by Logan Lowrey-Rasmussen
In the Phoenix music scene I am always fascinated by artists who push themselves visually and add components not normally related to their genre. Although costumed performers and DJs can be found within the electronic music industry as a whole, there’s many electronic artists in Arizona who have yet to take that step in their branding.
After becoming familiar with Not Your Shadow member David’s former solo project, Jack of Diamonds, I managed to track his career to a visual duo (and production trio) at a home studio in Phoenix to dig a little bit deeper on the masked group crafting unapologetic bass music. The interview below is a conversation with two parts of a three-part production group, David and Mira; the third mystery producer has yet to be known to the public…
How did the Not Your Shadow project start?
David: Basically, we wanted an outlet to project ourselves creatively. We wanted people to recognize us in what we were doing in the music scene, but we needed a vessel to get to people. We started this group called Not Your Shadow because we are nobody’s shadow [looks over to Mira] What would you say about that?
Mira: We are our own unique type of people, we aren’t standing in anyone’s shadow; we are standing in the light of what we are doing, and pushing positive vibes forward, instead of … I don’t know! [laughs]
Individually, tell me about your backgrounds, where did you come from in music and how did you get here?
M: I started DJing in 2008, maybe earlier than that. I started with vinyl [playing] Happy Hardcore– I know! That’s all I could play and find on vinyl [at the time]; I moved into Trance, House, Hardcore, Hardstyle, and eventually got into Trap music, Drum & Bass, stuff like that. I wanted to get into music production: I also do visuals, visual arts — I used to do visuals for different events and DJs —
M: …I didn’t do Skrillex! I did UK Thursdays so I’ve done Diesel Boy, DJ SS, Mt Eden, MatTheAlien, and there’s a bunch more, but I’ve done visuals for all of them and custom video for different things. I was a visual artist for a long time and that was my main gig, but now I’m moving to the production side.
Are you from Arizona?
M: I’m an Arizona native but I lived in Vegas for ten years. [My DJ work] was mainly all in Arizona.
What about you, David?
D: I started DJing when I was thirteen years old, playing house parties, and moved gig to gig with vinyl records in a plastic crate with a mini-van for a number of years. I started school in South Florida, I got into the rave scene, and that was great but I didn’t get into the production side of things while I was there because I partied too much.
I ended up moving to Northern Arizona for work, and started the first electronic music nightclub in Yavapai County and pushed that for three and a half years. Then I moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to be with my newly-born daughter, got a really crappy job at Guitar Center — never work at Guitar Center!
I really wanted to get into the production side of things but didn’t know how, so [I began] producing breaks and came out with a single in 2015; it didn’t get a lot of play or reception at all. Especially in Arizona because nobody knows what “breaks” are, and no one really cared. I was still looking for a way to successfully brand myself, so I started playing under the name of Jack of Diamonds and produced a bootleg under that name.
I joined a management company which folded eventually, but at the same time as Jack of Diamonds, I also started Not Your Shadow with a few people. We really wanted a vessel to show people our creative passions. We use Not Your Shadow to reach that crowd and show off everything we are doing. We want to connect with people and make a statement.
Where do the costumes come from? Did you wake up with these ideas, or was it planned over time? You’re kind of this weird cyberpunk, urban streetwear kind of thing.
M: I do wear it in the street sometimes, it depends! I’m a creative artist — I have about twelve years of graphic design, photography, [and] my newest thing is web design, so I’m always creating and being artistic. I like to express myself in that manner — my hair is always a different color, [and] it makes me happy to look in the mirror and see that. I want to encourage other people to be different and be your own person; a lot of people go on and live this square, boring life and do what other people say, and never truly get to be who they really are. I get to be happy and be exactly who I want to be at the end of the day
So, you have three people working on the music total, correct?
What role would you say each person is responsible for in relation to the production of your music?
D: We all work on percussion and sound design, I’ve been doing vocals so far, but I would really like to get Mira doing vocals; that’s something we are going to be doing very soon. As far as melody, I grew up playing classical piano and that’s what I bring to the table.
On the topic of this mysterious third member, without telling me too much, what role does this mystery member have?
D: He’s great with synthesizer sound design, so, all those weird bass sounds that you hear [are him]. Some of those are from the two of us, but I would say, at this point, 75% of that comes from him.
Let’s talk bass music stereotypes: how do you feel going into a genre with quite a few stereotypes attached? How do you surpass those stereotypes?
D: For me, it’s our professional videos that go with every show, every gig, and every song that we do. Whether its a music video, or an event, we have a video that goes along with it, so people can see [the work] we are doing if they can’t attend. We are constantly coming up with new music; music is my full time job, and I’m also enrolled in Icon Collective Music Production School, so I’m living off my savings account this year and going to Icon. I literally spend thirty hours a week sitting in this chair working on music.
You’ve both seen electronic music evolve a lot over the years, especially with the electronic music “boom” of 2008-2010, everything about the industry changed. How do you feel Not Your Shadow would do in 2002, compared to 2019?
D: I feel like people wouldn’t “get” the music we would be playing.
M: I also feel like it depends what part of the world you’re in; like in Arizona for example, I’m a really big fan of Drum & Bass, but it’s hard to find here. It depends on the culture you’re reaching out to and how they’re going to respond well or not.
Tell us about your sets: when you play sets, do you use completely original material, or what artists do you play if you’re doing a DJ set?
D: Right now, we have five original songs which are completely mastered that we are shopping out to labels right now, we have seven to at least ten just waiting to be done. We’ve only performed three shows so far, and we have a similar approach to Borgore where we use a vocoder [while] I sing and rap live to the music. We have special edits [which contain] ad libs so I can actually speak into the microphone and people can hear me, with the background saying something like “UH! NOT YOUR SHADOW, BITCH!” Or whatever!
What about your last single?
D: On January 28th we put out “Low Budget Bass Trash,” which is a satire of bass music in general; it’s pretty catchy, it’s a good party track. [Raps] “Low budget bass trash, make your girlie shake that ass –”
M: We had a lot of fun making that video.
D: — And now, we have our new track called “Rear Sector Movevment,” which has a killer music video to go along with it…
Who are your guys’ favorite Arizona artists which have inspired you and caught your eye?
M: I would say Sluggo and Keys N Krates.
D: I really like Tryb; I respect him as a person, I think he’s a good and honest person, and I like what he’s doing; [I also think] he’s an amazing music producer. Due to my past in Progressive House music, I also really enjoy House, Tech House, and Techno to an extent, and I actually really like the “Techno snobs” of people [in the scene].
I also like Octave Entertainment, and I think that promotional company based out of Arizona is definitely going to be doing big things in 2019; they are right on the ball with promoting the local scene and making sure up-and-comers get their light. I also think the people at Full Moon Festival are an amazing group of people and they’ve definitely helped us break out, gave us a voice, and I’m forever grateful to them.
In terms of your group’s future, where do you want to take Not Your Shadow? You have an idea, you have a brand, and you seem like you know what you want to do.
D: I would like to get to a point in the next two to three years at most, hopefully before that, where we are touring and I’m able to make good money and support our families while doing what we love. That’s every artists dream; I also have different goals of what record labels I want to be on and I think we would fit really nicely on Buygore Records.
M: I really love the visual side of it, so I want to start incorporating that more [with] the music blended with video. That’s something we are working on.
Do you mainly deal with light shows, the behind the scenes? What’s your experience in the visual field?
M: I moved up to the mountains for a while, and I just got back last year. Previously, I had [experience with] stage setup, lighting design, custom visuals, graphics, running and mixing them live.
I know you’re a little coy to where you’ve been as an artist, can you tell us which venues we might have seen your lighting work at?
M: I’ve done Blood Fest, I used to do shows for Hades Entertainment, Relentless Beats, and UK Thursdays for their Dubstep / Drum & Bass nights.
Is this the first time you’ve been this visually forward with a project you’re working on, or is this something that comes natural to you?
M: There’s things that I’ve been doing that have been behind closed doors for a while and I never released it. So, now we are bringing everything together so I could actually release them.
Are there any final words you’d like to say to your Arizona peeps and fans?
D: I completely recognize, appreciate, and notice every single supporter we do get, and I have a lot of love for everyone who does support us. For anyone who’s curious to what we are doing or think we look gimmicky, take a look at our music.
M: We do have lot of fun making satires like our “Low Budget Bass Trash” single, but at the end of the day, what makes us different and not gimmicky is, we are trying to make music that communicates with people’s souls. With everything going on in the world, I can remember back before I was a DJ, and hearing those songs, as cliche as it sounds, [like] a DJ saved my life, right?
But there are those moments where you hear those songs when you’re going through something in life, and it brings you back, and makes you realize why you keep going. You know what I mean? It really pushes and drives you, and lets you know it’s going to be okay, and we are trying to make music that touches people’s soul. We are doing a mixture of some fun trap that’s ratchet-y, [but then] we also have tracks that are more moving and meaningful and really touch you.
For more on Not Your Shadow, visit their website.