Don't Sleep On Ekali : An Interview With The Rising Producer

Don't Sleep On Ekali

We launched our "Don't Sleep On" series earlier in the year with a feature on hip-hop duo THEY. as we aim to highlight rising artists who have continuously been putting out amazing music. The goal of this series is to give a more in depth look at up-and-coming artists you should know more about. An artist you shouldn't be sleeping on.

If you’ve been keeping up with TSIS, you know all about Ekali and how powerful of producer he really is. Ekali (real name Nathan Shaw) has accomplished a lot in just over three years from his frequently supported “Smoke & Retribution” and “I Can’t Stop” remixes to his collaborations with Falcons and KRANE, his top tracks don’t even begin to scratch the surface of Shaw’s incredible musical capabilities. We’re letting you know right now: Don’t Sleep On Ekali.

Although it sometimes seems like producers pop up out of nowhere, it isn’t uncommon for musicians to get into producing having already accumulated a wealth of experience in the music industry; as was the case with Ekali. Classically trained on the violin since age 13, Shaw played guitar and bass in a handful of bands before joining Vancouver-based group, Said the Whale. After playing bass and touring with them for years while producing beats in his free time, Shaw saw the fruits of his production labor come to fruition when he became the only Canadian accepted into the 2014 Red Bull Music Academy and has since released a handful of hard-hitting remixes and originals. 

Ekali is an artist whose forward-thinking production will stick with you from the first note. His crisp sound design and ability to put together his spree of flawless originals and remixes makes him someone we've been consistently excited about and can't wait to watch progress.

Shortly before deciding to pursue his solo music project full time, he was contacted with a happy surprise when Drake decided to sample his single “Unfaith” for the 2015 album If You're Reading This It's Too Late. The sample can be heard toward the end of Drake's “Preach” and throughout “Wednesday Night Interlude.”

Having launched his new hourlong ‘Awakening’ mix series and dropping an incredible remix of Snakehips & MØ’s “Don't Leave”, Ekali has been busy this year and it seems the best is yet to come. Ekali recently was featured on Diplo & Friends, went on to join the OWSLA family and even has been remixed by the godfather of bass himself, Skrillex + it appears he has a ZHU collab on the way.

On top of all this exciting news, Ekali has unleashed an insane track "Babylon" alongside Denzel Curry as one of the hottest hip-hop releases all year it is one of his best tracks to date. There's something about Ekali's sound design and ear for production that sets him apart from the pack.

We anxiously await new material from this rising TSIS favorite, so be sure to spend some time with this talented artist as he is undoubtedly someone to keep an eye on. He's now heading out on the Babylon tour with support from Medasin, Josh Pan, Y2K and Judge - see dates below and grab tickets here. Continue below for our interview with Ekali. Enjoy! 

Are you still based in Vancouver?

Yes! Everyone is telling me to move to LA but I'm having a hard time leaving. 

How does it feel to headline your own shows being someone who has toured in the past as a bass player in a band?

It's really interesting, especially playing the same venues I once played in a band. The reason I started my own project was for full control in the first place... So I think headlining my own shows has been a lot more rewarding in that regard. 

At what point did you decide to fully pursue your Ekali project? 

Two years ago, I was given an ultimatum - tour in my band-at-the-time without pay, or head out on my own and try to make my project work. I realized I had to put all my effort into the solo project to make it work.  

How does playing Violin and Bass in the past impact your productions?

Playing all sorts of instruments allows you to approach your productions from a different perspective. Even if you're not physically playing the instrument... you can, for instance, manipulate midi in a way that feels more humanized and natural, because you know the intricacies involved in physically playing, and you can capture the imperfections that makes music human.

How did Drake come across your song "Unfaith" and decide to use it for one of his own songs?

I actually have no idea! I think it was PARTYNEXTDOOR who heard the song first. I've never spoken to Drake, just PARTY. 

What’s your approach to working in the studio? Did working with Red Bull Music Academy alter this?

I mean it depends completely on the session. If it's a session with someone I've never met before I usually like to do something non-music related before the session - something fun. It makes the creative process more natural for me... I've had some pretty awful sessions where you're just forced into a room with someone without any semblance of chemistry. RBMA definitely helped me open up with my musical ideas. Everyone at RBMA had a different creative background, so it gave me an opportunity to develop my versatility. 

Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

I have an EP coming out this year!

Can you tell us more about your new ‘Awakening Mix Series” and the inspiration behind it?

I've always done guest mixes throughout my career and people seemed to really resonate with them... The Awakening series was my way of taking all the guest mixes I was doing and giving them a name and a face of my creation... I'm a huge fan of music that exists inside of it's own world... Awakening was just a world I created where my favorite songs can live together. 

How did you link up with OWSLA?

I've been hanging with Drew aka Team EZY for quite some time... He was the one who originally showed Sonny my music & from there, Sonny reached out directly to hang out. Rest is history!

What does it mean to you to have a Skrillex remix of your song on the way and how did that come together?

I mean it's a privilege and definitely a trip to hear his production on one of my songs... Originally it was supposed to be just a Ronny J remix. We asked Ronny and he was super into it. Sonny then had the idea to hop on and make a "drop" section for the remix.

Who would your dream collaboration be with?

Travis Scott 

Ekali Babylon Tour

20 Must-See Rising Artists At Electric Forest 2017

Sherwood Forest

Electric Forest has become a highly anticipated event each summer for TSIS, as it is one of the most extraordinary parties we’ve had the pleasure to be a part of. The festival takes place in Rothbury, MI and completely transforms acres of backwoods into a vibrant dreamland that hosts some of our favorite performers each year. For the first time, Electric Forest will be two weekends in 2017, taking place on the successive weekends of June 22nd-25th and June 29th-July 2nd.

The artists slated to play primetime spots this year include Bassnectar, ODESZA, Big Gigantic, RL Grime, Oliver Heldens, A-Trak, Above & Beyond, NERO (Live), Claude VonStroke, The String Cheese Incident and many more! The full lineup can be seen here.

However, what impresses us the most about Electric Forest’s bill this year is its depth... From top to bottom the lineup is full of incredible acts, many of which we believe to be some of the hottest rising artists in the game. Just for you guys, we have put together a list that spotlights must see acts from mostly up-and-coming artists that we are most excited to see at Electric Forest 2017. You may be familiar with some of these, but for those of you who aren't, be sure to give them a listen before attending the festival. Enjoy!

Barclay Crenshaw

Playing weekend 1

Remember how I mentioned that Claude VonStroke was one of the major headliners, well, Barclay Crenshaw is his hip-hop project that has a completely different vibe. Barclay Crenshaw tracks are trippy and laidback as he takes his impressive production skills to a new direction. Electric Forest is the ideal setting for a Barclay Crenshaw set, both embodying all things hypnotic.

Bob Moses

Playing weekend 1 & 2

Bob Moses consists of two dudes from Vancouver who make incredible indie electronic music. One sits behind a keyboard and various other production equipment as the other plays guitar and sings - what a modern day band looks like. Bob Moses are one of the more live acts at Electric Forest we can't wait to see, so be sure to not miss this one.

Chet Porter

Playing weekend 1

Foreign Family signee, Chet Porter, has been gaining popularity with his cinematic releases such as his hit single “Stay” and his remix of D.R.A.M’s “Broccoli”. The Toronto-based artist has developed a unique sound that is both playful and emotional, making him the true creator of his niche. As he uses his drum pad throughout his set, Chet Porter’s show will leave the audience fulfilled.


Playing weekend 1 & 2

Canadian producer Ekali has been earning great exposure with official remixes for the likes of Snakehips & MØ, Ta-ku & Wafia and Flux Pavilion. His eclectic sound is intricate and complex, but can easily intrigue any concertgoer. Ekali will definitely have an entertaining set that any Forrest attendee would enjoy.


Playing weekend 1 & 2

Based in France, Fakear creates some of the most refreshing music on the list with singles like “Ankara” resembling the sound of ODESZA, and he even supported the TSIS favorite duo at their recent Red Rocks performance. His work is dramatic and sophisticated that produces a worldly vibe that would resonate extremely well in a live setting.  


Playing weekend 1 & 2

NoMBe is a Los Angeles based producer / vocalist that has been releasing single after single off his forthcoming album They Might've Even Loved Me. He is one of the more inventive artists in the lineup as he blends elements from every genre to create soulful and provocative music. Furthermore, he has an incredible voice that is sure to captivate anyone lucky enough to be in the audience.


Playing weekend 1 & 2

Experimental Polish producer Pham has been a consistent TSIS favorite with recent singles “Alibi”, “Talk To Me” and “Below The Surface” all receiving proper write-ups. He has a silky, and sometimes ominous, style that would create a super cool atmosphere in a live setting, especially in the excessive setting that Electric Forest creates.

River Tiber

Playing weekend 2

Toronto-based artist River Tiber creates downtempo music and has collaborated with KAYTRANADA on multiple occasions. With tracks likes “West” being sampled on Mac Miller’s album, it’s apparent that River Tiber has earned respect in the industry for his production capabilities. His atmospheric music calls for a soothing show that will leave everyone enchanted.  


Playing weekend 1 & 2

Fresh off the release of his debut album in early May, StéLouse has been gaining a lot of attention with his high-energy, future bass-inspired production style. StéLouse’s music will translate very well in a live setting as he exploits engaging vocal tunes and pairs them with bright synths and lively percussion… an excellent formula for a powerful show.

Tom Misch

Playing weekend 1 & 2

Tom Misch is an extremely talented instrumentalist, vocalist and producer based out of London that is a favorite of ours here at TSIS. Specializing in guitar, he is one of the smoothest artists in the lineup. He amazingly revitalizes the sounds of classic blues and jazz music, but adds elements of electronic production to create something special.


Playing weekend 1 & 2

16-year-old producer Pluto has built a reputation for his future bass tracks including his TSIS premiere single “Surface”. Pluto has a new-age sound that is quickly gaining the attention of newer electronic music listeners… so if you want to see what the future of dance music is going to look like, go to see Pluto’s set.

Saint WKND

Playing weekend 1 & 2

Hailing from Germany, Saint WKND is one of the more versatile artists on the lineup. He can create music that is easygoing like “Golden” and tracks that are bouncy such as “Make You Mine”. Saint WKND will throw a great party as he hops from genre to genre, always keeping his audience engaged.

Win and Woo

Playing weekend 1 & 2

The Chicago duo that comes from the same team as Whethan and Louis The Child have been showing a lot of promise with impressive singles such as “Recognize” and “Killer With A Smile”. Additionally, Win and Woo have been recruited by artists including SNBRN and Big Wild for official remixes. Their productions are lively and easy to dance to… what more could you ask for.  


Playing weekend 1

Florida native Kaiydo spits over playful beats and creates bouncy hip-hop tracks that would be a great to see live. The 20-year-old will throw a high-energy party that everyone will be able to enjoy. If you are looking for a fun hip-hop set, this one is for you.


Playing weekend 1 & 2

FKJ has become a household name at TSIS with incredible content such as his dreamy music video for “Die With A Smile” and the recent release of his debut album French Kiwi Juice. Hailing from Paris, FKJ is one of the smoothest artists currently touring with incredible guitar and production capabilities. He is very exciting to watch on a live stage as he jumps between many different instruments, looping them in a way that makes it hard to believe that the incredible music is coming from a single person.


Playing weekend 1 & 2

Chicago-based trio Autograf have quickly gained popularity with hit singles such as “Dream” and “You Might Be”. Integrating electronic production and instrumentalism flawlessly, the group has developed a unique sound that has been recruited by the likes of Clean Bandit and GRiZ for official remixes. Autograf’s live show is sure to be entertaining as the three group members jam out on their respective instruments.

Big Wild

Playing weekend 1 & 2

Big Wild is fresh-off the release of his debut EP Invincible which saw great success with help from ODESZA’s rising record label Foreign Family Collective. The California native has been making major waves in the past year with his standout single “Aftergold” being on repeat for us since its release. Big Wild recently concluded a major US tour just in time for festival season in which we expect him to amaze audiences everywhere.


Playing weekend 1 & 2

Brasstracks have become a favorite of ours over the years with thier live-electronic performances and amazing studio releases. Their jazz-infused live-electronic sound is packed with soul that translates incredibly well live as the duo perform with a trumpet and drums making for an energetic performance. We had Brasstracks at our Okeechobee beach party this year and will definitely be sure to check these guys out live whenever we have a chance. They’ve worked with GRiZ on his past album and joined Big Gigantic on a number of tour dates as well so be sure to stop by their set if you can. 

Kamasi Washington

Playing weekend 1

Kamasi Washington is one of the most respected jazz Saxophone players in the world and was a major part of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly album. We’ve been lucky enough to see Kamasi live and were completely blown away. Not only is he a next-level performer, but every member of his band is insanely talented at their instruments and push the boundaries. The bass player even uses a violin string and pedals to make an upright bass sound like a guitar solo. If you’re looking for a live act to see, check this one out. 

Eryn Allen Kane

Playing weekend 2

Chicago-based vocalist Eryn Allen Kane has made a name for herself with her impressive solo releases and you most likely have heard her before alongside Chance The Rapper on his hit “Same Drugs” and other tracks on Donnie Trumpet’s Surf album. Her soulful songs translate incredibly well live as her vocals sound just as great as they do on her studio recordings. Kane actually got a cosign from Prince and has been making waves as of late. 

The Five Creative Sides Of Ta-Ku: Music, Photography, Fashion & More

Ta-Ku Press Shot Editorial

If you have been reading TSIS, chances are you’re familiar with Ta-Ku, who is a favorite artist of ours. While we’re big fans of his music, his artistic talent and vision go far beyond his musical works. The all-around creative individual has expanded his repertoire to include a wide variety of projects in various different fields ranging from photography, to fashion, to barbershops and more as he's explained to us "My other passions have helped me relax and create work for me and for my own personal progression. Its quite fulfilling."

Music: What Ta-Ku is best-known for

Ta-Ku's amazing production abilities have impressed us for years. We've enjoyed everything from his early works making J Dilla-inspired hip-hop beats to his on-point electronic remixes to his full-length genre-blending projects including his Songs To Break Up To and Songs To Make Up To projects that gained him many fans. He's constantly innovating and keeping his sound fresh with everything he releases.

George Maple - Talk (Ta-Ku Remix) | Stream Only

Ta-Ku - I Miss You | Stream Only

Ta-Ku - We Were In Love | Stream Only

Photography: At times when his beat making slowed down

At times when he wasn't making as much music, Ta-Ku began picking up photography. This hobby quickly became a strong passion that he put a lot of time and energy into, and he’s grown to become a respected influencer in the field. His photo curations have landed him past campaigns for various brands including Olympus, G-Star RAW, Puma, ASICS and VSCO among others. Additionally he was chosen as one of Sony’s three Australian brand ambassadors representing the company. He’s even been doing a collaborative photography book series called NO.SLEEP alongside Repeat Pattern, where they photograph cities over the course of a 24-hour period and publish the photo collections as as books highlighting the city's lifecycle. 

Visual Agency: Bringing musicians and videographers together 

He’s built on his growth in the photography field to launch a platform called Create + Explore for musicians and videographers to work together. He felt as though rising videographers needed a place to be able to link up with music producers to create content, so he launched this sort of visual agency that gives these creative individuals a place to collaborate. The focus is to create audio-visual content while traveling, and the effort has had them working with tourism boards around the world. 

Fashion Designer: He built a community on Instagram and grew it into a brand

Ta-Ku’s frequent travels and desire to stay comfortable while flying actually ended up leading to his fashion line Cozy. It began as a hashtag #TeamCozy that sort of began as a joke showing the shoes he wore when he flew, but they worked to build a community around it and engaged conversation between sneaker enthusiasts. He took the next step creating a clothing brand from the hashtag. The brand now has a full collection of items including both lounge clothing and streetwear pieces. 

Barbershop Owner: His love for barbershop culture lead to becoming a partner in a barbershop

In addition to all these endeavors, Ta-Ku is also a business owner as a partner of Westons Barbershop in Perth alongside a couple of his favorite barbers. He’s always shown a passion for barbershops and the culture surrounding them so the move made sense for him as both a business move and passion project.

Singing: He recently unveiled a hidden talent by including his own vocals on tracks

I just always loved too sing. Even though I'm not that good. At the end of the day i just thought to myself - what do i have to lose? I want to push myself and keep growing as an artist. This seemed like the next organic step for me. Im still learning and loving the progression.  - Ta-Ku

Not only has Ta-Ku expanded his creative works beyond his music, but he also recently showcased a new musical talent. We previously heard Ta-Ku sing as he "mustered enough courage to jump on" a track with his own vocals alongside fellow Aussie Wafia on "American Girl". The two acts proved to be a natural fit on the cover and followed up the tune’s success with a 5-track joint EP called (m)edian. Ta-Ku put his vulnerable vocals on full display with his latest offering demonstrating his versatility as both a producer and vocalist. This project showcased his newly-exposed vocal talent in duet form alongside Wafia’s charming voice.

We are anxiously awaiting what's next in the exciting creative mind of Ta-Ku. 

Photo credit: Kayla Mathews.

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