As a New York native who spent his youth playing enough classical instruments so that he could be a one-man symphony, DJ Shane One’s early musical career included studying piano, violin, cello and even singing in the Metropolitan Opera’s Children’s chorus for a few years. However, growing up in the golden era of ’90s hip-hop, he also loved artists like NAS, Wu-Tang, and Biggie, and had a particular curiosity toward their sample sources. Thus began the development of an all encompassing musical approach that he incorporates into his sets today.
While Shane One still identifies as a New Yorker — despite having lived in S.F. for almost two decades now — he likes to keep his projects and lifestyle what he calls, “chill and sexy.”
We got a chance to catch up with Shane One about his classical music history, changes in the local music scene, and what’s rotating on his personal playlist.
SF Weekly: Give us a brief history of how you got into DJing.
Shane One: I think for a lot of people like me, DJing is a natural evolution of something that you have always done. I was the kid in elementary school bringing in mixtapes of songs I had recorded off the radio trying to share what I though at the time was the best music out there. That has never really changed. I have always wanted to share tunes that speak to me with anyone who will listen.
SFW: We heard you also came from a music education/theory background.
SO: I have always been into all kinds of music. My parents were smart enough to realize I had a serious affinity for music at a very young age. I think they put me in my first music class when I was 3 or 4, and it was off to the races from there. I started taking piano lessons at 4 or 5 and continued studying classical piano all through high school. But I was into everything music. I studied the violin and cello for a few years, and I was always singing, so my parents took me to the Metropolitan Opera for tryouts on a whim and I actually ended up singing at the Met in the Children’s chorus for four years until I outgrew the costumes. Singing on stage at the Metropolitan Opera is a mind blowing experience that, to this day, I still haven’t fully wrapped my head around. When I couldn’t sing on stage anymore, I got really into music composition and theory, so I studied that pretty aggressively at the Manhattan School of Music. The reality is, I just voraciously consumed music in all it forms growing up. I’m very grateful to my parents that they didn’t just put up with me, but encouraged my appetite.
SFW: Yet you’re also known to be an aficionado of ‘90s hip-hop. What was THE hip-hop record that shaped your early life and why?
SO: That’s an impossible question. I grew up in Manhattan in the ‘80s and ‘90s, so I was lucky enough to grow up in a time and a place where hip-hop and R&B was at its peak. I remember hearing “Paid in Full” by Eric B & Rakim when I was I like 7 or 8, and it blew me away. That was it for me. I was on board. That opened me up to stuff like Gang Starr and EPMD, which in turn made way for Wu-tang, NAS, Biggie, and a personal favorite Jeru tha Damaja. The Sun Rises in the East will always have a special place in my heart. I could talk about ‘90s hip-hop all day, but I think the thing that tied it all together was my obsession with the source music. I started getting crazy with figuring out where all the samples came from, and that made me dig deeper into the history of the music and opened me up to a much bigger world.
SFW: What prompted the move from N.Y. to San Francisco?
SO: There is not enough time for that story. Lets just say I always felt a pull toward San Francisco. When I left N.Y.C., it only made sense that I would end up here.
SFW: Having lived in S.F. for almost two decades now, how has the music scene changed in your experience?
SO: I moved out here in 2000, and even after 17 years, I still identify as a New Yorker. I think its an affliction that I will never get over. Once I got here, I pretty much immediately talked my way into a job at a record store on Upper Haight called Housewares and that was pretty much game over for me. I fell in love with this city, and through that, I met the people that have changed my life. I found a group of like-minded people who were just as obsessed with music as I was. Dance music has always had such a vibrant scene in S.F. I think it only ever changes as much as it stays the same. I was lucky enough to be part of a group of friends that has almost entirely gone on to do great things. People like Solar and Galen from Sunset crew have done so much since I got here to foster and grow one of the most exceptional parties in the world. I couldn’t be more proud of Justin Martin and the Dirtybird crew. I can’t think of better people that deserve all the success in the world. There are so many people here doing big things. Pillowtalk, JP Soul, and Roam records. Housepitality has grown to the point where it pulls world class talent every Wednesday night. S.F. people are very much out in the world and it shows. I think it has motivated the next generation in S.F. to work that much harder. But they have more opportunity than ever to do big things. As much as I miss The Top, it’s really only for nostalgia. Now, there are places like Muka and Monarch and The Great Northern that are owned by people like Chris Smith that have not just made S.F. a home, but have been here contributing in big ways that offer an outlet for the next generation of DJs and promoters to do something that is their own. S.F. has never been killing it harder than it is right now.
SFW: What is something you wish S.F. had that N.Y. does and vice versa?
SO: For S.F.: 24-hour food and drinks. For N.Y.: Proper Burritos.
SFW: From your artist descriptions, it seems like you love to keep things “chill and sexy.” Is that how you would describe your current sound?
SO: Chill and sexy is less of a sound and more of a lifestyle. I would encourage anyone and everyone to keep it a little more chill and sexy. I think my closing set from the Sunset Campout a few years ago is a pretty good summation of my sound.
SFW: What would your fantasy club night/day consist of?
SO: Hopefully, it will be the new Monday night weekly I am starting up at Bar Fluxus, which is the new spot from the guys that own Madrone. My friend Alvaro Z and I have a new rare disco night called Songs for Lovers which I hope will be the best people listening to the best music around at a spot that I think really lives up to the chill and sexy ethos.
SFW: What’s currently rotating on your personal playlist?
SO: I always say that I am blessed to be able to say that most of what I listen to the most is made by the people I love the most. Everything from Crew Love (my band Pillowtalk, Wolf + Lamb, Soul Clap, Nick Monaco and Nav Izadi) always tickles my earholes. Paramida and her new label Love on the Rocks are doing the damn thing as well. Solar and Tasho’s new release on Squirrels on Film is dope. JP and Roam’s consistency should make everyone feel bad… there’s so much. Outside of dance music, I think Dev Hynes and everything he is doing with Blood Orange is incredible. Of course, there is always a heavy dose of classic disco and R&B to help me make it through the day.
SFW: What vibes are you hoping to bring to WERD. this coming Sunday?
SO: Chill and sexy, obviously. But that doesn’t mean I don’t plan on bumping hard.
SFW: If you could make music for the rest of your life with no monetary obligations, what would that look like?
SO: Me and all my favorite idiots on a tropical island making magic on the daily.