, the album had a question mark in the title. After a while of sitting with it, I thought of what I would change about it. I thought it didn’t need a question mark, it’s like a statement. ‘Have You No Burden’. You could almost reposition the words in the same phrasing, and it’s like ‘You Have No Burden’.
The core meaning of the album to me is that in a time when we had the lockdown and it’s been horrible to everyone, it extends to my own depression. In the past six years, I’ve been a manic-depressive person. Been on medication, been off. I’ve had therapy, all sorts of treatments, things, and approaches like meditation…everything. When you go on the internet, it’s just all these DJs having the most fantastic f****** wonderful time, popping champagne, surrounded by all these women, and it’s amazing and perfect! I know…that’s not real life. To sympathize and empathize with them, I know they’re not gonna be like “hey guys, I’m having a s*** day today, my car broke down…” They’re not gonna tweet about that.
At its core, is a message of encouragement. Like you guys know that you can be sad here. You can tell your 200K followers that you’re feeling kind of bad today. I know some very few can, but it’s like you’re not allowed to, as an unspoken rule of being a musician. To like not be the vibe killer, the buzzkill, or the guy on the feed that’s like “oh f*** I’m so depressed,” cause everyone then is like “this guy, they’re so depressing, boring, f*** you…” That’s not real life…it’s not real life. You have to come to terms with your sadness and be able to express it and be open. I think that’s so important.
Going back to the question (laughs), the title is an encouragement of honesty. I want people to ask themselves that. “Have I no burden?” If I was to look on my social media as another person, would I look like the happiest person in the world? Then ask, am I as happy as I put across? I can guarantee that 80% of the time, no one is. I think that’s something worth speaking about. I’m not the biggest musician in the world, and certainly not the most influential. The small following I do have, and people I connect with, I hope it finds its way to the right people, and in a way, help.
What I’m hearing reminds me of something David Foster Wallace said. “To be really human, is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naïve and goo-prone and generally pathetic.” To sort of allow yourself to fulfill those traits, and to be alright with ruining the party for a minute.
S: Yeah, absolutely. There’s a couple of things I picked up on the last couple of years, and I think they’re what led to me having the ability to make an album. One of them is that the true meaning of success is how willing you are to look like a f****** idiot. How willing you are to f*** up. If I’m going to open my music s*** now, and what I can make in a minute can sound like the worst thing I ever made. That’s probably going to happen…statistically. I mean, there’s like a 50/50 chance of getting a good or bad thing. Obviously, I’m going to hit that bad 50 ever so often.
The other thing is that sadness carves the space within us for joy to fill. You can’t be happy without being sad. You can’t know the difference between them, or appreciate the value of joy, without the sadness. I think everyone’s forgetting that, and they need to be reminded, that it’s a human thing.
I would say that based on everything, what I take away is that there is a very distinct…color…to your perspective and attitude toward how you contextualize yourself and ideas. Seems like analysis coupled with cynicism, but over time, saw the addition of hope or expressionism. Would you think that’s correct? How would you characterize yourself now as opposed to the past?
S: 100%. As of now, I would say I’m analytical and care about the state of things and how they’re going to look. I’m a follower of politics, the music industry, and everything that I think contributes to society. I am cynical, and I think it’s being kind of a cynic sometimes, as it’s very easy to be one. You’ve only got to watch TV from like…15 years ago and look at how everyone dressed and acted. It was a sense of not giving a s***. It’s kind of crazy because, at the time, there were so many rock bands that were like: “Oh the world is so f***** now and everything is manufactured and fake!” To escape from that same feeling now, people are remaking the music from that time that was “manufactured.”
People love that stuff now, because it seems so authentic. It’s so strange, and I wonder if 20 years from now, if people are going to look at music they labeled as commodified and fake now, but think “ah, this was such a real emotional bop back in the day when I was a kid!” It’s perspective, and think a lot of it is based on when you were a kid.
Do you think it’s easy to fall into cynicism as art continues to become more of a commodity with how people treat it? Such as when commercial music intentionally dumbs down artistic intention for the sake of finding surface connection with listeners.
S: I think that is a thing that is very obviously happening. I’m assuming you’re talking about like top 10 charts. Don’t get me wrong though, like Ariana Grande is out of this world, and I listen to her music almost every day! My girlfriend puts me on all these pop acts, and I’m like: “ah f*** this, this is just some more major label corrupt b*******, you don’t know what her manager is doing to her.” She’s like: “Who cares, just listen to the music!” So, I do, and think that it’s so good! You read about these people, and obviously, you realize that there had to be some part of them put into that.
I think the big shift that’s happened in the past five years, is that people are trying to make music go viral in the same way that YouTube videos used to on the internet, because that’s where everyone is. It’s coming down to specific apps like TikTok, Instagram, or Twitter with tweets that go viral. It pops off with a song in it, and that person ends up getting 400M streams which is absorbed. That doesn’t happen unless you’re like The Weeknd, Ed Sheeran, or something.
I think it’s okay to target and replicate that magic that has once happened, but when it turns to major figureheads in the industry capitalizing on that, to a point where they know what’s going to happen on each app, it’s so pre-calculated, and there’s almost no expression to it. Everything is a pie-chart or a board meeting of like 10 years before they even finish the thing. It makes you feel so insane. Like I said though, it’s the contrast between now and when I was a kid, because back then, it was so authentic. I wasn’t aware of these things.
Rock bands back then ran interviews like this saying, “man all this s*** today is so fake! Back in our day, in the 90’s everything was so real!” However, the same goes for the ’90s. It’s a tricky one. It’s hard to gauge and get a balance for.
You have to also kind of believe in what you’re saying during these interviews, as it’s harder to be your “brand” when involved in direct conversation unless you’re intentionally being obscure and careful. In the past, being opinionated and showcasing yourself as the dark horse brought forth attitude and got people involved. However today, it feels like there’s no accurate ground. Everything is simultaneously correct and incorrect in a chaotic manner. The line between real and fake continuously blurs itself.
S: Like I said, it’s hard to gauge. Especially as someone who’s in the music industry to some degree, you’d think it would be easier for me, any musician, or even yourself. It’s either that they’re getting better at hiding it, or it’s really not happening as much. I try to keep as level a head as possible when I consume or listen to music. Like when I listen to Ariana Grande I think, “how does this make me feel?” I listen to that and it’s really good music. She’s very talented, a great performer, and has great pitch. She’s writing the tunes, recording it, and in Pro Tools mixing the vocals. I love that, that’s great! Then you listen to stuff by anyone else, and some of these acts…I feel like they’re dragged into a board meeting and being told what their album is going to be. They just do the voice acting…It’s not singing, it’s like voice acting for the album. They then get a crazy talented team of producers and mixing engineers to finish it up in six months just in time for the summer. Then it’s like, “oh the big summer hit is out, what a surprise!” Common man, we knew this was coming. It’s every year.
If anything, the one beacon of hope for me, is wondering if they’re ever going to run out of ideas for surprising the world. If they’ll reach a point where they’re like, “we can’t keep surprising just non-direct music fans who that just listen to general pop music. I don’t think we can keep surprising them like the past 50 years. Let’s just sign whoever.” If that day comes, that to me is when music will come back. We’ll really get rockstars again, figureheads, and people that speak on important societal issues. There are all these pop stars, but no one saying anything important.
I spoke to my friend recently about Prince. He was a man who so openly discussed his sexuality. At a time when gay people were really hated and disregarded as musicians, and in just any industry. At the time when toxic masculinity was the thing, and Arnold Schwarzenegger coming around, you get someone like Prince coming along. People were like, “you wear makeup, are you gay?” He’s like, “what does it f****** matter to you?” That’s just so sick! At the time when it’s so hard for someone to openly discuss their sexuality, for him to come and just be raw…you don’t get people like that in music anymore. Like you know what “f*** you, I’m me, and if it’s not relevant to my music, you don’t get to ask me.” You don’t get people like that anymore. I hope we do though.
In a way, I suppose what I’m asking in this series isn’t really that relative to the music, but I wonder if I’m approaching it from a positive angle.
S: Well I think there’s a difference. Asking about what’s going on behind the scenes is different to invasively asking about someone’s sexuality. If you were asking Prince about how a car accident or something awful influenced the music he made, it’s relevant to the music. Same as asking about experiences in the music industry. That’s how they see the industry and how they incorporate themselves.
I don’t think it’s fair to say that asking about what’s behind the scenes is invasive. I think it’s absolutely relevant. Especially in my case, where my music’s about how I’m such a depressed motherf***** (laughs). My whole album is me trying to kind of stop hiding myself behind this veil of being a cool DJ who makes crazy bass sounds. I’m like a guy…I’m a person as well. This is what I sound like.
Everyone internalizes their experience in an individual manner, but that’s what allows emotivity and rawness to come through. However, we all translate emotion into art in different means. In your case, when making ‘Have You No Burden’, how did you translate your experience and emotions into audio? For example, utilizing heavy guitar sounds and riffs to express anger and the like.
S: My friend was asking me about this recently. I guess I did it subconsciously, but now I’ve actually consciously considered it and listened through the album. I think I mostly tried to express loneliness by drowning out a lot of the sounds in this big reverb to make it live in a big open space. A lot of the synthesizers that are upfront and expressing the melodies, I’ve made them sound like a tornado siren. They’re very brooding and bleak, almost like a war instrument on its own.
It’s so poetic to me and extremely sad…I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, but there’s this video where it’s the last bird of its kind sending out a mating call. This is the sound of this bird, making its last mating call that it will ever make, and the last of its kind. It’s just so harrowing, so haunting and painful…to think of its call to another one to reproduce, and there isn’t…it’s the last one. That’s so poetic. That always comes to mind when I’m trying to make a sound. You’re not just hearing the sound of a bird…I mean yeah you are, but when you give it context, it sucks and really bleak.
You kind of sit and think about it, and in my own head, I put it in the sense of all the times I’ve been lonely and cried out for help, when nobody was there. How can I sing like that? How can I sing in a way that sounds painful? How can I make a synthesizer, like the antithesis of emotion by design (like waveforms)…you’re not supposed to…
But then look at all the synths of the ’80s, all the saddest songs in the world, use synths. How did they do it? So, I often look at ’80s and ’90s music and how they use space. A lot of the saddest songs use lots of reverb. I bought guitar amps and pedals, and I would run the synths through that like a guitar. The spring reverb and overdrive pedals, it’s like the same attitude of a wailing guitar, but it’s a human voice.
I’ve always been inspired by an animator called Don Hertzfeldt. I think his most famous work is “Rejected” in which he goes: “My spoon is too big!” It’s like from 2001. That’s not the point of the film. The point is that all his cartoons got rejected, and towards the end of the film, he starts mangling the actual paper that the drawings are done on, burns them, and does all this s*** in real-time. He punches the lens to make it damaged…he hurt the art itself in aid of the emotion. To my knowledge, I’ve never known anyone to do that. So, as I’ve said, I would get synthesizers and run them through a tape machine, like the two-track tape machine. That is the thing I can use to make something sound painful and damaged.
I’ve run the sound of a piano through it, just a recording of a piano going through the tapes, and grab the whole thing then wiggle it, shake it around. On the recordings when you play it back, it sounds like it’s falling apart and being ripped within its body. I love that. The fact that you can actually make the sound express just as much as the melody it’s playing…it’s just so poetic to me. The context playing into the feeling just as much as the words itself. It’s as if I wrote a book, and then to display the guy dying in the book, you start trailing off the actual words in the book having them go off the page. I don’t know, I just love the idea of mangling the art itself in aid of the art.
I love that! It’s almost like ripping apart a piece of paper you’ve been working on for a year, since once the pieces are separated, the artistic factor itself becomes magnified as the context shifts. Having them together is one thing, but to rip them apart and place them separately, it greatly highlights the emotivity.
S: That is a good example of it. My example in my album is I wanted the album to sound…I’m coming from a place of “I’m depressed, I’ve had depression, and it’s left me emotionally bruised and scarred. I’m hurt. There are wounds in me that I’m trying to show the world, and how can I describe that through music? Well, I can wound the music. I can stab it. I took out some of the tapes with pianos and drums, and I put it in the microwave to cook it for 2 minutes. All this crazy s***. Like I would hold the stereo out, leave that out of my audio interface so it would crackle, but it was real crackle you know. It’s so much better than just being like…lofi beat to make it sound old. There’s so much that you can do, and don’t know why you wouldn’t.
For me, the greatest articulation of that idea within your album is the transition between ‘Crash’ to ‘In Your Absence’. ‘Crash’ is just so intense, and then ‘In Your Absence’ and ‘Dancing Alone Again’ toward the remainder of the album is such a sudden shift in energy. ‘Crash’ to me felt manic, saying “sad b****** never die.” Then ‘In Your Absence’ is such a dip in feeling and audio. In an emotive way, up until the final song, it shifted the way I heard the album. I started to separate the album into the first part which sounds broken, while the second happens to be uncomfortable (in a good and intentional way).
S: I love that…I love that! I love discomfort. That’s not a common feeling that music gives you. How often can you say you listen to music that makes you feel uncomfortable? When you’ve made people feel something they don’t often feel, that’s the most rewarding thing in the world. I’d rather make something that makes people feel bad and sad because you’ll remember that more. You’re gonna be like…“oh man I feel like s***. This reminds me of when I was listening to the Shadient album.” I kind of love that, because like I said, it is essential.
I wanted the first half of the album to be like a ramp-up of “I’m so sick of feeling like s***” while the second half offers a bittersweet peace. A period of peace, like a sense of understanding “I’m always going to be depressed.” Cause that’s a thing that happened to me.
I’ve just now realized this actually, I didn’t ever once think of this before, but it’s very accurately mimicking my journey with depression where the first half of it I was so frustrated, scared, with all these chaotic emotions of wanting to get rid of it, wanting to be productive and making music. I wanted to make an album, have it be 10/10 perfect, an amazing album that everyone loves, iconic from the get-go. Then the second half of the album is accurately depicting…
I don’t think you can be “cured” of depression. I think it’s a matter of acceptance. Just accepting that it’s probably always going to be a part of you, and that when it comes to getting better with depression, it comes down to how well you cope with it. I think that’s what the second half of the album depicts. It’s me coming to terms with it, and being like: “look, I’m always going to have this, and need to learn to be at peace with it.” It’s kind of bittersweet cause yeah I’m getting better at dealing with this, but also, it’s still f****** there. It’s still from time to time jabbing me in the heart and stuff.
I definitely think you were onto something there. I mean you made me realize something (laughs).
The way you said that and articulated it…your album is empathetic in a meaningful way. You are not addressing me, or a particular person, but I feel as though if I was my own friend, I would speak to myself in that manner. I suppose that’s meaningful to me as an individual. It’s a bit off-topic, but just thought I’d say that.
S: It does matter to me man. The bottom line is…the fact that we can have a conversation about my album is more than any qualified award or anything you or the industry can ever give me. To me, the success is that people are able to talk about it, and the fact that I’m sitting here talking to you about it for however long we’ve been going…I love this! I love that I can talk to someone for more than 5 minutes. So much music as we’ve been saying, is now commodified. “It goes hard,” or “wow this is sick.” That’s all you can say. “This’ll be so popular on Tik TokTok.” That’s it, that’s the end of the conversation.
Whereas here, we’re able to have a call for like…god knows how long…and that to me means that I’ve done my job. So I appreciate what you’re saying.
Been an hour and 10 minutes!
S: See! That’s what I mean! Name one other f****** album you can do that for! I mean…in EDM…
I don’t know man…genres suck. I don’t even know what “EDM” means anymore. When I say the term, and I avoid it at this point saying electronic music, people often ask, “what type?” I just prefer to laugh and let them figure it out.
S: Yeah, there’s very clear actual genres if you want to look for stuff. If you want to go crazy for some crazy old drum & bass, you’ll easily find that. However, if you want…I’ll tell you something now…
Do you know how hard it is to find good emotional electronic music? You type that in on Spotify, and you find the most fake s***. The corniest like Christian American…crap, that you’ve ever heard. It’s “emotional” because it’s like “I love you so much.” How is that…have we not had that enough? Have we not had enough love songs?
(laughs) It’s Britney Spears but only on pianos singing ‘Toxic’. No production, nothing. Just a piano underneath. That’s what makes it deep…genius.
S: (laughs) Yeah that’s so f****** sick.
Back to ‘Have You No Burden’, the album brings forth the idea of “hearing a movie” per-se.
S: Many people have told me the album is very visual, and that makes complete and total sense to me since I’m a visual person. I’ve been doing all these videos on Instagram and stuff, and I’ve loved doing them because it’s something I always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to be able to have a visual identity to my music.
Oh, so that’s your own individual work?!
S: On my music, yeah. All the animation, video stuff and artwork. Like the album cover is a drawing…the illustrations on the album cover, singles as well, are by a friend who’s a tattoo artist. The album cover is done through a SRTT TV. I uploaded the picture to Dropbox, put it on a Macbook, connected it to the TV, loaded it up on the TV, took a picture of the TV, put that picture of the picture of the TV into Photoshop, and then…there’s like twenty steps to this thing (laughs). I love things living through different spaces and the generative process behind that. Again, it pays into the used and abused nature of the album. How everything is painful, how it has a scar to it with rips on the edges. It’s all worn and been through it. It’s been through the trenches.
Now that you mention it, I can see the TV! It is quite evocatively dense.
S: Exactly. That’s the thing. I wanted it to be as forcibly in that respect, driving the feeling home between the visuals, music, sound of the music, visuals, videos, and with the artwork. Everything I did within the realm of this album was to drive home the feeling of pain and suffering. It’s ok to feel this way. I wanted it to be as brutally itself as it can be. That’s what I wanted to do, and hopefully, I’ve done that. We’ll have to wait and see how people respond.
I suppose that’s the best way to gauge it, but also not really the best. At the end of the day, you’ve said your piece and articulated it in a certain way. Some are going to look at it in a different manner. It’s this middle balance of self-satisfaction and you know…
S: As me, I’m completely self-satisfied! I’ve finished it in 2020. This thing’s been done since August 2020. I’ve spent almost half a year sitting with it thinking: “do I still like it?” It’s a very bad thing of mine where I have a song, put it out, then think: “f*** I hate this so much.”
Throughout your musical releases, I’ve noticed a distinct progression of your artistry. If I’m being fully honest, I genuinely enjoyed what you’ve released musically, and noticed the heavy aspects of your sound. However, over time, what I found is a refinement of emotivity and message, leading me to “care” for your music, as opposed to simply listening to it. Some of your music struck me as a great listen, but as I heard ‘Miles of Mind’ and the ‘Infinite Structure EP’, I became hooked to what you’ve got artistically going, expecting a progression in what you’re doing.
S: Well, ‘Fade’ and ‘Miles of Mind’ were going to be on the album. I made them first and then put them in the ‘Have You No Burden’ folder as songs to be on the album. Then I thought I would like this to be its own little thing. I think of it as a demo for a game. I want people to treat that as the demo for the album, so they can get a glimpse into what this guy can do emotionally. I get a glimpse into what this guy is capable of portraying, not just in terms of making bangers, but in terms of making emotional music with true substance and actual meaning behind it. I think enough people engaged with ‘Infinite structure’, that it was enough for me to be like, wow. If they liked that, they are going to love this album that I have been making.
It’s so funny because I have been trying to make an album since 2015, and I knew what I wanted to do. I had to do 2 things. A: get better at making music, and B: understand myself more, and get to a different stage of my depression. I’m at the stage where like at the end of the album, I’m at peace with it. When I first wanted to make an album, I was at the complete beginning of it, frustrated and pissed off all the time. Nothing was good, nothing was cool. No music was inspiring me. I thought everything was s***. I was just so cynical and hateful, in a none-funny way. I became really lonely, but over time I got better at it and made friends with people that make music. Then the pandemic happened, and that acted as a means of…well now you have to just sit down and make music. I was doing that and went: “I should just make an album now.” Then, I just did it in 6 months.
It’s so funny because, for 5 years, I’ve been daydreaming about the day I make an album. Then all of a sudden, it clicked, and I just made it in 6 months. It was all done…finished…in 6 months. I’ve always been fascinated by the state I was in when I made the album. It was almost like it wasn’t me…as if it’s a creative entity deep in space lined up with my body that took over my brain and made the album. It’s so crazy…I can’t pinpoint how it feels. It had to be done, and I was going to do it. It was so strange.
It reminds me of the origins of the word “genius.” Essentially, it’s a derivative I believe, of a Latin word, in which it refers to an entity, not a person. As in, the person would have a “genius,” that being an entity, as opposed to being one themselves. That idea is interesting as it detaches the ego from the individual, since it isn’t about an individual having a capacity beyond others, but rather the opposite. It’s a thing that channels through them.
That’s definitely accurate in a way I could relate to fully. It’s sort of what happened to me last year. It felt like something came into my house and took over my head. It was so crazy! I would spend a week on each song and then think: “That’s written, that’s done.” Listen to it on my EarPods, smoke about 5 cigarettes, make notes, go back, then finish it. I smoke too much by the way (laughs).
You put a challenge up to yourself! If ‘Miles of Mind’ reaches a million, you’ll stop. I’ll hold you accountable! It’s near already, so throw away that pack!
S: Damn! I will, I actually will. I’ll fully stick to it.
Going back to our conversation, it’s rather egotistical to think that we channel brilliance within ourselves. In my opinion, anybody can think they’re great at something…for example, you’re a good athlete at the top of their game, you’re the best until defeated, and that position is transferred. However, if you’re a great musician, or not so great either, nobody quite “defeats” you. So, on an internal level, would one be “good” at making music when provided their own subjectivity, while at the mercy of other peoples’ subjective ears?
S: I think with music, it’s a very non-verbal thing. Honestly within music that can’t really be discussed, unless it’s outright dogs*** bad. I mean not in a sense of a song is just boring, which in my opinion is worse than if it was bad. I think the worst quality a song can have is it being boring. Bad can be fixed, but boring…it’s just got no personality. Some people have no source, swag, or anything. They just haven’t got it.
You can hear a song and think, “this is crap, what was this guy thinking when they made this. This is the worst thing I’ve ever heard.” Then you can go and love a song so much, and then your homie who you’ve known your entire life can go like “yeah I don’t know man, it’s cool, but it’s not my thing.” You can feel bewildered, and this happened to me. I show my friends a Burial song, and they say it’s kind of depressing. How is that not like…this man is a f****** mastermind! So much music wouldn’t exist without…I’m just rambling to this guy, and he’s like “I don’t know it’s just whatever.”
I think there’s so many things that play into your love of music. The place you listen to it, how old you were, where you were, the time in your life… were you in a good spot, or in a bad spot? There are so many things that play into whether or not you associate a particular piece of music as a good thing to you or not. It’s tricky. It’s easy to tell when music is bad, but it’s hard to know…I mean there’s music that I don’t love but can admit to it being great. I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest Queen fan. I don’t love Queen. Don’t get me wrong, I would outwardly admit that they are wizards at music. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is undeniably a masterpiece. For me…I don’t know, I just don’t enjoy listening to it, I don’t get anything from it.
What I said comes from me being a musician. Making music helps you appreciate whether you have those two different voices. When you’re just a listener that doesn’t make music, you kind of just base it on whether or not it gives you that instant gratifying feeling. The last time I felt that, I’ll be honest, was…there’s a guy called Fred Again…
He’s a very behind-the-scenes songwriter who wrote for Ed Sheeran, BTS, everyone, all the popstars. He did that for people, then brought out his solo stuff, and I found his music interesting in a similar style to Burial. As in, it’s done with samples from Instagram. People talking, rapping, and singing on TikTok. He recontextualizes it into an entire song, and I listen to his music and get that instant gratifying feeling.
I’m sure you can identify as well when you heard that one song in your life that makes you go “what the f*** this is crazy! It’s such a good song.”
It rarely happens, but 98% of the times I felt that way happened probably when I was young. When I was young, so much was new exposure and came off crazy. One instance for me was hearing Porter Robinson’s ‘Language’ when I was young…it just felt mind-blowing to me given the emotivity within the song. Today, one artist that makes me feel that way is Matt Lange with his ‘Bleed Together’ sound. The music, poetry, and intricacy converge in a manner that gets to me. When I think about it, that’s probably what Nine Inch Nails was, for people who grew up with that.
S: Like you said about Porter, the last time I felt that very prominently was when ‘Ghost Voices’ came out. I checked it out the day of, and while I wasn’t huge on ‘Eon Break’, it was a little too EDM-y to be trance-y kind of thing, and then he drops ‘Ghost Voices’. That voice loop in the intro I thought was very catchy and instant, then the house drums came in. It sounds so British, so UK! It’s not what I expect from Porter.
I’ve spoken to him and argued with people like my friends and said, it almost doesn’t sound like he made it. It’s like a completely different artist. If you listen to that EP, that song sounds completely different to the other songs. Of course it’s not ghosted, I know Porter, he wrote it. It’s so crazy, and you can definitely tell that he was in a different headspace when he made the rest of the songs. That for me, when it came out, I kept listening to it over and over after the first time. I was trying to relive that feeling of the first time I heard it, cause it was like “what the f***!” This is Porter Robinson, the ‘Sad Machine’ guy…like what?!
While on Porter, there’s something that has always struck me oddly. That being how you’re more than often referred to as Porter’s protégé. To me, it feels like a mischaracterization because the word itself sets standards to live up to, oversight, or influence that seep into something. As in, getting a Porter Robinson 2.
S: Like I’m his apprentice or something. People like to call me his “student,” like I’m his little brother or something like that. It’s a really odd thing that people love to do. Obviously, it’s sensationalist headlines. People love to have his name in the title because it pulls in the clicks, and of course, I get it. At the same time, I do think it’s sometimes at the expense of my name as an artist because people start to think; Shadient, oh that’s Porter’s apprentice guy, that’s the guy that Porter gave money to, did this for, had this Secret Sky thing.
It’s confusing to me because I know other artists on his level. I’ve remixed RL Grime, worked with Rezz, played shows with her, and went on a bus tour with Slander. I’ve done all this s***. Released on Mat Zo’s label, remixed him…I’ve done all this other stuff with people that are on the same level as him.
I think that’s something not necessarily in my control. It’s in the hand of the people listening. It’s good that he’s focusing on his album now and not just gassing me up all the time publicly. I actually prefer that he doesn’t because I want people to see that I can carry the torch on my own and be my own thing. At the same time of course, I’m extremely appreciative to be in the spot I am, where I have the support of someone like him. There are hundreds of thousands of people that would kill to have that, but it’s getting a bit too much now.
It’s like you just said, people call me his apprentice, protégé or whatever. Like I’m the what’s next thing. I don’t want to be that, I want to be the first and only Shadient. I don’t want to be the second Porter Robinson.
I wanted to ask you about that because I imagine that’s not a very healthy thing to have looming. I find that you’re very individualistically oriented. When someone’s compared or tied with another, it can be perceived as being gassed up and given a spotlight, but it simultaneously can be very destructive in terms of individuality and self-esteem in terms of helping someone pursue their artistic possibilities. If you’re climbing up a mountain, and somebody helps you halfway up, the rest is still on you to climb. When you’re left alone for the climb but everybody thinks the assistance is still there, you’ll realize you’re truly alone in this, as nobody is going to put you on their shoulders. In my own perspective, by the time the real struggle begins, you’ve already been put into the position of being associated as someone who’s been carried which seems to me as a detrimental fork.
S: 100%. That is something I value. It’s something I’m not sure I have much, if any control over. If there’s any way along the road to veer away from that, I will absolutely take it. I don’t want to be Shadient, comma, the guy who is Porter Robinson’s bla bla bla. I want to be Shadient, the guy who made ‘Have You No Burden’. It means a lot to me to have the ability to do that. If people are going to think about my name in the back of their head, I want them to think “oh damn I missed listening to that album, I’m going to go listen to it.” Instead at the moment, like you said, it could be “oh Shadient, that guy is cool. Wait he’s the Porter Robinson guy, I wonder what Porter is doing.” Then they go to him. Of course, that’s fine for him, but you know, I’m a thing. Hey, I’m here! I’m about to drop an album.
I think that’s what encouraged me to drop an album. I don’t think there’s a more pure way to lay out your identity than to make a full-length LP. I could’ve kept making EPs for the next 20 years, but I just don’t think there’s any necessary value for that in the long run. I think albums are not made anymore, enough. People don’t make albums, and I wish they did. I just want to be me. I don’t want people to think I’m the friend of whoever.
Based on your perspective, there’s enough entertainment and fun, so you want to channel something raw, something that allows sadness to come through. Do you think there’s a chance that your desire to portray something sad and true to avert fun as you believe there’s an abundance of it…is it possible that this manner of thinking evidently causes further individual sadness for you?
S: 200 f****** percent. Every single day, exactly. The fact that…it’s a fear. I’m very scared about making an album about depression. I’ve been told by people, that making an album at my level is a s*** idea because it’s a big deal. It costs a lot of money to do, it’s expensive. It’s tasking physically and mentally as there’s a lot of work to be done. Also, making an album about a fragile topic that not many people want to talk about. They want to be avoidant about their depression. In a way, it’s kind of like a sadistic pleasure that I’m getting by f****** myself over in such a deep way. I mean really, what’s the worst thing that can happen? If this goes haywire and horrible, I made an album that I love at the end of the day. That’s all that matters.
If I wanted to start making money from music tomorrow, I would just start a secret side project and make party music or whatever. Just do whatever needs to be done to make money. That’s not what I want to spend my time doing. I want to connect with people. That is the currency to me…actual emotion. People messaged me before the release saying, “the album is not even out yet but I already know it’s going to give me such hope, and the fact that you’ve talked about this on Twitter and Instagram, it’s made me feel so much more ok with my depression.” That’s…knowing you’ve helped someone, there’s no greater honor to me than that.
To answer your question…yes, but I don’t give a s***.