Shem McCauley (Slacker)

Sadly, Shem passed away in 2012. R.I.P in the Jukebox in the Sky.

With a career spanning nearly two decades, it is little wonder that Slacker is usually one step ahead of the game; this is more apparent than ever since the introduction of Ableton Live into the marketplace has finally given him the technology to produce the live show he has always wanted. With a back catalogue boasting over 50 original tracks, and in excess of 100 remixes under his various guises as Streets Ahead, Nation 12, Ramp, Live It!, Head Honcho and Slacker, Shem has been busy developing a new “laptop live” show which will enable him to make every performance unique, remixing live any element of each track as he chooses and giving him the ability to incorporate the many quirky samples and secret riffs that up until now have been locked away in Slacker towers. Throw in a frenzy of scratching and effects from Shem on the CDJ and you have a heady brew indeed.

A DJ for over 16 years, the words “been there, done that!” spring to mind. The world map on his website pinpointing the multitude of cities he has played testifies to his global popularity. Originally as DJ Streets Ahead, Shem was one of the pioneers of the UK Hip Hop scratch scene, playing alongside the likes of Tim Westwood and picking up production and remix credits beside Roxanne Shante and Public Enemy. As a student in Brighton, England he established various sound systems alongside fellow South Coast boys Norman Cook and Carl Cox. Production success followed first as Nation 12 with “Listen to the Drummer”, and then after setting up stall with musician and producer Simon Rogers as Ramp, with the singles “Rock the Discotek” and “Stomp”. Both became international club classics.

Looking to establish himself further, Shem created a hybrid of his own funk roots with more contemporary house sounds under the moniker of Slacker. The first Slacker single, “Feel Space”, a track that sounds as fresh today as when it was made, became an instant club hit. Shem’s third single “Scared” re-wrote the rule book on progressive house, a haunting anthem with enough funk to rock any dance floor. A record deal with XL followed and “Scared” along with follow-up single “Your Face” went top 40 in the UK and achieved major international success.

On the crest of this wave, Slacker established a live show and heavy touring alongside label mates The Prodigy ensued. It was while touring that Shem rediscovered his love of Djing, and in 1998 he hit the road properly again. He has been criss-crossing the globe ever since. In this time he has enjoyed residencies at Groovejet in Miami, Orbit in Lima, Peru, Slinky in Bournemouth and Fierce in Hong Kong, earnings platinum helpings of air miles throughout the world, especially across the U.S and Asia.

During this period Shem successfully juggled his travelling with further productions, ably assisted by studio partner Simon Rogers. A slew of remixes, such as Junkie XL, Trancesetters, Breeder and Bedrock – many still viewed as classics today – made the Slacker sound the most respected in the business. “Essential New Tunes”, dance chart Number Ones and features on top compilations became the norm. Eager to develop their release schedule, the decision was taken to launch Slacker’s own label, Jukebox in the Sky, and the singles have come thick and fast. Alongside their Northern Exposure classic, Head Honcho’s “Walls of Jericho”, came Slacker’s “Looky Thing”, played by a diverse selection of DJs from Seb to Jules to Seaman to Ivan Smagghe (of Black Strobe). Head Honcho’s “Medicine” is still being hammered by DJs, most consistently Sasha, a year after its release. The decision to concentrate on furthering the label has paid huge rewards, setting the imprint up as one of the strongest of its genre and enjoying regular licenses from the likes of Global Underground, Bugged Out! and Ministry of Sound.

The label continues to go from strength to strength with numerous Slacker original productions ready for release in the coming months, in conjunction with the recent launch of the label’s comprehensive website and webshop. Slacker’s next single, “Best Boyfriend”, will be out mid-November, packaged with remixes by The Scumfrog and Steiger. Currently Shem is back on the road and covering the globe with more than ever to offer, not only as a DJ but now also performing one of the most exciting and revolutionary laptop live shows on the market. Slacker? Far from it!

© 2012 Sweetchilli