INTERVIEW: Shift K3y talks ‘Gone Missing’, his debut album & more

Over the last few years Lewis Jankel aka Shift K3y has made a huge name for himself. His smash hit single ‘Touch’ reached number three on the official UK chart and he has sonce gone on to play at shows and festivals all over the world alongside the likes of Steve Aoki, DJ Snake and Bauuer. With his recent single ‘Gone Missing’ picking up some some great media coverage and his debut album due out at some point in 2016, Matt Tarr managed to sit down for a chat with the London-born artist to talk new music, his career so far and his launch into the mainstream spotlight…

How did the name Shift K3y originate?

It was originally a new stage in a musical development, so a key change, but I didn’t wanna call myself Key Change, so I went for Shift Key. But I couldn’t find myself on Google, so I added the 3 in there and that’s me.

Your latest track ‘Gone Missing’ has done really well so far, picking up a huge amount of radio play and a lot of coverage from different music platforms. How do you feel it’s been received?

I’m very happy with what it’s doing right now. It’s nice because the track went on a very long journey and the fact that it’s doing so well after everything we’ve thrown at it makes me very happy.

Is it true that you originally wrote that track back in 2014?

Yeah. I wrote it with Becky [Hill] and then there was a big long thing where we couldn’t find someone to sing it and she couldn’t do it for whatever reason, but eventually we found BB [Diamond] who not only did an amazing performance, but was just really up for doing it and owned it. So I’m happy that it’s ended up the way it has.

Having worked on a track for so long, how does it feel when it finally starts to get credit from a wide audience?

It lets me know that all those hours that you do put in are actually worth it. Even if it does well on the Dance chart, or whatever, it’s nice to know that it was received in the way I intended it to be received. You do start to question your sanity when you’re awake at 5am EQing the same kick drum you’ve been EQing for literally a year and a half. So it’s nice to know that it does help doing all those hours.

You’ve released several singles over the last couple of years, but which would you say is your biggest?

Well this one [‘Gone Missing’] has taken the longest time, means the most and had the longest journey to get here. I do believe it’s one of the best, if not the best song I’ve written so far. I guess ‘Touch’ was also significantly important because I did the whole thing in about two hours. It was the first song I ever wrote; I did it in my bedroom on my own from start to finish. So that was the biggest in terms of “if you work hard, this will happen”, but I think with ‘Gone Missing’, the right things have connected for this to happen.

In terms of ‘Touch’, it was a huge track that launched you to a mainstream audience and ‘Gone Missing’ seems to have done that once again…

Yeah. It’s hard for people because they have conceptions of what an R&B singer should be or what a DJ should be, likewise with rappers etc. I’m aware that I do break those conceptions because people don’t like seeing a DJ have a nice press shot or sing on the mic etc, but if I didn’t do that, I’d be like every single other DJ out there. So it’s nice to know that I am a little bit different. That’s why songs like ‘Touch’ and ‘Gone Missing’ are important because they let people know I’m about both worlds and not just one or the other.

Through your music, we can see that you take influences from a number of genres, rather then simply fitting in. What were your influences when you were getting into music?

A lot of Soul, Jazz, R&B. That was all pre-seven years old.I pretty much knew all the seventies/eighties/nineties music that I liked to that point and then it was the whole MTV era with all the great rappers, R&B singers, music videos, Cribs etc. That era is what I thought about when I aspired to be in the music industry. I liked music before but that was something that was cool and not just something that my parents would play around the house.

Is being a producer/artist always something that you aimed to be?

Yeah quite consciously. I remember several conversations, one in particular with my parents when I was thirteen, where I was like, “So what I’m gonna do is make five remixes for different artists and build my way up. The last one will be a major label artist, then I’m gonna put out my first single and it’s gonna be all vocals by me”. They were just laughing, thinking “isn’t he so cute”, but then I did all those things step by step. So it’s been weird for me because I didn’t expect it to actually work.

Being involved with a major label yourself, do you feel it’s impacted your creative freedoms in any way, or is everything the same as it was pre-label ?

It’s a little bit different in the sense that there’s a bit more time between releases. But like last year in 2015, when the label said that they didn’t want to put out an album yet, I basically didn’t agree. So I took four of my favourite songs from the album, put them on Spotify, made light of the fact that my Soundcloud had been taken down and direct everyone to some new music. The reception was very varied on those, even though I feel that they were all very important tracks and centrepieces of the album. Over time they’ve gone on to get millions of plays and that, so people have slowly realised that this is what they’d get from an album and they’re ok with it. I just try and make it work for me an not wait for anyone anymore.

2016 is the year we finally receive your debut album. Is it going to follow along the lines of the tracks we’ve heard from you so far?

Right now people are asking loads of questions about why I do this or that. When they listen to the album, or even my EP, that will tell the story. It’s always been the same way from the first EP that I did, I’ve always done one R&B track, one Hip Hop track etc so its always been mixed up. It just so happens that the track I got known for was a Dance track and I’ve come up in that world. So I’d like to say there will be four R&B tracks, four House tracks and four Garage tracks. Some will tie between those genres to make an all encompassing statement of boundary defying rowdiness.

To celebration the release of ‘Gone Missing’ and to round off the first month of the new year, Shift K3Y will be performing at East London venue The Nest on the 30th January. You can grab tickets for the event here. Make sure you’re following Shift K3y on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date with all the latest news direct from the man himself.

Matt Tarr

Matt Tarr

Matt Tarr

Urban Music Editor
With grime and hip hop being major influences on him growing up in South East London, Matt's passion is urban music but over the years he has gathered a hugely diverse taste, ranging from Wiley to The Smiths by way of Machine Head, that has made him a very open minded individual.
Matt Tarr