This Beat Is Mine Interviews Steve ShakeWell

This Beat is Mine

Steve ShakeWell is a longstanding fixture of NYC’s disco DJ scene. Steve has held numerous residencies as well as putting on the long-standing Main Ingredients party with Ben Manzone aka Benguin. His current party is Sharegroove, with DJ Duckcomb. Sharegroove, mostly based in Brooklyn through its history, is now a regular party at the Douglass Lofts in Brooklyn. A high school teacher by day, ShakeWell brings an encyclopedic knowledge of disco and boogie, but also a love for everything from deep house to afrobeat, and a sixth sense of what song will set the dancefloor on fire.

Catch him and Duckcomb with Philly’s Robotique DJs Billy and Ryan at the Douglass Lofts this Saturday. Admission is $10 before 3am, just $5 after. Food and drinks are served or BYOWhatever and the party will continue on after hours.

And listen to Sharegroove’s most recent DJ mix.

HH: You have some special guests coming to Sharegroove this weekend, can you tell us a little about them?

SS: We are excited have DJ’s Billy W and Ryan T from Philadelphia. They throw a weekly Friday party @ Kung Fu Necktie called Robotique. We met last year at a party in the woods of Gettysburg, they had us guest with them, now we finally get a chance to give them their NYC debut. They book local talent, as well more well known guests like Rich Medina, Soft Rocks, Dam Funk, and Ron Trent. They bring the heat. Also, Aurora Halal, will be providing visuals to enhance the vibe. She’s done amazing work for the Beautiful Swimmers (she also just released a 12″ for her Innergaze project, with fellow synth master Jason Letkiewicz).

HH: What can people expect when they come to one of your parties?

SS: Expect to be taken on a journey ! Ha. What a cliché ! .. Seriously, expect to have fun, you can find us on the dancefloor when we aren’t behind the decks. We play a wide variety of music that you can dance to in a comfortable environment (people actually live at this space). Different kinds of disco, house,and whatever else we feel that fits the mood. We try to keep our tempo and song selections dynamic. Also, you are able to find relief from the dancefloor on the outdoor patio. Because we’re at a non-residential loft, we go past the normal 4am closing time, so feel free to come on the late side for a cheap $5. We also have food and complimentary punch too.

HH: How long have you been DJing, exactly?

SS: I started out DJ’ng at WDOM, Providence College Radio, in ‘95 playing ska, rocksteady, and reggae. In a very linear and chronological way, I progressed to U.S. soul, funk and disco. Once I got deep into disco and house, I started to mix and get into the approach I have now. So I guess 15 years total. But my very first experience was in high school, at some rich person’s house who had a dj booth in their basement. It was New Year’s Eve, and I took over the party with a friend, playing Nirvana, and the Pixies, stuff like that. It was so much fun, realizing that kind of steering power of a party. That’s when I got the bug.

HH: What‘s a track you’ve dropped a lot lately that reliably incites the dancefloor?

SS: I’ve been playing this song by Oni Ayhun a German techno producer, its untitled. This track walks the line between techno and I’m not quite sure what else, but who really cares, it rips. Thanks to Chris Burns who turned me onto it. I’ve also been really digging the original version of “I Believe In Miracles” by Mark Capanni; a blue-eyed soul masterpiece, with great arrangements. The Jackson Sisters famously covered it, I didn’t know about the original til just recently. Don’t debate, both are great.

HH: You’re a native New Yorker and I imagine you’ve seen a lot of great parties in the city. What kinds of changes have you seen in that time?

SS: One big change during the summer, is that there’s more outdoor spaces being utilized for daytime events at the Yard, Soul Summit at Ft.Green Park, Water Taxi Beach. Of course there’s negative stuff changes too, but who wants to read about me complaining ?

HH: What parties of yesteryear do you miss the most?

SS: The original Negroclash parties, downstairs at APT were a favorite of mine. They had so many legendary guests, and the crowd was so mixed, and the music was always on point. You got the full spectrum of black electronic dance music. I know they still do reunion parties here and there which I’m sure are solid, but at the time that party was needed to balance out the soulless electroclash movement, it gave real electro, its roots and offshoots a home to be heard.

HH: What was your best experience in NYC seeing a DJ?

That’s hard to choose. Just off the top of my head, and outside of my good friends playing, seeing Karizma at APT, Harvey&Thomas for a special No Ordinary Monkey party. But really, the best experience was seeing David Mancuso for the first time, a truly perfect party.

HH: The underground party scene seems huge these days, particularly in Brooklyn. Obviously the Brooklyn aspect is something new, but are secret parties a new development or has it always been part of nightlife here?

SS: I think its always been there , even in Brooklyn. People get fed up with bars and lounges, both as partiers and dj’s. Pat and I got that way after various monthlies at different spots. We made a pact to focus our parties at spots outside of bars/lounges. Luckily, we found the Douglass Loft , which is a true nyc loft, not some corcoran luxury space, which is ruining nyc.

HH: DJing is changing a lot at the moment, with so much new digital equipment, but in a lot of ways it’s still the same. You’re still primarily a vinyl guy. Do you see the technologies you use now changing much going forward?

SS: I prefer vinyl. It’s how I listen to music mostly. I think it sounds better and its more fun to play and collect. Vinyl gives the full spectrum of sound, that translates to your aural experience as a listener (or dancer). I could go on and on. But I’m not on a high horse. I understand the multitude of reasons of why dj’s don’t play vinyl (aside from a simple preference). Some DJ’s work full time and vinyl is so impractical, for others its a financial and access issue, and sometimes its the genre of music your playing, some music just doesn’t make it to vinyl. I am fortunate because so much of the music I play is older and there’s tons of ways to dig in NYC (though less and less stores for new stuff, respect to Dope Jams, Big CIty, Academy and A1). It’s a total luxury to buy new vinyl. It is expensive. You have to pick and choose what you really want to play, what songs really move you, what song you think are amazing. If I think a track is going to have a short shelf life, I’ll try to find a digital file. DJ’ng is really all about creating a vibe, and playing the right song at the right time, no matter what medium you choose.

HH: And lastly, being a dj can be a thankless job sometimes. What keeps you going, keeps you setting up parties and digging for records?

SS: I think I’ll always dig for records, its a never ending search for music. I’m obsessed. I keep throwing parties because I really just love sharing the music I love with other people. I still get a thrill from creating a vibe and making people dance. The loft parties we throw aren’t every month, more like every other month, so it gives us time do it right and make it more special, for us at least. Monthlies are tiring to promote and make successful.

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