Shift K3Y Talks His “Gone Missing” Single, R&B Influences & Chaka Khan: Idolator Interview
If you’ve been paying attention to music in 2015, it has become quite clear that the UK knows how to do dance and pop very well — and Shift K3y is one of the musicians on the ride! The London producer (whose real name is Lewis Jankel) is now ready to continue his musical journey in 2016 — thanks to his debut album set to arrive in the coming months.
We chatted with Jankel about the sonic story of the LP, his love for ’90s R&B and touring with some of the biggest DJs in the world. Read on to see what Shift K3Y had to say in our conversation below!
So going into this new year, you’re kicking off your debut album era with the “Gone Missing” single. I know it was first written in 2014.
SHIFT K3Y: When we wrote it, the night before I watched a TV program about people just randomly disappearing and I applied that concept to a breakup song. Becky [Hill] really liked the idea, and after that it was just about finding the right singer to be featured on it. We did a lot of different versions but I went with BB [Diamond]. She was really lovely with doing it and I personally think hers was the best out of the ones who were available to do it.
The song is one of a few that features someone else’s voice, and I’m used to hearing your voice on your songs. How do you make that decision of adding your own vocals or using another?
SK: To be quite honest, I just wanted the song to be heard in the best form possible. So it was never a thought of “I need to do a female feature” or anything like that. It was literally just this was the best song that I have written, so let’s find the right person to be on it. That’s the same process with all my stuff.
Your debut album is arriving this summer. What is the story you want to tell with it?
SK: I want to tell a little bit of a story about the relationship that I’m in at the moment and kind of how I got to where I am. But mainly it’s just to show the different angles of my sound and to let people know that yes I am a dance act, but I am an R&B musician at heart. That’s what I love playing and making — it gets me the most excited. So there’ll be like 4 R&B tracks, 4 Garage tracks and then hopefully one of each of those will tie in with the others.
I actually wanted to touch base on the R&B front! Your music definitely has a 90s-inspired sound. So if you could collaborate with anyone from that era who would it be?
SK: I would choose Jodeci.
Ah yes, they’re a classic! So we’d get to hear a sexier side of Shift K3Y.
SK: Basically yea! If you listen to my last EP, that kind of explains how I am. It’s predominately R&B and soulful, and that’s what I’m always about.
Since you have so many musical influences, did you run into any challenges while making record?
SK: Definitely, and that’s an ongoing problem I think. I make so many different songs and I did things with Tinie Tempah, Stormzy, DJ Mustard and Robin Thicke. So there’s a variety of people that I work with, so it is important for me to show people that full picture.
You’ve also collaborated with Chaka Khan on the album, how was that experience? Because she’s a legendary diva!
SK: It was interesting because I was kind of semi-teaching her it as it was happening. So she’s literally one of my biggest idols and her albums are within my favorites. So to teach one of my idols how to sing one of my songs was more than an honor. She’s just an amazing person and really, really complementary with my music. I was very pleased to have done that.
The current singles you’ve released have classic Garage sound, which is refreshing for a younger audience. How do you think it will translate?
SK: Well I think kids will always want to go out and party, and listen to music that their friends enjoy. And within the UK we’ve always had a very unique way of doing that. As long as the music is good, the kids are always ready for whatever. They’re not prejudice against certain genres. I mean, they have their preconceptions but I think they’re pretty down as long as the track is really good. Like with the new Craig David track [“When The Bassline Drops”], it’s amazing so people will like to listen and play it out.
Last year you were super busy on the road. What was the most memorable moment from touring last year?
SK: Holyship was really fun, because all the artists had one floor. So I’d walk into Mustard’s room and hang out with him for a bit, then go upstairs and Skrillex would appear. There was no phone reception, no managers so you actually get to talk to those people properly and discuss the music that you’re making.
You’ve made connections with Skrillex, DJ Snake, Steve Aoki and all these cool DJs. What have they taught you about this industry?
SK: The main thing I’ve learned from those guys is to not over plan and keep it very relaxed when it comes to your set. And flexible as well, because if the crowd isn’t feeing it then you’ve got to change it up. So mainly just the ability to think on the spot.
I know you’re going to have the new LP out soon, but do you have any other goals for 2016? Like a tour?
SK: Yea, that would be a dream. Of course I’d love to do a headlining tour across the U.S. I just want to carry on doing what I’m doing and continue to be greater than the previous track. Those are my aims.