We caught up with Daniel Martin-McCormick of Ital/Mi Ami/Sex Worker fame during a few days off in Berlin. He’d just played at Unsound in Krakow, solo and in a once-off collaboration with Jamal Moss (of Heiroglyphic Being fame).
This Saturday he plays the Button Factory with Jacques Greene and oOoOoo as part of the Static Weekender. His new album, Dream On, is just out on Planet Mu.
So you just collaborated with Jamal Moss at Unsound, how did that come about? I know he’d done that remix for you before.
We’d been in touch since the remix, on and off, so for like the last two years and we met for the first time this past spring. I always though it would be cool to jam with him or something, I don’t know what. I was going to do a collaboration with Laurel Halo at Unsound but then it ended up not being able to work out timing wise and it seemed like the best option. There were a couple of other people on the table but I knew he always makes his sets always the day of and was very down to generally wing it, I think! His style was so raw and then when he came to New York to play a show that my girlfriend set up, we were hanging out a bunch the day before. He was laying out al these crazy ideas. His initial ideas were like, he’d just been hearing about dubstep and so he thought we should make some dubstep but make it real like rocksteady loops and dub it out with electronic beats under it! I was kind of like, ‘Ok….’ but it was one of those things where, if this is where the conversation is starting at, it’ll probably be pretty awesome! So that’s how we got started. Unsound was into it and it was cool.
I saw you at CTM in Berlin earlier in the year which seems to have a similar feeling and program to Unsound. Do you like those kinds of festivals?
CTM felt a lot like Unsound in terms of being like the zone between avant music, DIY noise and electronic party music, different things like Stellar OM Source who is super ravey but then coming out of drone and these sort of in-between zones. I feel like it’s half a circuit, half maybe a trend or something like that. I think they’re great, they’re some of my favourite shows to play because people are all jazzed up to hear a bunch of music and usually there’s great sound. People are like, ‘I just saw this amazing thing, now I’m coming over to your thing’ and they’re really open to hearing a lot of different stuff rather than it being like ‘Its Friday night and I’ve been working all week and I’m pent up and want to rage’. I think actually my least favourite is playing some club situation where people maybe aren’t aware of who I am and maybe just expect fun DJing and get potentially bummed out when something weirder comes in because they just want some solid, nullified experience. But festivals are great because people are really ready to hear almost whatever as long as it’s good so I feel pretty free to do whatever. I mean, I’d do whatever I’m going to do anyways!
CTM had its “Spectral” theme, all about sound as a haunting, ghosts, etc. Are you into that?
I’m down with dark stuff but that’s not really my zone. I feel like it’s kind of like a Euro zone right now. Like in Berlin there seems to be a lot of spooky gothic stuff going around, and in the UK too. That kind of haunting, ghostly apparition vibe is not my thing at all. I feel very much in the world!
Was it different then at Unsound? What is the feeling like there?
Definitely Unsound has a very Euro, high culture thing going on which I think is awesome. It has a very well curated, nice vibe to it. It does more to make the raw, DIY stuff more high art, or legit by association, rather than making the so-called high art stuff seem more raw, you know what I mean? That’s partially the environment you’re playing in as well, like really nice museums with really nice sound systems and things. I don’t know, I don’t have a massively formed thesis to lay out on the map.
So this tour is an audio/visual thing with Aurora, was that always part of the plan, to have that extra visual element? How has it been working out?
Yeah, she was on board very early. I know it was sort of pitched as this whole package so our London show is some special thing or something, I don’t know the venue but it’s still got to be like a room with a crushing sound system. Although, in Russia it was not! We just played in Moscow on Saturday and it was this hilariously raw venue with two of these Mackie combo speakers with no sub. And like when there’s no sub I know it’s going to sound insane because it’s all these frequencies getting smashed through these two tiny speakers. Also Aurora had requested a fog machine – because we have some fog and lights along with the projections so it’s not just like me standing in front of a giant TV screen – but they we went way over the top with the fog! When I was setting up, I had to do it on the floor first on a tabletop with no legs underneath and we were going to move that over to where I was going to play. It was right next to the fog machine and they were like, ‘Alright, here we go!’ and it was like BSHHHHH! Right in my face! I had all my cables on the ground and I was like, ‘I can’t even see anything!’, total cumshot right in my face. The fog came out so hard that when I looked up, I was like, ‘this place is either full or empty, I have no idea’ and the visuals were completely lost. The sound was like so fucked up! It was hilarious. But mostly it’s been nice visual setups and good sound and everything has been cool.
Has the conversation around your music changed much for you since Hive Mind came out or in the last couple of years?
There’s not a crazy reaction. Maybe like last year it was like, ‘Who is this guy? OK, there’s this label’ and then when Hive Mind came out, they were like ‘Ok, we’ve got Audacity, this is crazy’ and there was a lot of focus on the celebrity samples which was fair enough. Now people are just starting to take in the new record. For me, the big thing that has shifted is that there has been so many more live shows. When I did Hive Mind last year, when I actually recorded it at home, I was starting to play shows but I had a really, really shanky set up. I had fun but really it was about translating these recordings I’d made to a live setting. Now everything has shifted to being live first just because of all the touring and stuff, the audacity is a lot less integral to the music. Like Dream On was still super Audacity’d out, but a lot of those songs I’d worked out live or maybe written on an Electribe or something like that. The conversations about it have just begun though, this is one of the first, so I’m not sure what people are going to be asking.
When we talked at the start of this year, a lot of the conversation was about people like Pete Swanson and Container and those guys taking noise and bringing it to the club, that kind of thing. Is that still a thing for you?
I’m totally fine with that narrative honestly because I don’t want to be evaluated in the same as something on Hessle Audio where it’s like a UK head who has been DJing since he was 13 and came up on drum and bass and is going to have a totally different sound than me. I feel there’s a lot of people who came up on breakcore or jungle or something, like some 90s shit and now they’re still making tracks and that’s a really, really different vibe than me. I hope the music stands up as music but I really respect Swanson and Container and Vatican Shadow and these people because I feel they’re using some tools from techno just for their own means and it’s not about a complete change in direction, which I can relate to big time. The main thing that always bugged me was sometimes people would say this is like house or something like that and sure, maybe on the early twelve-inches you could hear that but people were still saying it about Hive Mind and I was like I don’t think you are listening to this music because I was not for a second thinking about wanting to evoke the spirit of house’s past or anything like that. I could not care less. I mean, I think it’s a cool vibe when people pull it off but that’s not where I’m coming from at all. So don’t say anything like that!
I won’t! It’s interesting though because you have someone like Juju and Jordash then who are coming from that house/techno background and they’re bringing it somewhere new and weird with results not that distant from your own.
Yeah, totally, they’re doing their thing. It’s really interesting how someone like Theo, who is like a house legend and is very much of that world, is super similar to a lot of noise artists because his music is weird and abstract and not at times DJ-able or just bizarre but at the same time, the way he makes it bizarre or experimental is almost tangential. Since he is coming from house first, it’s not this experimental mentality which is then appropriating house, it’s starting from this core and then reaching out super far and super deep into the unknown. That compared to Black Dice’s Cone Twister is really interesting because there’s a lot of surface similarities that are valid but then there’s a lot of undercurrents that are not at all similar that are also really interesting. Juju and Jordash are cool because they’re pretty young and whatever is happening, it’s good to have a crew of new generation or something like that. Inevitably I think everybody comes from their own place, is lumped together for a while and then splinters out. I saw that happening in DC when I was living there and I saw it in San Francisco too. No one is going anywhere for a while, everyone is going to the same bars or the same shows and slowly people develop their thing and you find out how unique everyone really is.
That’s a very positive way of looking at things!
Yeah man, gotta keep it positive in this cold world!