Shapeshifter (band)

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Origin Christchurch, New Zealand
Genres Drum and bass, dub, soul, liquid funk
Years active 1999–present
Labels Truetone Recordings, Hospital Records
Members Nick Robinson
Sam Trevethick
Devin Abrams
P Digsss
Darren Mathiassen
Past members Redford Grenell
Johnny Hooves

Shapeshifter (sometimes referred to as New Zealand Shapeshifter) are a live drum and bass[1] act from New Zealand. They have been heralded as a musical phenomenon for their ground breaking live shows and unique blend of heavy soul with drum and bass. Their reputation as pioneers of modern music was built by a unique approach to electronic music which had previously been restricted to computer-based studio musicians and has earned them widespread critical and commercial acclaim.

The towering success of Christchurch-formed Shapeshifter can’t be denied. Across their career they have made genre-defining appearances at Glastonbury, The Big Chill, Big Day Out, Parklife plus sold-out performances across Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

History and Biography[edit]

Shapeshifter formed in 1999 after the four founding members met at Jazz School. They had a range of musical backgrounds ranging from dub, jazz, and hip-hop, to metal, funk and electronica. As a result, they decided to bring these influences together to create live drum & bass. After playing locally and releasing an early EP entitled D.N.A, they quickly became known as a fresh, innovative act.

In 2001, Shapeshifter released their debut LP entitled Realtime. The album included a collaboration with sublime vocalist Ladi6 on the track "Move With Me" as well as Kaps (Fabel) and Tiki (Salmonella Dub) on production. Realtime was awarded the 'Best Electronic Release' title at the 2002 bNet NZ Music Awards, and was also nominated at the RIANZ NZ Music Awards for 'Best Electronic Album'.[citation needed]. The album is noted for its heavier sound compared with the band's more recent material.

In 2002, Shapeshifter relocated to Melbourne. They toured extensively, playing to sell-out crowds with very positive reactions from their audiences. The group performed at events such as the 4ZZZ Market Day Festival in Brisbane in which over 10,000 people attended, the Bellingen Global Carnival, and sold out shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Byron Bay.

In late-2003, vocalist Paora Apera (aka P Digsss) joined Shapeshifter's live line-up, making the group an even more formidable and soulful 5-piece with a stronger stage presence. The new line-up was road tested on Salmonella Dub's One Drop East album release tour of Australia in August/September. Shapeshifter played 12 shows in various cities to an overwhelming crowd response. Musically, the group evolved rapidly to include the new vocal elements in old and new tracks, resulting in a fresh, universal sound communicating to a wider audience. Other highlights included their first tour of Europe at locations including London, Edinburgh and Rotterdam.

In 2004, Shapeshifter then released their second album Riddim Wise. This was their most advanced and appealing work and a definite step towards a more atmospheric style of drum and bass. Recorded at the groups own home studio in Melbourne, the album features collaborations with Aotearoa's most prodigious and exciting vocalists; Dallas Tamaira aka Joe Dukie (Fat Freddy's Drop), Karoline Tamati aka Lady 6 (Verse 2/Sheelahroc) and Paora Apera aka P Digsss. The album was praised as a steady progression from 'Realtime',[citation needed] with an emphasis on funky dancefloor grooves, whilst maintaining strong musical elements. The album became the #1 Independent NZ album release and also the #1 NZ National Dance Album in New Zealand history.[citation needed]

The band's third album Soulstice was released in August 2006, with lead single "Bring Change" receiving extensive video and radio play. The album takes in influences from the world’s of soul, reggae, funk, rock and of course drum 'n' bass, all rounded off with a superb sonic quality, unique to this band. Soulstice obtained Gold sales status in New Zealand in three weeks and has since achieved Platinum sales. September 2006 saw Shapeshifter tour throughout New Zealand spreading their acclaimed hard soul style. In cutting-edge Shapeshifter fashion, they performed with leading orchestras creating a revolutionary experience and selling out their shows weeks in advance. In 2007, Shapeshifter released a live album entitled Shapeshifter Live which was recorded on 29 September 2006 at the Christchurch Town Hall – the final show of their orchestra tour and in the band's hometown. This 6-track album contained a previously unreleased song called "Good Looking" and appeared alongside other popular Shapeshifter tracks such as "Tapestry", "Bring Change" and "One".

In 2008, Shapeshifter embarked on their fourth European tour playing soldout dates in Paris, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Scotland and England. The tour also promoted their single "One", released in May 2008, and off the back of the successful tour and critically acclaimed[citation needed] single, the decision was made to release Soulstice in the UK and Europe. This was released on 17 November on Mums The Word Records with a special re-designed package that includes new artwork and exclusive remixes from D-Bridge (Exit Records), Hospital’s soulful star Nu:Tone and the prolific remix kings The Nextmen. Shapeshifter also toured Australia at the end of 2008 and during their summer tour of New Zealand, they played new unreleased tracks including "Dutch Sorrow", "Right Here, Right Now", "Day One", "Twin Galaxies", "Warning" and "System" some of which appeared on their next album entitled, The System Is A Vampire, released 12 November 2009.[2] Shapeshifter also released a remix EP in late 2008 featuring two alternative versions of their song "Bring Change" by themselves and fellow New Zealand drum and bass artists, The Upbeats. A remix of their song "Long White Cloud" was also included, remixed by Nu:Tone. Shapeshifter also released a remix of their hit tune, Electric Dream which was remixed by New Zealand drum and bass act, State of Mind.

Shapeshifter also have their own recording label called Truetone Recordings. Their first album, Realtime, and early EPs were released under Kog Transmissions.

November 2009 saw the release of the band's fourth studio album entitled The System Is A Vampire with lead single "Dutchies" which has received widespread radio play. The album was shortlisted for the inaugural Taite Music Prize in 2010.[3] In September 2009 during a tour of Australia, drummer Redford Grenell left the band. He was replaced by producer and well-known drummer Johnny Hooves. No press statement was ever released following Grenell's departure however P.Digsss stated that Mr. Grenell had told the band that he had "come to the end of his road" with Shapeshifter. In 2013, Johnny Hooves left the band and was replaced by well-known Wellington drummer Darren Mathiassen.

The band embarked on a summer tour throughout New Zealand in December 2009/January 2010, playing to sold out audiences throughout the country. The highlight of this tour being a huge, sold out gig called Coromandel Gold in which the band played in front of 10,000 people to welcome in the new year. They repeated this concert in the summer of 2011 to massive critical acclaim.

In July 2010, Shapeshifter were signed by prestigious UK Drum and Bass label, Hospital Records who will release Shapeshifter's platinum-selling album The System is a Vampire globally as well as a new collection of remixes in October 2010 entitled 'The System is a Remix'. This remix album will feature a range of Shapeshifter remixed tunes from drum and bass heavyweights Logistics, Camo & Krooked, Netsky, State of Mind and The Upbeats. They played to sold out shows all around Europe.

The band is known in the UK and Europe as "New Zealand Shapeshifter" in order to differentiate themselves from popular mainstream house act "The Shapeshifters".

In 2013, Shapeshifter released their 5th studio album titled "Delta" which includes lead singles Monarch, Diamond Trade and Gravity. It was recorded in Berlin, Germany and Wellington, New Zealand and was released on 31 May followed by a NZ wide tour. The album has been mixed by NZ drum and bass producers The Upbeats.

Side projects[edit]

Shapeshifter band member, Devin Abrams, runs a successful solo side project under the name Pacific Heights. He has released four albums entitled Pacific Heights (2001) Frozen Fears (2003), Borne Together (2004) and In A Quiet Storm (2008). He also regularly DJs under the name "DJ Reno".

Vocalist P-Digsss is part of The Sunshine Soundsystem, who play around New Zealand with a hip-hop, funk, dancehall, reggae and jungle flavour. They regularly play the Kaikoura Roots Festival, Rippon Festival, Destination and have supported acts such as The Nextmen, Aphrodite and London Electricity.

Nick Robinson DJs under the name "Nicky Research" and Sam Trevethick DJs under the name "Sambora".

P-Digsss and Sambora perform together as "The Peacekeepers".

Shapeshifter also has a close working relationship with ex-Salmonella Dub front man Tiki Taane. Upon the release of Taane's debut solo album, Past, Present, Future, in 2008, Shapeshifter were asked to tour with Taane to help promote the new album. Tiki Taane is also Shapeshifter's sound technician during their live shows which helps deliver the huge live sound the band are renowned for.

Band members[edit]

  • Sam Trevethick (keyboards, guitar, percussion)
  • Paora 'P Digsss' Apera (vocals)
  • Devin Abrams (synths, saxophone)
  • Darren Mathiassen (drums)
  • Nick Robinson (bass, keyboards)



Year Title Details Peak chart
2001 Realtime
  • Released: 1 May 2001
  • Label: Kog Transmissions
  • Singles: Move With Me, Tapestry
2004 Riddim Wise LP
  • Label: Truetone
  • Singles: Been Missin, When I Return, Long White Cloud
33 NZ: Platinum[4]
2006 Soulstice
  • Released: 13 January 2007
  • Label: Truetone
  • Singles: Bring Change, Electric Dream, One
  • Catalogue: TONELP002
4[4] NZ: Platinum[5]
2007 Shapeshifter Live 6
2009 The System Is a Vampire
  • Released: 12 November 2009
  • Label: Truetone
  • Catalogue: TONELP005
  • Singles: Dutchies, Twin Galaxies, System
1 NZ: Platinum
2010 The System Is A Remix
2011 System Remix
  • Released: 20 March 2011
  • Label: Truetone
  • Catalogue: TONELP007
2013 Delta
  • Released: 31 May 2013
  • Label: Truetone
  • Catalogue: TONELP008
  • Singles: Monarch, Diamond Trade, Gravity, Stadia
2001 D.N.A.
  • Label: Kog Transmissions
2003 Styles
  • Label: Kog Transmissions
Been Missing/Relocator
  • Label: Kog Transmissions

Featured appearances[edit]

The group have appeared on many compilations and soundtracks since 2001 in New Zealand. The following is a list of these albums that have featured tracks by Shapeshifter.


Year Title Peak chart positions Album
2000 "Realtime" Non-album single
2001 "Tapestry" Real Time
"Move With Me"
2003 "Been Missing" Riddim Wise LP
2004 "When I Return"
2005 "Long White Cloud"
2006 "Bring Change" Soulstice
2007 "One"
"Electric Dream"
2009 "Dutchies" 20 The System Is a Vampire
"Twin Galaxies"
2011 "Monarch" 22 Delta
2013 "Gravity" 41
2013 "In Colour" 11


Shapeshifter have enjoyed a strong following throughout New Zealand. This is well illustrated in the group's awards and nominations at the publicly voted bNet NZ Music Awards, held annually.

  • 2000 - Winner of the Best New Act
  • 2001 - Nominated for Best Live Act and Best Electronic Release (D.N.A. EP)
  • 2002 - Winner of the Best Electronic Release (Realtime)
  • 2002 - Nominated for Best Song (Tapestry) and Best Album (Realtime)
  • 2003 - Showcase performance at Awards ceremony.
  • 2006 - Winner of "Best Album"(Soulstice) "Best Song" (Bring Change)and "Best Live Act"
  • 2007 - Winner of "Best Electronic Release" (Soulstice) and "Best Live Act"

In 2005, Shapeshifter's video for Long White Cloud, Directed by Ash Bolland won Best Electronic Release at the Juice TV Music Awards.[4]


  1. ^ [1] ('about' tab)
  2. ^ According to the band's website,
  3. ^ "Taite Music Prize 2010". IMNZ. Retrieved 25 October 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c Shapeshifter Artist Profile ::
  5. ^ NZ Top 40 9 October 2006.qxd
  6. ^ "Shapeshifter discography". Retrieved 25 October 2012. 

External links[edit]