Indamagazine: Tell us your real name and who is MISTA SHIFTA?
MISTA SHIFTA: Hey Indamagazine, the man behind MISTA SHIFTA is Phil Ridsdale – a 29 year old musician, composer and producer from London, England.
I: Where comes the name MISTA SHIFTA?
MS: When choosing a name, I was looking for something that I thought represented me and my music, but that also didn’t sound like I was taking myself or the project too seriously. For example, I loved the fact that ‘Daft Punk’ came from a scathing Melody Maker review of the French duo’s first band Darlin’ which dubbed the music ‘a daft punky thrash’. I stumbled across a commercial drain cleaner called Mister Shifter (i.e. shifts blockages!). Primarily because I have the humour of an 8 year old, I found this quite amusing and fun, as well as catchy. I also liked the fact that it sounded a bit like a late ‘80s videogame character – I’ve been a gamer since the days of the ZX Spectrum. I changed partially for copyright reasons, but also as a nod to the ‘70s disco track thing e.g. Sylvester – Do ya wanna dance, The Brother Johnson – Make me wanna wiggle. The ‘shift’ part linked in with my love of all things petrol – especially cars and bikes – which is a recurrent theme through album art and track names.
In summary, I probably over-thought it a bit!
I: Tell us about your work, what is the purpose of make music instead something else?
MS: Making music is something I feel that I have to do. I get restless if I neglect making music for too long and I can quite happily spend days in near isolation working in my studio. I find hitting on a groove in the studio a hugely euphoric and rewarding experience. Whilst the back-end production finessing can be relentless, hard work and time-consuming, there’s also a great feeling of completion once a track is finished to my satisfaction and comes back from being mastered. Another big driver is seeing other people get enjoyment out of listening to my music. When I was starting out with MISTA SHIFTA, I got some really positive messages from people who had found my stuff on Soundcloud. When you’re putting out new material, it’s incredibly reassuring to hear you’re not delusional and that others also appreciate the music you spend so much time creating.
I: How would you like to define your music?
MS: OK, this one’s hard to do without sounding pretentious, but here goes… I try and write tracks which are as melodic as possible and rooted in classic musicality. Whilst MISTA SHIFTA tracks are usually quite house orientated, I look to mix things up with as much musical variety as possible – I want to make electronic music that can be listened to off the dance floor, without sounding overly repetitive. I enjoy clashing sounds from multiple genres together – jazz, funk and disco, as well as synth electronica. I think the whole retro-futurism thing in music is pretty cool – looking back at the sounds of the past to create music that pushes the boundaries of the future.
For me, electronic music is the most exciting area for musical progression. I think that there are very few modern bands with a conventional instrument setup that are really innovating and pushing musical frontiers beyond what the past masters have already achieved in years gone by. Although not always the case – as demonstrated painfully by the big room EDM ‘copy and paste’ pop hit thing – electronic music has the potential for unparalleled creativity and sonic evolution.
I: Since when you begin to work as an musician?
MS: My music education began very young, listening to old jazz and blues records with my father. At the age of 8 I picked up the cello and piano, learning the trumpet and starting to sing in choirs a year or so afterwards. Throughout my teens and early 20s, I played in various funk, jazz and rock bands, eventually studying music and music composition as a degree and masters respectively. Although I kept on playing and sporadically recording, after my masters I had a bit of a hiatus from serious music production.
A couple of years’ ago, I was diagnosed with a heart condition whilst playing sport which, if left untreated, could have resulted in a potentially fatal heart attack. Although this was curable with a relatively minor heart operation, I came out of the experience with a different sense of perspective and bigger drive to focus on the things that really mattered to me.
The MISTA SHIFTA project was born!
I: What elements, materials do you use for your work?
- Moog Little Phatty stII
- Yamaha P90 stage piano
- Fender Telecaster
- An old cheepo acoustic guitar
- Rocktron Banshee talkbox
- Sure SM58 mic
- Steinberg UR28M
- Motu Microlite midi interface
- Scan music production laptop
- Cubase 7.5
- Loads of different software plugins!
I: Is there something that you could use as an inspiration for your music?
MS: When I was young, I was encouraged to ‘learn’ how to improvise, playing by ear. I use inverted commas as you can’t really learn how to improvise – you either can, or you can’t. Improvising is usually how I find inspiration for my music – playing around with different sounds in the studio until I find a bass line, chord sequence, melody or rhythm that moves me.
Sometimes a tune will come into my head in a less convenient setting e.g. when I’m in the shower, or drifting off to sleep. I use my smartphone’s voice recorder to sing/hum/tap out an approximation of what’s in my head for playback when next in the studio. When working with samples – like my Overdrive EP – things are a little different. I’ll be listening to an old track when a phrase or riff jumps out at me as something I want to hear more of or in a different light. I’ll manually scrub back and forth over it in my music player to get an idea of how it’ll sound looped. If it works, I’ll rip it into my DAW and start writing around the sample, looking to do something new and alternative with it – complimenting rather than overcrowding.
I: Would you like to share some of your favourite music tracks?
MS: I always find quantifying favourites really hard – there are just too many to pick from ! Here are some big influences – a very incomplete list and in no particular order…
- German – Kraftwerk, Boyz Noize, Digitalism
- French – Daft Punk, Air, Mr Oizo, Kavinksy
- Brits – Mike Oldfield, Eatstatic, Leftfield, The Chemical Brothers
- Canadian – MSTRKRFT
- Rock bands – The Rolling Stones (and the many R&B men that inspired them!), The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen
- Classical – Mozart, Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Wagner
- Jazz stride pianist – Fats Waller, Earl Father Hines, Willie the Lion Smith
- Rhythm and Blues – Ray Charles, the three Kings: Freddie, BB and Albert
- Funksters – Herbie Hancock, Jamiriquai, Sylvester, James Brown, The Brothers Johnson
- Disco – Giorgio Moroder
- Song writers – Elton John, Phil Collins
- Composers known for their work in films – Philip Glass, Ennio Morricone, Lalo Shcriffin, Vangelis, Wendy Carlos, Angelo Badalamenti
- Rock ‘n’ Roll – Little Richard
- Hip-hop – Grand Master Flash, Cyprus Hill, Geto Boys
I: Mention 7 artists (photographer, filmmaker, artists, musicians) that you admire the most?
MS: This one’s even harder, choosing only 7…
- Maurits Cornelis Escher
- David Lynch
- Sergio Pininfarina
- Francis Ford Coppella
- William Eugene Smith
- Martin Scorsese
- Salvador Dalhi
I: What is your favourite holiday? Why?
MS: I inherited from my parents a mixture of Norwegian, Irish and English blood, so I actually quite like the cold. However, nothing beats a holiday where the weather is good enough to be in shorts/trunks. I love being by the sea and kayak fish whenever/wherever possible.
Somewhere I can rent a motorbike is a big bonus too. I think riding on two wheels (being in the scenery) is the best way to explore a country.
My favourite recent holiday was probably Cuba a few years back – great people, really interesting country and loads of fantastic ‘50s American cars. Mexico has been on my holiday destination list for ages too – I bought a Lonely Planet guide for the country last year in anticipation of making a visit soon!
I: Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share. . . “
MS: …a second main course with when eating. I like to eat ;)! I kind of do – my girlfriend, when she lets me.
I: What is the greatest thing of your life?
MS: A slightly predictable answer, but: my friends and family.
I: Do you consider yourself melancholic?
MS: I love minor scales and use them in a lot of my tracks, so I guess I might be! I like music that stirs some sort of emotion and I find minor scales do this pretty effectively and probably in a somewhat melancholic way.
I: Do you prefer digital materials or analog materials?
MS: I love the warm sound of analogue. Nothing beats fiddling with tangible hardware controls to evolve and discover new sounds too. However, I find analogue equipment can sometimes be problematic and throw-up issues and glitches that get in the way of the composition process. Even with decent midi connectivity and virtually lag-free playback, my OCD personality sometimes finds issue with the small imperfections you get when it’s hard to exactly sync and playback quantized notes in complex parts – that imperfect element can be the beauty of analogue, though.
So, I use a combination of both software synths – I’m a big fan of Native Instruments’ vast range – and new analogue gear. Much as I love the idea of vintage synths, I fear maintaining and trying to keep them stable would get in the way of and slow down my music production process (a Wendy Carlos inspired Faraday cage anyone?). So I look for new, more user-friendly imaginings of classic technology e.g my Moog Little Phatty stII.Whilst not technically analogue, I am more than a little interested in Roland’s new TR8 and its reimagined digital analogue circuit behaviour.
I: Were we can watch & listen your work?
MS: On Twitter @MISTA SHIFTA
https://soundcloud.com/mistashifta, where you can hear the soon to be released 4 track Overdrive EP (https://soundcloud.com/mistashifta/sets/overdrive-ep) coming out on disco label Midnight Riot Records.
You’ll also find tracks uploaded from my forthcoming second EP, which is an Outrun Electro-styled record.
Thank you for this Interview Phil!