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.
this your first time working with a string quartet and more acoustic
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,
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
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
Shantel's new album Great Delay is available now from Studio