Words and Music Magazine

Techno Tripping with Chris Sheppard and BKS

By Karen Bliss

Chris Sheppard's life is one big extended dance mix. The prince of pulse has reigned for more than a decade as Toronto's number one club and dance radio DJ and, more recently, has himself become a songwriter along with his BKS partners Hennie Bekker and Greg Kavanagh. The trio was recently voted top Canadian dance/club act by Toronto's Cheer DJ Pool.

Sheppard's techno trip began nine years ago when he first started tinkering with a Fairlight sampler. His first remixing attempt was for Vancouver-based industrialists Skinny Puppy.

"I wrote some new drum patterns and changed really simple things," recalls Sheppard. "Dig It" hit the Top-10 on Rolling Stone's singles chart. He wasn't surprised. "Because I spend so much time in the clubs, I know the formula to make something work."

After a series of remixes, most notably for British pop group Jesus Jones and for Nettwerk Records in Vancouver, Sheppard dove into executive producing the first of four Techno Trip compilations. Needing to fill the album, he collaborated for one track with ambient composer Bekker and R&B/soul producer/multi-instrumentalist Kavanagh. The trio's first effort, "Godfather," went over well enough, but its second shot, "Living in Ecstasy," surpassed a million units worldwide via various compilations, singles and albums.

"That kind of success inspired us to try an album," says Sheppard. "l don't know how to write music, so Hennie writes the melodies or I'll come in humming a melody. Then the rhythms, the bass sequence and drum programs, are me. Plus whatever Iyrics we have. Greg holds it all together."

Keeping up with technology is vital to staying on top of the dance genre, says Shep. "Hennie had a Synclavier and it gave us a richer, more satisfying sound, whereas before I was working on analogue machines which sounded pretty rinky-dink."

Now on its second BKS album, Dreamcatcher, the trio has upgraded its gear and is working with Q-bass and various sound tools and modules. "It's all about innovative sounds and fresh styles," emphasizes Sheppard. "Dance music is very now."