We talked with Shape Shifter, a beat maker/producer active in Australia, who released an EP with Viliani in our previous interview, about the local scene and episodes in the making of the EP.
Mental Position – Thank you for taking part in this interview. I contacted you after watching the SENSELESS video, but I have been following Shape Shifter on Instagram before that, and have already introduced you on this website in 2022. (https://lo-fi.style/todays/shapeshifter/).
I couldn’t find your profile on the internet. Since you are in the music video with Viliani, are you active in Australia? Please tell us about yourself along with a brief introduction.
Shape Shifter – Hey there!! I’m a 27 year old producer from Melbourne Australia. I was introduced to Hip Hop when I was about 13 and have been obsessed with it ever since. Nas and Gang Starr were the first artists I really enjoyed when I was getting into Hip Hop. I’m a big fan of American English and Australian Underground Hip Hop.
MP – The releases available on the internet are “Puffin Shapes” and “Autumn Entries” from 2023, and the oldest Instagram post is from 2020. When did you start beatmaking?
Shape Shifter – I first started making beats when I was about 18 so for around 10 years now. I was terrible when I first tried to make beats on FL Studio with a little midi controller. It took me many many years of messing around to make anything that was good. I think I’ve always had a good ear for music but I could never translate that into beats. I’ve only been putting beats out into the world since 2020.
MP – Listening to the beats sold on beatbay, the tracks posted on Instagram, and the past releases, there are some soulful ones, but most of the tracks use samples with a cinematic and dark atmosphere, and they sound like reminding of nights in the city. Including your recently released EP “Keep Sleepin”, is there anything you keep in mind when making beats?
Shape Shifter – Lately I’ve been making a range of styles of beats and I do pride myself on my versatility. I would get bored making the same style all the time so I try and experiment and do new things. I think I can make many different styles of Hip Hop and do them well. Funnily enough my favourite thing is to sample soul music but over the last few years I’ve been making some more dark / cinematic stuff which I really enjoy and suits a lot of local artists. The thing I mainly focus on is if the sample makes me feel something. I know if the sample hits me in a certain way then I can make something that maybe other people can feel to. I’ve also recently been paying a lot of attention to how I mix my instrumentals and the different kind of movement and textures you can get by using effects like compression. But mostly just trusting my instincts and ears and letting the sample take me where it wants to go.
MP – The tracks you release are based on Hip Hop / Lo-fi sound. Are there any artists who have influenced your music production?
Shape Shifter – There is many artists who have influenced my sound. I’m a big fan of J Dilla for example. Dillas music to me is just magical and so obscure at times it just makes me shake my head in astonishment. Others I really like are DJ Premier, Madlib, Pete Rock, 9th Wonder, Nottz, Alchemist, Apollo Brown, Marco Polo, MF DOOM, Kev Brown, Nujabes, Havoc and RZA to name a few.
MP – Please tell us about the environment of music production, such as equipment. Looking at your workspace which is sometimes seen on Instagram, you make beats with Native Instruments Maschine. And I saw SP-404 on IG.
Shape Shifter – Currently I’m using a Native Instruments Maschine MK3 and and a SP-404 MK2. I basically produce and mix everything in Maschine. I also use FL studio to record vocals and when I do mixing and mastering. Just remember it’s not what you use it’s your own creativity and how you use it. I also do a little bit of Mastering work so hit me up if you need something Mastered.
MP – Is your sound source mainly sampling? Do you sample from records or use sample packs? Or play phrases on a synth to create your own material?
Shape Shifter – Mainly at the moment I’m sampling online. I do sample vinyl also but my turntable is broken at the moment so I need to get a new one. I mostly use high quality digital sound data. I don’t use sample packs except for drums which I have a lot of. My favorites are the Beat Butcher filth drums and the Marco Polo Pad Thai drum packs. Those are both fantastic. I also occasionally make original compositions from scratch with VSTs or a hardware synth I have.
MP – Before we get to “Keep Sleepin,” let’s talk about your two earlier releases. Are dope MCs like Cadet X on “Autumn Entries,” Puff Justice on “Puffin Shapes,” and Nelson Dialect local artists? Rappers of this generation are more skilled than in the past, but I have the impression that there are many good rappers in Australia from listening to these works.
Shape Shifter – Yes they are all local artists. Cadet X is an artist I was introduced to in about 2020 and he’s just a great lyricist who I’m really impressed by. We really suit each other sound wise. Definitely some more soulful vibes. He’s a part of the Nine 2 Five crew from Melbourne who have artists such as The Primative One, Kmodo, Bilby, and Ra to name a few. I’m working on projects and songs with a lot of the Nine 2 Five crew and really love everything they’re doing. Puff Justice is one of my best friends and we hang out all the time and just make music all night long. We really work well together. He’s a freaky talented artist who I’m always impressed by. Nelson Dialect is a rapper from Adelaide who has become very big in Australia and the UK recently signing to the legendary UK label High Focus Records. He’s extremely talented and one of our country’s best MCs no doubt. Yes Australia actually has a great history of Hip Hop with many many great artists and an active scene for the last 30 years or so.
MP – The song “Senseless” with Viliani has a so-called BoomBap sound, but I thought it was a very dope and tasteful Hip Hop track with a modern atmosphere without being too much biased toward the 90’s sound characteristic of BoomBap. It matches the urban atmosphere of the music video and brings out the best of Viliani’s rapping. How did you meet her and decide to produce the EP? Do you have any interesting production episodes to share?
Shape Shifter – Thank you very much. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Me and Vili met through her partner Ciecmate who is a legendary MC / Producer / Engineer from Melbourne who has been releasing music through his label Broken Tooth Entertainment for the last 20 years. At the time myself and Ciecmate were talking a bit and he invited me to his beat selling website which is “beatbay”. I met Viliani and Ciecmate at this gig that my friends Dooz and Vaye K set up as a fundraiser for the floods in NSW at the time. I had a great time chatting to them. Viliani was so lovely and cool and she mentioned she was looking at getting an EP produced and asked if I was keen. Which I was because I was already a fan of her music! Then I sent her a bunch of beats I thought she would like and she picked 6 and that’s how “Keep Sleepin” was born.
MP – Is there good beatmaker scene in your local? Currently, the main battlefield (place of presentation) for many beat makers is online, so the country or place does not matter when it comes to music production. Are there any interesting scenes at real venues, such as events where beat makers, MCs, and DJs gather?
Shape Shifter – Yes there is a good beat maker scene in Australia at the moment. Shout out to Must Volkoff, Saint Surly, Insideus, Ciecmate, Cashno, Phil Gektor, The Primative One, Trials, Delicasteez, Outpost 31, Discourse, Krass, Tornts, Dazed, Dyl Thomas, Dolphin Jones, O_T, Treb Won, Stone Kutter, S7_beats and Bro 58. They are some of my favorite producers in Australia. In terms of physical venues, there’s definitely a Lo-fi / SP-404 scene in Melbourne city that has beat events but I haven’t attended any. But certainly would like to get involved even a beat battle would be super fun.
MP – The situation has calmed down, but even during the COVID disaster that afflicted the world, beatmakers seemed to have more opportunities to create tracks at home and release them online to attract attention. In particular, along with the trend of lo-fi music such as “Lo-fi Hip Hop,” which started to become popular before COVID, I think it became easier for BoomBap and Lo-fi track makers like you to be active. Have there been any major changes in yourself or your sound production in the two or three years since COVID?
Shape Shifter – Well here in Melbourne we had the longest and most strict lockdown in the world. We were in our houses for 5 months straight in 2020. I spent this time mostly producing and really honing my craft. I became a much better producer as a result of the lockdowns. I wasn’t releasing music publicly before COVID so I can’t say what it was like beforehand but it’s been a fun few years and I’ve made many great connections in the Australian and UK Hip Hop scenes. I was very active at this time posting a beat almost every day or two. That definitely gets you noticed when you have a good workrate and work ethic. We also had this thing Zac Dazed and Discourse (Melbourne producers) started called “Quarantine samples”. This was during the lockdown. Basically it was a sample flipping challenge that heaps of the Australian producers got involved with. It was lots of fun and there was great love and support shown between everyone. I made plenty of good connections too during this.
MP – Do you have any plans to release new songs or albums in the future? Also, can we expect collaboration with Viliani again?
Shape Shifter – Yes I have a bunch of projects in the works. I’ve also almost finished my production album called Polarity. It has a bunch of local artists on it and is really soulful and also dark. It’s a great contrast. There’s a some UK and America rappers on it also. It should be out around the end of the year with Vinyl to come. There is a Viliani and Ciecmate feature on that album and I’m sure me and Vili will work on some more music in the near future.
MP – Are there any artists, famous or unknown, that you would like to collaborate with in the future?
Shape Shifter – I would love to work with some more UK artists especially from High Focus and Blah Records. That’s a bucket list for sure.
MP – Please give a message for the readers of this site and lo-fi music fans.
Shape Shifter – Thank you for reading! Much thanks to Mental Position and LO-FI STYLE for the great interview. Whether or not you make music I’d encourage you to continue to explore music in whatever way you like. Listen to something different and get out of your comfort zone a bit. There’s lots of interesting music out there in the wide world. Big love to the legendary J Dilla and Nujabes for starting this Lo-fi movement which many people enjoy today. They originated this style and craft and still in my opinion are the best at it. Peace and love Shape.
Shape Shifter is a beatmaker/producer from Melbourne, Australia, who has been making dope beats in a wide range of styles, from soulful sounds to darker tracks, and has been active in his local scene. In June 2023, he released the EP "Keep Sleepin" with Australian rapper Viliani.