Shur-I-Kan is most likely known for his relationship with Jimpster apart from the number of hits he has given us over the years. Born Tom Szirtes, he has released the best in House/Dance music across an extensive spectrum of labels including Deeper Shades of House, Z Records, Open Bar Music, Loco Records and of course Freerange.
I was fortunate enough to get a chance to speak to him and hear what he has to say on a few things….
- Keeping it light-hearted and for those who need to get a rough picture before jumping into other questions, who is Shur-I-Kan?
Shur-i-kan is a lone wanderer, a maverick on a mission to paint landscapes with the sound of music. Either that or he’s some bloke from London who spends too much time sitting in-front a computer writing beats. You make your choice.
- Tom Middleton is a name well known in the industry for a number of reasons and for you it’s due to the fact that he discovered you and gave you your first break so to speak, of which led to your debut track to be complied on Jedi’s Knights Out. Take us through that experience in terms of the where and how it all happened.
I was invited to do a support slot for a friend’s gig in East London (he was Chris Johnson who released as Johnny Astro). So I put together a live set featuring myself, a bassist and a drummer playing along to a CD backing track – it was the first Shur-i-kan performance. I’d been working on my first album, but it had never been performed or released at that stage. Tom Middleton and several members of the band that was to become The Bays were at the gig as they knew Chris. In fact Tom DJed at the event. Anyway he loved the music so I gave him a CD and we exchanged details. A couple of weeks later I went over to his studio and he started helping me mix some of my material. He also introduced me to Jimpster and his label Freerange, as he, thought we’d be musical soul-buddies. That’s fifteen years ago now – yikes!
- Having done my preliminary research on you of course, I noticed that it’s not quite clear as to when your djing career began. Please can you shed some light on this for those who are interested in knowing?
It’s a good question, I can’t quite remember. I think my very first DJ gig was at a house party whilst I was at University – my tune of the night was Whigfield’s Saturday Night (there goes any credibility I have left)! When I moved to London I started putting on a nights with a friend – I was playing anything from hip-hop, broken beats and drum ‘n’ bass. To be honest I wasn’t a great DJ at the time – my selection was good, but my technique was lacking – but you got to start somewhere. I think my ‘proper’ DJ career began around 2006 when I started to release house music. I started to get a lot of international bookings around that time. I learnt on the job so to speak – but now obviously I’m very comfortable on the decks.
- Apart from Deep House, you also produce other styles. What would you say have been your influences musically whilst growing up?
I grew up on a mix my parents music which covered jazz, classical and 60’s rock. I am a piano player and my friends at school were into jazz –we started a band and played around the neighbourhood. So my early influences were Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis – that 60’s + 70’s fusion. I also was into electronic music like Jean Michel Jarre, Art of Noise and the sounds of the eighties. Basically I was fascinated by synths – I loved reading the equipment lists of those albums imagining what ARP Odysseys, Solina’s, Fairlights were like. I couldn’t afford any of them sadly!
- Having been in the industry for over 10yrs, in your view what has been key in keeping and bringing you to where you are today?
I’d say perseverance and practice – the amount of hours I’ve spent making music over my life is scary. You only learn by doing. I’m still improving my skills all the time, I’ve still got lots to learn. Okay, there was some innate talent – I’ve always had an ear for harmonies and how to convey emotion through music. I didn’t learn that. But all the production, mixing etc… that’s just trial and error and of course advice from people who are better than you!
- Okay let’s talk “Deep House”.
One of the things I have noticed when it comes to this topic is that a number of people seem to be in love with the “Deep House” concept but barely know what it really is/means. In your view why is this happening? Would you say it’s a case of riding a trend for the sake of not to be left out or it could be something else?
I’m not sure I know what it means either.
Genre’s are just useful tags to describe music. It’s quite hard to describe something abstract like music unless you spend a lot of time listening and analyzing it. So I don’t blame others for using it. Of course, people also want to be part of something popular too. Just because I’ve been making deep house for ten years now doesn’t mean I own it. I just own what I make, and if people like it – then all are welcome!
- You find a lot of people who seem to listen to one specific genre/style of House Music which ultimately leads to not giving themselves a chance to experience anything else but what they are use too. What is your take on this, considering that you yourself as a producer, dj and even as Tom don’t confine yourself to just one style?
Well, you’re missing out on the wider experience of life if you just listen to one style. It’s like only eating Italian food. I love Italian food, but I also like Japanese, Mexican etc.. And if you are chef, you need to learn other cuisines in order to make your own cooking more interesting. Even if you don’t like it, try it, find out what others like about it, and don’t try it just once – that’s not enough. Ok, that’s enough of the food metaphors – it’s making me hungry.
- For those who had no idea, you have your own show titled “Shur-I-Kan in the Mix”, of which happens once a month and lovers of the underground House scene can listen to an hour of great music. How long ago did this start and how has the response been to date?
Well I can only say, that if you’ve not heard it, you’ve probably not lived! It’s been going for almost six years now. It’s simple I play an hour of mostly new and upcoming deep and underground house in the mix. I only do it because people keep asking me for more, so it must be okay.
- You have developed a number of relationships with some loved producers over the years, such as Jimpster (Freerange) as well as Milton Jackson, who you also so happen to co-own a record label with (Dark Energy Recordings). Sticking on the label side of things, what was the driving force to get this record label off the ground and how has the journey been thus far?
Sheer opportunism. Barry (Milton Jackson) actually created it to release an EP of his own on it on Beatport, but I’m not sure he had much of a plan beyond that. I was working a lot with Barry at the time, and I suggested we run it as a proper label. I set up the distribution deals and took over the day-to-day running of it. To be honest, Barry doesn’t really get involved too much these days, but of course he’s always welcome to. We aren’t super active, but when I hear something I like especially from a new artist I’ll use it help them get more exposure – like we did with Intr0beatz this year.
- Seeing the rise in vinyl sales over the past few years, would you say this is the right time for Indie labels to go analogue compared to digital?
Vinyl sales have risen but it’s still very hard to make any money from it. But I think vinyl has its niche place. It takes real commitment and money to release music on the format so that means labels have to think more carefully about putting something out. The problem with digital is that anyone can release anything so they usually do. Vinyl is like a quality threshold. That said I’m against vinyl only releases – I think it smacks of elitism. I’m not interested in restricting my music to only a few heads, just because they think they are cool.
- What can we look forward to from Shur-I-Kan this year as well as from the label itself?
I’ve got a collab with Fred Everything out shortly on Tsuba which I’m looking forward to because I really like the track. I’ve got some music which is a little bit more ‘techno’ flavoured scheduled for later in the year – I’m getting a bit bored of the typical house sounds. Also I’m working on a downtempo album for NeedWant which hopefully for will finished around summer time.
- Lastly I’ve heard a number of times that EDM (Electronic Dance Music) is taking over the music scene and every other genre of House/Dance Music will eventually die off sooner if not later. What are your thoughts on this?
Sounds pretty stupid to me.
EDM is a fashion in pop-music, it will pass like others before it. I don’t see what it has to do with the rest of dance music. Drum’n’Bass hasn’t gone, Garage hasn’t gone, House won’t go – they will adapt.
I don’t really see EDM as anything to do with what I do. In fact I’d like to think it may have a positive benefit. Some kids might start at Guetta, maybe move onto people like Digweed and eventually find themselves at deep house… who knows there is always hope!