You may have seen him perform at Indy Mojo’s Nintendo-themed GenCon after-party or, most recently, at Altered Thurzday as the opening act for headliner Eliot Lipp. While he was in town last week, I made arrangements to meet face-to-face with a mask-less Shy Guy at The Mousetrap a few hours before his biggest show to date to talk about his DJ style, musical influences, and the pitfalls (and perks!) of performing as a character.
Although the hip hop-influenced DJ resides in Bloomington, he’s excited and thankful to join a network of fans and artists who support quality, underground electronic dance music. “I love Bloomington, but the scene there is…selective and kind of main stream.” Crediting B-town’s choosy taste to the gobs of college kids that live there, he adds “It’s really rooted in indie rock and club-orientated Top 40 music. But in Indy it’s cool because it’s a bigger city and there’s more people who are interested in a certain niche.”
Shy Guy defines his ghettotech style as a combination of a heavy hip hop “swagger” mixed with electro/house instrumentation. “It’s like when you’re listening to the beat and it feels like at any point it could fall over and lose itself… but it doesn’t; it just maintains.” He continues, “It’s got this really heavy swing to it that you can dance to.”
Intriguingly, Shy Guy’s strong interest in hip hop came about in a very indirect way. “Before I got into beats and everything, I was in bands- mostly metal and punk rock,” he tells me when I ask how he developed a liking for hip hop. After nearly fourteen years of playing guitar and experimenting in bands, Shy Guy began his venture as a solo artist- partially out of necessity. “The band broke up and there was no one else to play with, but I wanted to keep making music,” he says.
Shy Guy discovered Daft Punk in high school, who he cites multiple times during our conversation as an influential breakthrough in his musical discovery- particularly into the world of electronic music. Daft Punk led to California-based, downtempo hip hop beat-maker Flying Lotus, who Shy Guy proclaims as his idol and favorite producer of all time. Furthering his personal education in the electronic and hip hop realms, Shy Guy dug deep into Flying Lotus’ catalog of influential artists to expand his own knowledge of abstract beats and experimental music. He says he’s “not so much lyrically connected”, but rather enticed by “the production and beats and underlying soul” of hip hop.
Shy Guy also went through a period of trial and error before honing in on his current stage persona. After struggling with pseudonyms that sounded too much like other DJ gimmicks or that were just plain too weird to “get”, Shy Guy recognized the influence that video games had on his early life. “I felt that was a way to reflect my roots in that without being too obvious.” I agree and suggest it also gives him the opportunity to connect with a culture of people (gamers) who might not otherwise be interested in giving his music a chance.
Shy Guy cites Deadmau5, Daft Punk, and even David Bowie as performers who were influential in his decision to perform as a character. “It allows you to do something creatively you wouldn’t normally allow yourself to do. What I’m doing onstage is my interpretation of Shy Guy, the Nintendo character. He’s the menacing guy in the background ready to show up at any time and ruin or destroy whatever situation he’s in. Which, in my case, just happens to be clubs and parties.”
I know what you’re thinking. But, man! It’s GOTTA be hot inside that mask. How’s he do it all the time?
“It sucks. I just have to suffer through it.”
Though not a consideration he factored into the grand scheme of things early on, Shy Guy has learned to adapt. “I don’t just keep bobombs and glowsticks in my bag of tricks; I gotta have a towel in there, too- to sop up the sweat.”
Here’s his newest release:
See Shy Guy Says perform again in Indy on October 15th as part of Indy Mojo’s Jam & Electronic Showcase at The Mousetrap.
See him on September 30th in Evansville at 32 West.