LWE Podcast 42: Anthony “Shake” Shakir

Photo by Jacob Arnold

By now, any techno head should know that Anthony “Shake” Shakir was one of the music’s creators. It’s hard to resist mentioning that he had a track on that first Detroit techno compilation, that he put out a record on Metroplex, and so on. But the recent Frictionalism compilation on Rush Hour demonstrates that his significance doesn’t stop there. While Shake’s profile may not have blown up like some of his neighbors, his recorded output has arguably been more consistent than any other techno producer. Remarkably, his approach to production remains as singularly brilliant as ever — edges have not dulled, colors have not faded. Shake is one Detroit techno legend whose entry in the history books cannot yet be written; too much lies ahead. For instance, catch him DJing at the Bunker on February 12, as part of New York’s Unsound Festival, along with DJ Qu, Petre Inspirescu, Eric Cloutier, and schoolmate Mike Huckaby. Those unable to attend need not worry — LWE’s 42d Podcast is an exclusive mix straight from Shake’s decks. The urbane Mr. Shakir also took the time for an expansive discussion with LWE, on subjects ranging from Motown, to MIDI, to Mel Brooks.

LWE Podcast 42: Anthony “Shake” Shakir (44:59)

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01. Patrice Scott, “Do You Feel Me” [Sistrum Recordings]
02. Norm Talley, “The Journey” [Third Ear Recordings]
03. Marcello Napaloteno, “Amici” [Mathematics Recordings]
04. Mike Huckaby, “Jupiter” [S Y N T H]
05. Scott Grooves, “Only 500” [Natural Midi]
06. Disco Nihilist, “B2” [Love What You Feel]
07. Confetti Bomb, “Fladdermus” [Autoreply Music]
08. Billie Jewell & Peven Everett, “All The Time” [Trippin Records]
09. A Made Up Sound, “Disconnect” [Clone Basement Series]
10. Jolka, “Dreamful” [Sect Records]
11. Jeff Mills, “Rich” [Axis]
12. Wax, “No. 10001-A1” [Wax]
13. Unknown artist, “Untitled” [white]

Have your friends always called you Shake, or do you just use that for your music?

Anthony “Shake” Shakir: Oh, I got a line for this. My name is Anthony Shakir, but my mother calls me Tony. She tries to call me Shake but I don’t like her to do that. I got the name Shake because in 1978, as a black Nation of Islam Muslim, Wallace Muhammad, Elijah Muhammad’s son, who had taken over holding the reins of the Nation of Islam, said that all Nation of Islam Muslims should get rid of their slave names to get closer to who they are. We don’t know who we are as blacks in America, that’s a longer story. So my parents chose the name Shakir. I remember that because I was in fifth grade, and I was ten years old. I didn’t like the name when I got it, but I was like, alright, whatever. I didn’t like it till girls started telling me, oh that sounds like a pretty name, I’m gonna name my baby Shakir. So then I was like, it must not be that bad. But kids couldn’t pronounce it. They’d be like, hey Shaky! Hey Shocker! So they started calling me Shake. It became a shield for me, like I had a different personality. Like in The Beatles’ “Hard Day’s Night” movie, there’s a character named Shake. There’s a joke in “History of the World Part 1,” the Mel Brooks movie, where Harvey Korman says, “Wait for the shake!” So after a while it stuck.

So the Frictionalism retrospective set just came out. What made that project happen?

I’d been wanting to put out an album. Kenny Larkin put out a record for R&S in the early nineties. I saw this album, and I’m thinking like, wow, we can actually make albums with this music. I was trying to make 12-inches, because at that time I still didn’t even own equipment to make music. So I’ve always wanted to do an album. But this, for lack of a better term, was a “retrospective.” I’d rather call it a retrospective than “best of,” because that’s like, it’s already done, that’s it. All those records on there, with the exception of two or three came out on Frictional, which started as an idea in 1992. I started putting records out in ’94. I finally got confidence in what I was doing by about ’97.

As for Frictionalism as a title, I remember a jazz album, by a great saxophone player named David “Fathead” Newman called Newmanism. So I thought, I’m gonna call it Frictionalism — like it’s a cult or something, or just an idea. Even before I hooked up with Rush Hour, my whole thing was trying to get an album out in Europe, so it could bounce back over here. But what happened in the process of me doing it that way with Rush Hour was that the market for that stuff over here really died.

Does it bug you that there’s a market for what you do overseas, but not as much here?

Nope. I’m glad it’s like that. I’m glad they don’t like it here. The thing about techno music in Detroit, Detroit gets the credit for inventing it, which we didn’t do. I would say Kraftwerk kind of invented it as a pop music form. All we did was put a black face on it. That’s part of what enables it to still thrive to this day.

What did Detroit add to it?

I know what I did to it. I applied a hip-hop approach to the music. So technically if you take Kraftwerk as a basis, look at Afrika Bambaataa and Soul Sonic Force with “Planet Rock,” which took two of their songs and combined for that electro record. But I applied that rap musical idea to techno music. I think that’s what helped me set myself apart from everybody else I was working with.

One of the most original things about your body of work, which really stands out on the Frictionalism set, is how diverse it is. You’ve got a lot of different styles, different speeds.

That’s funny. Dan Bell would always say, your records be jumping all over the place! It’s not one specific sound or style. I told him, man that’s how I listen to music. I never liked to listen to one particular thing.

What do you listen to besides house and techno?

Jazz music. Soul music, definitely. Motown, definitely. Cartoon music, definitely. Movies. People.

Being someone whose music is so diverse, do you keep up with all the subgenres dance music has split into?

I listen to all of it — and if it’s funky, I’ll play it in my set. I like dubstep. I liked drum and bass, the Reinforced crew and all of them. I liked them, they liked us. I like anything that’s got a groove to it. I like a good song here and there. I like Johnny Cash! He’s a country guy, but country was too small a label to stick on him. His music was beyond that.

So as someone who likes a good pop song, do you hear the influence of Detroit techno on pop music?

The closest I can say to that is Radiohead’s Kid A album. They deliberately took an electronic approach. I think that was more based on what was happening in England, but at the same time, what was happening in England was based on the kind of stuff we were doing already. I look at it like, everybody uses machines to make records. So it’s all techno to me!

What machines do you use to make your own records?

I used to say, every record that’s ever been recorded is part of my music. Because I’m a sample guy. Any record that’s been put out, I can find a way to make it sound like me. That’s the beauty of MIDI instrumentation. If it wasn’t for MIDI, I don’t know if I could do music, because I didn’t have the patience to practice acoustic instruments when I had them around. So because of MIDI, you can cut and paste, copy, start over, you got everything you need.

What kind of stuff do you sample? Anything that would surprise us?

For “Fact of the Matter” that came out on Seventh City, on the EP Tracks for My Father, I sampled the drums from Tyree Cooper’s “I Fear the Night.” I remember when that record came out — it was a funny record to me, but I liked it. That’s when the Chicago thing was happening, it was ’85 or ’86. These kids, they couldn’t sing. They just wanted to make records! So the girl who’s singing on the record, she can’t really sing, but you can’t tell that she can’t sing, ’cause she’s singing! It worked. The thing I liked about the track was it had a nice pop to it. A snap. When I sampled it, I put it together like a hip-hop record. Not at a hip-hop tempo, but at a club tempo. For the next Frictional record that’s coming out, I sample “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” the Sergio Leone movie. When you hear it, you might be able to pick up on it or you might not. That’s my next record that’s coming out.

So you’re playing in New York in February, at the Bunker for the Unsound Festival. Do you play out much?

I’ve been playing out recently, since last November. I played out a few times earlier last year, but my main thing was, I didn’t want to play out unless I had something new out. Now I’ve got this compilation album and this 12-inch, and I can get back to work.

chrisdisco  on February 8, 2010 at 5:33 AM

thanks. been waiting for someone to get out a mix from the man. looks quality.

Per Silverbeat  on February 8, 2010 at 6:16 AM

Great stuff, looking forward to listening to this

Sibonelo  on February 8, 2010 at 7:16 AM

Sounds delicious.

walrus  on February 8, 2010 at 8:54 AM

whow … curious … a legend in the mix !

Joe H  on February 8, 2010 at 10:32 AM

Great choice, I’m looking forward to listening to this.

douchebaguette  on February 8, 2010 at 12:50 PM

abrupt ending, but a great set by the man.

kuri  on February 8, 2010 at 1:37 PM

damn, i didn’t see this coming.

bernardo  on February 8, 2010 at 2:35 PM

Very nice guys! Thank you for the great interview and mix… Counting the days to this Friday!

bb  on February 8, 2010 at 3:02 PM

good mix but the sound quality is just awful

maggotbrane  on February 8, 2010 at 4:01 PM

ace mix…yes sounds like mixer is overloaded into red

raph a elles  on February 8, 2010 at 5:25 PM

what a shame for the quality sound. it ruins evrythings

Joe H  on February 8, 2010 at 6:22 PM

So talented yet so underrated its criminal. Mix is dope I hope someone books him to come up North!

Transire  on February 8, 2010 at 6:55 PM

Great interview !! Thanks you Little white ! :)

About the mix, the sound is really awful…

This Confetti Bomb track is really cool ! I’m waiting for the official release of this 12″.

Anton  on February 8, 2010 at 8:49 PM

The sound quality is rough, for sure, but I think of it this way:

1. Shake’s music is rough and ready, and his DJ sets embody this aesthetic as well.
2. It reminds me driving around in the backseat of Shake’s car, listening to his latest mix through almost blown speakers. It’s a very personal experience.
3. It’s a great palate cleanser for hundreds of flawless but dull DJ sets.

Bruuln  on February 9, 2010 at 2:52 AM

dirty overdrive sound! makes them clean beatport ableton kids go crazy! haha. shake it!

anton said it all. my man.

Tom  on February 9, 2010 at 9:35 AM

Good mix, the sound isn’t a huge problem but I hope he won’t put it so much in the red on Friday. Mix is very nice. How good will him and Huckaby be :)

Dekmantel  on February 9, 2010 at 12:20 PM

Nice to see a Shake mixtape!

I believe there’s a title missing in the tracklist, inbetween the following two tracks. Any ideas anyone?

06. Disco Nihilist, “B2″ [Love What You Feel]
07. Billie Jewell & Peven Everett, “All The Time” [Trippin Records]

littlewhiteearbuds  on February 9, 2010 at 12:22 PM

For what it’s worth, the tracklist is straight from the desk of Mr. Shakir. That said, we’ll gladly update the tracklist if someone figures out exactly what’s missing.

gmos  on February 10, 2010 at 5:15 AM

woot! nice read and looking forward to the mix, thanks!

casper  on February 11, 2010 at 5:42 PM

Great tracks!!fresh
ooo anyone know that last track heard it before somewhere…..

T-BASS ROBOT  on February 12, 2010 at 12:54 PM

… Astonishing!!! Keep on…

Viva Shake!!!


Much love and respect,
T-Bass Robot

Le K  on February 13, 2010 at 11:43 AM

DId Ark make the volume control of the mix? AHahhaaa, we love you shake.

RobPhonic  on February 17, 2010 at 7:19 PM

The most sincere interview that spoke to me in over a decade. Really like where he’s coming from. Last time I had that notion was an interview David Holmes did with a now defunct print mag called Sweater. That inspired me to go out and buy “Let’s Get Killed”; now I’m headed out to get “Frictionalism”.

Oli Warwick  on February 18, 2010 at 9:52 AM

You can hear a 2562 track – Morvern I believe, def. off his first album, coming into the mix right at the end (albeit rather roughly!) – I guess he was going somewhere else with this mix before he hit the off switch?!

@Le K: haha! Too right about the Ark style controls! True punk styles.

Chris Burkhalter  on March 2, 2010 at 12:44 PM

There’s also A Made Up Sound’s “Disconnect,” right after “All The Time.” Shit hot set!

Matt Von Rohrbacher  on March 18, 2010 at 1:31 PM

First of all, I love Shake. Always have. Seen him live many times and danced my ass off. That being said, this mix is absolute shit. The comment about it just being a dirty style is bullshit. Ableton and Beatport have nothing to do with it. The levels are fucked. I’m not one to ever post a comment about these sort of things but I could not resist this time cause I am really disappointed in what I’m hearing. I would be embarrassed to post a mix with the levels so far out of wack. Sorry LWE, swing and a miss.

Still love you Shake.

Nik  on April 1, 2010 at 6:33 AM

The sound is dreadful – I was really keen to hear this, but it is pretty much unlistenable with the sound quality and levels.

david reinhart  on May 19, 2010 at 4:10 AM

sound sucks.. don’t say it’s suppose to be because it just a mixer overloaded thing. I think it’s a shame that you can’t record a mix properly if you are a great producer like he is..sorry!


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