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Interview with Shay De Castro: “I know a lot of people say that’s not really producing or it’s cheating, but I disagree”

The prominent talent from Idaho talks about her latest ‘Assembly’ EP released via CODEX Recordings, her rock background, her production tricks and her ideas regarding the future of clubbing after covid-19

Born and raised in the USA, coming from a rock background and playing the guitar since she was a kid, Shay De Castro is a prominent talent in the techno and trance scene. She is young and fresh, yet she has already shared the stages with artists such as Spektre, Groovebox and Deborah De Luca, just to mention a few. Her sets are progressive and full of energy, and so are her tracks. In the occasion of the release of her ‘Assembly‘ EP via CODEX Recordings, which is already rising in the Techno Beatport chart, we spoke with Shay about the production as well as her roots, her life in the USA, her inspirations and her ideas on how the music scene will change after the covid-19 crisis.

Xceed-Interview-Shay De Castro-DJ Booth
Image: © Shay De Castro

Who is Shay De Castro, and how did you get into djing and producing?

First off, thanks for having me! Shay De Castro is just a girl obsessed with music and sharing that with others. I got interested in djing when I discovered trance when I was 11 or 12 years old. With some birthday money I’d saved I bought a book about learning how to DJ at Barnes and Noble, but at the time I didn’t really have the chance to implement what I’d learned. It was only when my friend showed me, a few years later. I grew up in a smaller city with literally zero electronic music venues, so it wasn’t until I moved away after high school that I really got into djing.

Production was a different story though. I knew I wanted to make music as I was a musician almost my entire life. However, learning a DAW was initially a struggle for me. It wasn’t until I started taking online courses that I fell in love with it.

Some American cities have been really important for electronic music, in particular techno. Having grown up in the USA, how did it influence you?

Yeah, well my hometown (Boise, Idaho) definitely didn’t help much. Only one record store called The Record Exchange held trance and techno, and that was the beginning of my collection. LA was a huge influence, though, and really motivated me to just play and make whatever I wanted. What I love about LA is that most people have moved there to pursue a dream and it’s so incredibly motivating being around those types of people. They really feel nothing is impossible.

What role did rock music play in your life and, consequently, in your career? Did other genres influence you?

It influenced everything. My parents were playing Black Sabbath and Nirvana when I was just a baby. It just became a part of me. I taught myself the guitar at 10 and I took that thing with me on the school bus and played outside the school every morning and lunch because I didn’t have many friends. Music was something that was always there for me and was the perfect escape. When I got into middle school and high school, trance entered my life and quickly became an obsession. I always loved techno too, but at that time, trance was it for me. It still influences me a lot today.

You have released your ‘Assembly’ EP on CODEX Recordings. Where does the idea of this EP come from?

The idea was this more raw, intense EP. That’s how the title of the track came about. It was kind of a way to express quite possibly the most difficult time in my life. My previous releases were a lot less serious, I guess you could say, and that is because I didn’t feel real-life emotions or struggles were contributing to it – as cliché as that sounds. The other two tracks are a bit more “fierce”, I guess, and represent a brighter side to that situation.

Tell us a bit more about the technical side of the EP, how did you produce it?  

I just started out with a simple 8-bar loop with a kick and that arp you hear throughout Assembly, and was messing around with basslines. It seemed a bit too simple, but it got to a point where every time I added another element it would sound too much or muddy. I wish I had a more masterful method behind it, but I rarely open up projects having specific ideas already planned out.

And in general, what is your workflow in the studio? What is a part of equipment that can’t miss when producing?

This isn’t 100% the case, but a lot of the time I use my templates. I know a lot of people say that’s not really producing or it’s cheating, but I disagree. They save you a ton of time and can help you finish tracks. I’ve found that I’m someone who does best with very simple setups. I love buying gear because I think it’s going to somehow improve my workflow or get the ideas flowing. For me, all I need is my headphones, interface, and MIDI keyboard. It’s easy to travel with and it offers just enough convenience for me. In the future, I’d love to sit down and put together a live set, but we’ll see.

Xceed-Interview-Shay De Castro-Press Kit
Image: © Shay De Castro

How was it to collaborate with CODEX Recordings? Are you planning to publish new music on this label in the future?

It was an amazing experience! CODEX is owned by Spartaque, who is 100% professional and it really was so refreshing to work with such a structured label – that really respects their artists and work. To artists who have just started releasing music, I also recommend you take a look at his other label, IAMT. I’d love to work with CODEX again in the future, but we’ll see where this journey takes us!

How would you describe a set of yours to someone who has never heard it?

I would say it’s thumping, versatile, and progressive. Of course, it kind of depends on the length of the set and venue. The last set before covid-19 was really memorable. 6 hours, and we were travelling from 130 to 145 BPM.

Considering the top names of the scene, who are the ones who inspire you the most and why?

ANNA inspires me a lot because she’s been doing it for quite a while and her passion is so contagious. I also love how down-to-earth she is despite her success.

Xceed-Interview-Shay De Castro-Gabriela Xiutzal
Image: © Gabriela Xiutzal

And now, considering the pandemic situation we’ve just experienced (and still are), which do you think are going to be the consequences for the industry? Is it going to be the same, especially for those top names of the scene?

That’s a tough one… although I don’t think anything will be completely the same after this. I think that a lot of people in the industry may have started up or at least have considered an alternate generation of revenue just in case something like this happens again. I also think a lot of artists are going to continue live streaming to create a closer bond with fans.

Is there something in particular you hope will change?  

I do hope for more opportunities for smaller names, yeah. I think it comes back again to revenue and festivals that really want to pack their lineups with all of the biggest names possible. Having a bit more versatility is very welcome by DJs and fans, alike.

Xceed-Interview-Shay De Castro-Playing
Image: © Shay De Castro

You also have a podcast series, Crimethink, tell us more about it…

Unfortunately, I haven’t really done much with it recently as I’ve just been laser-focused on production. But there are artists on it who I really admire, some are big names, some are smaller. I did it with the goal of offering an audience to artists who deserve to be heard but aren’t.

Thinking of this, and also of all the live streaming sets we’ve seen in these months, do you think there’s going to be more and more digital content after this period, or is it something limited and related to the moment?

I absolutely think it will continue. For example, I’ve always wanted to do live streams but I was always a bit lazy to set up everything. Now I’ve seen the great response from those I have done, so I’ll continue doing it in the future.

Would you be able to adapt to a more “digital” rather than a “physical” way of clubbing?

It’s better than nothing, but I don’t think anything could ever compare to the physical clubbing. You can’t feel the energy of people around you through a screen.

In this period of stop, have you been producing a lot in the studio? Which are the next steps in your career?

Yeah, it’s been really nice with everything calmer in that sense. I’ve been able to enhance certain skills, and also stop thinking about what I “should” be producing. I have a very detailed timeline and goals for what will happen next, but I wanna keep them to myself! Definitely expect more releases soon!

ARTIST: SHAY DE CASTRO

(Cover Image: @ Get In Pr!)

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