The Noise Gate Interview – Shiny Objects

Shiny Objects a.k.a Christopher Smith is a highly respected DJ / producer and a key figure in San Francisco’s electronic music scene. He is a co-founder of the clubs, Monarch and The Great Northern and is responsible for bringing some of the world’s best, underground DJ talent to the US west coast. He is also founder of the globally-renowned deep house imprint, Om Records, which celebrates 25 years next year. Ahead of this milestone Shiny Objects is releasing a two-part album project – “Intermittent Dreams” (6th Sept) and “Intermittent Soul” (4th Oct). We decided it was time to catch up with the man himself to find out more…
You founded Om Records which celebrates 25 years and over 600 releases next year. What has been your proudest moment with the label during that time and why?

It’s been a long and amazing journey with Om and with so many great moments along the way. I can’t point to a single “proudest” moment, but I think what I’m most proud of is the body of work as a whole and that we survived and thrived for so many years in a challenging industry. Some of my favorite memories include going to the Grammys with Groove Armada, meeting Steve Jobs and our epic Miami events.

Can you tell us about your new two-part album project? Did you intend to make two parts from the start? Is there a theme to the project? What should people expect musically?

The goal from the beginning was to make a surreal and relaxed listening experience with a consistent vibe. This was important to me as I wanted to create a true album experience with a nice flow. The sound was always intended to be beautiful and psychedelic with dark edges. As I continued to write I found that not all the music was fitting this vibe. Some was darker, funkier and more up-tempo. Thus, I decided to split the album into two parts, each with their own distinct energy, but still sonically connected.

You co-founded the legendary Disco Knights camp at Burning Man festival. Does that lifestyle inspire your music? ‘Intermittent Dreams’ and ‘Intermittent Soul’ certainly sound like they could be the soundtrack to a desert sunset and some night time adventures! 

Disco Knights and Burningman as a whole have definitely played a role shaping my sound. The true essence of the culture is DIY, free form and psychedelic. There are few rules and you can draw from many inspirations. This is the ethos that informs my writing and production style. Everything is rooted in disco, industrial and house, but there are a million directions you can go from there.

Which electronic music artists inspire you, past and present?
Always a tough question as my musical inspirations vary quite widely! A few artists I can mention range from Brian Eno, Skinny Puppy, Manuel Gottsching, Roxy Music, Andrew Weatherall, Maurice Fulton, Harvey, Green Velvet, Koze, Hot Toddy, Sascha Dive, Galen and Solar.

You also co-founded the highly respected San Francisco nightclubs, Monarch and most recently, The Great Northern. Added to that you also run nightlife curation app, Up All Night, which is expanding. How do you find time to write a two-part album project? What’s your process for creating and producing music?

Yes I have quite a busy schedule with many projects going on simultaneously. It can be challenging juggling so many things! It becomes a matter of organization and prioritization. When music inspiration comes you have to act on it. I tend to work in creative spurts, and produce 2-3 tracks over a short period. During these periods I dedicate my evenings and weekends to completing the new tracks.

You’ve been an influential character in electronic music in San Francisco and beyond for a long time now. How would you assess the current state of the scene?

The current state of the SF scene is quite strong. There are quite a few great venues with multiple major club events happening every weekend. It’s quite remarkable that the scene has endured in SF as there are many pressures from rising rents and a young tech workforce that is less educated on the music. The Burningman community has played a huge role in keeping the scene healthy and creative.

How do you approach a DJ set? Do you do a lot of planning or play off the cuff? What are the factors that decide how a Shiny Objects DJ set sounds? 

I typically plan for every set. I like to visualize what the party is going to be like, the time of night, the musical vibe and the energy on the dance floor. I then make a fairly deep range of about 200 selections to focus on for that event, either in the form of a playlist, a box of records or both. My attitude is to always create a journey from psychedelic disco, techno, breaks to deep house. When possible I like to start the BPM around 105 with more experimental sounds and build over several hours.

What else can we expect from Shiny Objects after this album project is released?

Well…I already have 3 new EPs in the works that will be released after the album in 2020 on various labels.  As long as the music keeps coming to me I will keep creating!

Shiny Objects ‘Intermittent Dreams’ is out on September 6th / ‘Intermittent Soul’ is out on October 4th on Om Records. Stream / download here:
electronica Experimental Techno Shiny Objects
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