Shovell has banged out some of Ibiza’s purest rhythms this summer. His percussive craft continues to serve Defected’s two Booom nights Glitterbox (Saturdays) and Defected In The House (Tuesdays) with additional sonic oomph and, on an altogether higher level, spiritual drive – a perfect accompaniment to the label’s varied and deeply talented DJ line-ups.
Shovell, real name Andrew Lovell, has ridden a rollercoaster of a career to date. He dropped out of school at 15 and worked as a plumber until 1989 at which point the drums called loudly to him. Shovell had bought his first congas at 14 but never viewed the music as anything other than a hobby. It was a year of revelatory clubbing at iconic London night Shoom, right at the heart of the UK’s then emerging dance scene, which changed his thinking.
Shovell become a professional percussionist. Regular club gigs – drum-rolling the rise of the DJ in popular British culture – led to joining chart-breaking house band M People, a global success throughout the Nineties (and still performing as recently as 2013), and various pedigree club tracks with underground stars like Copyright and Sandy Rivera for labels including Soulfuric, Deep Vibes, Milk & Sugar and, of course, Defected. Latterly, Shovell has held White Isle residencies for Pacha Ibiza (Defected’s previous base) and Nightmares On Wax (having graced much of Wax’s studio output since the mid-Nineties), as well as touring clubs all over the world (supporting the world’s biggest DJs) and branching out into the educative disciplines of drum tutoring, cranio-sacral therapy and shamanism.
So, Shovell, you’ve been playing both Defected nights at Booom! How have things been?
Hats off to Mr [Simon] Dunmore. It would have been the easiest thing to do this season, carrying on with Defected In The House which is already so popular and busy. But he had the vision to do something completely different by introducing Glitterbox – that was bold and brave. To be fair, I played some of the early Glitterbox nights in June and there was lots of confusion – just what was it? But Simon took it on the chin. He listened to those around him and that helped him refine his ideas. Now, for the last five weeks or so, he has, I think, fully realised those original ideas. Glitterbox is amazing…a proper house music party. It’s catering for a whole new sweep of people and delivering a fantastic experience. I’ve been loving it.
How has your drum-craft varied between the two Defected nights?
I’ll always be the drum warrior but I haven’t been wearing the full tribal garb this year. I just thought I’d do it differently this year…change things before anyone saw it coming. For Glitterbox, I’ve taken my foot off the gas…for myself. I’ve been playing with a bit more light and experimentation. Defected In The House, on the other hand, is about deep, dark and dirty house, so my beats have been more tribal. They’ve had more ‘uhhhhhh’ – but how do you even write that!?
With great difficulty! Tell us about drumming in general – is it instinctive or are you consciously evolving your sound?
Sometimes I reach an almost meditational state. I’m not conscious of what I’m doing. I’m a very spiritual person, and I believe in the energies around me. In Ibiza, those energies are really strong and I channel that through the skin of my hands on the skin of the drums. In a world of technology, it boils down to that simplest of things. People have been dancing to drums for thousands and thousands of years; it goes back to the absolute roots of who we are as human beings. The music, in that raw form, can be so powerful.
And when you’re not meditational?
I’m always strongly connected to what the DJ is playing. That harmony is the rhythm of the universe, a real life-force. It’s unbelievably powerful and, at the same time, calming. It’s about having a conversation with the DJ’s music – the music speaks, I listen and then answer. Part of the power of drumming comes from the spaces and pauses you leave. Just like talking to someone, it’s rude to interrupt; you need to listen, exchange and progress the dialogue. In that way, real magic is created. Last Saturday at Glitterbox I played for four hours straight because I was able to have a proper conversation with the music.
How do you find Ibiza nowadays?
I remember my first Ibiza gig at Pacha. It was with DJ Alfredo in 1990. Even then the locals were saying rave culture would finish the island; that Ibiza had lost it. Change is always happening and will always encourage such views, like now. But the music and energy is still there. Since the summer of 2010 I’ve spent a greater deal of time living in Ibiza and I absolutely love it.
Why drumming and not, say, the guitar, the piano or even the decks?
I love football and, as a fan, you’ll always talking about such and such a person as being born to be a goalkeeper, or a striker. I was born to be a drummer. I grew up with a low boredom threshold; I had an overactive mind, and still do. I couldn’t imagine sitting down to play something, even a drum kit, it wouldn’t have been enough. I wanted to be able to move around and hit this, then bang that and shake something else…percussion was my path! But even when I was a plumber, jamming with my friends in my spare time, I never saw percussion as anything more than a hobby. I’m so thankful for everything that’s happened since.
Describe the game-changing effect Shoom had on you….
I was in the right place at the right time - a south-east London plumber, pub frequenter and football mad geezer with an exciting new world right in front of him. I remember walking into the plumbers’ yard after a few months of Shoom and immediately resigning. I told them I was going to be a music artist, just like that. I’d been talking to people I’d met through Shoom and the offers of gigs starting coming in and that was that.
What else are you up to now?
Four or five years ago I completely changed my life around. Going from plumbing to being in M People, gigging, making records…put it this way, I ticked all of the rock ‘n’ roll boxes over many years. It got to the point where I started looking at myself and asking if I wanted to continue with this. I was getting bored going out all the time, so I made changes. Today, I’m settled with a wife and have the music alongside other interests. I am trained cranio-sacral therapist [alternative ‘bodywork’ therapy], as well as a celebrationist – many people ask me to perform wedding ceremony ceremonies for them; so I write and arrange their services on the island and often incorporate drumming. It’s another kind of gig. I also study and follow shamanic healing.
Any longer-term plans?
Yes. I have a new band, Ajoia, with producer Anthony Gorry. There’s a real collective spirit because we’re working with a range of singers and artists, and the plan is to release an album early next year. It’s completely Ibiza-influenced – sunrise and sunset music from our hearts. I actually see Ajoia as giving something back to Ibiza, being that it has helped me find my new life path. Today, I feel the strongest, most focused and relaxed that I’ve ever felt. I’m playing better than ever and doing all the things with my life than I want to be doing. I can’t ask for more. I’m in a great, great place.
Words: Ben Lovett
Shovell plays Glitterbox at Booom Ibiza 06, 20 and 27 September – click for full line-ups and tickets