By Jonathan Crane
Learning a localized style of music by watching it through the window of the internet is a difficult task for even the most seasoned producers, and becoming a prominent figure in a localized genre from afar is even harder.
This is why looks of surprise typically accompany the revelation that Slick Shoota, real name Marius Mevold, is from Norway. It’s unexpected because he’s risen to become one of the global leaders in footwork music; the fast, percussive, club-centred sound that, for most of its history, was mainly centred around Chicago where it emerged out of ghetto house in the 1990s.
One of the key factors that’s allowed this to happen is being present at the right intersection of space and time — when Mevold began producing, social media was rapidly eroding geographical boundaries in music.
At the start of the decade he began releasing music on Soundcloud for free, and members of the international community started to take notice. By 2013 he had a release on Diplo’s Mad Decent label, and was featured in their SXSW showcase the following year.
In the ensuing years he’s been featured in Noisey’s 48 Hour Mixtape Series, continued to tour worldwide, and become a member of Teklife, the artist collective and label at the helm of the international footwork scene.
In anticipation of his Calgary performance at the end of this month, we sent him a questionnaire via e-mail to find out more about his music, how he brought his sound from Scandinavia to the world, and how he’s impacting the club scene at home when he’s not touring.
Where are you currently located?
I’m located in Oslo, Norway and have been for about the last four years now.
Your first track of this year is “Get U Some” out on Teklife. It seems to be a lot jazzier and more melody-driven than some of your recent work from last year. Was there something in particular that inspired you to go in this direction?
I actually made “Get U Some” a good while ago, I just didn’t have the right home for it. The track had been played by DJ Spinn for a while and people were asking for its release. So when the “On Life” compilation came about it felt like the perfect fit. It has a lot of the elements that I love about footwork. The ability to be dancefloor oriented, bass heavy, but at the same time the samples create this sort of emotional atmosphere.
After you first appeared on Soundcloud in 2011, you’ve stated that the label B.YRSLF played a key role in getting you noticed internationally. Is there an interesting back-story to that release? How did it come to pass that your first release was on a French label?
In the early Soundcloud-era B.YRSLF was one of the labels that dared give up-and-coming producers a chance. If you look at their back catalogue there’s actually a fair few established producers that took their first steps there. I wasn’t connected with any labels at the time so when they contacted me and wanted to do a release I was all for it. The release was still free, in-fact one of the tracks was a bootleg remix I did of FIS-T – Night Hunter, a track that Oneman played loads on Rinse FM around 2009. I still get asked about that remix sometimes. They did proper artwork and pushed it through their channels though, so that helped. That they were based in France was merely a coincidence, but it goes to show that even if your local scene is small you can still move forward and make progress. There’s people out there listening.
Speaking of interesting stories, how did it come to pass that your first international gig was in Russia?
I have to give a shoutout to Hyperboloid Records for that. I connected with them at an early stage too. I had some really hard tracks, peak time 04.00 AM type of stuff that I released with them. I was really excited for those first gigs, but what really blew me away was that everyone seemed to know me and all of my tracks. Turns out that the Russian equivalent of Facebook, VK, had loads of my tracks on there for streaming, like endless pages of people sharing my music. Illegally, but still… That was a great feeling, knowing that what I was doing in my little bedroom studio out in Norway made an impact out in Russia of all places.
Between the time you started making juke / footwork and the time you started touring, how long did you spend just observing the scene on the internet? What was it like when you finally got to meet the producers from Teklife that influenced you?
I was somehow very aware of music “scenes” from an early age. I was listening to a lot of jungle and drum and bass, reading magazines, getting to know more about artists and labels and what was moving at the time. So that concept has always been very interesting and intriguing to me. I’m always interested in finding and hearing new styles of music. Around 2009 when I first heard juke and footwork I was blown away. The tracks I heard just kept getting stuck in my head. As I learned more about it and found more producers and music, it was no turning back. I started producing stuff at around 160 BPM and uploading all kinds of stuff to Soundcloud. I was very inspired by footwork, but I didn’t want to sound like a copy of what was coming out of Chicago so I was experimenting with just about everything. So I was amazed when Spinn and Rashad hit up my inbox. They were supportive from very early on and getting a co-sign from them was the greatest inspiration I could ever ask for.
Years after, I finally met Spinn and Rashad and many more of the Teklife family at SXSW in 2014. That was a special moment to me, regardless. With Rashad passing away the month after though, it’s an even more precious memory that I think about a lot. RIP Rashad.
Have you ever played in Chicago, or DJ’d at a footwork dance battle? If so what was that like?
Sadly no, hopefully that changes soon!
Has footwork dancing ever impacted the way you produce, or do you just have a general club environment in mind when you make tracks?
Since I don’t dance myself it doesn’t really impact my music. My mind is usually fully focused on the club. When you see footwork live it really helps you make more sense of the patterns in the tracks though. Another thing that doesn’t really show through videos online is how insanely fast their feet are moving, flying really.
In an interview you did in 2014 you said that even though Oslo didn’t really have a scene for 160bpm music, the crowds enjoyed it. Has that changed since then, is there a scene for juke / footwork now?
It’s much the same I would say. My club night Ball Em Up is going monthly now though. We had DJ Earl, Sirr Tmo and Dre with us back in November. That was one of our best nights yet and it was beautiful to see the crowd really feeling it. They also did a footwork workshop, people came and supported from far away for that one. So even though it’s a small scene out here, the ones that are into it are really dedicated.
What exactly is the story behind your “Ball Em Up” group? Where did the idea come from, and what were some of the challenges in starting a club night? Do you still plan to turn it into more of a label?
Me and my homie Emil always had a shared interest for delving deep into the darkest corners of the web, finding unknown producers with fire club tracks. We both relocated to Oslo around the same time in 2012, so we needed an outlet to play all this exciting new music. There was nothing like that in Oslo at the time, so we decided to build on our own, to Ball Em Up so to speak. Shortly after we started, Drippin joined us, and now recently Purpurrpurple became part of the crew as well so we have a strong base. We’re definitely looking to do the label thing too, but we want to do it properly so we’re not rushing it.
What makes you decide to produce a track at a BPM other than 160? Are there some elements that you feel work better at the slower tempos?
I try not to be confined to just 160 BPM. Most of my output is around that BPM though so understandably that’s what people come to expect. As a DJ I like to play all kinds of tempos though, so in the studio I just try to play around with whatever works that day. I guess it comes down to my mood!
Thanks for doing this interview! Do you have any forthcoming releases that we should be aware of?
Yes! I have a new EP called Do It Right, it will be released on Pitch Rider Records early April so keep an eye out for that one.
Where does that trademark sample “It’s Slick…Shoota” that’s in a lot of your tracks come from?
Ooooh…That’s an authentic recording of me introducing myself as I normally would in any social setting ☺
Catch Slick Shoota live in Calgary on March 30th at Habitat Living Sound.Calgary, Habitat Living Sound, Slick Shoota