Expect the unexpected when the Shuffle Demons hit the stage
Known for their no holds barred performances that feature free jazz moments, danceable funk, poetry, killer solos and more, the band also captivates audiences visually with their spectacular hand-painted suits and wild romps through the crowd. However, all their eye catching, crowd-pleasing stunts are backed up by incredibly solid musicianship. Over the years I’ve seen these cartoon hepcats perform together and individually, and I can attest to their undeniable musical chops. I spoke with saxophonist and vocalist Richard Underhill—the group’s founding member and frontman for the past 32 years, as well as my former neighbour—about his upcoming trip to Bangkok.If you spent your formative years, as I did, in the city of Toronto during the 80s and 90s, then you’ll no doubt have heard of the Shuffle Demons. But if you’re a stranger to the group, then don’t miss the opportunity to see this energetic ensemble when they perform live on stage on October 3rd at the Thailand Cultural Centre (14 Thiam Ruam Mit Rd) as part of the 18th annual Bangkok International Festival of Dance & Music.
This will be your second appearance in Thailand, once again as part of the Bangkok International Festival of Dance & Music. How were you received the first time?
The reception was great. The audience was really thrilled with our show and seemed to love the visual nature of our performance. Also, the festival organizers really treated us like gold. They were very hospitable and took great care of us.
Are you familiar with the Belgian Saxophone Ensemble, the band that will be performing with you?
I don’t know the other band, but reading their bio they seem like a really interesting ensemble. The more saxophones the better, I say, and it’s very fitting that such a saxophone focused group should be from Belgium—home of the inventor of the instrument, Adolphe Sax. I’m really looking forward to the lush harmonies that so many saxes can produce.
Toronto is certainly a long ways from Bangkok. How did your inclusion in this year’s festival come about?
Our drummer Stich Wynston is an internet booking phenomenon, and he originally made contact with the festival (when we appeared in 2010). It’s an interesting time in the information age, where if you put in the effort, you can get great results.
Describe the jazz scene in Canada?
The jazz music scenes in Toronto, and Canada as a whole, are similar. We have a glut of really amazing performers, but a real shortage of venues. We have great festivals, but not the sort of year-round support of the music that we used to have. I think it’s a common problem everywhere, and is part of the reason why we tour—other than wanting to visit amazing places like Bangkok!
The line up of the Shuffle Demons has changed over the years. Who are the members who will be accompanying you on this trip?
Along with myself there will be Stich Wynston (drums/vocals) who is one of the original band members, as well as Perry White (sax), and George Koller (bass/vocals), both came to the band about three years after its formation, in 87/88. Joining us will be Ryan Oliver (sax), who has been playing with us for about five years now.
In 2012 you released the album “Clusterfunk”. Are there any new recordings coming our way?
Yes, we have a new CD in the works and are in the writing and demoing stage now. We’ll be doing many tunes from Clusterfunk when we’re in Bangkok, which will be brand new for the audience there as we hadn’t recorded them the last time we were in Thailand.