Hailed by some as “the funkiest DJ on the planet”, the Australian-born Vancouver-based producer/DJ Slynk has been performing at Shambhala Music Festival for nearly a decade and returns this summer as one of 20 acts on the 2019 lineup labeled as “Shambhala Favorites”. For the first time, Shambhala has chosen to call out this group of artists whose roots run especially deep with the festival. To recognize this unique curatorial decision, we’re speaking to some of the Favorites as the festival approaches, starting with the fun-loving and funky Slynk aka Evan Chandler.
One of the many unique aspects of Shambhala is its booking process; the stage managers themselves book the talent. These individuals, like Rich-E-Rich, stage manager of the Fractal Forest and one of Shambhala’s original contributors, are obviously huge music fans themselves. So in addition to holding down logistics, these folks are able to exercise their fandom through these bookings. The Shambhala Favorites concept could be an outgrowth of this, as the stage managers surely had some input into the Favorites roster. The artists chosen have performed at Shambhala again and again. There’s British Columbia native and Bass Coast organizer The Librarian and Los Angeles dubstep producer Stylust. There are bass funk pioneers like Stickybuds, A Skillz and JPOD. There’s Mat The Alien, at whose Shambhala set many years ago the concept of totems (or “signs” as they’re known at Shambhala) is said to have originated with a piece of cardboard, a spray can, and the words “Really Good”.
They all have history with the festival and some of it goes beyond performing. Every year they pack out the stages and generate wild excitement, which is even more impressive when you realize how many are local to western Canada. For some, their fan bases and careers have grown in tandem with the festival. To a degree, this can be said for Slynk, who has been releasing his Fractal Forest sets on SoundCloud to wide acclaim since 2011. Slynk is completely self-taught and first began producing on the Playstation game “Music” before moving to Fruity Loops and eventually Ableton. He can also scratch up a storm, after teaching himself on two old decks a friend gifted him in his hometown of Brisbane when he was 18 or 19. He combines top-tier glitch sound design with big, bold breaks and a bottomless library of samples spanning all genres but especially funk, hip-hop, r&b and reggae.
One of the most memorable Shambhala moments for Slynk and for his fans was his surprise set at the Fractal Forest in 2012. Evan was at the event as a patron that year when he ran into Rich-E-Rich who told him a headliner had cancelled and asked if he, Slynk, would be up to throw down. Evan didn’t hesitate and today that set (below) has a good bit of folklore surrounding it. We asked Evan about his first Shambhala set back in 2009, his sound design, and his mutual love affair with this legendary festival.
The Rust: You’ve said that as humans we all crave a sense of community. What’s your community at Shambhala look like?
Evan: It's like a family reunion. It feels like it's my birthday and all my friends from all over the world have made the journey to the forest to reunite and celebrate. Some friends I haven't seen since last Shambhala, we pick up the friendship exactly where we left off last year. It's just love and laughs. You are very aware that this is a festival wide feeling too. In normal society, we're afraid to talk to one another. We put up walls and push away strangers. We avoid community and prefer isolation. But at Shambhala, these walls are torn down. You are everyone's friend and everyone is friends with you. I don't know how or why this happens. But I crave it. Who wouldn't?
The Rust: Shambhala was the first festival you ever played in 2009. Can you take us back in time to that moment?
Evan: I'd never been to a festival like Shambhala before. It's on a completely different level than anything else I had experienced. I was overwhelmed as an attendee, but I was booked to play as well! I remember spending probably too much time on my laptop at the campsite rethinking my set. Going over it in my head. Listening and planning again and again. I was nervous, really nervous! The staff in the VIP area at Shambhala were so accommodating and friendly. Tall Brian actually recommended I get a massage to relax. Hang on, you guys give the artists massages? And it's free? I got what was probably the best massage I'd ever had in my life to date. I was feeling much more centered and calm.
Evan: If memory serves me right, I was playing Friday night and as you guys know, the Fractal Forest doesn't open ‘till Friday. So I'm experiencing all the quirks and personality of the stage for the very first time, and setting up my gear at the same time. I remember playing a song in my set which had a little vocal sample that said "make noise". The whole crowd lit up with noise. For a moment I was wondering what was going on! I'd played this song many times before at other shows and never really noticed the sample until I played it there. The crowd was truly listening to my music. It was electric. It was the best moment of my life, and it's the moment my entire life changed forever.
The Rust: You’ve performed on at least four continents. What can you find at Shambhala that you can’t find anywhere else?
Evan: I can't tell you what you will find at Shambhala, but I can tell your what I found. I found a purpose. I found a home. I found a community. I found inspiration and drive. I found love and acceptance. I found my flaws and strengths. I found out who I am and I found out who I want to become.
The Rust: We’ve read a ton about how your sampling skills developed. How about your sound design? When did you first start creating sounds you were actually impressed with? What sort of sounds do you want to create in the future?
Evan: I think I'm just a nerd. Or a scientist. I do experiments, record the results and then review the data. I taught myself everything in this way. I would turn a knob and hear the way the sound changes and make a mental note. That's really the core of understanding synthesis. Eventually you're able to hear a sound in your head and then move the knobs in the right way to make that sound.
But what's more fun is to ask my music software to generate "happy accidents"; something that takes an input, and uses that to output something transformative, random and unexpected. This is where the collaboration between you and the computer really begins. I've come up with some great ideas in this way. Lately I've been experimenting with neuro style sounds. I'm learning how to use distortion without completely breaking the sound beyond recognition. It's something I haven't really messed with before. Most of my typical sounds are subtractive. I'll start with a big sound and carve away at it using filters. Neuro style sounds seem to be more additive in a way. You start with a simple sound and slowly build up harmonics and texture with distortion.
The Rust: I love how you described the relationship between performers and audiences as yin and yang. Can you elaborate on this?
Evan: It's like a feedback loop. I'll spot someone in the crowd really getting down hard and it makes me smile. They like my music! I'm proud and honoured to be giving this person a reason to get down. It makes me wanna shake it around a little bit myself. The audience sees me grooving and they can tell I'm enjoying myself. I'm smiling and boppin’ around and that makes them smile and they get their boogie on a little more, too. It just goes around and around until everyone in the room is glowing and jamming. But this isn't an exclusive relationship between crowd and performer. As a person in the audience, you have the power to lift the area vibe yourself! Put on your crazy costume, shake your butt and make people smile. It's contagious.
The Rust: What’s one thing about Shambhala that may surprise someone who’s never been?
Evan: It's strictly a non-alcoholic event. I enjoy the occasional beer but I learned a long time ago that you don't need to get hammered to have a good time. Your true personality is deep down inside you, and I think if you learned how to unlock it, you'd really enjoy yourself! Come to Shambhala and we'll teach you how to come out of your shell. Knowing how to let go of your inhibitions sober is a valuable skill to possess for all walks of life.
As we described last year, Shambhala is arguably the most successful music festival in North America. There’s 1,001 reasons behind this that we’re still unpacking, but the concept of the Shambhala Favorites highlights one of the key reasons; Community. This group of artists is more than a grouping of impressive talent to help sell tickets; they’re part of the Shambhala community, an integral part of the festival’s fabric. It’s impressive but not surprising that Shambhala would recognize its community with this special section on their 2019 lineup. As the festival approaches, stay chooned to The Rust Music for interviews with more of the Shambhala Favorites.