Looking at the date this is from around February of 2011, though I suspect it may be quite a bit earlier, the interview was conducted for Real Groove. Wicked long and involved answers on this one, I’d previously done an email interview with Mala before his first visit but his personality and passion didn’t really come across as strong over the ether. Having DJ’d with him a couple of times and been fortunate enough to sit down and have a good old reason with the man, I maintain that he is one of the most important producers and DJ’s to emerge from the UK in the last decade. If there’s any doubt about that the Mala In Cuba album should clear that up and firmly establish him at the top of the crop.. Mediate on the bass weight and maximum respect to a true original!
How are you feeling about the current state of dubstep? It seems to be heading down a bit of a rabbit hole?
“(laughs) Yeah, everyone just did the obvious.”
Do you find that disappointing?
“Not really. I never saw myself as dubstep, I never saw myself as any creator of dubstep, never saw DMZ or Deep Medi as dubstep I just saw it as soundsystem music, I just saw it as a continuation of what people were doing in the jungles days, it was that spirit, it was that continuation of spirit and attitude, more than a name or a particular tempo, even though we were all working around the same tempo. To me it was obvious that this was going to happen, I think about a lot of things that have happened and fair play to ‘em. A lot of people want to badmouth someone like Rusko but fair play, if thats what his ting is, thats his ting. You know what I mean, he hasn’t taken anything away from me. Sometimes I don’t know why people take things so personally cos its not like, I don’t know man, people say a lot of thing, people say a lot of things about Magnetic Man but I know where all of them man come from, I know how hard they’ve been working since day one. Benga and Skream were banging out tunes when they were 13 years old, their tunes were getting played in clubs when they were 15 and they were playing in clubs when they were 18, so of course they’re going to end up selling a million records and getting something in the charts because its their blood you know, its not like they’ve necessarily switched up their vibe or changed as people or anything like that.
So I think its an interesting development not one that was unexpected because i think it was obvious that somewhere along the line majors were going to get involved. It was just a matter of who was going to do what you know. You can never write off anything because you don’t know. If someone had come along to me at a certain point and offered me exactly what I wanted, maybe I’d take it as well, but my mind isn’t of that. I didn’t really get offered those kinds of thing because don’t think people really hear that in my sound. I don’t know man, its not something that I really lose any sleep on because it genuinely doesn’t bother me that much, I’m cracking on doing my thing, I’ve never been busier Jim. I remember in 2007 when things were getting really busy and NZ and Japan and I was like ‘‘what its never going to get better than this, and every year it has, you know and the next year man is getting in the charts and its crazy man. But because you live it, and you know these people…. maybe I have a different perspective on it. I’m not disappointed in that aspect, if theres any disappointment its the music itself. When I talk about the music and that earlier vibe, that is somewhat lost in general. It’s that thing that always happens with music it starts off underground and only a few people know about it,only a few labels put out the music, so everything has got that spirit then people start to get influenced by the music and their take on it and then some people come through and make stuff thats better and then other people come through with blatant regurgitations, thats when you have a problem. It was inevitable in time that not everyone wants to make a meaningful record they might just want to write a party tune, and usually they go off in the dance. I remember there used to be a lot of older people in the dance, a lot of over 25s . Now when you play raves its like when I was a youth, when I was 16 or 18 going out to raves. I was always into the eyes down shit when we’d got to Metalheadz and them tings there but we wanted to tear out as well, so its not a surprise its kind of expected. The kids are the ones who buy things on iTunes and all that.”
Fair enough but has the experimentations gone, where’s the spirit of adventure and progression?
“Well it has. You go and hear a man play and you hear hear certain tunes, every man playing the same tunes. That never used to happen it used to be about dubplate and man having an exclusive track. People have lost their sound to a certain extent a lot of it has become a club orientated vibe, thats not to knock it all. Things always transform and mutate and they don’t always do it the way you hope for, or like, or expect. People get lazy, I think 140 bpm is so open to experimentation and I think everyone just got so lazy and they just heard a couple of tunes from a couple of man and they copy. You’ve got to blame some of the producers because they made such good music that people just wanted to create that feeling again and thats why we have all these tunes that are just wubwubwub, the mad hype tunes now, because people want to recreate that feeling when they hear that. You’ve got to blame the, guys for it because they made mad tunes.”
I always get a sense of yin and yang with you and Coki, its like you’re different sides of the same coin…..
“Yeah I guess so it certainly doesn’t feel like it because he’s my brother you know. To me Coki is like one of the best producers to come through in the last 10 years. If you listen to his stuff from 2000 to 2010, before you hear Cokis’ sound you cant tell me where that came from. He designed some new shit properly. For one of my close friends to do that is amazing, not because he’s my friend, but I clearly don’t understand if he can create something like that from nothing, and I know him so well that just blows my mind. Yeah we might be like ying and yang but we’re brothers. ( You’re in the same circle) Yeah yeah I hear you that’s the whole DMZ thing, we might not have always made music together but this is Digital Mystikz, it’s our sound you know.”
How did (the album) ‘Return To Space’ come around, I’ve enjoyed your stance of not just bunging out an album because ‘you can’ but I also think.. well you know – the time has come!
“I hadn’t released anything for a while and I just remember listening to stuff on my hard drive and I was like ‘ oh I wish I’d released that one, should have released that one’, and it kind of came about that way. So I selected a load of tracks and I was like I’m going to master these up, so I mastered a couple of records up or three. After I’d done that I was like maybe I should release these together, and it was one thing led to another and the the concept of Return To Space came just to do with some of my thinking at the time and how I felt about where I was at at the time, in the studio and looking at the music going on and everything. The whole concept of the artwork came about really naturally as well. It was very thought out in the sense of obviously I spent hours and hours making the music, not necessarily consciously. When I decided that I wanted to do this I thought hard about how I wanted it to look and how I wanted it to feel, so I had kind of distinct idea in my mind of what I wanted to see even though I didn’t know what it was. So I was lucky to work with the artist who gave me some images to look at, and he came back with an interpretation and that kept on happening, I wanted to change this or I might have wanted to make the stars a little bit more transparent or a little bit bolder here or there. It was one of those ones that I really put a lot of energy into it was like a massive listening curve for me because its very different to putting out a 12 (inch), both from a personal point of view for me, and how you feel about it, and from an industry point of view in that people come at you differently when they perceive you’re doing an album So its kind of interesting, I always tell people this because i think its kind of funny but I got contacted by quite a few magazines to do interviews, and I said ‘OK yeah I’m up for it, thats cool’. So they said ‘Ok can you send over the album and info’, and I said ‘Actually I’m not giving out the album till the day of release’. So then you’d get the non response email ….the blank! Or ‘actually we’re going to run with something else this month, so we’ll get you at a later date’. That’s what I got from literally 9 out of 10 of the people that contacted me. I think the only ones that went through with it was Resident Advisor, and Joe Muggs, they were the only two people who were prepared to have a conversation with me with a tracklisting or a copy of the album. I take my hat off to them man because it was probably against what they usually do, but I’m very lucky to have a distribution company who allow me to present music and release music the way that I want it to be released. But I had some interesting things happen to me like certain people getting in touch and wanting to buy the whole stock, people wanting to buy bulk and get a discount, but its DMZ man its a small label, can’t really be giving out discount because you’re telling me you’re going to buy x amount of records kind of thing. My distributor was getting hassled because shops wanted know what tracks was on there and rae rae rae. Within about 4 hours of announcing it, I remember it was March, March 10th or something, we announced it, maybe a bit before, my photobucket had been hacked and somebody had managed to get some of the artwork that wasn’t finished and wasn’t ready to be shown yet, someone had posted that online
I got an email from my ISP saying we’ve got some unusual action and hacking on your account, people adding in the wrong password and shit to my email address so it was kind of interesting. People going in trying to get it out what was going on I found it a really interesting opener as to how the industry expects things to be done. Because I’d been told if you pay a couple of thousand pound you can get your album in a certain position in the HMV and all that. This is what these people, these record labels spend their money on and to me its just ludicrous.”
The ‘Love You To Life’ remix you did for Grace Jones has become a bit of a turntable staple for me, must have been a great opportunity, especially getting to interfere with Sly & Robbie’s parts!
“Don’t want to be disrespectful to Grace Jones but I don’t use a lot of vocals and thats why theres not a lot of vocals on there in the track I really stripped it down. I used Robbie, er his bassline on the track, all cut and edited cos he was doing this thing on the bassline where he does this slide and people who I’ve played it to the original – no-one can work out how he’s doing it, how he’s making this effect on the (bass) guitar. And obviously, honestly you know Sly on the drums, they are just ridiculous I chopped the drums, all the drums are sounds from the original. In the 2nd half I added my won sub-bass which is a bit too low actually, quite difficult for it to translate properly on systems.”
A problem you’ve had before ,and will have again.
“Yeah (wearily) I just love them sub low frequencies so you know…”
Upcoming plans, future moves etc?
“It just happens when it happens, i WILL release something on DMZ this year. Deep Medi a lot of new stuff. I just released something by some guys called Old Apparatus, like a different direction I guess.”
You and Coki both have your own things going on and they are quite distinct but unusually you don’t really collaborate, do you think your music is very much a singular proposition for you… un-negotiable?
“I think a lot of the best music is made when you want to be on your own, When you switch the phone off, thats when you allow yourself to really be open and tune in to frequencies that exist outside of our normal receptive ability of sight and hearing, I think that’s when we’re most susceptible to allow these signal to pass through. I certainly don’t think my music is from here, I certainly don’t think I create my music, I think it comes from an unknown place which I have no idea about, so to talk of it – people would go ‘oh that guys a bit mad’. But I don’t understand, so I cant begin to talk about it, or to help somebody else understand it, it’s impossible. But I think a lot of music that I like, when I really listen to it, I don’t think that even though I’m here on earth, when I listen to it I think it actually comes from another destination.”
It strikes me from playing with you, and your habit of kicking off with a palate cleanser that is invariably not a dubstep or even contemporary track that there is something you’re looking for in all the music you are involved in or even play?
“Theres something different going on in all of the music that I like. Some music is made to do a particular thing at a certain time. I’m not even sure you could break the spell. Some things are too powerful, too big, too vast, too dense, too beyond for the human mind to understand it on an intellectual level. However for me, I’m happy to accept that I understand something just for the mere fact that I feel it. I’m happy to accept that I know nothing but I give thanks that I can feel, because I’d hate to be numb.”