Producer and DJ Shaw Quentin has grown up in the bay area, in Alameda, since moving from Ukraine at five years old. A critical part of the bay area rave scene for years, he was a resident at San Francisco club Ruby Skye during the height of its popularity for three years, he’s been the guest DJ on Diamond Blu record label owner and prominent deep house producer Gabriel Blu’s House of Blu, and he’s no stranger to gracing larger stages at music festivals.
Quentin makes deep, groovy, and tech-inspired beats. His take on electronic music is not just unique--it is, all at once, classic and innovative. Each of his productions takes you back to a time before dance music had to be too radio friendly, while still feeling thoroughly “2018.” With funky dark motifs, an infusion of groove, thumping drumbeats, and just enough bass, Quentin takes classic electronic genres and brings them into the 21st century.
Quentin’s love of music, specifically dance and electronic music, started at a very young age, and he is quick “to give credit to my mom for that. She had me when she was 19 so she was always going out dancing and clubbing. She would have mixtapes and cds … and I would hear dance music in the car.” Second to his mom, he credits the friends he grew up with, and the advent of Limewire: “We had so much access to music from everywhere and we discovered Sandstorm one day.” In case you need context, Sandstorm is the definitive dance anthem of the 2000s.
From Sandstorm, he moved to Basshunter and Benny Benassi (like many of us), “then started to get more serious and found David Guetta.” After his introduction, Quentin found Fedde Le Grand and from there his interest in tech and deep house began to flourish. Quentin notes, “Through Fedde I discovered [Mark Knight’s] Toolroom Records. That opened the gates to the more techno and deep house kind of stuff. I caught that wave right before EDM became a thing.”
What does Shaw Quentin think of the “EDM” explosion of radio friendly pseudo-house tracks? While he holds no ill will toward EDM or EDM DJs, Quentin reluctantly admits, “I like the more underground stuff because there’s more creativity. … EDM can be exhausting.” He elaborates, “You can be creative with EDM, but it’s easy to be cookie-cutter. … I like to use running as a metaphor. EDM is like doing sprints, it breaks down and you sprint again. Deep house and techno you’re jogging and it’s very consistent.”
With his first turntables given to him by his supportive mom in his sophomore year of high school, Quentin soon began DJing house parties and other small events. In just a couple short years, by the time he was 18, Quentin found himself with his first real DJing job: resident at Ruby Skye. “It was a promoter job that turned into a residency,” says the DJ, who remembers the experience mostly fondly, “I got to open for a lot of cool people, I got to meet a lot of cool people.” But he does conclude that, “Month after month of hearing EDM every Thursday and Friday … made me want to explore underground more.”
Quentin goes on to add that, “my favorite producer is Hot Since ‘82,” and he brings that up to make the point that Hot Since ‘82, “found this really nice balance between underground and mainstream. It’s a nice little balance that I’m trying to shoot for with my music.” It’s a balance this writer and once-raver agrees that he has gotten adept at achieving.
Quentin has played Northern Nights music festival in Humboldt, famous venues in San Diego, L.A., and Vegas, and even provided direct support for Above & Beyond at Avila Beach. That was his favorite set he played because, “the crowd was really into it. … The Above & Beyond crowd is really open-minded. I vibe with them really well and it was a fun set.”
Experiences playing festivals have “gone a long way” for the 23-year old talent. One phenomenon in particular comes to mind for him, “It’s always cool when you’re walking around a festival and someone goes, ‘hey aren’t you Shaw Quentin? I saw your set earlier, it was dope.’” He says that does a lot for him, noting humbly that getting recognized does a lot to reaffirm “someone who’s not very famous.”
Shaw Quentin has a lot going on in his young adulthood. The aspiring musician graduated prestigious Ex’pression College in Emeryville and now works for Swell Music + Sound, among several other side hustles. In all he does, Shaw Quentin makes sure to keep himself close to his passion of music, and his work at Swell is no exception: “I’m like direct support for the lead producer. So anything from sound design, mixing, recording, even composition and scoring, licensing music,” falls under his job description.
With a bright professional career ahead of him, Quentin is keeping up his decade-long career as a DJ (he started playing around with writing music in eighth grade with FL Studio) because nothing else fulfills him in the same way. He points out, “It’s the only thing that makes me happy. It’s not the only thing, but … being in the DJ booth and making people dance, you can’t replace it. That’s my happy place.” For those reasons, Quentin admits he, “loves making music,” but likes DJing slightly better than producing. He drives the point home: “Music is what keeps me going.”
He adds that things have changed since he started. When he was trying to show everyone Deadmau5 before “EDM” became a term, Quentin says, “no one was interested. Then … everyone started getting into EDM.” Now, Quentin has seen a huge shift in what it takes to get his stuff out there: “It’s so saturated you can’t just post a song on Soundcloud anymore. There’s a lot more that goes into it.”
Currently, Quentin is working on his master plan for the year, but he knows he wants to double down on his DJ career. Lately he’s asking himself, “How do I get there? That’s what I’m studying and trying to figure out.” Quentin adds that San Francisco native Kaskade is a big inspiration for that. While he wouldn’t give too much away, he is excited that in collaboration with a Dali-esque London graphic designer, he intends to release his first music video this year. Quentin’s general outline goes something like this: “get locally big, and then big on the west coast, then take over the world.” All it takes is one listen to see why that is more likely than not to come to fruition.