DJ Q&A: Konrad Black

This Friday, May 17, As You Like It presents a Wagon Repair showcase at Mighty featuring label heads Mathew Jonson and Konrad Black, aka Todd Shillington.

The Vancouver natives took tech-house to a new level in the mid-2000s with a keen sense for forward-thinking beats as clubs worldwide became saturated with the minimal aesthetic.

In particular, Shillington’s productions from this era remain relevant today with the scene’s affinity for thick, slinky bass lines and hints of electro and dark pop. Starting with the influence of drum n’ bass, followed by a chance meet up with UK tech-house maestros Swayzak, Shillington honed an alluring sound which allowed him to pave the way for his global DJ career.

As a current Berlin resident, Shillington has landed regular gigs at Watergate, Panorama Bar, and other nearby hot spots, such as Rex and Fabric. Still, he plays an important role in the Vancouver dance scene, using Wagon Repair as a platform for his friends to release tracks that further the label’s vision for leftfield house and techno.

Ahead of his SF gig, I got the chance to pick his brain apart with a few questions in which he shares key moments in his artistic development and his appreciation for Mathew Jonson’s hair.

What spurred your interest in electronic music? What was your first exposure to raves and the general electronic music scene in Vancouver?

The movie Hackers. It was life changing and I was hanging out with this goth babe who kinda looked like Angelina Jolie and she took me to Rave-e-oli which had a can of Chef Boyardee as it’s flyer design/ concept. We kissed during a breakdown and I was like, “This is it.” The relationship didn’t last but when one door closes…

In the early 2000s, you hooked up with Swayzak, which led to releases on their 240 Volts imprint that helped kick start your career. What made you click with them?

They came through Vancouver to play a show with Juan Atkins. Kris Palesch, co owner of one of the local record stores brought Brun by my studio. I had just started making some techno tracks newly inspired by hearing Perlon, Klang, German minimal house etc. We made each other laugh. We then ate at a restaurant across the street from my studio. I had the soup. I don’t remember what they ordered.

You make your own artwork for your releases. What do you feel are your biggest inspirations for your aesthetic, visually and musically?

The Moon Witches.

When did you come into contact with Mathew Jonson and how did your label Wagon Repair come to fruition after that?

Well one story I heard is that Mathew had a poster up at the bulletin board of a music shop. “Male seeking male for more”, but to me I think it was destiny. Some things are just supposed to happen. I believe that if we were both magicians we still would have found each other.

In 2005, you relocated to Berlin. How does Vancouver compare to the German techno capital? Did your new environment lead you in a certain direction with your productions?

Well let’s just say I don’t remember the first 5 years of my existence there.

You spent a brief time in LA a while after relocating to Berlin to get away from the 24/7 bustle of techno parties. What are some of your favorite aspects about the West Coast regarding the music scenes and otherwise?

I really liked living in LA. Things are just so pleasant there. The West Coast sound is a great reflection of that pleasantness.

Last year you collaborated with fellow Canadians Art Department for your Graveyard Tan single, which came out on their No. 19 label. What do you like about the brand of deep house they’re curating through the imprint?

It’s deep innit?


What have been some of your favorite collaborations to date?

Swayzak, Selfpartwo, Circlesquare, Headgear, Ghostman, Art Department, Martin Buttrich, Shaun Reeves, Natalia Escobar, Ryan Crosson…

You’ve remixed a wide variety of artists from Tiga to Subb-an. What do you feel is most important to set a remix apart from the original and making it your own?

Some people remix and they just take the stems and remix them. I think it’s important to use the stems as a base for a new track that pays homage to the original and also has my sound. There’s been times that I’ve been working on a remix and taken a break from it and when I sat back down to give it a listen I realized I was making a trance track…so what sets mine apart is that before the mixdown I ask, “is this me, or is it something great?”

You were part of the minimal boom back in the mid-2000s. How do you feel about the direction house and techno went from then to now, for example, with releases on labels such as Poker Flat and Get Physical?

There’s an ebb and flow to all things.

Wagon Repair showcases a solid roster to date with several of your friends, such as Colin de la Plante (aka The Mole) and Mike Shannon, to Minilogue and Luca Bachetti. What have been some of your favorite releases?

The Moleshaniloguetti release was bomb.

What can we expect to hear from Wagon Repair in the near future?

Vinyl and digital.

What do you like about playing with Mathew Jonson? What can we look forward to with your SF appearances?

I like playing with Mathew because we get to play remember when. When your better days are behind you it’s nice to reminisce. Mathew and I are like our taste in burritos: a lot of meat and a lot of cheese. I also always look forward to seeing his hair. It has a life of it’s own.

Konrad Black plays As You Like It Presents A Wagon Repair Label Night with Mathew Jonson. Support comes from Sassmouth, Mossmoss, Rodrigo Quinonez, Jeno b2b Brian Bejarano, Rich Korach, and Bells & Whistles. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here.