Q&A with Shah
London based artist Shah returns with a genre-bending EP titled ‘As Above So Below’. This latest body of work is a narration of his upbringing in a family where the male role model had been removed indefinitely. On the project, Shah explores the knock-on effects of these events on his adolescent years and how they continue to plague him as an adult. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Shah to discuss this body of work ahead of its release.
The title of your new EP is ‘As Above So Below’, a popular Hermetic saying. What drew you to this saying and what does “As Above, So Below” mean to you?
I’d always felt like what we experience internally is connected with the external. So when I first heard of the saying it made sense to me straight away. I’m a firm believer that whatever's going on inside of us is reflected on the outside, which is what the saying personally means to me. It’s weird, but things always end up presenting themselves in that way for me. Whenever there’s an inner conflict I notice that how I interact with the world around me is different to how I’d interact with it when I’m in a healthier place. From how I interpret things to how my relationships with people play out.
This is your first EP under your real name, Shah, and the music appears to be a lot more intimate. What inspired this change in name and direction?
The sudden change in our lives with the ongoing pandemic played a big part in that. Back in 2020 when most of the EP was being written and I was spending a lot of time alone indoors I came to the realisation that who I am as an artist should not be a persona, why not be myself in what I make and give people that. That’s where the name change from SH to SHTHAKID to finally Shah came from. All that meant for me was coming to terms with myself, which is a never-ending endeavour that can be daunting at times. It was hard at first because I had to shine a light on everything. There was a lot of confusion. A lot I was in denial of. A lot I don’t like about myself. A lot I didn’t want to accept. It was a process but I’m grateful for it because it forced me to stay true to myself and be honest in the things I create. I hope I can continue to do that in my future releases.
Over the past few years discourse surrounding mental health has taken centre stage in the cultural zeitgeist. On the EP you delve into family, relationships, addiction and religion, topics that can often be a source of great stress. Is the music-making process a means of catharsis for you?
There is a purging that comes with it. I find it hard to talk to people about how I feel. I find it hard to talk to people in general. I feel like I can’t get the words out correctly sometimes. I think a big part of it is anticipating their response and getting caught up with how they might take what I’m saying. Also worrying about saying the wrong thing. With the music, I have time to fully form my ideas and I can say what I need to say and that’s it. A lot of relief comes with that. And closure.
Could you delve a little more into your process, how you go about putting together a project?
In terms of the process, every project has been different. Whether that’s what’s out right now or stuff I’m working on. Things usually just piece themselves together for me. Initially, the 3 songs that became As Above So Below were intended for 3 separate projects. Mile End Riddim was a track I had lying around since early 2019. I knew I wanted to finish it eventually but I had to take time and think about it. One day I was with Ramo and he suggested we put the 3 together and make an EP out of it. And there it was. The name shortly followed, suggested by a very close friend of mine.
London can be a very clique based city and finding other creatives with shared sensibilities can be a difficult task. You are part of a London based music collective called Offkilter. Could you tell me a little about the collective and how having this structure/ brotherhood has helped you?
I’m grateful for Offkilter and everything we do. Those guys have really helped me come into my own as an artist and carve out a sound for myself. I’ve never met another group of people that are so comfortable with themselves and welcome you to do the same. Offkilter played a big role in the EP. Each track was produced by a different member of the collective. The versatility, it’s amazing to witness.
What do you hope to communicate to your listeners through your music?
I think it’s down to each listener, I’m happy with putting the music out there and what each person takes from it is for them to feel and interpret. There’s no universal feeling I want people to have. However, if there is a universal feeling then I’m happy with that too.
Stream AS ABOVE SO BELOW
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