Shackleton’s music blends middle-eastern percussion with deep bass and snippets of spooky vocals which has often been described as dubstep, but it isn’t that straightforward. Nothing is straightforward about Shackleton – his music is impossible to pigeonhole, he rarely does interviews and he doesn’t have a Myspace music page.
Even the name of his now defunct record label Skull Disco, which he ran with Appleblim, is as sinister as it sounds. The title was inspired by the rituals of African tribes who, when throwing a party, would dig up the bones of their dead relatives so they too could enjoy the festivities.
‘I don’t think my music is dark,’ Shackleton insists. ‘I think what’s on MTV is dark, I find what’s on primetime television dark, I find the culture of the whole modern world dark. Maybe what I make isn’t as glossy as other people’s music but I don’t think it’s dark. I find it warm and embracing. I see it as very celebratory music. There are shades, it has complexities because it is music. I think all good art has some kind of conflict between elements. I don’t think that something that just has darkness is going to be particularly convincing as a piece of art.’
Shackleton’s most recent release, 3 EPs was released on the Germany-based Perlon record label and contains some of the most intriguing music he has ever produced. From the opening ‘(No More) Negative Thoughts’ the collection takes the listener on a journey deep into the artist’s world. ‘I think maybe there are complexities on 3 EPs that maybe I haven’t had before. That said, Death Is Not Final [from Skull Disco] is probably the most complex piece of music I’ve ever made. There’s nine tracks on 3 EPs so there is a range of moods, but there is an aesthetic there that’s reasonably consistent.’ Consistent is definitely an appropriate word to describe Shackleton’s output – while each song differs in its own way, it is easily recognisable as his.
Over a period of four years Skull Disco released 10 EPs and featured tracks not only from the two founders but also Peverelist and Gatekeeper and included remixes contributed by Ricardo Villalobos, T++ and others. The teams uncompromising nature meant each release was of the highest quality complete with trippy sleeve illustrations provided by Zeke Clough. While its lifespan was comparatively short, Skull Disco is regarded as being one of the most important labels of the last decade. With such a successful imprint behind him, is Shackleton considering another venture into the independent music business? ‘I cant really see myself starting up a new label at this point because I want to have something as consistent as Skull Disco. I want to make something I’m proud of. Skull Disco was essentially an obscure underground label and its success was baffling. It would’ve been quite easy to carry that on but I didn’t feel it was the right thing to do because it had reached the end of its natural cycle. I just wanted Skull Disco to be a vehicle to release interesting music. I never felt dubstep was really my thing and I think people looked at Skull Disco as a result of being disappointed with certain aspects of dubstep. Which is not my opinion and I don’t want to take a part in that. I want the music to stand up on its own right. But to be honest… while people are still interested in my music I really can’t complain.’