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“I’m just at home playing arcade games,” the dimpled Digsss says, despite my call coming nearly half an hour late due to number mix-ups which saw me accepting the apology of some random Kiwi man because he was not, unfortunately, the vocalist for anything. “We’re all quite spread about, actually. I’m at the beach, Muriwai Beach. Nicholas [Robinson] – he’s in charge of the bass section – he lives down in Christchurch,” Digsss explains. With guitarist Sam Trevethick in Auckland city and drummer Johnny Hooves in Melbourne, apparently being apart truly makes things easier in the long run, rather than being a hurdle worthy of complaint. That’s the way Digsss views it anyway. “You know in this day and age, you can do it. The key is for everyone in the band to be happy, and living where they want to live. It helps, making music, when everyone’s comfortable. So when you actually do get the time, when it’s time to make music, you’re happy,” he says simply. In fact, everything Digsss says comes out matter-of-factly, but frequently with a very wry humour underneath which dispels any idea of pretension. If you imagine each adjective in his sentences drawn out for dry emphasis, plus the softly flattened vowel sounds in a very deep and rich speaking voice, you’ve got it.

Shapeshifter have enjoyed a long relationship with ex-Salmonella Dub frontman Tiki Taane, who provides invaluable input into making live gigs the moving experience fans have come to love. Why does Taane do it for the band? “Have you heard us live before?” Digsss asks cheekily. “Well, then you would’ve heard Tiki on the mix. That’s why. Prior to him being the artist that he is, vocally and all that, his art was sound engineering. He’s epic, and he’s been very good friends with the boys since the beginning of the late ‘90s. He’s part of that Christchurch drum and bass movement. He’s our man,” he says with an upward rise like a parent jokingly chiding a kid. “It’s a small country, New Zealand, so you get to know the people doing things through the years. And especially when we’re all doing quite similar shit, it’s inevitable that there would be crossing of paths. You stick to good formulas, and your team, and he’s got the shit.”

Speaking of Christchurch, Digsss says the impact of its recent problems hasn’t affected their actual music so much as strengthened the bond between musicians from different areas. “We usually rehearse down there,” he begins, “and it hasn’t really changed the way we’ve done music or anything; we’ve been around a lot longer than the earthquake’s been around. But man it was heavy. Nick had to go through it, Nick was down there through both of them.” He smacks his lips with contemplation. “That was pretty full on. But you know, people survive, and push on through. There are a lot of places [in New Zealand] that are renowned for having earthquakes, and Christchurch wasn’t actually one of those places. So for it to go bananas is pretty fucking crazy. It has taken a while for people to get over it, no one was quite ready for it, but Christchurch has pumped out a lot of musicians. And there’s a lot of people in our music scene that come from that place, so a lot of us have gone back and helped, helped entertain, played music for the people down there. It’s always really, really charged.”

The band’s forthcoming album is “about 80 per cent, 90 per cent” recorded, and Melbourne can hope to hear some of its new material. “We’ve released the second single over here in New Zealand, it’s called The Diamond Trade,” Digsss says. “I know our Melbourne gig’s coming up but I don’t know who’s on the lineup; it would be nice to find out soon. For me, I don’t take much notice of the gig kind of thing. Then you just turn up and you don’t get freaked out by it so much. Sometimes it can be really daunting and you go, ‘Ahh, shit.’ You know, we want to maintain that level of performance and intensity – that’s why the gig is actually more nerve-wracking the bigger you get: more people are coming to your gigs. It’s amazing how much energy can get drained out of you, when you know too much about the upcoming [show].” It’s nice to hear the culture and commerce divided like this, particularly for the sake of a show’s integrity and spirit. “You’re an artist, you just want to be an artist bum,” says Digsss. “You know, just think about music. It keeps you grounded. That’s the way to treat it, really.”

The ‘take it as it comes’ approach is the same for recording as for live stuff, with the vocalist remaining mum on collaboration plans. Having worked with Ladi6 and Joe Dukie in the past, it’s difficult not to probe about future musical alliances. “We’ve not really thought too much into that, it just kind of happens really,” he says. “Everything’s been so full on. Those first albums, you have heaps of space and time to design them and create them and get people involved. But we’ve actually got better in the studio now, we know our toys a bit better. We’ve been geeking out so much.” Digsss is a DJ in addition to being a stellar vocalist, and he does a bit of geeking out explaining his wares. “I produce stuff on a thing called The Machine, it’s by Native Instruments,” he says. “It’s like an MPC” – which Shapeshifter bassist Nick uses during live sets – “but it’s a bit quicker, smaller, lighter, faster, better, badder. You can have all your samples, make beats on the fly, get loops, record even, whatever you want. When I DJ I use Serato Scratch Live or the ITCH. But with the band I just stick to my vocals,” he says, slicing that last ‘s’ out into a long, amusing tinkling sound. “With a bit more cowbell. More cowbell!”

Digsss and the guys are looking forward to another great show at The Forum, a favourite venue of theirs in Oz. “The last couple of times we’ve played it’s been really good, packed as, and it’s such a regal old building. The stage is slightly tapered, so you know, everyone gets to see. It’s good, man. Some of our best gigs have been there.” So touring is still holding its charm? “Cruising with my good friends, playing our music to people and watching to see if they’re into it. It’s still the ultimate, really. And then you get to have a nice, refreshing cold beer.”