“I’m playing in Leeds this weekend. I’m not playing in Leeds, actually, I don’t know why I said that, but I’m playing Bath,” Shanti Celeste responds when I ask about her imminent plans. “It’s my birthday and instead of getting a hotel I’ve asked for a minibus from Bristol so me and all my friends can get it together and go to the gig.”
Although the quote seems innocuous, after 20 minutes on the phone together it’s hard to think of a more fitting statement. After all, international demand has exploded for the Chilean-born, UK-raised product of the South West electronic scene in a relatively short amount of time, and her overall demeanour suggests this is someone who sees themselves as both punter and artist, and who retains a penchant for sessions with those she holds dearest.
“I’m in London now, I live here, been here two months I think,” Celeste explains soon after picking up the phone. “Berlin was not for me. I like it there, but I think I’m too busy to live somewhere so different and new, where I don't speak the language and can’t integrate myself properly because I’m always travelling. So it’s better to be somewhere I know.”
Of course hers has been no overnight success, mind. After spending a decade, or thereabouts, honing skills in both the studio and the booth, it’s a case of hard work paying off. And paying off big time. From a touring schedule that screams ‘star in the making’, to a back catalogue of warm, immersive but solid dancefloor music that touches on labels ranging from Dekmantel and Secretsundaze, to Bristol’s revered but rarely underlined Idle Hands and her own Peach Discs, stepping into this biography to date is immediate proof it’s all been longer coming than many may think.
This is before we come to mention all those years spent cutting teeth everywhere from Lake District raves to parties at institutions like Leeds’ West Indian Centre- a venue that left her obsessing over low ends. “You don’t really have time to make friends and stuff,” she continues on the reason for leaving Berlin, a city that draws dance music hopefuls by the bucketload, many of whom would never admit the global epicentre of club culture doesn’t fit them.
“You don’t want to go to clubs during the week really, you’re in them all weekend, and I always find the way you solidify a friendship is by having a wild night out together. Do you know what I mean? That’s when you’re all of a sudden reaching a new level of friendship, but I wasn’t able to do that often because I was always away. But London’s cool, I like London.”
It’s not hard to see why Celeste found creating a whole new life in the German capital challenging. As the conversation moves on to live dates, and the madness of summer, she reels off a list of highlights that betrays just how many bookings there must have been in total. After parties at Movement in Detroit, feted Welsh house party Freerotation, Bulgaria’s jaw dropping Meadows In The Mountains, Dekmantel, Toronto, New York, and several trips back to Bristol. It’s a lifestyle she’s adjusted to, but not without some effort.
“Getting used to the fact that you’re in party environments all the time is tough. Controlling how much you party yourself. Some people don’t have trouble with that, I have a bit of trouble with it because I like to party. It’s just that I’m a very sociable person. So if it’s a really nice crew of people who are all like ‘come on let’s have a drink’ it’s difficult to just be like ‘no, I’m OK’. I’m really getting so much better at it now.”
The conversation turns to music, and the impact of both that hectic diary and the relocation back to the UK on her ability to make the kind of tunes that propelled her into the spotlight to begin with.
“At the moment I’m not making any music, because I haven’t had the time and I haven’t had a studio because I’ve just moved. But I’ve found one, just now, and it’s in a really good area, and I’m going to go and paint it today actually. So it’s all happening, slowly but surely. You think moving is the hard bit, but it’s actually all the crap after. Sorting everything out just takes fucking ages. Because by then you’re in a rhythm of life again.
“I really want to write an album. That’s basically one of the things I’ll be starting with in the new studio. I’ve been wanting to do it for a really long time. What else? Err, just bits and bobs for other people too, I don’t really want to say too much. Me and my friend are doing a 12” on my label, and I also have some bits to finish for other labels. Basically I have a lot to finish.
I ask about the album. “I don’t really have a conceptual idea for it, I don’t really work like that. But I just know I don’t want to make a bunch of club tracks. Not ‘anymore’, but I’m kind of craving working on something else at the moment. I dunno, I guess the main thing- maybe it is a concept- is that I want it to be really melodic, not very clubby. So I’ll start from that point. Lots of percussion, organic hahaha. Thing is I say all this and it might turn out something complete different. So I’ll just start with some noises and see where it takes me. But I want it to be a nice home listen, maybe a couple of club tracks.”
Always intrigued when speaking to any music fan, let alone those who are paid to dig crates, I ask if she’s been listening to any good long players herself recently. The answer is wonderfully exploratory, and warmly familiar.
“Yeah, I have. Hang on, let me just get my list up. Right, favourites… an album by Hiroshi Yoshimura, called Green, it’s really good. Sort of ambient. Oh and I’ve also been listening to Aphex Twin, Selected Ambient Works, because I listen to that pretty much all the time.”
For this season, Store Street will be welcoming Celeste no less than three times, indicative of the appreciation both Manchester (she’s something of a regular in these parts even when the car park is just a car park) and The Warehouse Project have for what she does so well. Fittingly, though, our address also provided one of her earliest house and techno experiences, making this autumn and winter all the more personal for everyone involved.
“I never would have thought I’d play there. I went when I was 18, I think, I went to see Bookashade and Sasha, it was really funny. If anyone then would have said I’d be playing at the WHP then I would have told them to fuck off. So it’s amazing. Last time I played there I was a bit scared, I’m always a bit nervous about playing in really big rooms, but it was great. So I’m really looking forward to these dates.