In Does Rock 'N' Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: Shy FX
1: ‘Original Nuttah’ opens with a sample from Goodfellas. Can you name the film’s three stars?
“I can’t! I’m really bad with actors’ names. So no, I’ve failed miserably!”
WRONG. It’s Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta.
“Exactly that! See, I was just about to say that! It was one of my first releases, the first time I’d worked with a vocalist [MC UK Apachi] and everything felt new and fresh. It was a bit of a headspin and my first experience of hearing a tune I’ve made played everywhere. I was 17/18 at the time, so occasionally I’d get into some of the clubs, but at places where they’d play it like Roller Express, I’d literally be listening to it literally stood outside the venue, just raving with my friends. (Laughs). I’ve heard it used in the Olympics, and the clips of old people singing and skanking to it make me chuckle. When I hear it at weddings and stuff, that’s strange.”
Are you first on the dancefloor to it?
“(Laughs) No, I try and find the nearest corner, mate! I’m definitely not a look at me person – there’s a reason why I’m called Shy!”
2: What did you refuse to do that got you fired from SOUR Records?
“(Laughs) Clean the toilet.”
“I was a tape op – which is a trainee sound engineer – but part of the job was to make cups of tea and clean up in order to get studio time. Someone had absolutely destroyed the toilet and they asked me to clean it. My pride was too much and was like: ‘Nah, I’m good mate!’. In hindsight, that’s part of the job, but I was young and silly. But if I didn’t get sacked, I wouldn’t have been signed as an artist at the same label. Walking back as an artist after being fired, I was definitely feelin’ myself! (Laughs) I met T Power and Marc Royal there – years later, we ended up making ‘Shake Ur Body’. Guys like MJ Cole started as trainee engineers there as well.”
3: What giant animal appears in the ‘Rudeboy Lovesong’ video?
“(Sighs) Oh God….uhhhh…maybe a lizard? I’ve got no idea bro.”
Cara Delevingne sings on it. How did you meet?
“It was at a party a while back via a mutual friend, and we started talking about music. She said she wanted to get into the studio and we ended up linking a few times and made a few tracks – ‘Rudeboy Lovesong’ being one of them. She’s sick! When she came to the studes, she immediately went to the piano and starting playing some song ideas, then picked up the guitar and started jamming.”
For a bonus half-point, which American Horror Story actress is her godmother?
“No idea. Am I going to get zero points for this quiz or what? (Laughs)
WRONG. It’s Joan Collins. Could we ever see a Joanie/Shy FX collab?
“Could you imagine?! That would be sick! (Laughs)”
4: What are you pictured with on the cover of the ‘Simple Tings’ EP?
“A Great Dane dog”
“That was my girlfriend’s dog at the time. His name was Oscar. I was dog-sitting and forgot I had a photoshoot. The photographer was like, ‘Perfect – that will make a great shot’.”
Have you had many pets?
“Not really – I’m one of those guys that seems to be allergic to every animal! I had a budgie when I was a child – which I was scared of – and a cat at one stage, but then the allergies took over.”
5: You produced ‘Da Feelin’ for Dizzee Rascal’s 2007 album ‘Maths + English’. Who were the two guest singers on that record?
“Calvin [Harris]? Nah, he was on the one afterwards, wasn’t he? Alright, that’s another one I’ve failed!”
WRONG. It’s Lily Allen and Alex Turner.
“Okay cool, I didn’t even know she was on that album.”
You recorded ‘Roll The Dice’ with her for your recent ‘Raggamuffin SoundTape’…
“She’s just a homie, man! Her studio’s next door to mine so we’re always making tunes and vibing. She’s fairly instant. She hears a groove and sings the melodies and before you know it, she’s got the lyrics down. She just gets it and is not afraid to try different things musically.”
You both have musical members of your father in that your grandfather was soundsystem owner Count Shelley, who ran the record shop and label Third World….
“As a kid, there were always blues parties in the house. Reggae artists and people like David Rodigan, Dennis Brown and Noel Ellis would pass through. It was a mad time, but normal to me.”
What was the reaction when you started making music?
“At the time, guys around me were listening more to bashment and hip-hop, so when they were hearing these fast drums and pitched up vocals with weird synths, they didn’t get it – they called it drugged-up devil music (Laughs) But six months later, they were all raving to it.”
Would you ever like to work with Alex Turner?
“If the opportunity presented itself then yeah, why not!”
6: What connects your ‘Raver’ video to Steps, Rick Astley and Bananarama?
“Oh bloody hell! Pete Waterman.”
CORRECT. The veteran Stock Aitken Waterman producer cameos in it.
“At the time, he owned the studio I was renting. There was me, Chase & Status, Sub Focus, Breakage and Caspa in this complex and he was our landlord.”
“(Laughs) Oh I missed that one! I’m sure he had his reasons. If that’s how he feels, then more power to him!”
7: For 2014’s Red Bull Culture Clash, you teamed up with Chase & Status, David Rodigan and MC Rage to form the soundystem Rebel Sound. Who were your opponents?
“Stone Love, Boy Better Know and A$AP Mob.”
“It was a lot of work and hours investigating what your opponents might be cutting. It was heated! There’s no friends when you’re in clash mode. We wrote so many dub plates – it was almost like writing three albums. It was extremely competitive. It was life! It was every single day, planning, plotting. David Rodigan would come in with a board to write down rules on what we would and wouldn’t do. We were definitely not going to lose. That wasn’t happening. At all!”
8: Complete the following lyrics from one of your collaborations: ‘And though the building collapsed with the night/Everybody got out alive’…
“(Singing) Everybody got out alive….Da-da-da…And though the building collapsed in the night/Everybody’s doing fine?”
CORRECT. It’s from 2010’s ‘Collapsing Cities’ by Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly Feat. Shy FX.
“Sam [Duckworth, aka Get Cape…] is an absolute G! He’s one of my closest friends. In an interview in the NME, he said wanted to work with me, throwing it out into the universe and it hit my radar and I contacted him and we started working from there. We’ll get the guitar out, we might have a conversation – usually about politics or something – and start writing music from there. He’ll get the best out of you – and his voice is fine-tuned, for sure.”
So if he was a fan of yours beforehand, when did you last meet someone you idolised?
“When I met Stevie Wonder! I went to Omar’s birthday party and he introduced me to him and I didn’t know what to say – Stevie Wonder was just being really polite while I was a mumbling mess! I was stunned. To be honest, the Queen could have been in that room and I wouldn’t have noticed.”
9: You did the single edit for Wiley’s ‘Never Be Your Woman’. What number did it chart at?
WRONG. Close – it was eight.
“I remember the A&R at the time at Relentless records was thinking of signing Emeli [Sandé, the vocalist on the track] but he wasn’t sure so he wanted to test the vibe out with ‘Never Be Your Woman’. He played it to me and said he really liked what Naughty Boy had done but he wanted something more upbeat and with a dance feel – so I did my thing.”
Was there ever a moment you started to feel mainstream?
“I never saw it like that because even ‘Original Nuttah’ went Top 40 which was unheard of apart from M-Beat. I’ve always had a balance of tunes that were played in the clubs and ones you’d hear on the radio. ‘Shake Ur Body’ was obviously a big moment – where you just couldn’t miss that tune. When that went to number 7, we celebrated by going to a restaurant, ordering a load of cigars and getting wasted.”
10: ‘Original Nuttah’ is a go-to Notting Hill Carnival tune and you played it last year. But what year did it start?
(Laughs) I can’t remember! I should know this!”
WRONG. It was 1966.
Oh, what an idiot! You got me! That’s something I should have known. The first time I went was in 1994 when ‘Original Nuttah’ had come out, so it was a bit weird going to an event like that and hearing your track played on every single soundsystem. But after a few years, I stopped going for a while because of just situations, but now it’s one of my favourite times of the year where you see everyone coming together and celebrating.”
The verdict: 6/10
“Not bad – thankfully, there were a couple of easy ones in there.”
‘Raggamuffin SoundTape’ is out now.