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INTERVIEW with the hot Canadian electronic music duo Sultan + Shepard

‘Love Me Crazy’ rises as Sultan + Shepard’s first release on Armada Music after signing exclusively to the Amsterdam-based record company about a month ago. Before inking a deal with Armada Music, the Canadian studio magicians had already worked with the label to release ‘Bring Me Back’, a track made in collaboration with singer-songwriter Kreesha Turner and put out in September 2015. ‘Bring Me Back’ was recently remixed by fellow Canadian artist Guilty Pleasure, which was also released on Armada Music.

Sultan + Shepard formed in 2010, after which their solid in-studio output and vibrant on-stage performances gained them international recognition. In the past five years, Sultan + Shepard worked with and/or remixed tunes from far-famed artists such as Kaskade, Dillon Francis, Tiësto, Lady Gaga, Nelly Furtado, Coldplay, Madonna, and more. In 2013, their remix of Bruno Mars’ ‘Locked Out Of Heaven’ earned them a Grammy® nomination.

The release of the superb Love Me Crazy is the perfect opportunity to request interview with the globally loved and respected duo. This interview will offer you interesting insights in the world of Sultan + Sheppard.

Interview is written and produced by Dimitri Kechagias, Music Journalist and radio host at 1mix radio.

Dimitri: Firstly it would be great to let us know how, when and under which circumstances did you met and you took the decision to work your way to success as duo?

Sultan + Sheppard: We met in Montreal in 2002. Sultan was DJ’ing and I (Ned) gave him a cd of music I was working on at the time. He called me the next day to let me know he liked it and we became good friends really quickly. We started working together on and off for the next couple of years, but we felt that we had a natural chemistry in the studio, so in 2010 we officially became a duo and starting touring together.

Dimitri: You got a Grammy nomination for Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven”. What you remember the most from the production stage of this remix and how did you felt when you got the news that you are nominated for a Grammy? 

Sultan + Sheppard: We knew that it was a hit song. We wanted to make it an anthem in clubs and festivals because the vocal was so powerful so we felt like epic pianos and really crazy sounding drop would be really fun. When we got the nomination it was a really awesome feeling. People were texting us all day and we were playing in Atlantic City and we announced it right before we played the song and everyone went crazy. It was a really fun night.

Dimitri: How did you end up co-writing the David Guetta hit “Bad” with Showtek? Did you enjoy working with David Guetta and what is your opinion about him?

Sultan + Sheppard: We started Bad with Vassy in our studio in LA. We sent the idea to David and he loved it. It was still just a demo and then he and Showtek really took it to the next level. David is really amazing. He’s super enthusiastic and his energy is really great. He’s always been supportive of us (he took us on tour across Canada) and his dedication to making a song the best it can be taught us a lot. We also met the Showtek guys for the first time from this and that was great cause we’re now really good friends.

Dimitri: The latest development is that you have signed exclusive deal with Armada Music. Why you choose to form closer ties with Armada Music and what do you hope to achieve by being with Armada Music?

Sultan + Sheppard:  Armada is one of the best dance labels in the world. We released Bring Me Back last fall just to see how our relationship was with them and they were really supportive and excellent. All of the people who work there, from Maykel the CEO, to the product managers and A&R’s are really nice and genuine people. They always told us that the artist came first so if we had a  strong idea of what we wanted, they really listened. Other labels tend to do what is good for them and don’t care as much about the artist’s opinion. We felt that releasing a lot of new music with them will give us an opportunity to build our brand of music in a new and exciting way.

Dimitri: The first release with Armada was Bring Me Back” with Kreesha Turner. What you recall the most from the production of this track and did you actually met up with Kreesha in the studio?

Sultan + Sheppard: Yes, we’ve known Kreesha since 2009 when we remixed her song with Delirium “Dust In Gravity”. We both ended up living in LA and so in 2013 we decided to get in the studio and we came up with Bring Me Back. She has a really special voice and recording her is a dream because she nails stuff on the first or second take always. So it was really a pleasure to record and write with her.

Dimitri: The brand new track features Gia on vocals and is called 'Love Me Crazy.' Why you decide to incorporate reggae influences in it and how long it took you to produce it?

Sultan + Sheppard: The reggae idea just came very naturally once we had the flute sample. It just felt summery and fun. We almost ditched it to do something more clubby, but we really loved how it sounded so we decided to keep the chill reggae vibes and we liked how it turned out. The whole song took about a month or two from the writing and the production.

Sultan + Shepard
Dimitri: Why you choose Gia for the vocals and did you actually met her in the studio or you work by distance via internet by exchanging files?

Sultan + Sheppard: Gia was recommended to us through our publisher and we liked her voice. She and co-writer Jesse Saint John showed up and we played them the beat for Love Me Crazy and they loved it and immediately wrote the song with us in the studio. It was super fun and also happened really quickly.

Dimitri: Have you produced the follow up single for Love Me Crazy? If yes could you reveal any details about it?

Sultan + Sheppard: We have three more singles ready to go! The next one will be more of a club record, but still very summery and is out in September. After that, will be another vocal record that is melodic and emotional in October/November.

Dimitri: Can you describe to us the current set up of your studio and if you can tell us  your favorite hardware or software that may define the Sultan + Shepard sound?

Sultan + Sheppard: We use Protools to record and program. Most of the time we jam out ideas on piano and guitar and then change the sounds after we get the chords and hooks together. The Moog Voyager is one of our favorite synths as is Massive. We don’t really have one synth or something that defines our sound, but the organic song feeling of the pianos and guitars is always crucial.

Dimitri: You have performed in many clubs and festivals around the globe. Do you prefer to play in festivals or in clubs and why? Would you like to share the best and worst ever club experience?

Sultan + Sheppard: Festivals and clubs are different but we love both of them. Clubs are intimate and really special and festivals are just huge and epic.

Dimitri: As DJ’s how you do co-operate as duo during the DJ set? Is it a back 2 back process? Do you prepare your DJ set or you choose the music according to the specific crowd and the mood? 

Sultan + Sheppard: Yeah we usually play two or three songs and then switch off. If one of us really loves a song then we get to play it, if we both love it then we fight over it haha! We definitely prepare a bunch of songs that we love, but we always feed off the mood and will switch it up if we feel like a direction isn’t working.

Dimitri: Your radio show On The Road continues really successfully. What can you tell us about it and do you enjoy producing it and see it being embraced by so many listeners around the globe?

Sultan + Sheppard: Yes, it’s really fun to work on a radio show every month because we get sent so much music that we can’t play in our sets because it’s too different. The radio show is a great place to be able to play that stuff and really give it some exposure. Plus there are so many people around the world who don’t necessarily get to see you play very often, so the radio show is the next best thing!
Dimitri: Last question should be about ambitions and aspirations that haven’t been fulfilled yet and you would like them to turn them into reality in the near future. 

Sultan + Sheppard: We have a lot of things we still want to accomplish. We are releasing our first set of ep’s ever this year and next year so that is something we’re really looking forward to. We also have a lot of global touring plans that we’re excited to accomplish- visiting new place and playing for some of our fans who’ve never seen us perform together. We’re really excited about what’s to come.

Thanks so much to Sultan + Shepard for answering so wonderfully our interview questions.

Thanks to Olivia Warnford-Davis at Listen-UP for organising this interview.

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