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As part of their third India tour, ‘The Shuffle Demons’ will be playing at the Goa International Jazz Festival which begins today, November 30, at International Centre Goa. NT BUZZ catches up with the band

A craze for jazz

‘The Shuffle Demons’ first broke onto the Canadian music scene with an electrifying musical fusion that drew in equal measure from Sun Ra, Charles Mingus, Run DMC and the Beastie Boys.

Since then the band has released eight CDs, two hit videos, won several music awards, have appeared in numerous TV and radio shows and have toured several countries with their music playing on big festival stages, theatres and clubs. The band is known for playing a mix of funk jazz, hard bop jazz and jazz rap, wearing spectacular hand painted suits and mingling with the audience through their performance.

The band line-up includes Juno Award winner Richard Underhill on alto sax and vocals, Matt Lagan and Liam Mitro on tenor saxes and vocals, Scott Hunter on bass and vocals, and Stich Wynston on drums and vocals.

Excerpts from an


Q. How excited is the band about playing in India?

This will be our third tour of India. We first toured India in late December 2005 including performances at the Mood Indigo Festival in Mumbai, Goa Jazz Society, The Tollygunge Club in Kolkata, and the Canadian High Commissioner’s Residence in Delhi. Our second tour of India took place in November/December 2014 including performances at the Blue Frog in Mumbai, the Goa International Jazz Festival, Counter Culture in Bangalore, and the Congo Square Jazz Festival in Kolkata.

We love performing in India and are excited about our upcoming tour especially performing at Jazz India


Q. Known for eye catching, crowd pleasing stunts, your band loves to parade through the audience. How did you come to adapt this style?

The genesis of ‘The Shuffle Demons’ started in September 1984 when some musician friends in the jazz music programme at York University decided to busk on the streets of downtown Toronto to have some fun and make a bit of pocket money. We started wearing colourful, flamboyant clothing to express our exuberance and attract passers-by. Before you knew it, we were amassing huge crowds for our street performances which featured wild playing/improvisations and showmanship.

Q. ‘The Shuffle Demons’ is an interesting name.

One day while busking in downtown Toronto, after playing a new composition of Underhill’s called ‘The Shuffle Monster’, a guy in the crowd yelled out “Hey, what do you guys call yourselves?” So Richard blurted out in an impromptu manner “Shuffle Demons!” We all liked the name, so we ran

with it.

Q. So from busking, how did you guys evolve from there?

In the summer of 1985 we decided to take our act on the road and embarked on a three month long busking tour of Europe playing on the streets of Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona, London etc. Once we returned back home from our three-month adventure, things really started to take off. We were getting hired by local clubs, and recorded and released our first album which sold 15,000 copies. We built on this momentum by releasing more albums and music videos as well as touring on a

global level.

Q. A majority of your tours have been across Canada and Europe. What is the difference between the two audiences?

We have found that our unique style and presentation elicits a rapturous response from audiences wherever we perform, even audiences that are traditionally more reserved.

Q. The music your band plays has been influenced by bands like Sun Ra, Charles Mingus, Run DMC and the Beastie Boys. Whose style are you closest to and why?

If you read all of the reviews of our last CD release ‘Cluster Funk’, a common thread with all of the critics is their assertion that ‘The Shuffle Demons’ are impossible to categorise. We have taken all of our varied and eclectic influences, added our own very individual and authentic personalities into the mix, and come up with something that is truly unique and groundbreaking. The goal has been to try and come up with a musical expression and presentation that defies categorisation, and ‘The Shuffle Demons’ epitomises this approach.

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