INTERVIEW – Midland (English Version)
Photo : Brice Robert Photographe
Three years ago, Harry Agius released his first EP featuring Ramadanman ‘Pearson Sound’ Kennedy. Since then, he has put out many more releases and pushed boundaries exploring various atmospheres. Though he’s not to be labeled lightly, it is safe to say that Midland is producing House and Techno with a range of influences going further than his English roots. His connection to Bass music mainly being his ability to make the club’s walls sweat.
The past week, he also released his first EP on his very own label:
ARCHIVE 01 / REALTIME
Interview with the Englishman with no limit right before his set during the infamous HASTE WEEKEND EDITION.
To get you in the mood, you’ll find a Video Report (courtesy of Stellar Fugitives) and a selection of tracks below.
Let’s start with something easy, what are you working on at the moment ?
huuum this drink :laugh:
In all seriousness, I’m working on starting a label [Graded], which everyone does these days. But it’s gonna be different this time :laugh:
Is it gonna be vinyl-only ? Also seems to be the trend.
No. Everyone does it to be cool. Some people does it because they love vinyl. I play Serato, I buy a lot of vinyls. It’s just hypocritical for me to use Serato and then do vinyl-only. So yeah, i’m starting my label and i’ve also been writing quite a lot of music. I’m in a lucky position at the moment where I’ve got quite a lot of gigs. So I don’t feel the need to write music to get work.
I’m just enjoying making music which is the best.
With everything going digital, where do you think this whole vinyl-only trend is coming from ? Is it some kind of way to give a release its deserved importance in an era of dematerialization or mostly a mean to be exclusive?
I think some people love vinyl so much that they want to put it all into vinyl. In some cases maybe people are doing it to make it more exclusive. I was considering doing vinyl-only for my label because I thought “you’re gonna settle the record. Know the people who really want it.”
But then I just thought, at the end of the day it’s not my decision how people enjoy music. Is it ? So that’s my decision. And I think, as long as this is done well, then it doesn’t matter what format it’s released on. It’s just music at the end of the day.
Digital also try to make itself wanted. Previews, teasers, promos, …
Yeah. I just hate the way now it’s like “Like and share this and if I get a thousands likes I will release the clip of the second track on the second …”. And it gets to the stage when the song comes out and you’re just so bored of it. Like the Daft Punk songs, at first it was cool, and then it was boring and now I’m like I don’t even want to listen to the songs. I didn’t buy it.
With illegal downloading and streaming becoming the new standard I’m sometimes afraid I might be growing among a generation whom doesn’t really know what true sound sounds like. You also feeling that vibe?
I used to play mp3s in clubs and then I was thinking: “an mp3 is 13mb, a wav is 60mb. You can’t get the same quality, you just can’t.” And people say you can’t hear it but on a good system you can.
And then you have to pay for it.
Yeah but I like paying for wav cause then you have to be more selective. It’s like buying records. I still buy tracks on wav and vinyl, because I like having a vinyl. So I end up spending like 20 pounds every time but if a record is worth having, its worth having on every format.
You’re curious and always find new directions, do you think you’ll ever reach some kind of climax and settle or is experimenting part of your creative process ?
I never really set out to experiment especially. I just sit down and sort of make music really. Sometimes it sounds quite one thing, sometimes quite another. I think growing up with the internet, everyday you’re exposed.. Like one day you’ll listen to Folk music all day and you’ll want to go and write something really dynamic or organic and the next day you’ll hear loads of like.. Gabber .. and you’ll want to make something relentless. It’s not that simple but I think this is not much experimenting but refining. Like I used to write stuff that was headphone music and then recently I’ve been writing a lot more clubby and now I’m trying to find a kind of balance.
So you reckon you’re trying to find that special touch.
Yeah, the perfect headphone song for a club. But as soon as you start repeating yourself it starts to get boring.
Which tool or knowledge would you say greatly improved your music?
The tool which helped me the most is good monitors. Good speakers. If you start producing music on good monitors then at least you know what you’re hearing is real. And so I always had good speakers and at the beginning it just sounded terrible and then it started to sound better. And then you play a bit more in clubs and you understand what sounds good. Too much details just get lost. It’s all about finding what sounds good in a club.
About your DJing performance. I, for one, like to think of your sets as food for feet and thougts. It holds this kind of narrative and you also got these tracks. These unexpected tracks and never-heard before tracks, where does they come from? I’m thinking of this Free For All (Soundstream Remix) that drove me mad, for instance.
You know, i’m still discovering. I haven’t been mixing good House and Techno for three years. And, you know, I found that Soundstream record just one day and I’m pretty sure that when it was around the first time everyone was playing it, and I don’t know that. So people hear you playing that track and feel like ” Uh.”. It’s like a kid who starts DJing tomorrow and find Battle From Middle You from Julio Bashmore, not knowing anything about it and thinking it’s like some hidden thing that no one knows about. And it’s good though. Because all DJs play all tunes in a different way. Recontextualise it. Ben UFO and I talked about a release of his, I played the A-side and he’s always playing the B-side, you know. :laugh: And I think my goal as a DJ is to always play the unexpected B-sides and get the reaction. Because if you get people singing to as song that’s weird and unknown it’s much more satisfying than pulling the first tune off Beatport.
You like being challenging to your audience. Like not giving..
Not giving them everything at once. Basically. I always try to freak them out.
How do you keep a tight record bag over the years? Do you still regurlarly play tracks that you used to play when you started DJing?
I’m not really worried about having new stuff. I don’t ever really play promos now.
Maybe you’ve simply got an ability to pick tunes and mix them down appropriately.
:laugh: No, it’s really about learning that the crowds are always different.
Still, I get the feeling that by being challenging you’re the one driving the crowd and not the other way around.
Yes and no, there are so many other variables that come into it. Like, I remember playing a song one night, and the crowd going crazy. Playing the same song the next night and the crowd just .. didn’t listen to it. A really good DJ told me that it’s good timing. Every track in the world has a moment and it’s just knowing it. So I look back through old crates and I look back through old records and I think “oh yeah I’ll start playing that again!”. Because it kind of makes sense with what you’re playing now. But I don’t really take too much note of what’s new. Give it 6 months. See how it sounds in 6 months.
Do you spend time just listening to music? Like not doing anything else? Or maybe dancing. Deep listening.
You know what, not enough.
So do you keep looking for new music or do you just occasionally stumble upon it?
Yeah sometimes I spend a day searching for new music. Well ‘new music’ has in never heard before. And you can find on or two records that are gonna be the great records of your sets for the next three months. I found this record by Jasper Street Company and it’s just a vocal house track but it’s a huge vocal house track. And I’ve been playing it in my sets and people have been going nuts and it’s been like, my weapon.
And everyone was like “what is it? what is it?”. And now it’s all over the internet “this is the name” “this is the name”. It’s all gone offa Discogs. And you know what, it’s cool. Just find another one. That’s the challenge. But, yeah, I don’t listen to music enough like all the way through. I’ve never been good at that. But sometime you buy an album, like Radiohead or the new James Blake album. I will make sure that I have an entire train journey to listen to this. But I don’t really take too much time listening, yay.
So I gather Dance Music is not all you listen to ..?
No, I don’t listen to a huge amount of Dance Music when I’m not DJing or producing. I dunno.. Electronic music but not so much the House Music
Do you think it’s still relevant to release albums in Dance Music. Considering digital download allows us to pick one track out of any release anyway? What does a release hold to you?
Well some people think an album is like the next step logical step. Some feel the album is something they’re required to do. Some artists are just better at releasing albums. I live with Dom from Mount Kimbie and they released an album two years ago and they’re releasing one now. They don’t do lots of singles. That’s their thing. It’s the same for John Roberts who released the best/one of the best House albums of what-I-think ever, and he’s releasing another but not so many singles. I think now it’s so easy to release an album and for me it should be a bit of labour. You’ve got to kind of go a bit crazy and you’ve kind of have to hate everything and not understand everything and ..
The romantic way.
Totally. If i’m writing an album I’m gonna go like seaside and lock myself away. For like two months. Or maybe not. Maybe i’ll just write it in London.
You also like to put either huge or discreet samples in your tracks. I get a feeling it’s a way to add some grain to your tracks as well as a part of you. In a kind of Surrealist “put-life-back-into-art” process. :laugh:
I dunno. I used to sample a lot. Sometimes you start a tune with a sample, sometimes you start a tune with a synth. It’s a way to start. I like the tunes that sound like they’ve been made by someone’s hand you know. As opposed to a computer. So maybe have a field recording or something off a vinyl to give it some life. The aim is always to make it sound like it was made on hardware. But it wasn’t actually made on hardware. That’s always the best. :laugh:
Do you often need some time off, like you’ve been hearing too much?
Definitely man. March, just now, was just intense. I played fifteen gigs in a month. I’m at home like three days or four days. So I took the first week of April off and I’ve had seven or eight gigs this month, that’s nice. And then I’ll take July and January off. But you know I’m lucky that people want me to play music. My mum is like “Where are you playing in May?”, and I’m like “here, here, here, here, here” and she’s like “Woah”. So it’s really cool. At the end of the day, I get paid to travel, the DJing is free. Cause the DJing is great. :laugh: It’s just the sitting on the plane that is boring.
What kind of music, apart of House and Techno, gets you dancing or excited?
What do you dance to and is not Dance Music… Huuum.. I don’t really dance much, like ever.
Do you tilt your head then?
A little bit. Hip Hop – sometimes. Classical music. Folk – I like Folk music, yeah. African music – I used to live in Africa. I play quite a lot of African music at the moment. Yeah, all sorts you know, everyone listen to anything these days.
To finish, what kind of well-liked music turns you off or displeases you?
The songs really old-fashioned you know. A lot of Pop music these days, the kids have really bad images to aspire to. You’ve got like Rihanna singing about some guy who couldn’t get it up. And it’s… I mean I used to listen to Cypress Hill when I was 13 you know but at least you knew they were badass, and that they hate the police and that they’re smoking loads of weed. But people like Rihanna are like role models but are actually bad role models.
Young kids growing up and thinking they ought to be like these people it’s bullshit.
I managed to avoid any Rihanna song since like 3 years, I mean what kind of music do you really have to go through?
Oh. Hardstyle is quite difficult man. Like in Holland. Puff.. Gabber..
But there aren’t any music I find that hard to get aboard with.
Else I just don’t listen to it.
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