B: So, start at the beginning then please, tell me about how and why you began making music...
M: I was a DJ long before I started producing, always meant to get into it but never really had any in roads. Within two days of moving to uni I'd met my guy and he just invited to hang out and make a beat sometime and from there it snow balled. That was roughly three years ago. Music had always been my thing ever since I clocked I couldn't be a professional footballer (tragic), when I lived in Germany I lived an hour away from all my friends, so spent a lot of time by myself listening to music, etc, etc. The hour long bus drive to school as well afforded me with 2 hours of daily solid listening time. When I moved back to England I had a similar bus drive, so yeah I've always just listened to lots of music.
B: But listening to music... everyone does that. What made you make the step to want to make it, which as we all know, is a long task that takes dedication...? And, one you'd found the way to make sound, were you aware of a sense of honing in on a sound? Because if feel you really are getting there, getting to a sound right now...
M: I'm not sure if I'm 100% honest, the DJs I was hanging round with all were into production and I wanted to DJ more and be taken seriously with it so I thought production was the next step I guess. I think I just wanted to see what it was like and what I could do. I'm not sure how much of a conscious decision it was. I think it was more that I liked a couple elements in music and I wanted to make music that incorporated them. It wasn't till last July that I decided to take it a bit more seriously, I'd finished a couple bits and pieces and really deconstructed what I did and didn't like about them and then just tried to apply that going forward.
B: So when did you first meet E.m.m.a? I don't mean in IRL I mean, talk to, to get to know, because you two seem friends.
M: Beginning of last year, found her on Soundcloud. At the time I was writing for the now defunct Inhabit online site. I asked her if she was up for being featured/doing a mix/small interview. Something I used to do a lot if I found someone who's music I liked, I asked to interview them, mainly to get chummy enough to ask for tracks haha. From there we just kept in contact.
B: I ask because I think, within the spectrum of the music we play, you and her play a key role, keeping the colourful, melodic part of the overall balance and whereas there's finally quite a lot of dark stuff about now, within our circle, the synthy colourful stuff is less abundant - but very much needed.
M: Yeah it puzzles me why people use the term "dark 130," from where I'm sitting, listening to your Rinse shows - there's quite a lot of colour
B: It's partly my fault I guess, I broke up the paragraphs in one blog post into subsections… it didn't occur to me people would ignore the other 7 paragraphs!
B: Still "130" seems more used now. So do you feel you connect with E.m.m.a's sound?
M: Elements of. I like the sense of mystique. Tracks like "At Sea" represent something real - like it's describing a scene or something
M: Yeah, elements of is a good way of putting with it. I'm as interested in the similarities as the differences... She's been doing it for a long time, so I think she has a stronger sense of identity. I think when people hear her album then they'll know what I mean.
B: I guess another way of asking the question is what draws you to the more emotive/colourful/synthy stuff, instead of say, either dark stuff or more conventional clean dance music palates?
B: I like being overwhelmed in a club. And usually for me that happens with synthier stuff. When I first started producing I shied away from drums a lot, mainly because I wasn't confident with the drums I had. The first couple tunes didn't have kick drums. So there was a lot of space in my tracks to experiment with synthesis.
B: Funny how those accidents or constraints go on to influence your creative direction!
M: People should make more accidental music. Creative constraints lead to creative solutions kinda thing
B: Sometimes Dusk and I do ban ourselves from a given element: like "can we make this without a snare?"
M: Yeah it helps. Imagine if you gave a bunch of half step producers the brief of making a tune that didn't have a snare on the 3rd. Imagine telling Tiesto he had to make his next tune solely on a DX7
B: … or a 909!
M: Exactly. Recently I've been trying to do the reverse of what I've been doing up till now. More drums, less synths
B: As a way of breaking out of your own mold?
M: Yeah, I was stuck in a rut late last year/early this year so felt like I needed to do something new. The results of which have manifested themselves as an EP which will be coming out on Goon Club Allstars at some point.
B: For people who don't know, can you explain a bit about Goon Club Allstars?
M: Goon Club Allstars is a label that me and my two best mates in Leeds started May last year. In our first year of uni the records we were buying and playing were a lot of fun. There was a lot of people making really great, fun, club records that were exploring genres in a way we hadn’t had before. And then in the last two years a lot of people dropped off or switched up and started making techno/house. Which I don't have a problem with, I just like a bit of balance. So us starting that label is an effort to bring back a bit of balance. So far it's felt very organic, everyone we've signed up we've known and play their stuff regularly. The first release was vinyl only and we distributed ourselves. It was a tiny run of 150 records - I wanted it to feel like a really limited white label release.
B: Christ that is tiny!
M: From here on out though we will be doing digital as well as a bigger run of records and distribution. Which will be nice because it's taken us ages to be paid by people. We're still waiting on some shops
B: That sounds like exactly why you shouldn't do physical distro yourself!
M: Yeah it's been a learning process. A lot has gone wrong this first year, but it's cool. We've come out of it and I can't wait to put these next two records out. There's also the in-house production team haha. At some point there will be a Goon Club Allstars EP of just our own stuff all together ...and then the world tour.
B: Obvs! Is all the Goon Club stuff more overtly grime than your own productions?
M: The stuff we all do together? Nah, it's a real mix of stuff. There is some grime, because that's part of what we play in a club, but we aren't a grime label.
B: Where did the name come from?
M: Divine inspiration.
B: With a name like that surely you mean Satanic Inspiration?!
M: Hahaha. The name was summoned out of the ether, one day last May. That "WD25" instrumental that you just posted is one of my favourites. I wish this new crop of grime producers were willing to reach beyond scene signifiers sometimes. To be honest I'm as guilty of it as everyone else. So maybe I should make a riddim without a square wave lead.
B: Whats your take on - and prognosis for - the current trend of re-visiting Wiley's Wiley Kat Recordings-era eski sound?
M: At the start of the year I'd say it was backwards, but now I think that the ones who are really interested will evolve beyond that and into something much more interesting. I think it's fine to make something of that era, a tribute, but you definitely can't spend too much time on it. If I spent a great deal of time making tunes that sounded like Burial, people would call me out on it (at least I'd hope). I am really in no position to be telling people what they should be making but it's interesting when those sounds are re-contextualised into some new format. It's a good time for grime in general though really isn't it. There's much more going on now than there has been in a good few years.
B: What is it about r&g that really does it for you?
M: I like that switch up; that something so usually full of energy, is flipped into something more slow, softer. I think softer voices work well with grime either way though, it's interesting you know; really aggressive beats and softer vocals - the rough and the smooth. RnG is very different sonically from "straight" grime though isn't it. I mean grime is such a massive genre, but it's a different energy, very romantic. I think it probably is that mood that gets me. It's an emotional attachment rather an aggressive one, if that makes sense?
B: A track of yours we're really enjoying playing is "Clemency" - it went down really well at Keysound Sessions 2. It is quite different to the stuff by you we've played on Rinse before, much more percussive with a hint of Baltimore. Is that what you meant by "trying to do the reverse of what I've been doing up till now?" Is Baltimore an influence on your sound?
M: Yeah, something more focussed on percussion, rather than synthesis. A lot of my previous tracks were a little light on percussion, so this is me attempting to balance up the books. I suppose this is me teaching, or learning what I can do within percussion. The synthier stuff I was doing was becoming a little stale, re-using the same sounds too much I guess. I love all those club forms, but it's definitely a more recent thing, like in the last two years. When I first started DJing I liked Baltimore club but I didn't really know much and couldn't find much and I just got distracted by what was happening in this country. Clemency and a couple others was me exploring further the possibilities of merging my interests in grime and Jersey & Baltimore club which started pretty much by accident with my Ice rink edit. They're very similar - grime and all those club forms both are made with cheap equipment, both have these abstract structures patterns, both have this massive sense of raw energy and odd rhythms. There's also a massive culture built up around both that plays a huge part in their existence. I particularly love the settings that Jersey + Baltimore trax are played in, and that some songs have certain dances that go with them. It's quite hard to find out about them, because, compared to Footwork + juke, there really isn't much written about it - certainly not jersey club anyway.
B: What was it like playing Fabric & Keysound Sessions 2 with E.m.m.a.?
M: I think I probably could have played with Skrillex and still had fun, Fabric is most definitely an experience, I really love DJing and room 3 at Fabric feels very special. It was cool with E.m.m.a., there was a lot of really synthy tracks which I don't get to play so often.
M: One of the themes in E.m.m.a.'s work is nostalgia. I was really struck by the sense of nostalgia about the Tumblr your brother put up recently, of your family's history in Iran. I thought this was a really interesting contrast to the themes within your music and DJ sets, of grime & club music, energy and then wistfulness. Can you explain a bit more about that Tumblr and what it means to you?
M: Sure, my dad has lived in this country since he was 16 when he left home in Tehran to escape military service. I hold dual citizenship, so I actually cannot go to Iran now as I will be drafted into military service for a couple years. My Iranian heritage isn't something I know much about really, I've visited twice, both times I was under 13 years old so wasn't really able to form a solid opinion of the place first hand. My brother is actually returning in December to photograph a ski resort in the mountains in the the north of Iran for a month, which I'm really excited about. People hear about Iran and a lot of countries in the Middle East and forget that people still live there and do normal stuff. Mostly. We went to a photo journalism exhibition in Perpignon recently and you could easily have been fooled into thinking that it was an exhibition of men in Syria holding assault rifles.
B: Is there any connection, maybe subconsciously, between the theme of both epic grandeur running through your work and then the sense of nostalgia of hinted at in those shots?
M: Mmm I don't think so, I'd say that my music has a lot to do with fantasy though; letting your imagination run away and letting your musical process follow it. Thinking about settings and imagining what it would sound like. I interviewed Mokona a couple years ago and he said often he'd decide the name of a track before he started making the track, I quite liked that.
- PreOrder the sick new Goon Club Allstars release by MssingNo on their Bandcamp.