In Bristol few names and faces are as synonymous with the music scene as Shanti Celeste’s. Be it dishing out vinyl at Idle Hands, curating underground house and techno parties with Housework and Lewd, or behind the decks herself. Often supporting the biggest names in dance-music, Shanti is now taking centre stage, with her brilliant debut 12″ having just dropped on brstl. Need Your Lovin’ is a loved-up house track layering sunshine groove on top of dusted percussion and a delightfully bouncy bassline. In contrast, Result is grittier, rawer and utterly commanding. Perhaps due to sampling old soul vocals, or Celeste’s mature talent, brstl005 instantly feels like a record you’ve always kept in your collection. For those of you not from Bristol (sucks to be you) Shanti will remain a mystery. We are thrilled to rectify this with her first ever interview and a gorgeous exclusive mix. Exemplifying that while she is a new producer, she is no stranger to records.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, what influenced you to work in music and live in Bristol?
Well, I grew up in Chile until I was 11. Then my mum married an English bloke and moved me to the Lake District where I did the rest of my growing up. I moved to Bristol to do an illustration degree, but soon “deferred” so that I could do music stuff, as it was much more fun!
I started DJing at 17, but never really took it seriously until I moved to Bristol; started a night and was getting more regular gigs. My initial influence to start DJing was just all my friends being heavily into music, and quite a few of them were DJs. I have always liked music and dancing, so as well as the people around me, I was also inspired by going to raves and dancing all night.
When living and working in Bristol, does being part of such a strong community of producers aid your production? What else influences your sound?
It definitely inspires me being within this musical community. I learn so much from different people around me all the time. I guess my sound is influenced by everything that I like. I started DJing before I started producing, so all the music I own and have been listening to over the years has an influence in one way or another.
While Bristol has always been a innovative city for music, there has been an exciting flourish in recent years in techno and house. What are your thoughts on what’s behind this musical shift?
I think it’s great! More people come to our parties now : ) I think that things are constantly changing; different styles of music become popular, but then a year later there will be something else that becomes popular, or even a new genre emerges! There has always been an undercurrent of people pushing underground house and techno in Bristol, but it seems to have become more generally accepted now that some people have moved away from things like dubstep and drum & bass.
You’re recently returned from a gig in Berlin, what did you take away from the trip? As a promoter yourself, is there anything you feel could apply to your parties in Bristol. On the flip-side, was there anything Bristol could teach Berlin?
Actually, the only thing different that I noticed in that particular club was that nobody shouted when they got excited about a track. It was busy and everyone was dancing, but I just think that Germans express their excitement a little differently than they do here. I’m so used to having someone going ‘Oi Oi!!’ in the crowd. It also makes the crowd a little easier to read, you know? Germans aren’t like that I don’t think…that, or they just weren’t enjoying it!
It’s so common in electronic music these days for women to be objectified and sexualised, in vocal samples, album artwork and videos. Do you think this undermines the technical abilities of female producers and DJs, preventing then from being considered on equal footing?
It’s true that the electronic music scene in general is male-dominated, and this is of course going to lead to certain sexist attitudes and behaviours. It’s up to us as strong female artists in the scene to push back against these views. I want to be judged simply on the strength of my productions and my DJing, and not just because people think that I might be attractive. There are a lot of male DJs out there that I don’t find personally attractive, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think they’re any less musically worthy, or valuable to the scene. Why shouldn’t male and female artists be judged by the same set of values?
The gender imbalance in electronic music isn’t due to lack of ability and creativity on the part of women. Why do you think this is then, what influenced you to be a part of it, and how can more women be encouraged to engage with electronic music?
I think quite a lot of females that love music are simply too intimidated to get involved. Maybe a lack of knowledge about the fact that if you put your mind to it, you can actually make a living out of it… Kind of! Or maybe they just don’t think it will lead them anywhere. It’s definitely something that I think about sometimes but whatever, eh? You never know if you don’t try!
Can you share five key tracks that have inspired you to produce?
Ooh…that’s difficult. There’s definitely way more than five, but here goes:
After DJing and running nights for several years in Bristol, how does it feel to release your first EP? Can you tell us a bit about how it came together? Did you take and incorporate feedback from the dancefloor’s reception into your work?
It feels pretty great to finally have some of my productions on vinyl. I’ve been making music for a couple of years now and during the last 12 months I’ve been showing the choice bits to Chris Farrell from Idle Hands in the hope that he thought some of them worthy of a release. Chris has definitely given me some feedback along the way – not so much on the technical end of things – but definitely some positive nudges about what he likes in the tracks and why. Along the way, I’ve been playing out some of my rough mixes in order to see how the dance floor reacts, and importantly, how they’re going to sound on a club system. When I’m in the process of making a tune, it’s important for me to take a step back and think, “Am I going to enjoy dancing to this?” If the answer is yes, then I carry on and get it finished!
Are there any lesser-known Bristol producers you’re feeling at the moment?
Obviously Outboxx are out there representing quality Bristol house music. Their album is great and I’m glad that they’re doing so well. Jay L and Andy Mac who do the Falling Up party make wicked tunes too. Jay’s stuff is more on a super-swung Detroit-esque house tip, but everyone should watch out for Andy’s double 12″ that’s coming out soon on Idle Hands – it’s amazing! The mysterious Rhythmic Theory is making some deep techno bangers too and my studio-mate Gram Rcy is also making some cool techno at the moment.
Your sound has been compared to that of Kerri Chandler’s, how does it feel to be playing alongside him at the In:Motion launch?
It’s great to be compared to someone whose sound has inspired me so much. The amount of money I’ve spent on his records over the years is ridiculous! I’m very excited to meet him, and I’m looking forward to playing
And finally, aside from the EP and In:Motion, do you have anything else coming up on the horizon?
The next thing release-wise is my 12″ on Idle Hands, which should come out in November, and are the first of my own productions to feature my vocals. There’s also our party Housework’s 3rd birthday bash with John Swing and Jane Fitz at The Motorcycle Showrooms on 18th October. It’s also my birthday weekend, so I’m really excited about that as well!