It was back in 2010 when UK electronic pioneer, Squarepusher (born Tom Jenkinson) first revealed his Shobaleader One project with a track titled “Cryptic Moon.” Throughout the majority of his career, Warp records had been a consistent home for him, so the fact that the single was released by French Label, Ed Banger, was the first surprise. The fact that the title indicated that Shobaleader One was being “presented” by Squarepusher in itself wasn’t entirely left field on its own — the cover to his 1999 LP, Selection Sixteen was preceded with a “Squarepusher presents” — but this time around it wasn’t strictly a Squarepusher, or even a Tom Jenkinson effort; it was a different sort of project all together. In fact, Shobaleader One was the name a full band with a live show in the works, and that, indeed, was quite a different direction for someone whose catalog might indicate was a meticulous perfectionist that wasn’t big on the idea of collaboration, or having suggestions and input solicited from too many outside sources.
When Jenkinson released Just A Souvenir in 2008, he spoke of a dream that he had, which involved a futuristic performance by a live band, playing a role in inspiring the album’s inception. The group that he envisioned was a 5-piece that had the remarkable ability of manipulating both sound and time through modified “other-worldly” instruments and special devices, until they were ultimately incinerated by a localized electrical storm mid-performance. The story behind Shobaleader One‘s formation is that “a bunch of kids” reached out to Squarepusher with the desire to actually turn that fictional group of his dream into a 3-dimensional reality. According to the producer, he was beyond hesitant toward the proposition, but it was their persistence that eventually won him over, and the full-length album that they ultimately released was the result of them getting together to see if anything positive could be achieved from the collaboration. The other members are never mentioned by their real names and, since they all sport crazy LED helmets when they perform, their identities have remained hidden at their requests. In a brief Q & A interview conducted by Warp surrounding the release, and which we republished previously, Jenkinson stated the following in regards to his fellow band mates.
“[They] a bunch of people who you may or may not have heard of from other bands and projects. Part of their idea is that this music is a completely clean break with whatever they’ve done in the past so I’m not allowed to mention any names. I can tell you that they are pretty frightening players.”
“The great thing about this lot is that although they are great players they keep 99% of that hidden and just use it to give a very acute delivery of the songs.
“Musically speaking these kids come from a metal background but they’re all bang into really slick R&B which I found quite funny at first but it’s making more sense as we go on. The basic premise at the outset was ‘space pop’ – a utopian pop music hallucination. It’s a stand against the affectation of knowing indifference in urban life and its corollary in music. I’ve always wanted to sabotage coolness as for me music is about laughing and crying, not about standing around smoking cigarettes.“
I believe that there’s a common misconception with a lot of people who believe that, just because an artist makes electronic music, they most likely aren’t very proficient with any “real instruments,” but while there are, obviously, endless examples outright refuting that, nothing really could be further from the truth when it comes to Tom Jenkinson. A multi-instrumentalist, he is well established as a hyper-technical bass virtuoso, even releasing the album Solo Electric Bass 1, in 2009. The 12 track effort was recorded at the 2007 Jazz à la Villette festival in Paris, France during a performance consisting of awe-inspiring live orchestrations presented with nothing more than an electric bass and a small amp on the stage. His more typical concerts regularly find him incorporating live bass along with his triggering of samples, etc. This is a system that he’s operated under for quite a while, one where he controls every aspect and creates every element by himself; it’s one that he’s mastered and one that he’s not only been comfortable with for the previous decade and a half, but preferred. Whoever these gents are that he’s performing with now, they’re a convincing bunch.
The following quotes are a few more excerpts from that 2010 Warp interview, in which Squarepusher broke down the goal of the project, as well as a bit of the process and how it was unfolding at that point, even broadening his perspectives as an artist.
“The overall aim is to articulate my music through the medium of a band. I always thought that a band would be a limiting thing. I’ve got very used to being able to make music by programming or playing without having to explain anything to anyone, and I assumed it would slow everything down if I had to. Actually it has made it quicker because I’m not trying to be four people simultaneously any more. I’m not over-explaining anything to them as they’ve got strong ideas of their own and I want to hear that in the final results.”
“It’s an ongoing experiment. Each one of us is trying to develop the sound of their instrument. It’s really exciting to be involved with instrumental players who are as into sonic experimentation as much as the actual music.”
“Playing live is part of the focus of this music. I’m really excited about playing live as this group of musicians is an extremely potent mixture. I’ve no idea what it’s going to be like touring with them as not one of us is what you’d call easy going. Every member of this band is a high-tension freak so who knows what’ll end up happening!“
Last April, live footage of the band performing full tracks in concert began popping up on the official Squarepusher YouTube account. Then, just last month, another video appeared that featured a clip of the footage where the group is playing “Cooper’s World,” the opening track from the 1997 Squarepusher LP, Hard Normal Daddy, along with the announcement of a new album arriving in spring of 2017. The band then performed a handful of dates in December, three of which were in the US (NYC, LA, and San Francisco), along with announcing several more European dates throughout this March and the beginning of April. Today, we finally get a bit more info regarding the project, including a few more overseas concert dates, a full track list, and even a little tune for us to listen to.
The first piece of news is that, this time round, Shobaleader One is operating as a 4-piece (Squarepusher: Bass/vocals, Strobe Nazard: Keyboards, Arg Nution: Guitar, and Company Laser: Drums) as second guitarist, Sten t’Mech, is no longer listed. We also find out that the album will be a live LP titled ELEKTRAC, that it will be released through WARP on March 10th, and that it consists of the band performing versions of 11 classic Squarepusher solo joints spanning Jenkinson‘s career, with the Shobaleader One track “Megazine” being the only exception. Below is our first taste of ELEKTRAK in the form of “Journey To Reedham,” a song that originally appeared on the Big Loada EP in 20 years ago. Then make sure to scroll down for the full track list and upcoming tour dates.
Shobaleader One – Elektrac
01 The Swifty
02 Coopers World
03 Don’t Go Plastic
04 Iambic 5 Poetry
05 Squarepusher Theme
06 E8 Boogie
07 Deep Fried Pizza
10 Anstromm Feck 4
11 Journey To Reedham
SHOBALEADER ONE LIVE 2017
19 – Southport, UK@ Bangface TICKETS
22 – Ramsgate, UK @ Ramsgate Music Hall TICKETS
23 – London, UK @ Village Underground TICKETS
24 – Brighton, UK @ Concorde 2 TICKETS
25 – Paris, FR@ New Morning TICKETS
26 – Cologne, DE @ Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld TICKETS
27 – Munich, DE @ Strom TICKETS
29 – Prague, CZ @ MeetFactory TICKETS
30 – Berlin, DE @ Berghain TICKETS
01 – Gateshead, UK @ Gateshead International Jazz Festival TICKETS
09 – Brussels, BE @ BRDCST / Ancienne Belgique TICKETS
12 – Tokyo, JP @ O – East TICKETS
13 – Nagoya, JP @ Club Quattro TICKETS
14 – OsakA, JP @ Club Quattro TICKETS
03 – Bergen, NO @ Nattjazz TICKETS