The pandemic has certainly given touring artists the time to reconvene, rediscover and recharge for when better times are upon us again. One such artist that has used this time to his advantage is Shaun Reeves. One-fourth of Detroit crew Visionquest Shaun is an unreal producer and similarly well-skilled DJ. Constantly being in demand and an absolute must-see for any clubber. Ahead of Shaun’s performance at Albania’s brilliantly curated UNUM Festival we catch up with one of Detroit’s celebrated sons to find out what has been happening in his world since the music stopped…
How has the pandemic year been for you personally? What did you learn about yourself?
It’s been a year of massive change of course, for everyone, and the world in general. On a personal level, many things in my reality shifted or became clearer. I was on tour when the shutdowns started, at SXM festival to be exact. Jetting back to Berlin, where I had been living since 2004, I first tried to ride out what I thought would be a much shorter shutdown by working it off in the studio. Then it started to drag on and all of my plans and the plans that we had for Visionquest started to fade away. This was probably the hardest part for me, we were going back on the road all four of us, with Seth, to do some dates together across 2020 and 2021 to celebrate 10 years of the label. We were all looking forward to being a crew again and bringing the vibe back. This album that we are now speaking about was also due to come out at the end of 2020.
By the time, I adjusted to the new reality we were all in and accepted that the things I was looking forward to were not going to happen it was summertime in Berlin. Even during a global pandemic, this was something of a magical time there, being able to meet friends at Club der Visionaere and outside around the city. It was actually great to spend a whole summer there without any gigs outside (except one road trip to Prague to play at Wildt on my birthday, which was also super nice), just able to enjoy the city and people there. I experienced the city in a way that I hadn’t since my first few years there. I’m especially grateful for this since I would soon find myself departing my long-time home base for new scenery and adventures.
With work and income having stopped for a considerable time by the end of the summer, and a long-isolated Berlin winter ahead, I decided it would probably be best to go to LA, to set up the studio there and see what happens. It took me a long time to adapt, especially with everything locked down and no gigs to socialize at, but out of this, I’ve learned that I can eventually be comfortable in a wider variety of situations that I would have previously expected. Now that I’ve settled in a bit and actually can say that I live here, I’m quite happy with my decision. I’m once again lucky to be surrounded by a great group of people and artistic collaborators, with new perspectives, and now that things are opening again I have a lot of cool gigs and things planned locally that I’m really excited about. I’m actually playing my first gig in LA with actual people this upcoming weekend for the Dialogue guys, who I also recently did a remix for on their first vinyl release (from Ada Kaleh).
How does it feel to be 40, and have 20 years DJing behind you?
Even while looking at a calendar and doing the math, I can still barely believe those numbers. Here we are though, it’s happened. I’m just happy that I’m still here, sharing music in this community that has become more of a big family to me, still with no end in sight. It is honestly incredible to me and I’m so grateful for it. I somehow still have moments and feelings just as strong and sincere as did in my early 20s first experiencing Detroit and then Berlin. I think that this is the key, don’t think about age, worry too much about your initial plans not working out, or compare yourself to anyone else or what they were doing – only to your own experience and happiness in what you’re doing.
What was the significance of releasing this the day before your birthday? Has this been something you’ve planned for a long time?
This is probably the third date that we have planned for this, if the pandemic never happened it would have probably been out around the end of 2020. I’ve never released an album so we started gently pushing it back little by little until we got to a point when we thought there would be parties and DJs playing around so that we could play the tracks out as well as anyone else who appreciates them.
Just a couple of months ago when Ryan and I were locking in the date for this we realized it would have to be sometime in July, so I thought “shit, after all of these delays and shutdowns, I at least need to get this out before I turn 40 on the 24th”.
What have been the highs and lows as a full-time DJ?
After the past year of missing the road life, even the previously annoying parts, I’ve realized even the lows are not really lows. It’s a privileged life and I try to be grateful for it every moment that I possibly can. If there is one thing it’s that it’s hard to cultivate and maintain romantic relationships, however, freedom can also be a blessing. Like anything, it depends on your perspective and how you react to things.
This new album is a bit of a return to your original sound, right? How did that come about? And why was now the right time to do an album?
It is more of a return to my original influences but with a new and more experienced approach to the sound, I would say. This was a result of my going back to Berlin in 2016 after a little stint in Ibiza. In the Ibiza times, my sound got a little bit more beefed up from playing at clubs and parties like DC10 and Music On, as well as more of the bigger festival stages with Visionquest. I also felt like I had gotten inaccurately pigeonholed from the early success of the label so going back to Berlin I had a personal mission to find myself again there, mostly at CDV to be honest. That place is really the biggest influence on the album, as well as the old Perlon records that I fell in love with when I first started djing.
What gear did you use on the album, I read you learn a eurorack set up – why?
Yes, the tracks on the album are compiled as my favorites from a whole lot of them that I made In 2018/2019. During this time I was starting to buy some modules and was lucky enough to get help and guidance from some trusted friends, which really helped a lot. There was a bit of a learning curve that I don’t think I would have made it through without them.
Was it weird writing music in the last year without any feedback from DJ gigs? Do you tend to get into a certain headspace when you’re writing where you imagine the crowd feedback?
Good question. And yes, it was terribly confusing, though I don’t really think about crowd feedback when I’m making music. I’m making it for myself first and foremost, like do I feel what’s coming out of the speaker at that moment, and then secondarily would I feel good playing it or listening to it outside the studio. The strangeness for me was more rooted in the vibe in general, it wasn’t just the dancefloors that went away, it was normal human interaction as well, which is also a big influence. I’ve still had some great studio sessions, especially when a friend or two drops by but also just ended up making strange things in the end, totally out of leftfield, because I didn’t have any particular thing that I was feeling except this overbearing sense of uncertainty, so that’s what came out I guess
Now the album is what is next? A new chapter or more music of a similar style or?
I think that I will also make tracks in this vein, or at least dabble in it, as it’s my first love in dance music, aesthetically speaking. Having said that, one of the motivations behind these tracks coming out as an album is that they capture my time in Berlin and my influences there so well. Now that I’m back in the states, in a different scene and being influenced by other things, I feel a desire to break out of my comfort zone and express myself in different ways musically. It’s a process but a fun one.
Why have you moved to LA from Berlin? Why that place in particular?
Moving back stateside was something I had been thinking about for some time. As much as I love(d) living in Berlin, I always had in the back of my mind that I want to try to move back to the states at some time, to try to bring a bit of what I learned and experienced in Berlin and on the road back home with me. So many artists moved to Berlin at some point in their careers over these past years, perhaps this was something of a drain on many local scenes and it would be good for at least some of us to go back and plant new seeds in those places from which we came. That way this movement or whatever you want to call it can grow, evolve and expand instead of existing mostly in Berlin and maybe a few other key spots which are not accessible to everyone, for economic, geographical, or whatever reasons. The US scene has been getting better and better recently, with places like Miami, Atlanta, Texas, LA, and many others starting to develop scenes and have parties that look more and more like what was happening only in Europe.
Will LA offer a more slowed down life for you? Was it a case that Berlin sort of just ran its course?
I could run on that course forever, Berlin I mean, but that was kind of my problem eventually. I got a bit too comfortable in the end there and maybe even complacent in my routine. That started to bother me on a deep level I suppose, and then the pandemic happened. The indefinite loss of gigs and being able to be on the road forced my hand and I headed to LA, knowing that at worst I can get involved in other music things there which don’t require travel, when said thing is not possible. So it’s not really a slowed-down life, it’s actually quite sped up and full of more hustle and bustle. The city and so many of the people that I’ve been spending time with there are inspiring to me in ways that Berlin wasn’t. It’s similar in some ways, both being cities of eccentric-artist-creative types, but also very different. It takes different skill sets to survive in each place that’s for sure, and I feel good to have experience with both. I will definitely return to and spend as much time as possible in Berlin forever, as long as I walk this earth at least, it’s not my only home now but it is still home.
Will we ever see Visionquest on the road again? How do you feel about that period of your life?
As I mentioned previously, COVID wiped out the ten years events that we had in the books for 2020 and 2021. I think this was a big disappointment for all of us and we haven’t really started to collectively pick up those pieces yet, to decide exactly what to do next together or when that would happen.
Seth and I played some gigs together last month, in Texas and Atlanta. It was a much-needed experience, like going home. I can only speak for myself at the moment, and I don’t want to jinx anything, but I have a hunch that you will see us back in form altogether again in the not-so-distant future.
Also, you’re playing at Unum soon. How much are you looking forward to getting back on the road?
Hard to quantify how excited I am to be going to Albania soon for Unum, with a lot of European friends and colleagues who I have not seen in an unusually long amount of time now. I’m really looking forward to catching up with them and also hearing what they have to play. Also, Unum is a great festival in a beautiful location, one of the best that I’ve seen personally. I had the pleasure of playing the first edition in 2019 and had a blast there. The whole team is amazing as are all of the stages. Just a perfect vibe, my kind of party.
What else have you got coming up/are you working on?
With things opening back up and shows popping up on the calendar, the last few weeks have just been about being as healthy as possible and preparing for the party machine to crank back up again. Lots of time digging for and organizing music, as well as finishing up some tracks I was working on so that they can be played out. The normal routine is finally shaping up again, and in fresh surroundings, It feels like the beginning of a new and special time.
Shaun Reeves plays Unum Festival, 3rd-7th June in Albania. Shaun Reeves’ debut LP ‘The Eye That Sees Us All’ is out July 23rd via Visionquest.