There are many bands out there who have tried to play live drum’n’bass before, but none of them have brought it to a level of perfection as these guys, multiple award winning, platinum selling, world famous Shapeshifter from Christchurch, New Zealand. They will be back in Berlin, April 20, to play one of their energetic live shows at Gretchen. Since their formation in 1999, Shapeshifter have worked their way up to be one of New Zealand’s top musical exports and definitely have caught worldwide attention with their live performances. We have had a look at the bands history and have brought together all the interesting facts about them in this little article.
The four founding members, Devin Abrams, Redford Grenell, Sam Trevethick and Nick Robinson met first at the Christchurch Jazz School. Their wide musical background included dub, jazz, hip-hop, metal, funk and electronic, this led into the decision to bring all these influences together and create live drum’n’bass. In 2001, Shapeshifter released their first longplayer entitled “Realtime”. For the album they worked together with producer Kaps and Tiki Taane, a member of the famous New Zealand dub/reggae formation Salmonella Dub. It also features the sweet vocals of Ladi6, who has been called “New Zealand’s answer to Erykah Badu”, on the track “Move With Me”. At the 2002 b-Net New Zealand Music Awards the album was awarded as the “Best Electronic Release” and was also nominated for “Best Electonic Album” at the Rainz New Zealand music Awards.
It was time to climb up the ladder a little bit and so the band decided to relocate to Melbourne, Australia, in 2002. From there they took every opportunity to play live, performing at festivals such as the 4ZZZ Market Day Festival in Brisbane or the Bellingen Global Carnival and sold out shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Byron Bay increased Shapeshifter’s name recognition. In 2003, they met vocalist Paora Apera, better known by his stage name P Digsss, and he immediately joined the band’s live line-up. The new line-up was put to the test the very same year when they went on Salmonella Dub’s “One Drop East” album release Australian tour, as their support act. The band’s crowd response on this 12 tour dates was overwhelming and from there they went on their first European tour playing shows at locations including London, Edinburgh and Rotterdam. Back home it was time for the next step and so Shapeshifter released their second album “Riddim Wise”, in 2004. The sound of the band changed to a more atmospheric style of drum’n’bass. This LP was recorded at the group’s own home studio in Melbourne and features collaborations with the Aotearoa vocalists Joe Dukie, of the seven-piece formation Fat Freddy’s Drop, Ladi6 who already appeared on the first album and, now band member, P Digsss. Their highly anticipated second album was praised by critics as a steady progression from their first album “Realtime” and became the number 1 Independent New Zealand album release and also the number 1 New Zealand National Dance Album in the country’s history.
After two years of touring and working on new songs Shapeshifter dropped their third album “Soulstice”, in late 2006, which obtained Gold sales status in New Zealand within only three weeks and has achieved Platinum sales during the following year. The lead single “Bring Change” received extensive video and radio airplay. The group went on tour again throughout New Zealand, performed with leading orchestras and sold out their shows already weeks in advance. Soon after, in 2007, they released a live album entitled “Shapeshifter Live” which was recorded in the band’s hometown at the Christchurch Town Hall on the final show of their orchestra tour. Next to other popular tracks such as “Tapestry”, “Bring Change” or “One” the album contained a previously unreleased song called “Good Looking”. Shapeshifter did not pause and went on their fourth European tour, in 2008, playing sold out shows all over the place from Paris to Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Scotland and England. This is when they decided to release “Soulstice” in the UK and Europe, via The Word Records, with a new artwork and including exclusive remixes by D-Bridge,Nu:Tone and The Nextmen. At the end of 2008 they also toured Australia and played a bunch of new unreleased tracks from their next album “The System Is A Vampire”. Shapeshifter also released a remix EP in late 2008 featuring two alternative versions of their song “Bring Change” by themselves and well known New Zealand drum’n’bass artists The Upbeats. Also included was a remix of their song “Long White Cloud”, by Nu:Tone.
In November 2009 the band released their fourth studio album “The System Is A Vampire”. Already in September 2009, while touring Australia again, drummer Redford Grenell left the band. According to P Digsss he had told the band that he had “come to the end of his road” with Shapeshifter. Grenell was replaced by drummer and producer Johnny Hooves who left the band in 2013 and was replaced by drummer Darren Mathiassen. In July 2010 Shapeshifter were signed by the UK drum’n’bass label Hospital Records, who then released the band’s LP “The System Is A Vampire” globally and the album quickly went Platinum. Later that year they also released a new collection of remixes entitled “The System Is A Remix” featuring remixes by Logistics, Camo & Krooked, Netsky, State Of Mind and The Upbeats. After touring so much and the massive output of the last years they decided to take it slow and reinvent their sound before finally releasing their fifth long player “Delta” in 2013. Part of the album was recorded in, believe it or not, Berlin and the other part in Wellington, New Zealand, followed by a New Zealand wide tour. In 2014, after fifteen years band history, founding member Devin Abrams left the band. But this was not the end as they found a worthy replacement in Dan Macgruer.
End of last year, 2016, Shapeshifter have put out their, up to date, latest album, which is called “Stars”. The band was always known for their very unique way of mixing different sound effects and instruments into each other, trying to create their own sound. “Stars” is a complete story from beginning to end with many influences from smooth jazz tones to industrial and hard house, this album pleases every drum’n’bass fan. Shapeshifter is the bridge between a usual drum’n’bass club night and a typical live band concert. Their shows are breathtaking and will make you feel unable to stand still. The energy of the group on stage is filling the room with an atmosphere that will automatically put a smile on your face and animate you to dance, and that is a promise. No other live drum’n’bass band has managed to create such a intense vibe than these guys. What more to say? This show is not to be missed.
Get your tickets before it is too late and we will meet you on the dancefloor!