In an age where everyone seems to be a DJ on the side, it’s a treat to meet one of the few who stand out from the masses in both skill and style. Montreal-based producer/DJ Shash’U has taken the scene by storm over the past few years with the introduction of a fresh new sound he calls “PWRFNK” (i.e., power funk).
This past Tuesday, Shash’U sat down to talk with The Daily about his influences and experiences. Despite the freezing winter winds, his effortlessly chill and amiable demeanour shed a little sunlight on the day – reminding us that concert-going is the perfect way to keep warm.
McGill Daily (MD): Are you from Montreal?
Shash’U (S): Yeah, born and raised. Both of my parents are Haitian.
MD: Planning on staying here? Or do you hope to move eventually?
S: If I had the resources to have many residences, then yeah, sure – I’d want to have a pad in another city, but Montreal is always going to be some kind of base.
MD: I mean it is a great, culturally thriving community.
S: Well, yes it is, but at the same time there’s so many things going on in so many other cities I think it’s just proper for me to absorb everything, you know.
MD: How and when did you start DJing? You call yourself a “DJ,” right? That’s what you go by?
S: It’s one of the many things I am, yeah.
MD: What else would you call yourself?
S: Producer, that’s the number one thing. That’s what I started with when I was 17. Then I started street dancing (locking, popping, and stuff) when I was maybe twenty years old. And a year later, I got my first turntables.
PWRFNK… it’s a mix of many things. […] So the eighties and early nineties sounds – hip hop and more – mixed with the whole realm of video games, action figures, and cartoons. So all of that mixed together in a very cinematic and nostalgic way. How can I say… packaged, that’s PWRFNK.
MD: What made you decide to start doing this?
S: I guess it was the curiosity of expanding the music production, the whole element of it. Because I was so involved with the culture of hip hop itself, I think it just happened on its own. When I was a kid, my dad had turntables, and I would play records and stuff like that – I guess it just never fell off.
MD: So you definitely have a solid base in the music world. Your sound has been referred to as “power funk” – how would you define that?
S: PWRFNK… it’s a mix of many things. If I were to give you, like, a very direct example, it’s basically a mix of the sounds and the music that influenced me growing up. So the eighties and early nineties sounds – hip hop and more – mixed with the whole realm of video games, action figures, and cartoons. So all of that mixed together in a very cinematic and nostalgic way. How can I say… packaged, that’s PWRFNK.
MD: So you kind of have your own genre going on then.
S: I guess, we’ll see if people dig it, and if more and more will follow. I define it as a style.
MD: Okay, so who are some of your influences or inspirations?
S: Ooh, a heavy question…
MD: I know, it’s really difficult.
S: My main influence… I’d have to say my dad. Definitely, because if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have this whole musical [inclination] that I have today. […] There are so many different kinds of rhythms and styles of music in Haiti, and also there’s a very deep connection between Haiti and other countries, like Venezuela. So often you would have musicians who would play in different countries and different cities, with different bands and different kinds of music, and my dad introduced me to that. He’d play me the records of [some] guy who also played in this Cuban band, but he’s also Haitian.
MD: Cool, so [he was] making all the connections for you, to give you background. Do you have any specific artists or musicians you can think of who have influenced your style?
S: J. Dilla, Travis Scott, Just Blaze…
MD: Funk is in the title of your style of PWRFNK. Do you have any specific funk artists from way back when who have influenced you?
S: Zapp & Roger, Prince, George Clinton –
MD: Prince! I’m from Minnesota, which is where Prince is from.
S: Straight up, I played in his club! I went there to spin for a dance battle and the after-party was at his club and I was like, say whaaat?
MD: Prince is definitely up there as a number-one icon.
S: I want to meet him one time. Even if he blasts me for remixing his songs. I have a friend who did choreography for one of his songs and it was on YouTube, but it got removed. The people who work for his label and his branding really enforce his [copyright] rules.
There are so many different kinds of rhythms and styles of music in Haiti, and also there’s a very deep connection between Haiti and other countries, like Venezuela. So often you would have musicians who would play in different countries and different cities, with different bands and different kinds of music, and my dad introduced me to that.
MD: Well he has such a strong image too […] If one little thing is off, the whole world is wrong.
S: I guess that’s different with me – PWRFNK is open for everyone, everyone can enjoy it.
MD: What has it been like as a rising star in Montreal today? How do you feel about the overall music community in Montreal?
S: I feel like the community is quite receptive when you present them content. I’m lucky enough to have a good, supportive team. It’s been good, you know – skills pay the bills, that’s what I say. Hard work, and you get what you want.
MD: Tell me about your new EP, Thru Da Night.
S: Thru Da Night is a project, five tracks – fun tracks to listen to. And it’s just like a little picture/snapshot/trailer of the whole sphere of PWRFNK that I want to present.
MD: What inspired you to make this EP?
S: I don’t know, it’s a strange combination of many different influences […] but it just happened within me. And, for some reason, I noticed that there was kind of a current happening almost at the same time, so I felt like it was proper for me to put it out as a whole project, and then have the PWRFNK following.
MD: So you worked with Mimo LaFunk for one of the songs? How was that? Who else have you enjoyed collaborating with?
S: That was great! It’s an interesting thing… we have so many projects coming up together. And she’s a dancer too – I’ve known her since I started dancing, way back. Other people I’ve worked with have been Sam I Am, Karma Atchykah, Chromeo, and a lot of other people too. Not just people from Montreal, but also people that I’ve met when touring in Europe and in the [U.S.] also.
MD: Interesting, you’re kind of picking up the pieces from all over the place.
S: Yeah, the right pieces for the right piece.
MD: Where have been some of your favourite places to play, outside of Montreal?
S: Europe has been really cool. Zurich was fun. Rotterdam… everywhere. Everywhere I go is fun. Paris! Whether it be like in an old, thrashy looking type of club where it’s packed with 200 to 300, or it could be like a big thing with thousands of people…
MD: So just a different vibe everywhere you go.
S: Well there’s a lot of gigs with different vibes but I’m happy to do them all because I still find a way to create a spark within all of them, and people have a good time regardless – so I’m happy.
– This interview has been edited for clarity and space.
Thru Da Night is available for listening at foolsgoldrecs.com/shashu. Shash’U has another release, his PWRFNK album, set to come out March 31. Catch Shash’U live at his next gig on March 7 at the Phi Centre.