I had the pleasure of speaking with one of Germany's Down-tempo pioneers over dinner while he was in New York promoting his sophisticated new offering "Great Delay." At some point since his last album, Shantel (Stefan Hante) absorbed the vast cultural and musical influences from his DJ treks around the globe and has constructed new material based on the natural beauty of opposing forces. "Great Delay" is a contemplative record full of soul and rich melodies from an artist far removed from the pretentious embellishments of the music industry. He had a lot of interesting things to say about working on his new album, the winter music conference, shepherds with cell phones and offered some insight into his work that combines a huge array of interesting instruments, subtle electronics and the passionate vocal work of his guests.

How was the Winter Music Conference?

It was quite funny, I came straight from Brazil and wasn't in a very good mood, when I came to Miami, on one side I was kind of shocked because the whole situation there is such a fake, it's a big show off. You have all these silicon breasts, silicon in their lips. It was a fake you know but I got to go see the ocean five times a day! I enjoyed it a lot but it has nothing to do with making music, with creating anything or just to represent something, it's not connected at all.

How has your response been in the US?
Where are you headed after New York?

I have done a couple of interviews and they were very nice, after tomorrow I will be headed back to Germany. I've been around for a few weeks. I was in Brazil shooting a video and before that I was in Paris and England.

Are you sticking to strictly DJ dates or do you have any plans of performing live?

I have already set up a live band with nine musicians on stage, the same musicians that I used for recording the album. And we did the first show at Popkomm festival in cologne. It's like the Winter Music Conference but it's more "real" you know? It's more down to earth.

"Higher Than the Funk" was nominated as one of the top 15 albums of the year, URB named it down-tempo album of the year, and you received great reviews. Did you feel any particular pressure when you began work on "Great Delay" or feel like you had something to live up to?

When I finish a project like an album, immediately I am thinking about what the next step is. I always have strong wishes and visions, thinks that I really wanted to do and when I started with Great Delay, I had this idea to make a combination of warm, acoustic and fragile sounds and to combine it with Electronica. This was such a big idea for me that I'm not thinking about it, I don't put myself under pressure. Since I already knew what I wanted to do, I take my time to work it out and it is very important not to put too much pressure on yourself with these types of things.

Was this your first time working with a string quartet and more acoustic elements?

I'm always very connected to acoustic instruments. When I started making music I learned a lot of instruments. I started playing Violin when I was 16 and I have a very strong feeling for these types of instruments. I don't make a difference between an electronic environment and a so-called acoustic environment, is doesn't matter you know? Only a matter if it sounds good or not. This type of sound is very connected to me and I wanted to do it. In the 90's everything was so about "making tracks" or being connected to club culture which is great and that's how I started but I think we lost a bit of soul. It became more sound design, tracks 7 and 8 minutes long, everything sounds so in shape and I wanted to have a change here, definitely.

Who were the vocalists you worked with?

It was Michael Romeo from London, he is really into the Dub scene and I worked with him in '95 on my first album and didn't see him for ages until I met up with him again in some airport somewhere. Immediately we came back to this strong point where we started a few years ago and I did some stuff with him. In Tel Aviv I met Efrat Ben-Zur, and I also did some songs with Andreà Palladio in Frankfurt and Liane Sommers, the woman I also worked with on the last album.

Who is the vocalist on "Tiens"?

It's a funny story; it is a voice that I found on a very old record of my grandmother's. The label was scratched up. I had this record for a very long time. I worked on the playback of "Tiens" and it was almost finished and I then I put only the voice from the record on it and it worked so good, it was such an organic thing, a magic moment. But I don't know who she is; it's like from a dream or something. The magic about this track is that it has a very strong gypsy attitude. I love gypsy music, it is the only music that is out of any concept and comes directly from the heart. They immediately start to perform, they put themselves in a mood and then they start to sing, sort of like Blues. In Eastern Europe you can find great examples of this kind of performing, I love it, it's very emotional.

Was a majority of the album recorded in Tel Aviv?

Yes a lot of the album I did in Tel Aviv. I was invited a few times to DJ in Tel Aviv and I found it to have a very special and intense situation there. I was very attached and immediately I was meeting DJ's, producers, and musicians so I set up a situation for myself there. I got an apartment and I started to work.

Was there a particular reason behind the location? Do you think the environment effected the record at all?

No, when I worked in Frankfurt I always tried to invent something that I didn't have in Frankfurt, for example, this association or feeling to become; to have this Mediterranean flavor, to be a bit "light" whatever that means. When I worked in Tel Aviv I discovered my melancholic side and the situation there was absolutely warm, I had the sea, everything. I like these sorts of opposites and this is the sort of thing that inspired me. I am very careful in working with exotic elements because immediately you can lose yourself. You can impress people very fast because it will always catch you somehow but you can also lose yourself immediately. You have to find out your own universal language and for me it is very important for me to be original. You have all these sub genres like the Nu-school or downtempo or the new school of Jazz, it's too much, you get lost immediately. I'm not in school you know? I'm over this. I'm always attracted by things that are normally not to be fit together. In Brazil you have this organic jungle and then you have this amazing architecture which is very technical and very mechanical but the combination of both is fantastic. I saw this guy today wearing a soccer jersey with an advertisement of a refrigerator company on it which looks so cheap but the combination of these macho, masculine guys with something that says "Seamen" on it, it works. Another time I was in the mountains of Italy and there was nothing there, only shepherds. After hours walking by myself I met these shepherds, they are cooking over fires and all of a sudden they pull out their cell phones and they talk with their woman "Ah, I'm coming home in one week." It's amazing, I love it.

Could you tell me a little about your musical upbringing?

I started to learn instruments very early but I always wanted to be a graphic designer and artist. I wanted to work with visual things, this was my vision because with music, I was not that serious. I did it, I played in bands but I never had the ideas to live from this and suddenly when I was studying graphics I started to organize parties. I also started DJing in the late 80's and the problem is that I was looking for record and couldn't find them so I went to a friend's studio and I asked him "can I try some stuff in your studio?" I went there for 2 or 3 months in the evening and this is how my first album came out. We decided to make 1000 copies of this material we recorded and after one week they were sold and immediately. I found myself in the music business to make more copies. I was getting invitations to DJ in London and I was like "Oh my gosh whats going on?"

You have your own label right?

Essay recordings. It is more a ritual situation. I hate all this music business bullshit you know? It's horrible but I like the idea of having a label, you can control everything but I have a license deal with K7 but I don't have an office. I like this idea, maybe in a few years I can release material from other guys but its nice to play with little things, to make business cards with your title on it, passing them out in Miami (laughs) It's inventing something. I like manipulation in a very subtle way, a very positive way. -Justin Hardison

Shantel's new album Great Delay is available now from Studio K7 www.studio-k7.com




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