Niles Shepard

Origin: United States

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When it comes to sharing exciting and fresh dance music, Niles
Shepard hits the mark each and every time. Full of contagious energy and talent
to match, they are no strangers to showing the dance community how they get
down. As experienced curators and phenomenal producers, these selectors know
how to bring people and floors together. They are the soundtrack to those
unforgettable nights, making new best friends on the dancefloor. Niles Shepard
is ready to work it all the way out till the lights come on!

//

Hometown: Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
Currently Living: Minneapolis (Shout-out Northeast!)
Origin of Name:
It’s a few things, really. I (Jim) had just
changed jobs from building custom drum sets to working for a new local craft
brewery, Bauhaus Brew Labs. It’s in an old building equipped with a large ceiling
crane capable of lifting five tons. I’d stare at that crane while working,
listening to house music and new collaborations with Cam. The crane has a large
metal badge that reads “Shepard Niles.” We flipped it and loved it. We felt
like it was easy, oddly familiar, and cool. Not to mention, our studio is
located right next to the brewery in a space called Building 8, so we thought
this would tie it all together. And thus, Niles Shepard was born. We even
titled our first EP
Building
8
. (Our logo & font are also based off of this
crane.)
Weapon of Choice:
Jim:
Drum kit, Ableton, Roland TR-8S, DSI Prophet 08, and solid inspiration.

Cam: CDJ 2000s and
DJM 900.

Source of Power:
Jim:
Realistically, way too many to list. I love what Minneapolis is doing and is
known for. There is a great techno scene, dub/bass as well, and of course, what
we love: house! As far as labels, I really love Simma Black, Toytonics, Black
Book, Nite Records, House of Hustle, Nervous, Country Club Disco, and so many
more.

Cam: Again, too many
to list… but I really love disco music and anything with some rocking keys
and a nice bassline. The Minneapolis house scene has definitely influenced our
sound—along with so many other key players in the scene, from Black Loops to
Chris Lake to Chic.

What advice would you offer
someone thinking about entering the Discovery Project competition?
Jim: Go
for it. Just know that X hours on a DAW and/or behind the decks can’t be forged
.

Cam: Pour in 100
percent, and never look back. Believe in yourself and stay on course, and over
time, results will flow.

Blurb Yourself:
Jim:
Music has always been my outlet. From pretty early on, I used my drums as a way
to release whatever it was that I needed to release: joy, anger, sadness—anything.
It’s helped me escape when I want to run away, and it’s helped me be seen in
the light I want to be in. It’s also allowed me to connect. When I think about
it, most of my strongest memories are with people who have shared a musical
experience with me.
 

Cam: I have always
been an avid fan of music, and more often than not, some kind of music is
playing in my house, car, office, head, etc. When I first started DJing and got
a chance to share my favorite songs with people on the dancefloor, the feeling
sparked something inside. Seeing people dance to songs you select and songs you
create is truly something special. Connecting with people who share the same
passion also bears a unique bond between you and them. Music has fostered more
relationships than any other avenues in my life, and I know I have made some
lifelong friends through this journey.

Are there any dots to connect
where/how you grew up to your musical output?
Jim: I
started with piano when I was 10 or so, eventually eyeing my brother’s drum set
and commandeering it around 13. Also, growing up, I went to a LOT of my older
sister’s dance competitions. I think this is what started my interest in both
dance/electronic music and how to record/create music, as well. I played in
metal bands with my good high school friends all the way through college,
gaining more and more skills in both drumming and recording, all the while
making beats on the side.
 

After college, my good friend from high
school and I started a dual drum kit electronic performance duo. I would DJ
while drumming, using Ableton to launch clips we made and full tracks to jam
over. This is what ultimately led me to meet Cameron in Duluth, Minnesota,
where he was going to college. We eventually played many shows together (me as
a live drummer and DJ sets). Many years passed with many great moments,
including opening for Above & Beyond in 2013 to a sold-out crowd. In late
2017, we decided to officially start a project together, and just a few moments
later, here we are.

Cam: I have always
loved music, yet never learned how to play an instrument, as sports were always
the thing in my household growing up. However, from a young kid rocking music
videos on MTV or VH1 all day, every day, to getting subwoofers installed in my
first vehicle at 16 for extra bass, to finally catching my first dance music
show in 2009 (which was Tiësto on Halloween), I became enthralled with the DJ
scene and wanted to know more about what was happening onstage. Christmas 2009,
I purchased DJ Hero for my Wii. Two
months later, I found myself purchasing real DJ gear, and the rest is history.

Tell me about your most
memorable night out as an artist or as a fan.

Jim: As
an artist, for sure had to be just a few weeks ago at EDC Las Vegas. This was
both my first time to Vegas and EDC, and I don’t know how to explain how
absolutely wild it was. Besides being blown away by the sheer size and energy
this festival has, the hospitality, crowd and experience were second to none.
We had the pleasure of playing with our L.A. homie
Cabrillo and had a blast debuting a pile of new music.
Unforgettable.

As a fan, in November of 2012, Zedd was playing
a sold-out show at Target Center in Minneapolis with Bassnectar. After their
show, our friend Matt sent Zedd a tweet asking if he wanted to play at an after-party.
He agreed and arrived at the club shortly after. It was daylight-saving, and
all the bars were shutting down early because of this. Naturally, we asked him
if he wanted to come kick it at our house, and he did. Next thing you know, we
are crushing beers and playing
my drum set in the basement
. Good times.

If we pressed shuffle on your
iPod while you went to the bathroom, what would you be embarrassed to come back
to us listening to?
Jim:
You would think I would be embarrassed, but you’d potentially be confused. It
could be anything: Yanni, JaRule, Ultar (Siberian black metal), or Prince. I also
listen to lots of podcasts—lots of great sound design in some!

Cam: No shame in my
game here. I am definitely a house head, but I love a lot of other kinds of
music, from ‘90s/2000s rock/alternative music, like Goo Goo Dolls or Matchbox
20, all the way to classic jams from the likes of the Eagles or the Doors. I
think the most embarrassing would probably be some dumb rap from my high school
days—probably something along the lines of D4L’s “Laffy Taffy.”

What sound or noise do you
love?
Jim:
Big old kick drums and my dog’s howl.

Cam: I am a sucker
for key stabs on tracks! Aside from music, I love the sound of a hockey puck
hitting the goalie’s pads… I mean, we are from the state of hockey.

What gets you excited when
you think about the future of electronic music and club culture?
Jim:
The technology and convenience is awesome. It’s so easy to learn about new
artists now. You can find someone who has been making music for a decade, let
alone a few years, all in the palm of your hand. You can find them at any time
of the day or night! That’s amazing and so much fun; it will only help boost
the scene.

What do you remember about
your first DJ gig? Details, please…
Cam: While I was in college in Duluth, Minnesota, I started DJing there and
playing random EDM events at bars here and there, pushing my love of (at the
time) big room house onto the masses. Duluth is known for jam bands and
bluegrass, so as you may imagine, I was definitely going against the grain, and
unless there were drunk college kids, chances are no one was getting down to my
sets.

Finally, in January
of 2011, I received word that I won an opening slot to play the mainstage at
Avicii’s first performance ever in Minneapolis. Epic Nightclub (RIP) was the
most packed I have ever seen the place at 9pm. I was full of nerves and
excitement, and after playing my set, I remember going to the bathroom and
looking in the mirror and realizing what just happened: being lucky enough to
play a room full of friends and lovers of music getting down to MY SET before
the international superstar Avicii went on at midnight. I know this wasn’t my
first DJ gig ever, but it was my first one in a big city, with a big crowd, and
it left a massive impact on me. Avicii never played again in Minneapolis, and I
will always remember and cherish that special evening. Shout-out
SIMShows for the amazing opportunity!

What’s the hardest professional
lesson you’ve learned thus far? How did it make your life easier—or more
difficult?

Jim: If
you really love it, you can’t give up. Once you realize this, it makes it easier,
because you stop fighting it and start fighting for it.

Cam: You can’t change
who you are or what you enjoy. Don’t roll with the trends. If you have a
passion for something, keep pushing and crafting that passion, and you never
know what may happen one day. Back when I first got into dance music, I had
friends from high school making fun of the genre and asking what was so cool
about raves. Those same cats are now going to dance music events regularly!

 Another lesson that I have not personally experienced but
have witnessed it with others: Do not burn any bridges. This music scene is a
pretty tight-knit circle, and you never know who knows who or whom you may be
crossing paths with again in the future. Keep it professional and be a good
person, and you can never go wrong.


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