And The Core Of Salt Lake City's Thriving Dance Music Scene
Before The Music Interview Series – SHSTR
With influences from Porter Robinson and Madeon, SHSTR brings a unique sound, full of glitches to the game. He has support from Whipped Cream, Lick, Holly, and many more. SHSTR is also a huge fan of puzzles with hidden messages in them. We have included one of his distinguished puzzles into the interview. Can you solve it?
It’s pronounced Schuster. I really don’t mind how people pronounce it, as long as they like what’s coming from it, not that that’s the general focus of why I do what I do. My brand is based more around the experience. There are a lot of other brands and music projects that don’t do much on the experience aspect. I’ve always wanted to push to experience something more. It doesn’t have to be a heavy brand or chill. I can do whatever I want and it will fit really well. I’m always all over the board with what I make and create.
Does the experience you bring have a theme or name?
Not really, it’s just The SHSTR Experience if anything. Like I said I kind of jump to multiple things. I can put out an orchestra track and it still fits really well with my music that’s more electronic. I’m all over the place with anything I do whether it’s art or music. I’ve always been really interested in making sure my brand isn’t just music, but the art as well. At some point, for every EP, I would love to do a 5-10 minute animated movie to go along with it. The EP would play through the whole movie.
I saw a recent Facebook video post that was titled The October Experience. Is that part of The SHSTR Experience?
I love testing things. What I do for most of my posts, videos, and stuff like that, is test people. I test not only people, but the platforms I put them on as well. I like to test how people react to them. I’ve always been into puzzles; my mom got me into them. I try to play around with riddles with little key things. I use codes and other elements to interact with people. That’s what The October Experience is. Basically it’s me testing a monthly experience with people through social media.
Is there a hidden message in the video of your October Experience post?
Not in the video, but in the audio, yes. We didn’t include it in the video because Shepard and I set deadlines for ourselves to release content. In the future, both the audio and video will include hidden messages.
What type of messages do you hide in your audio/video?
I had a video in the past, where if you played it backwards, it says a URL that you can go to. If you go to the URL, it takes you to a website which has a code that needs to be deciphered. I won’t go too in depth. Once you decipher the code it will lead you onto a big puzzle. I try to put a code or puzzle in everything I put out.
Is Shepard who does all of you video content for social media?
It started with Dhitto. I’ve always wanted to interact with people through post. As soon as I noticed a big chunk of people enjoyed the interactive side I started doing more things with codes. I then had videos with morse code in the background. Since then Shepard has been the one doing all of my videos.
Is Shepard a well known video artist?
Not that I am aware of. He does have a pretty good following for his video content though. He’s really underrated.
Does he do work with other artists?
Not that I have seen, other than people I have recommended to him.
What about your visuals? Does he do those as well?
All the visuals in my previous live shows were made by Dhitto. They gave me an idea of what direction I wanted to head in with my visuals. I’ll be playing Get Freaky and Shepard will be doing all of the visuals for that set.
Do you plan on having any hidden messages in live visuals?
Absolutely. I also want to post flyers in out of state cities im playing in with embedded codes. If a certain amount of people figure out the code, they can send in their email and I will send them a free ticket to the show.
If someone was watching a live set, how would you expect them to pick up on the secret codes in your visuals?
For a live show setting I would do something where I give free merch. The free tickets is more out of state on posters. Everyone records everything this day in age. If you play any live show, people always record it and put it on social media. I’d hope my fans realize that with everything I put out, there is a secret code embedded in it.
Speaking of your art and visuals, I’ve noticed a drawing/animation of a girl with a face mask. Is there a story behind that?
Absolutely. It all started when I was 14. When I have bad dreams, I always see this teenage girl, named Emma. She is always creepily in the scenario and that’s how I know it’s going to be a bad dream. As soon as she appears it turns into a bad dream. It terrified the shit out of me, which is why she is the artwork for my song Fear. Now it’s become something I’m more comfortable with and put her everywhere. I’ve gotten over it, but I want to include her as a recurring thing.
That’s actually super rad. It seems like you put a lot of thought into your project past the music.
I feel like you can do more with your project if you want it to be a career. I’ve always had fun making puzzles, artwork, merch, and music. If I can make a career out of all of this, why not do it to the extent where I include everyone else with me, ya know?
What’s the ultimate experience you are trying to bring with your project?
I guess whatever people take from it. If someone takes my experience in a way where it makes them unbelievably happy, that’s great. If I can invoke them in a way to where they are enjoying the experience, that’s good.
How did you get started with EDM?
I started in 2011-2012. The short term of it was Big Room, but I would play around with sounds a lot. I sent a small label some demos; they sent me a message saying that music wasn’t for them. That hit pretty hard for a couple days. My mom told me to get my shit together and that it didn’t matter. Since then I have taken everything as constructive criticism. I even read the entire FL Studio manual so I would know what I’m working with. So basically it started with Big Room, then moved to Progressive, like Anjuna type stuff. Kozoro taught me a lot with that type of stuff. Since then I’ve developed a sound I like with what he taught me. That mixed with sounds from Porter Robinson and Madeon. My music has evolved since with all types of glitches and such. I’ve always been the biggest fanboy for any glitch ever. Whether it’s visual or audio, I love it all.
Would you say Porter Robinson and Madeon are your biggest influences?
Porter’s heavier side influences me the most. Madeon’s melodic side mixed with some Anjuna artists, like Genix and Audien’s older stuff too. I would also say some underrated and underground artists inspire the crap out of me. Soundcloud is like my best friend. Skrillex tour videos also. Whenever I’m in a writers block, I’ll watch a Skrillex tour video to get in the mindset of where I want to be.
Do any non EDM artists influence your music?
Oh yeah. I’d have to look through my spotify to give you the best answer. Slipknot’s heaviness with their music inspires me. Also The Beatles with their chord progressions. Usually most Indie Rock artists or Alternative give me inspiration as well. Foster the People, Two Door Cinema Club type artists also influence me with their chord progressions, not so much their structure. I guess it depends on the type of music I’m trying to write. I draw from a variety of genres, except for Country.
Your Destroy the Creator EP was released almost a year ago; do you have a new EP in the works?
Yes. My newest EP should be coming out by the end of the year. I will try to do an EP or album every year. It’s always nice to get a collective from an artist you like. I understand the reason artists put out an EP or album ever 2 of 4 years. With my workflow, I always love what I make, even if I make it quick. I’ve always felt like everything I make is good quality. I make a lot of music and can afford to put out an EP every year.
Do you have a name for the new EP?
Why did you choose the name Walking Giants?
I have always wanted to do an ep or compilation with the influence of Giants, Juggernauts, and Monsters and I felt this would continue on with the story I left on from Destroy the Creator. Walking Giants just seemed like a name for a story for a juggernaut/giant that keeps moving forward.
So what can you tell me about the old Tooele shows?
Oh man.. God damnit.. One of my first shows I ever played was in Galixi’s basement. We filled that bitch all the way up. It was literally just a show in his basement. In Tooele I’ve done school dances and open format gigs. I basically took any gig I could get when I was first starting. Iater l realized that live shows aren’t really that essential to making a career with your music.
Can we expect any releases from you before the EP is out?
Yeah a few. I have a remix or two I might put out as well as a few originals. It all depends on who we pitch the EP to and when it comes out. I’d love to put out some music before the EP, it just depends on who takes the EP, contracts, and stuff like that.
What are your favorite plugins and samples?
For samples I love to use French Electro or Nu Disco for the most part. I don’t use too many sample packs and try to resample as much as possible. To answer the VST question I like to make sounds in Sylenth and Harmor. Harmor is just a stock FL plugin. That’s where I make all my basses. Sylenth is where I make more of my melodic stuff. I’ll usually make something in Harmor, render it, stretch it out, and add a vocal sample to it that’s super stretched and fucked with. Then I’ll include them both and make some weird glitch fill that is new sounding. Glitch Machines make some cool stuff as well. I really like everything they put out.
Do you feel like you are at the point to where you can release your own sample packs?
I’d love to release my own sample packs, but the only problem I have with it is, I want people to sound like themselves. I’d probably put out some percussion, as well as some glitch sounds that I’ve made. I probably would never put out any plucks, synths, or basses because I feel like learning how to make them is the fun in music production. For me the most exciting thing was trying to remake an idol of mine’s song or trying to make a bass. I’d dissect basses a lot. I’d also have a Serum preset open with another Serum window and try to recreate the sound by listening to it over and over again
You have a track with Moore Kismet; how did you guys link up?
I posted that I was playing a show. Moore Kismet commented on a post for the same show, Das Energi DJ Invitational. He said he was bummed out because he was too young to play the event. Cami Casanova commented and said it was okay because he was in the same boat as me. I couldn’t play that many shows since I wasn’t 21 at the time. We ended up linking from there and collabed. We’ve made so many collabs since, enough for a whole collab EP and then some. We have a track together coming out on my new EP. We want to always keep the theme of us working together since we have known one another since we were smaller artists. He was barely hitting 1K followers and I wasn’t even at 1K. We both felt like it was dumb that people wouldn’t work with artists under a certian follower count. Since then he’s been one of my best friends that isn’t here, just online friends.
Besides Moore Kismet and Lick, do you have any other tracks with well known artists?
I do, but I can’t announce any of them yet. There are a few I’m working with, but we will leave them unannounced for now.
What started your huge Yerba Mate kick?
Dhitto told me about this drink that tastes really good and has enough caffeine to keep you up, but it’s a tea. He and I have the same workflow and can’t sleep. It’s better to work energized than tired. I have bad insomnia. I tried my first one, blueberry, and that’s my favorite one. The orange ones pretty good and the lemon one is okay, but I hate the red one.
What is something you are proud of, but never have a reason to talk about?
This is a tough question. I’d say my music and art. Obviously I want to make a career out of this and to do that I need a fanbase for my stuff, but that’s never my main goal. I’ll never go to shows and tell people I make music. However, it’s always been something I’ve been very proud of. I always try to stay humble with everything I do.
What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I stutter really bad when I’m nervous or anxious. I guess I’m a nerd too. A lot of people don’t say I come off like that, but I feel like I am. I’ve also bought the same Vans shoes for the past 9 years; black vans for days. I BMX as well and go to skateparks a lot; I ride pretty actively.
If we were to finish this interview and you found a winning lottery ticket for 500 million dollars, what would you do with the money?
I would give a lot of it to everyone who supports me but through free merch, free tickets to shows etc, including the person who got me into Electronic music. One of my best friend’s older brother played Dubstep for me and that’s what got me into it. All that old Flux Pavillion 2010 stuff. I’ve always wanted to give him a big chunk because if he never showed it to me, who knows where I’d be now. I would also give a big portion to my family and put the rest into my project. I’d build a cool studio too. Man 500 million could do a lot. Ultimately I’d give a lot of it away. I’m pretty easy to please. I could probably eat a jar of olives for dinner one night and be perfectly fine with that, not that that is ideal for me in the slightest nor would I choose that but I wouldn’t complain. I’m just not high maintenance.