Follow your heart says Shapeshifter member
One of the members of New Zealand’s most famous Drum and Bass band, Shapeshifter, has returned to where he started his musical career to share his wisdom.
Producer, saxophonist, and keyboardist Devin Abrams returned to his roots recently, visiting CPIT’s MusicArts department to answer questions, give advice and play a little music for the students.
Abrams says it was a “pleasure” to come back to the stage where he “spent all those nervous times at assessments way back in the day”. He says: “My whole musical life and career started right here. When I came here I didn’t know how to read music and I didn’t know how to work in collaboration with others. I owe a lot to this place.”
The four founding members of Shapeshifter met in 1999 while attending CPIT’s Jazz School after being placed in the same performance group together. “All four of us failed keyboard class which is pretty funny when you think about it now,” Abrams says. “But we played what we felt and stuck to our guns. That’s what you’ve got to do. When you’re feeling your own way you need to keep going. Follow your heart and follow your ear.”
Abrams believes the facilities at CPIT are some of the best in the country and says MusicArts students are privileged to access them. “I remember we used to come in here at four or five in the morning after a gig and start mucking around on the equipment. You could live and breathe the music here; soak it up. That’s what gives you the edge over other people coming into the industry. Take as much as you can out of this place.”
After Jazz School, Shapeshifter began recording locally, which led to a national tour with Salmonella Dub and a big move to Melbourne. Since then, Shapeshifter has become one of New Zealand’s most successful bands, making appearances at Glastonbury, The Big Chill, Big Day Out, Parklife and touring across the world. “We were the first live drum and bass act in the world. We were doing something a bit different but we worked very hard and we had a lot of luck. Nothing about this has been easy,” Abrams says.
Abrams shared tales of touring with the band - like the time a band member lost his passport the day before a gig in a different country- and gave his best advice on maintaining a successful band over many years. “Always be friends first, split the workload and the rewards evenly and, of course, get out there and enjoy it. That’s so important.”