In 2004, prior to the founding of the label Skull Disco, Ian Hicks of Mordant Music liked and released an early Shackleton track entitled Stalker. The track later appeared on Rough Trade’s ‘Best of 2004’ compilation. Around this time Shackleton started thinking about forming a label to release “interesting bass music” and “interesting percussive stuff”.
Around the same time, Laurie ‘Appleblim’ Osborne was making similar bass heavy music with abstract beats. Shackleton was impressed with a track, Mystikal Warrior, and it hence appeared on the first Skull Disco release; a double A-side with Shackleton’s I Am Animal. Shortly after, Shackleton began the (now defunct) Skull Disco nights in London. Attendees at the first Skull Disco night included Loefah and Mala.
Releases on the Skull Disco label are typically double A-sides featuring a track apiece from Shackleton and Appleblim. Skull Disco releases often tend to use unusual sounds, atypical of any particular genre; they often use African percussion and samples of ethnic vocals, combined with massive, wobbling sub-bass and sometimes elements of four to the floor, Basic Channel-esque drum patterns.
Typical artwork on releases (by Zeke Clough) is also of an idiosyncratic nature, the pen-and-ink covers referencing egyptological symbols as well as displaying a decidedly metal influence.
Shackleton’s music seems to have tapped into a wide range of genres with support for his music coming from djs as diverse as Kode 9, Ricardo Villalobos, Radio Slave and Mary Anne Hobbes while the Hardwax record shop and The Wire magazine are also very enthusiastic. Shackleton’s releases have been record of the month in publications such as Mixmag and IDJ magazine on several occasions, whilst Mixmag also included Skull Disco and Shackleton in their Best Act of 2007 top ten list as well as being in the top five record labels and at number one in the remix chart. Shackleton has also been involved with remixing for Simian Mobile Disco and legendary dub techno pioneer, Pole. Shackleton’s ‘Soundboy’s Suicide Note’ mix was even made the official mix of the year on Mary Anne Hobbes’ show on BBC radio.
The Summer of 2007 saw Shackleton do two European tours whilst 2008 saw him play room one at the famous Fabric nightclub, headline the Sub:Stance party at Berghain as well as perform main dance arenas at major European festivals such as Roskilde and Sonar. The same year saw Shackleton take remix work for Ricardo Villalobos. It went on to take first place in Resident Advisor’s remix of the year poll. At the same time, his Death Is Not Final track and Skull Disco record label both made top five in the polls.
In 2009 Shackleton decided to close down Skull Disco. It had become an unlikely success but it was time to move on after ten 12”s. This year saw him take on remix work for Modeselektor and Apparat, Harmonia and Brian Eno, and, most significantly, release a full-length album on Perlon records. The album was titled Three EPs and was universally well-received. The album made an appearance in the end of year polls from publications as diverse as Wire magazine (position 13 out of 50), Groove Magazine (position 10), FACT magazine (position 16), Resident Advisor (position 5), Pitchfork Reader’s Poll (position 9), Little White Earbuds (position 3), Passion of The Weiss (position 11).
Whilst Shackleton’s music tends towards the idiosyncratic and intricate percussion in preference to the big, bass drop, his music is still geared towards the dancefloor and audiences respond in kind.