Photo by James Clothier
About midway through 2010 an EP was released on Aus Music by Ramadanman with a newcomer called Midland. At the time David Kennedy was a hotly tipped producer whose releases had been causing considerable buzz, and this EP gave further weight to his credentials while immediately boosting those of the unknown Midland. The new kid on the block was one Harry Agius, who quickly established himself through a series of releases and remixes as part of a new wave of producers who were happy to straddle the lines between house, techno and bass music. To be fair, Agius’ output has mainly focused on the first two of those genres, though the association with bass music through his first release with Kennedy would stick with him for some time. In advance of his Fabric gig this Saturday, May 26th, Little White Earbuds caught up with Agius for an in-depth chat ranging from the ins and outs of good press releases to making a difference through social work, producing music that stays true to what you want to do while being aware of public expectations and the importance of keeping vinyl pristine. He also created our 122nd exclusive podcast, a mammoth perfect example of a timeless journey through sounds and styles that will become an instant fixture on your playlists.
LWE Podcast 122: Midland (104:13)
01. Neon Indian, “Heart Attack” (Edit) [Mom and Pop/Static Tongues]
02. Demdike Stare, “Black Sun” [Modern Love]
03. Claro Intelecto, “Second Blood” [Delsin]
04. Jan Hammer Group, “Don’t You Know” [Nemperor Records]
05. The Meters, “Handclapping Song (Edit) [Jubilee]
06. Vessel, “Blowback” [Boomkat]
07. Cruise Family, “We’re In Heaven” (Dream Mix) [Not Not Fun]
08. Kassem Mosse, “Untitled B2″ [Workshop]
09. Newworldaquarium, “The Force” [NWAQ]
10. The Movement, “Movement” [Eros]
11. Harold Butler & The Connection, “Gold Connection” (Al Kent Edit)
12. Pional, “Just Passing Through” [Permanent Vacation]
13. Octa Octa, “Forced Nature” (Edit) [100% Silk]
14. Royalty, “Don’t Break Me” [Five Easy Pieces]
15. D’Marc Cantu, “Say It And It Is Time” [Crème Organization]
16. Soundstream, “Just Around” [Soundsampler]
17. Steve Summers, “Nethermead Arches” [Long Island Electrical Systems]
18. Trevino, “Backtracking” [The Nothing Special]
19. Aaron Carl, “Crucified” (XDB Edit) [Millions Of Moments]
20. Martyn, “Seventy Four” (Redshape Mix) 
21. Afrikan Sciences, “NanoRock Skank” (Edit) [Deepblak]
22. Redshape, “Robot” [Music Man Records]
23. Helium Robots, “Jarza” (Theo Parrish Translation 2) [Running Back]
24. MRSK, “Pinkman” [Skudge Presents]
25. Midland, “Placement” [Aus Music]
26. Vaalhaala, “Phaethon” [Darkestral Recordings]
27. Vladislav Delay As Sistol, “Kaste” (Mike Huckaby S Y N T H Remix)
[Halo Cyan Records]
28. Rocketnumbernine, “Matthew and Toby” (Four Tet Remix) [Text Records]
29. Radiohead, “Bloom” (Jamie xx Rework Pt. 3) [Young Turks]
30. Midland, “Tail Ender” [Aus Music]
31. Powell, “The Ongoing Significance Of Steel & Flesh” (Edit) [Diagonal]
32. Rocketnumbernine, “Black & Blue” [Soul Jazz Records]
33. Solar Bears, “Twin Stars” [Planet Mu]
So you’re living in London, but you’re from Leeds originally, aren’t you?
Harry Agius: I lived in Leeds for three… five years, actually. I was a student for three years.
Oh, okay. So were you born there, or…?
No, actually. I was born in Africa. Sorry, I was born in England, then moved to Africa when I was two years old, and then lived there until I was nine, then went to boarding school, and my parents continued to live out there until I was 13, and they moved to Greece. Then I just went to university when I was 19, up in Leeds, and then after that finished I just decided I liked this city. It’s really cheap, good music, great music scene. And quite a few of my friends were staying up there so I just decided to stay, basically.
Wow, that’s a huge cultural swing.
It does go some way to describe why I’m so scatty. [laughs]
So whereabouts in Africa? South Africa?
Tanzania. East Africa. Yeah, which was incredible.
Yeah. What do your parents do for you to have been living there?
My dad’s an engineer; my mum’s a teacher/supermom. She’s got five children so that takes up quite a lot of the time as well.
And so you moved back here and started going to university. Was that strange? Did you always come back to England?
Well, we always had a house in England, and so we were coming back for holidays. So it’s not like I was disconnected. And I was educated in England. But, effectively, I’ve kind of lived away from home since I was nine. You know, I go home for holidays, but I haven’t lived with my parents since I was about nine years old. I mean about apart from, like, two-month holidays.
Crazy. And so what did you study at university?
OK, so why history?
History was just the option that kind of… it was the subject I was best at in school, and going to boarding school, their emphasis was on academics. You know, if you don’t do an academic degree, then you don’t get a good job in an office, even though from an early age I was convinced I wasn’t going to have an office job. I kind of listened to their rhetoric. My favorite subject was art, which is the subject that I worked the hardest at and I loved, but I just didn’t have enough self-confidence. I always saw myself as a bit of a pretender. So even though I got an “A” at A-level, which I was really happy with, it never really seemed like an option; and now, retrospectively, I’m gutted I didn’t do something I really enjoy more at uni because some of my friends did broadcasting and art, and they actually enjoyed going to their degrees.
I mean I was in a similar situation: I went to boarding school and felt that it was the fact that the school was largely academic. Although you can do things like art and music and stuff, there was almost no encouragement given to do that sort of thing.
No, and that was the problem. That’s the same in every school, though. It’s like academics is the focus, and there’s loads of kids who fall through the cracks because their brain doesn’t work like that. My brain, when it comes to maths and science, I just can’t understand it. But if you were to find out what kids were good at and nurture it… Everyone’s got a skill, and it’s trying to, like, instill in kids that, maybe you’re good with your hands so do some carpentry because you’re going to earn double the amount your friends are in an office working as a skilled worker, you know? And it’s not a kind of lower-class job.
I did youth work in Brixton recently with a friend — Ben UFO — and there were a lot of kids who’d been kicked out of school or jobless or been to prison or whatever, and once you just sat down and talked to them about music, they kind of forgot about all their problems, and they were just really cool kids who were really interested in it. So I think you just need to focus more on that. The problem is our government will never focus on that because it doesn’t support capitalism. It doesn’t support commerce, really. “Oh yeah, maybe you should try becoming a musician.” It’s not like you’re actually going to contribute to our economy.
What’s the social work that you and Ben UFO have been doing?
To be fair, the course ended about last Christmas, but we did it for about four or five months. He’d done a lot more. I just kind of came in. It’s called Raw Material, and it’s just teaching kids how to produce, how to get their music out there and stuff. It’s just a general hands-on thing, learning to DJ and all sorts. They wrote a couple of tunes together, and my involvement was just one day a week for four months. I’m hoping to go back, but it’s kind of… I think it’s stagnated a bit, that specific course. It was just something I needed to do at a time when I kind of felt like all I was doing was sort of self-serving music work. But it’s definitely something I want to continue doing; it’s just finding the kind of right avenues. It’s really interesting and not in a kind of wanting to give something back sort of cheesy way, you know? I mean I grew up surrounded by really abject poverty in Tanzania, not to imply I was living in poverty, we were expats, but my parents were and are still very involved in all this charitable work out there. And I can’t really just come back and then just switch it off, you know?
Do you do music full time?
Yeah. Coming up to a year and a half.
Excellent. So what were you doing beforehand?
I was working in a bar. Just working.
So it was basically like get some money, just enough to focus on music?
Yeah, it was sort of, like, earn enough money just literally to pay the rent and eat. I was living on something hideous like 100 pounds a week. And that was, like, food, rent, everything. Rent was, like, 60 quid.
So when was it that you knew that you were going to do music as opposed to doing something with your university degree?
Well, music was… I never really… I went straight into bar work. The first year after leaving uni was just, like, “Oh, I’m just going to piss around and stay in Leeds as a kind of faux student.” But music started to happen kind of slowly, and then it just was last November, as in November a year ago, that I decided to just take a punt on it. [laughs] It’s quite amusing. I thought I had a big PRS payment coming in because I got quite a few tunes played on Radio 1, but it was the classic “didn’t really know how it worked,” and it takes months for it to filter through. So I quit my job, and then I got my PRS statement, and it was like 54 pounds. I was like, “Oh my god.” I had to borrow a bit of money off my parents. That’s the only time I’ve had to borrow off them since I’ve left university, which I’m kind of quite proud of, considering I’ve paid my rent and my own way really from music since I left. But working in the club, it was just such harrowing work because it wasn’t a bar. I finished at five in the morning four nights a week. And I can’t sleep in late so I was waking up at 10. I was just a zombie for a year. There were times I was just like, “What am I doing?”
Did that give you time to work on music?
Yeah, yeah, totally. I was doing a lot of work on music, but also all my housemates were students. All of our friends were still kind of studying so a lot of people just kind of coming around to our house, and we had the party house. Luckily, I had the room at the top.
So when was it that you decided that music was something you wanted to do? Was it while you were at university?
I DJed at university; I played drum and bass, actually. And then, I don’t know, it happened by accident. Completely by accident. I wrote a tune with David [Kennedy], Pearson Sound, the summer we left uni. It got signed to Aus Music, then I wrote a few more tunes on my own.
So that tune that you wrote with him, was that the first thing you’d really worked on?
Well, I mean I’d been fiddling around with Logic. I’d made five tracks, five finished tracks, but that was the first non-drum and bass track I’d made. With David, the first time we’d actually done something together successfully.
Wow, and you guys were living together?
Yeah, and we still do, actually. And then I just made a few more tunes and sent them to a couple of mates, and [they] made their way to a management company who then signed me up, and they helped me get an agent and they hooked up a FACT mix and helped get an EP with Phonica. So they had the contacts to send out my music because I had no idea. I’d been trying to write drum and bass for two years and having no joy, so I just thought, “It’s going to take me at least two years until people are even listening to my music in house.” And then to find out from the moment you’ve made your first record, like — I don’t know, eight months later, [having] Sasha play your record is like a complete head-spin. [laughs]
In many ways the fact that you did that with David must have been a huge leg up, really.
Yeah, I suppose so.
It’s like instant street cred right there because he was already established.
It was funny because we wrote it kind of just before he really exploded. It was kind of that year; 2011 was just his year, you know? We wrote it at the tail end of 2010. And quite a few people did sort of say, “It’s quite handy that you did that,” but really it just came down to we’d been mates for three years, and we were a bit bored at his parents’ house that one summer day. I’d just gone down because I was bored at home. We were just driving around in my mum’s car, and we were like, “Yeah, let’s write a kind of Chicago-house record,” just a really pastiche-y house record. But then we actually got into it and took it a little more seriously. But it was just a load of fun, man, just sitting in his parents’ attic, just cutting up acapellas and playing keys. But it put a lot of pressure on the releases after because people were always like, “Oh, you’re that guy who made the tunes with Ramadanman.”
Oh yeah, that’s what I was going to ask you about. That must almost be a curse for you.
Because you make house and techno.
And nobody thinks of you as a house and techno producer.
They didn’t, until recently. I think people still thought that I was sort of part of UK bass world, which I am kind of by proxy. It’s not saying that I don’t play and sometimes make things which are classifiable as that, but it’s so much about who you’re seen to be associated with, what sort of labels you’re with, and it’s all how people perceive you. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. You get asked to play one night, which is a really house-y night, and they’ll be posting up the things they think you might be doing. So you’ll be playing a house party, and they’ll be putting up “Your Words Matter” and my last Aus one, the more straight ones. And then you’ll play at a more UK bass night, and they’ll be putting up your earlier ones.
That’s true as well with releasing music. You might release something you made two years ago; to people buying it, that represents you now. But to you it actually it really is something quite old. And so with this last release I did for Aus, I had a few tracks lying around, but I was kind of loathe to use them. So I wrote the tracks all in four months at the same time last year, because I know Will [Saul] is very efficient in how quickly he releases music. And so I think from now on I kind of like the idea of having these tunes and giving them to labels or releasing them shortly after.
I was having a think about this on the way here, because you make music that varies a bit. There are so many producers now who just hone in on one sound and just do that to death. How do you feel about that in terms of perhaps what the public wants? Do you think people are actually after that from an artist? Because it makes it hard, doesn’t it? If you’re trying to put yourself out there and build an image as, “This is me; this is what I do.” If people think they’re going to hear a release from you and the next release is going to be really different, they’re not going to know what to think or what image to form of you.
I know, this is the kind of constant thing that plays on my mind. For instance, I’ve just done two remixes which are quite straight house. And for the third one, I almost feel like a sell-out, using a 4/4 kick drum because I’ve already used it on these two, and that’s not me trying to be like, “Oh, I’ve got to keep my balance,” you know, “I’ve got to keep my slightly wonky stuff,” you know? It’s just that I’ve just spent a month with 4/4 kick drums, and I want to do something different.
You’re kind of bored of it by that stage, yeah.
[laughs] Maybe it’s just that, maybe it’s just a short attention span. Or not even a short attention span, but…
But I guess the thing with music is you always want to push yourself, don’t you? And just do something completely different.
This is true. I think it gets harder to do as you get more of a name. You do kind of see it with artists who have formerly been very interesting, kind of honing in on one sound. There’s nothing wrong with it. But then also you get people like Actress almost just going weirder.
But that’s his thing.
And that’s amazing, you know? It works so well in its kind of disarray. I suppose it’s trying to keep a coherent kind of sound through all the different sort of stops along the way. I suppose that’s it, really. I just like things to have a bit of character. And there’s a lot of people recently who have been asking me what hardware I use, like, “Yeah, man, I like that analog sound you’ve got.” I don’t use any hardware, I just make it on my computer, but I always want it to sound kind of worn. So I’ve got processes which I use that kind of age sounds that aren’t actually played in from old synths, you know? Everyone loves the hardware at the moment. It’s on every press release. The sort of single-sided analog jam, and you listen to it and it’s not great, but the press release is so wordy, and it’s just using all these superlatives and descriptions about what’s actually quite mundane. Hardware is actually quite difficult to work with; and I like hardware, but I think a lot of people are just buying hardware because they think it’s a kind of golden ticket to writing.
They think it’s going to write itself, or something.
That is actually incredibly difficult because you’ve got to sync it up with your sequencer. Most synths like the Juno, the Juno-106, you can’t save patches. Like the one I used to have before it gave up the ghost, you had to touch the corner just to get the cutoff to work. It was temperamental. I think people quite like the temperamentality of it, you know?
I remember I first started going out and buying lots of old analog stuff, and some of the things you get coming out of them because you patched it wrong or you didn’t understand MIDI properly, something else entirely would start playing.
Yeah, totally. I remember reading an article, an interview with Ricardo Villalobos — you know he did that kind of recontextualized jazz with Max Loderbauer. And they were using these crazy modular synths, and he was saying that, you turn it off and you never have that sound again, and there was an element of complete chance. The planets align and you get this sound and you use it, and it’s gone, which is kind of fascinating. I almost think I’m too much of a wimp to do that at the moment; but also, I haven’t been able to afford hardware until recently. I think it’s just a process. I want to try out as much as I can before I invest my money in it. To just learn one synth really well.
Well, I mean that’s the danger, isn’t it? Because it’s so easy to get VST plugins for all these amazing old synths, and you tend to treat them like…
But that’s just part of the problem now, isn’t it? Just, “oh, it doesn’t matter; I’ll buy 10 MP3s because they’re only a quid each,” but then you wouldn’t be doing that if it was 10 records in a record shop. You’d have that thing where you listen to the records, and then you have to do a kind of shortlist, and then you listen to the shortlist, and it’s like, “I really can’t spend more than 40 quid.”
You might even have to throw one back that you really want.
Yeah, and it really hurts. 90 percent of the records I buy on vinyl now are killer, and I suppose I’m getting a bit more selective about the MP3s. But it is, again, that digital thing, and it’s the same with synths. Someone emailed me going, “Oh yeah, what’s a good synth for deep house?” I’m just like, “Any synth will make deep house sounds.” It’s something that took me ages to learn, that the synth is really just someone’s opinion on how to do the same thing, you know? Most synths do exactly the same thing, especially with VSTs. It’s just a design. And once you find the one you like, the chances are you can use that for years, and get completely mental, different sounds out of it every time.
Yeah, I think especially if you really learn how to program properly.
Yeah, totally. I mean I use 90 percent Logic plugins off Logic 7, they’re old but work really well.
Yeah, I mean that’s the thing: when you think about all we’ve got these days to be able to make stuff, compared tolike, 15, 20 years ago, it’s ridiculous.
There’s too much choice. You listen to seminal old records; they had an eight-track, three seconds of memory per track. And you’re like, “how can I twist this one hi-hat.” You know, “I’ve got three hi-hats to choose from. How can I make this one hi-hat really mental?”
Exactly, whereas now you have 28 different effects on each channel, and all sorts.
Yeah. I think if you really want, and if you do use computers to their full potential, you can get some amazing results, but you can also just have 10 tracks with synced loops.
Yeah. Now you were mentioning before about press releases saying at the moment everyone talking about the analog sound sort of thing. How aware do you feel you have to stay of trends? Obviously, within house music or bass music or whatever, there’s certain things that are really hot right now, and when you start to get your name out there a bit more, people expect a certain thing of you. How much does that weigh on your mind when you go in and start to make something?
Not at all. [laughs] Not at all. I got the press release for my last EP, and it was just this really long track-by-track analysis, and I just was like, “Is it alright if I rewrite this, or can I rewrite this with someone independently, and then we just shortened it down a lot. I just really can’t stand track-by-track press releases. I have nothing against people who use them; I’ve got friends who release records who use them, but it’s just telling people what to expect, you know? I like it when it just says “new record from this person.” Or if it’s like Jus-Ed, you know, and it’s, “Don’t buy the fucking MP3s. You’re taking food out of my son’s mouth and stopping me being able to send him to college.” [laughs] I like that. That’s a press release right there.
Exactly. Or get a German person to write it and then translate it into English. I love that.
Kind of really amusing, but in a really deadpan way. But no, the next couple of releases I’m doing, I have really no plans. I’m just going to write some music, basically. I’m in a very lucky position; I’ve got gigs now so I can relax a bit and pay the rent.
Are you now getting approached by labels who are commissioning releases off you?
Yeah, I mean I’ve had a few offers, but I’ve kind of got a quite specific idea of what and where I want to release.
You seem to have a good relationship with Aus.
Yeah, definitely. I mean Will’s basically said, “We’re always here.” You know, obviously there’s a lot of music coming up over the next few months so in terms of if I want to do another one, it would probably be in December or January. But Will is always there, and I love how he works. It’s just really quality, you know? And I’m so lucky to have basically worked with them since I started releasing music. And also, that I’ve had pretty much everything I’ve ever written released on vinyl, which is not something everyone can say. And it’s something that, if I start my own label, it will be top of the list: the vinyl and how it’s presented. And also, if there is a vinyl and you buy the vinyl, you get a free download code.
I think that’s always good. Yeah, that’s something I’ve really appreciated lately. You know, so then you can just download the stuff to listen to when you want, and then you can keep your vinyl pristine for playing.
I still buy at least 100 pounds worth of vinyl a month. All the vinyl-only stuff, and then I rip it, and I play it through Serato. But the whole ripping process is so lengthy. In our house we’ve got a really nice Rega. David has his Rega, so we got that and a phono pre-amp. So we record it in through that and put it into Logic, edit it, limit it, so you’ve these limited, beautifully recorded WAVs of these records, and that preserves them. There’s a record in there which cost me 12 quid, and it’s like if someone scratches that, and it’s one of 300 copies… It is very funny because you get shit off people who are purist vinyl DJs saying, “Oh, you play on your laptops,” and it’s like, “I’m still playing records that I’ve bought. I’m still buying records; it’s just I like it all in one place,” you know?
That’s very interesting, that you go to that effort to keep your vinyl in good nick.
Yeah, yeah. I’ve probably ripped, like… I mean me and David, both of us do it, but I’ll probably spend about eight hours a month ripping vinyl. It’s so satisfying because that way you’re forced to listen to the music, you know?
That’s true. Because I mean that’s one thing that’s hard now, isn’t it? Like, in the past I knew every single piece of vinyl I had, every track.
Well, when it’s ripping you have as long as it takes to record it, and so you just sit there, headphones on, comfy chair. When I used to play vinyl and Serato, I’d forget to play the vinyl. I’d forget to play the tunes in Serato. But it’s very funny because you have people who don’t buy vinyl anymore leaning over like, “What’s this tune? What’s this tune? What’s this tune?” It’s like if you’d kept up with what’s getting released, you’d know. And it’s digging for those tunes which gives your set an interesting edge. Like, I got asked to do a chart for Beatport recently, and I looked at my chart, and only one of the tunes was released this year.
No, I did it all with ones that were on Beatport, but only one that was released this year. I have this really interesting relationship with promos and digital promos, and I kind of like to discover music of my own where you go on those tangents. The other day I knew nothing about Masters At Work so I spent a day just researching. Then you start reading up about them and working out who they worked with and finding all these little nooks and crannies. And that’s one day, and you get to the end and you’re completely rinsed out. I like the idea of playing music in sets that people don’t know if it’s new or old. And I think if something was worth playing four years ago and it’s still worth playing now, then it’s a timeless record. And then obviously you still play records and then [think], “Why did I play that?” But it’s kind of nice to try and limit the amount of times that happens. But sometimes you have gigs where the crowd is just completely not feeling what you’re playing, and you’ve to go a little bit harder or cheesier, and then you get to the end and you feel dirty. [laughs]
With that in mind, what about remixes? You’ve done quite a few remixes. Are there any sort of on the verge of “I’m not sure if I should do this”?
Yeah, there were a couple of ones I did very early on and it was like, “Wow, someone wants me to remix, and they’re going to give me some money, and it’s good and it will pay my rent for three months when I’m really really poor.” But now it’s like, ughhh. Everyone’s a genius in hindsight though and I think now it’s a matter of what’s the label like? What’s the artist like? What’s the tune like? And if that’s cool then… But as of this last one — and I always say this — I do really, really want to limit it because sometimes you finish something and you think, “That could have been a really good track of mine.”
Deetron said a similar thing, that he would only do remixes now with vocals in them because otherwise he felt he was giving away a free track.
That’s very true. I think remixes are a funny because they’re just as important as a really good tune. But I think Levon Vincent put it really well in an interview in RA when he was talking about remixes as a commodity thing. They want a bit of your image, you want a bit of theirs, and it kind of made me think, “Why do they want your remix?” Is it because I fill their edgy UK underground box, and it makes me kind of wonder. But then there are amazing remixes, like the Marcel Dettmann remix of Junior Boys. Man, that’s a remix. Actually I played the Carl Craig remix of that Junior Boys track…
“Like A Child.”
Yeah. And I’d never played it out before and it’s like four minutes until the kick drum comes in and by the time the kick drum comes in people are totally losing their shit. It’s such a good feeling to be able to do a remix like that and know that it’s going to take a DJ with balls to play it. I’m not saying I’m a trailblazing DJ, it was 5am when I played it. But I was talking to my housemates the other day and we were saying how big tunes, often, are the ones that catch you and get you into a groove from the off, you know? They’re not too much for people to process but they’re just enough to get people interested. It’s a simplicity, which I often don’t do. It’s always too complicated I think. You flick into one part of the tune and you’re like, “Errr, that’s OK,” but really you want to be able to tell people to wait because in two minutes that last bit will make sense and the whole thing will have grown. But maybe I’m just jealous because I can’t write stripped back bangers.
It’s a real problem in production in that you’re always trying to pack lots of ideas in rather than just work on a groove.
Yeah, you’ve got to be very militant and really question as to what you need in the track. I think it always gets to that stage where you feel like you need more elements where all you really need is to just work on the parts you already have.
So what’s in your record bag?
This is a Jon Heckle remix of Trackmasta Lou, which is just humungous. Then there’s this new one on the Rawax label. All of the records under this banner are really good. If I ever get asked to play at Panorama Bar, then these records are weird enough and also heavy enough. Then there’s this new one on Voodoo Down, which I didn’t get for the STL track. I do love his stuff but then I have ten of his records and they’re very similar sounding.
He’s one of those guys who just really work on honing a particular sound.
Yeah, I think that’s why it’s quite good to work sometimes with an alias, because people won’t then have preconceptions about what it will sound like. But then every time I try and work under an alias my management always tell me I might as well release it as Midland, or I just end up doing that anyway.
So you haven’t got any secret ones out yet?
No, not yet, but it’s still early days. I just work really slowly. That’s why I’m looking forward to the next few months, because I’m going to finish this remix and then I’m going to write four twelve inches by the end of the year. What’s that? Like one every two months or so, so it’s not that much really.
And how often are you playing gigs?
Pretty much every weekend. This weekend I’m playing Rome on Saturday and then Bristol on Saturday. It’s enough time to recover and be productive. I like to keep the week and the weekend separate. My housemates are always joking with me that I DJ on the weekend and drink too much, but then during the week I’m really militant, eating really well and getting to bed early, just preparing for the next weekend. I mean I’m not one of those people who feels like they can party all weekend, I fell like I’m too old for that now. I mean I’m only 25 but I think I might just be a bit of an old man. All my friends say that about me. I just prefer to do things like get the paper on a Sunday, relaxing, play some darts, I don’t know.
So what can you tell us about the mix that you put together for us? Things you’ve been diggin lately?
Well not necessarily things I’m feeling right at this minute per se, not in the sense of like a Beatport chart or anything, but more perhaps things people haven’t heard before. With a mix, usually I like to start slow and it’s like a dot to dot. It’s not that I have certain tunes and they have to be in the mix, it’s more a case of having a tune and then figuring out what the next one should be, whether it’s something I’ve already got or something I have to go and buy. So there is a theme, from slow and fuzzy sort of disco stuff through to some weird rhythmic stuff before the house comes in. There are different sections… Maybe it’s just really self-indulgent tripe, but I just like it when people say to me, “I really love your mix, I listen to it every day on the way to work or when I’m at the gym, or when I’m going on the train.” When you’re sound-tracking someone’s journey, that’s when you know you’re doing a good job.
I mean it’s a very different thing, isn’t it? You’ve got to approach it from a completely different angle than just putting your records together to go out and play a set.
Yeah, totally. And that’s why when people are asking all the time for podcasts, I say that I only really do one or two a year, max. And they’re like, “Oh, come on. Just 30 minutes of a live set.” But I think if you want your mix to stick out, or if you want your mix to be something people go back to, you’ve got to put in some effort because there are so many mixes these days, and I’m pretty sure that if I put out five mixes a year, people would be less inclined to listen to them properly. But then again, once people start to trust your selection implicitly, like someone like Ben UFO, they just know it.
He could put out five mixes a year, and–
Yeah, and we’d all want to listen to it. He’s a really good mate of mine, and this sounds like such a kiss-ass compliment, but I find the prospect of a new mix from him is almost the same level of excitement as a new Radiohead or Actress album, you know? It’s like, “I have no idea what’s going to be in here, but I’m so looking forward to it, and I need to give it some time.”
You mentioned you want to finish off a few EPs, but have you got sort of any plans over the next year? Things you want to achieve with what you’re doing?
Not really. I mean I just want to write some interesting music, basically. I got closer to it over the last EP, being happy with stuff. But I’m still kind of finding my feet, I think. So I’ve just finished a 12″ with Pariah, which is quite banging, quite techno-y. We wrote one of the tunes a year ago, and the flip-side we’ve just written. But we were very conscious about how they sound as a pair. They ended up sort of harder than I think anyone would have heard me and him go. So that will be quite interesting. And it’s quite funny because one of the tunes went up on YouTube, and everyone was like, “No, this is definitely a Karenn tune, this is definitely a Blawan tune. The percussion’s too heavy to be a Midland tune.” [laughs] So again, that’s just how people perceive you.