By Jonathan Crane
CALGARY — Calgary footwork artist Shaun McHale, better known as HomeSick, has a lot of stories to tell about the things he’s seen since attending the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) in late 2015.
That was the moment he became a figure with international visibility, a move that opened up a world of new possibilities with international offers and traveling.
The stories begin in Paris, where the RBMA class of 2015 was held, when McHale decided to stick around to explore more of Western Europe.
“In London I went and played this little gig, and before my set, I had just woken up and walked to the spot that I was going to play, and I see two people peering through the windows,” says McHale.
“You’ll never guess who just was like randomly peering through the windows going like ‘Oh there’s a footwork night I wonder who’s playing.’”
“It was Om Unit and Taal Mala, they were hearing footwork come out of it so they went and peered into the windows, and so I saw Vancouver’s Taal Mala and Bristol’s Om Unit peering through the window.”
Encounters like this have now become commonplace in McHale’s world. He values each one, because meeting people he spent years following online has bolstered his drive as an artist.
It’s one of the reasons why he describes being invited to play at last year’s Sonár festival in Barcelona as “top of the highlight reel.”
“It was just so gratifying to be there in the same space with so many legendary icons,” says McHale.
“In the green room there was just anybody and everybody.
“You’d go to the backstage to grab a drink one time and you’d run into Slick Shoota, Cornelius from Underground Resistance, or coming off stage and then Zora Jones and Sinjin Hawke being like ‘Oh that was you.’
“Who else, I’m going to see how much I can name drop here,” he laughs.
“That was to me the best part of Sonar, is just the sheer star power that was there, and I was able to meet these incredible people that I’ve been following since the beginning and who are in partway responsible for me being there in the long run.
“Like Slick Shoota, for example, was one of the first footwork artists where I was like ‘Whoah, this is something I want to get into.’
“Having an artist responsible for how influenced I was by the sound, to meet that person, it’s great.”
These random encounters with people from across the spectrum of electronic music helped shape McHale’s forthcoming release, the Legendary EP.
The track “Jumanji,” for example, was literally shaped by one such encounter that involved Vancouver artists Greazus and Detroit artist Sinistarr.
“I just randomly had Greazus come and sleeping on my floor in the middle of the night, and then I woke them up,” says McHale.
“I had gone to bed early the night before to work on this track, and then they ended up being part of it.
“Sinistarr was living with me at the time, right, and then he just comes home from this rave that they both played, and they’re just covered in fuckin’ mud, and they’re tracking mud all over the house.
“I wake up and I’ve got Greazus just like sleeping on the floor with mud all over the place, it’s like ‘what the fuck?’
“I must have woke up at like 9, 9:30, and I was like, ‘I don’t care, I got work to do, I’m going to make some noise.’
“Then they woke up and they’re like, ‘Woah what’s this, let us in on this track.’ ”
According to McHale, the release on the whole is a reflection of his time spent exchanging music and performing with both Greazus and Sinistarr.
“The styles always seem to intermingle now,” says McHale.
What differentiates this release is the inclusion of what McHale calls “loose drums” — a shifted, experimental take on the structure of traditional footwork music.
“The Legendary EP has given me the opportunity to branch out, specifically when it comes to the percussion and how it’s produced,” says McHale.
The new take on a familiar sound caught the attention of Philadelphia-based Seclusiasis, a label known for their amalgamative “street bass” sound. They offered to release the EP, and it began charting during the pre-order phase online.
This year McHale plans to turn his attention homeward with the resurrection of Percolate, a showcase of juke and footwork music that began in 2014 but went on hiatus following a co-founders move to Toronto.
Now, him and local group Noctilux Collective are aiming to make it a regular fixture, beginning with the release party for the Legendary EP on February 16th.
“Calgary’s just generally a really good place, just to be inspired and to go out to shows, and we have a ton of really amazing creative people and creative collectives,” says McHale.
Check out the Legendary EP release at Habitat On February 16.AB, Alberta, Habitat Living Sound, HomeSick, Legendary EP