Shanti Celeste's Ready to Take Over the World, One Record at a Time
We track the progress of a star in the making from Lake District quarry raves to big rooms in Berlin.
This post ran originally on THUMP UK.
"I get bored really easily," Shanti Celeste admits as we discuss her chameleonic ear for producing party-ready music, turning her attention to electro as adeptly as she does to blissed-out house. "I have to change it up a bit to keep creative and really enjoy what I do, because I could hit a wall and it's the music that would suffer." She is a producer blessed with the ability to make anything she turns her hand to sound like a Shanti Celeste record: melodious, sweet, sharp.
Take "Selector" from her latest 12", the first release on her newly launched imprint Peach Discs. It's punctuated by airy pads and shimmering, almost acidic arpeggios, a light accompaniment to the brooding, low-end bassline and punchy drums that sit underneath. Over on the A-side, "Loop One" is a relaxed, breaksy number, which maintains that same deft ear for melody so evident on its counterpart.
Despite this ability to cut between various influences and styles Celeste admits that she takes to producing some sounds more easily than others, adding that she has a "small but nifty" studio set-up owing to her "not-too-expensive" taste in synths. "I feel more comfortable working in a way that's quite naive, so when I try to make something in a that I haven't done too much before, that usually produces the best results for me because I tend not to overthink it," she tells me, from a room in Chile where she's visiting family, fresh from her first tour of Australia.
Having spent so much time away in recent months with an increasingly busy touring schedule, Celeste hasn't been able to get into the studio as much as she'd like, and a relocation from Bristol to Berlin hasn't helped matters. "It's really nice to have a few weeks where you're not going away for a week at a time, so you can get into the studio and get back into it, because after a long break, I can feel quite rusty, and it'll take me longer to get a point where I really go for it," she says. Itching to get back into the studio, she tells me that she's still acclimatising to the growing demands of her touring schedule, particularly now with the additional workload of running her own label.
Her first foray into record label management came at BRSTL, the label she founded in 2011 with Idle Hands' Chris Farrell and the producer Rhythmic Theory. That label was started with the view of releasing music by people in Bristol and bringing their work to light," she says, adding that starting up Peach Discs is an opportunity for her to take full control of a project, with an idea that is entirely hers. Acting as an additional creative outlet through which to release her own music, and that of others, it also gives her a chance to indulge her artistic side in the label's visual design, drawing from paintings of her own. "They're not masterpieces by any means, but painting relaxes me and gives me a different way to be creative," she says.
While she'll continue to release music with other labels, Peach Discs—which was initially set to be named Dance Party before legal complications put paid to the idea—will form Celeste's primary focus going forward with a long-term, but relaxed, vision in mind. She's also taking an active approach to A&R with the label, having set up an email account in the hope of uncovering future releases via demos, while she also has no shortage of friends to draw from for potential future offerings on the label.
"I have lots of friends who make music that I'm just politely pushing like 'come on'," she jokes, noting that there are two further records from other producers in the works, as well as further plans to follow those currently in their early stages. "I'm taking it easy to start with and don't want to start out with this idea of only releasing records of a certain type of sound, but I will definitely know if I feel it has run its course," she says. "I always want to end it on a high, so if I get to a point where I feel I've done all I want to do with it, I'll stop."
Bristol was home before Berlin and before Bristol there was the Lake District. It was there that Celeste started attending quarry raves where speed garage and jungle were the order of the day. Those parties, in their own way, led her to the south west, where she took up a job at Idle Hands at the age of 21. It was then that she started collecting records—binging on minimal techno for example—DJing, and mastering production
Celeste launched her own club night shortly after moving to the city. Housework, which she set up in 2010 with fellow DJs Gramrcy and Golesworthy, was set up with the intention of bringing DJs to Bristol who hadn't played there so frequently. This saw bookings for Call Super, Telephones and Jane Fitz among others, while the group have recently brought the night to Berlin, where three of the core team are now based, for a residents-focused session at intimate venue Sameheads.
Her move to Berlin last year, she confesses, could have come at a better time though, as she sinks into juggling the role of label owner and busy DJ with day-to-day life, as well as fully settling into a new city. "As much as I love Berlin and I feel a little bit guilty for maybe not trying more, I just don't have time to do gigs, make music, write emails (which actually takes up half of my week), sort out label matters, buy music, dig for records, do exercise, eat well and go out just to be social."
She admits that leaving Bristol perhaps made her appreciate its charms even more. "I have loads of friends there where if I go away touring for three weeks, I don't necessarily have to feel guilty for not making more of an effort because they'll always be there." As a DJ, producer and label owner, Celeste jokes, she's left with a skewed full-time job "where you can be lazy at weird hours of the day, but there isn't actually any time to do that in the end". While she's not finding the added task of running Peach Discs too straining just yet, she signs off our chat with a knowing sigh, having reeled off the demands of an average week: "It all takes up time—everything just takes loads of time."
Shanti Celeste's first Peach Discs release, Untitled, is out now.