Kaskade. Morgan Page. Nadia Ali. Madonna. The duo of Sultan & Ned Shepard might be unfamiliar to newbie clubbers by name, but their remixes of the biggest in the biz have been in heavy rotation in your favorite superstar DJs’ sets for years. Stepping into the Las Vegas spotlight with a residency at XS, Encore Beach Club and Surrender (next at EBC and XS on May 5), we get the deets on the Canada-based twosome.
You both live in Montreal now. How’d you end up there and first meet each other?
Sultan: I grew up in Egypt but [came to] Canada when I was 18. I studied here and got a residency here, got picked up by Deep Dish and traveled with them for a while and met Ned along the way here in Montreal. We did a few collaborations many years back and officially started working together as a duo about three, four years ago.
Shepard: I grew up in New York City actually, and I’d been playing piano since I was a little kid. I came to Montreal for school, was making music on my own and I gave Sultan a CD at one of his gigs. He liked it, so we became friends. He had his own project, and I was doing a project with someone else under a different name, so we were just collaborating on the side, but our tracks just kept getting signed so we started working together more and more.
What electronic track first made everything click for you?
Shepard: It was Underworld and the track “Born Slippy.” I was 14, and someone literally had a pair of headphones and stuck them on my head and I was like, “What the fuck?” I had never heard anything that sounded like that before in any way. So, it’s still, to this day, it’s kind of this benchmark of an amazing track.
Sultan: The first time I ever heard any kind of electronic music was Robert Miles’ “Children.” The one that got me into DJing and dance music was Greece 2000, “Three Drives” on vinyl back in like 1998, 1999. I was heavily involved in a rock band; I was completely anti-dance music [laughing]. Slowly I became more and more into dance music.
What’s the dynamic like in the booth?
Sultan: It’s definitely a tag-team approach. We try to play three tracks each, back and forth. We do spend day-in and day-out with each other in the studio, we listen to the same kind of music, we share the same tastes in the type of tracks that we like to play, so we do have an understanding of what tracks we do want to play and what kind of records we want to put in our sets, and then when we get on, we tag it.
Do you ever throw curveballs at each other during the set?
Shepard: [laughing] Sometimes.
Sultan: When we first got into DJing, guys like Deep Dish and Sasha & Digweed were big inspirations for us and the dynamic that happened between the two people in front of the decks, we just always thought was kind of more fun for a party so we just enjoy being up there together.
How about the studio? Any certain roles you always take on?
Sultan: We have this dynamic where Ned plays keyboards, I play guitar. So we have a lot of jam sessions going on. Sometimes, before we start any ideas that we put onto a computer, we actually are doing it acoustically.
How’s your label, Harem Records, doing?
Shepard: Actually we just rebranded the label and are relaunching it in a few weeks with a new track of ours called “Somebody to Love” with a young producer from Norway that we know, named Thomas Sagstad. We wanted to re-launch the label with that song because we felt like it was representative of our new sound. And the vocal is by Steve Smith of Dirty Vegas.
Music-wise, do you have any guilty pleasures that people might not expect?
Sultan: I love pop music [laughing]. I go for the cheesy pop every once in a while. I was a big fan of Justin Timberlake even though he got really cool; in the beginning he was a bit poppier and cheesier and I was into that, too.
Shepard: I like Enya! I really do! She’s cool, man. You listen to her, [and] she’s got some really amazing shit, actually.
Would you do an Enya remix sometime?
Shepard: I would definitely do an Enya remix. If she calls, she could know that we’re down.