Mala's Record Collection Reflects The Life And Times Of A UK Pioneer

Photos by Dave O’Donnell.

From Plastic People to producing records in Peru. Mala’s (Mark Lawrence) story might be one with UK roots, but his head is one with an increasingly global perspective.

It would make sense, perhaps, to suppose that in the decade of experimentation since dubstep’s peak producers like Mala have found a new lease of life. That free from the confines of a “scene” he, along with the likes of Peverelist and Pinch, has discovered new models for dark instrumentation. To suppose that, however, would be a mistake. Mala was never trapped in the first place. “I feel very privileged and honored that people talk about me the way they do relating to dubstep,” he tells me, “but in my own mind I’ve never just been that.” That ethos has never been more present than on Mirrors, his latest full length on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings. For the album, Mala traveled to Peru to record there, building relationships with local artists and joining the dots between Croydon and Lima. In his words, “It would have been grossly inappropriate to have gone in and dictated. Instead it was about asking people to show me.”

We are sitting in the basement of Brownswood Recordings. Beams of Friday morning sunlight that have broken through paste the walls of records around us, and on the floor in front of him is a bag stuffed with records of his own. We are here to discuss his life in music, and to listen to the tracks and albums he counts as the most personally important to him. Across the two hours we spend together, palming through records and retreading his career, Mala offers an insight into the music, movements and moments that have defined a UK pioneer.

THUMP: What was the first record you ever owned?
Mala: It’s bad. Do you know “Mickey” by Tony Basil? It’s a full on 80s pop song. My mum bought it for me. I must have been two years old. I must have danced to it and enjoyed it, as you do when you’re a toddler. I’ve still got the record somewheremy mum wrote on it “Mark’s record” and the date.

Did you parents inform a lot of the music you listened to?
I don’t remember my mum and dad playing a lot of music around the house when I was growing up. Some of my friends’ dads would get all their records out on a Sunday and play them through a proper soundsystemI never really had that type of day at my house. That said my mum and dad’s old record collection spans everything from old Michael Jackson, to Stevie Wonder, to other stuff on Motown, to Trojan Records, then to Dire Straits and the Police. In my house I guess I grew up with a mixed range.

What music first got you really inspired?
Christmas ’92 I got a hi-fi stereo. We were at my nan’s and I remember taking the stereo back to Norwood in South London, tuning it, then hearing this mad hardcore breakbeat. That was me. I was hooked straightaway. That jungle sound, it transformed me straight away. It was like all other music started to fall away and my taste started to hone in much more. It sounded so alien, but at the same time I felt so connected to it.

What’s a good example of an early jungle record that was important to you?
Embee releasing on Splash Recordings. “Niceness” in 1994. These were the tunes. It was jungle that made me pick up the pen and start writing lyrics, cos me Pokes and Coki all used to MC, and this was when we were at school.

What happened to your MCing?
As time went on I got involved MCing under-18 parties. The first person I ever MC’d for professionally was Kenny Ken. I ended up MCing for the likes of Nicky Blackmarket, Micky Finn, Jumpin Jack Frost, Randall, at a very young age. It was then that I got booked to play at a garage ravethis is skipping forward, 1997, 98. As a result of being in that scene I met people, we made a track together, got signed to EMI, did the whole music video major label bullshit.

Really? I had no idea!
Yeah, we were signed for a one single deal, but it crashed. At the time I thought, this is it, I’m going to get paid, get a house for my mum. At that age I didn’t feel like I was compromising who I was. I was 20 years old, the girls looked good, so at the time it felt amazing. My then manager and the A&R spoke to me once after it was released. Because it didn’t go into the top 20 as they’d expectedit went into the top 40they cut ties. For a 20 year old that’s quite harsh. That properly knocked the wind out of me, and it happened around the time garage was slowing down. I had to go back to normal work, having spent nearly a year touring in a Space Cruiser with a PlayStation in the back. To come from that hype, that expectation, telling all your peers, all your friends, your family. To have that happen, it was devastating. But looking back, it’s the best thing that could have happened. It’s why I became so independent, it’s what led to DMZ, Deep Medi. I understand the music business is music and business, but when you work with people, especially youngsters, who have dreams, you have to take care of them.

That’s a lot to process at that age. Was there a record that changed your perspective about what music could mean?
At that time I’d also listened to an album by a guy called Nitin Sawhney, called Beyond the Skin. If you were to tell me I could only take away one album, that’s the one I would take. I think it’s a fantastic record. I probably take time twice a year, every year since I first heard it, to play it in full. I got invited to do a session with him and I don’t think he believed me when I told him how much I loved his music, until I started singing all the lyrics. One of my favorite records from that album is called “Tides” and another, with such a heavy mood, is a track called “Anthem Without a Nation”.

I notice you’ve also brought some Ruff Sqwad with you.
I bought this when it came out. Ruff 1A and Ruff 1B, the first Ruff Squad release, “Pied Piper”. I had a look for this on eBay the other day and it’s going for about 600. It’s one of the rarest I’ve got. Probably only about 500 of these were pressed. I remember buying it at Blackmarket records.

That level of rarity must be true of a lot of records you producedis it fair to say dubstep encouraged that culture of exclusivity through dubplates?
That was our education. Pirate radio station, nobody would say the name of the tune, but only that DJ would be playing it. Going to raves, going to Metalheadz. Going back to the soundsystem culture, it was just ingrained in me as part of that lineage. More than that though I didn’t want to be misrepresented. Coming off the back of the EMI thing, people had treated my dreams like they were throwaway, so this I kept very close. I listened to everybody’s sets, and not everybody’s sets I felt suited my music. I know some people were offended by it, cos I got some very interesting phone calls. I was never obligated. We were militant.

How much did grime and dubstep overlap in those early days?
Everything we were doing was running side by side with the whole grime thing. Funnily enough my first international show was with Skepta, Jammer, Logan Sama, that was in 04, 05. They weren’t really overlappingwe did have the same agent if I remember correctlybut they were very much doing their thing, and we were doing our thing. It was more of a mutual respect: “this is London, and this is all going on in London”.

What records inspired your perspectives of London?
Roots Manuva, Run Come Save Me. He was a Londoner, talking reality in a time where everything was about entertainment and fantasy. You need someone like Roots Manuva to come down with the real talk. You’d get into his record because the beats were sick but then the lyrics and the content had so much to give. I’d read the sleeves when I was making music, and with Roots Manuva I’d read that he was writing and producing everything himself. That was so inspiring.

Do you have any records here that you’ve sampled somewhere?
Misty in Roots, Live at the Counter Eurovision. It’s a live recording from 1979. If you listen to a record of mine called “New Life”, this is where I got the sample from. I was very lucky that John Peel was the first person on the BBC to play my music and I was once invited to his home where I got to look through his records, he had something ridiculous like 110,000 and they are all archived. His wife cooked this wonderful food for us and I remember there was this hand-stitched plaque on the wall that had this opening speech on it.

From what we’ve discussed and what you’ve played me, it seems that relationships and guidance are really important to your music. Is that true of your most recent efforts with Gilles and Brownswood?
The Cuba recordMala In Cubawas very much Gilles’ vision. Despite having not really recorded for anyone else in the past, knowing Gilles and his approach it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. But the Peru record, they just said: do you want to do another one? I’d always wanted to go to Peru, I felt like this was the time.

I can hear listening to the albumMirrorsthat the landscape of Peru has had a profound effect on you.
It’s a very powerful land, I think it’s to do with the Amazon. Somewhere that ancient, that alive. You sit at the top of Machu Picchu and the whole place just resonates. It’s very difficult to explain, no picture or documentary could give you a sense of what it’s like to sit up thereand I was sitting there with my partner and my two kids. It took me deeply internal. The place was a mirror. I was looking out but getting a reflection back.

Mirrors is out now on Brownswood Recordings.

You can follow Angus on Twitter.

Ibiza Clubs Space And Privilege Searched Just Days After Amnesia Raid

Space Ibiza. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Days after Ibiza nightclub Amnesia was raided twice over by Spanish police, two more of the island’s popular establishments have been searched.

As local news outlet Diario de Ibiza reports, authorities and officials from Spain’s national Tax Agency (AEAT) entered Space and Privilege around 6 am this morning (July 8). Reportedly, the searches are part of a countrywide investigation, called “Operation Chopin,” which looks at finances within the nightlife sector with a focus on potential fraud. In all, 87 clubs are to be inspected, four of them located in Ibiza.

The searches are allegedly not related to the incident at Amnesia, in which police arrested four people (including club owner Martin Ferrer, his son, the club’s general/business manager, and the club’s accountant) and raided their homes in an investigation of “crimes against the Treasury,” according to the Diario. The local publication also reported that money amounting to 2 million has since been found in the club, along with a cash counting machine.

Two People Died At Scotland’s T In The Park Festival

Photo via Flickr user gpainter

Scotland’s T in the Park music festival is off to a solemn start following the deaths of two people, as reported by the Guardian.

The largest Scottish festival kicked off yesterday (July 7) at Strathallan Castle in Perthshire, which is expected to host upwards of 80,000 attendees over three days. Presently, details surrounding the situation are scarce, though it’s confirmed that the deaths involve one male and one female. According to the BBC, both were 17 years old. Police are reportedly treating them as separate, unexplained incidents, though neither is thought to be suspicious.

T in the Park director Geoff Ellis told the BBC, “We are shocked and saddened by today’s news and our thoughts are with the families and friends at this time. We are offering our full support and assistance.”

Ben UFO, Helena Hauff, Objekt And The Seven Best Things We Heard This Week

Image via.

By this point you’d think we’d have stopped saying “well that was a rough seven days” at the end of every weeksadly the world has continued fall apart in obvious and destructive ways. That said, there’s some respite in the continuing, if not strengthened, output of electronic artists all over the world. This week we’ve enjoyed some sparse new work from Herron and Joy Orbison, on the latter’s Hinge Finger imprint (run with Will Bankhead). Feels like we put a new Darkstar track in this list every week but when they sound as good as this collaboration with Gaika does, it’s impossible not to. Elsewhere Addison Groove has turned in a bewildering Chic edit, there’s a new rattling slammer from a Keita Sano, and Twisted Nerve head Andy Votel has turned in two hours of gorgeous selections for Dekmantel’s Selectors series. Finally this week saw two absolutely mammoth mixes uploaded. Firstly Ben UFO and Helena Hauff’s triumphant back to back from Sonar last month, and the untouchable Objekt’s Kern mix which is, genuinely, one of the best mixes you’ll hear all year.

1. CO/R – “Dripback”

2. Darkstar – “Black Ghost (Feat. GAIKA)”

3. Chic – “My Forbidden Lover (Addison Groove Edit)”

4. Keita Sano – “Miles”

5. Andy Votel – Selectors Podcast 007

6. RA Live – Ben UFO b2b Helena Hauff

7. Objekt – Kern Vol. 3

Follow Angus on Twitter.

Thug Entrancer Is Donating Proceeds From His Bandcamp Releases To Black Lives Matter

Photo by Anna Stein, courtesy of artist’s Facebook

Following the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile this week, and last night’s Dallas shooting in which five officers were killed, there’s been an outpouring of reactions and support for the victims’ families from the dance music community worldwide.

Denver producer Thug Entrancer (aka Ryan McRyhew) has announced on Twitter that he’ll be donating any money received for his Bandcamp releases to the Black Lives Matter campaign. GoFundMe campaigns have also been created with proceeds going to Sterling and Castile’s families.

Revisit our 2016 interview with McRyhew about his most recent album Arcology here.

Vic Mensa, Hunter Siegel, And More Refuse To Perform At Detroit’s Populux After Anti-Black Lives Matter Tweets

Vic Mensa. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

A local music venue in Detroit is experiencing major backlash after allegedly posting anti-Black Lives Matter-related content last night on social media.

Artists including rapper Vic Mensa and DJs Hunter Siegel and Bixel Boys have all announced they will no longer be performing their scheduled dates at Populux after the club posted this (since deleted) photo on Twitter, along with the hashtag #fuckblacklivesmatter, in the wake of the Dallas shootings. Also seen on their page was a retweet of (also since deleted) similarly incendiary sentiments from former Congressman Joe Walsh. There has also been a call on fans and musicians to boycott the club.

“I feel very strongly against any rhetoric that would further inflame recent situations or further look to divide us and spread hate for one another,” Siegel wrote in a Facebook statement. In their own Facebook post, Bixel Boys added, “Divisiveness, judgement and ignorance have no place here… Our country is in need of healing, and we cannot support an establishment (or any institution for that matter) that undermines those efforts with ignorance.”

However, Populux is claiming its Twitter account was hacked, writing on Facebook: “The tweets, political views and hate messaging that were posted to our Twitter account in the last 24 hours in no way represents our feelings, outlook, or political positions.” Read their entire statement below. Populux did not immediately respond to THUMP’s request for comment.

According to the Metro Times, a demonstration will be held in front of Populux tonight at 9 pm.

Big Freedia Ordered To Live In Halfway House After Failing Drug Tests

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Big Freedia, born Freddie Ross Jr., has been ordered by a federal judge to live in a halfway house and submit to substance abuse testing after repeatedly testing positive for illegal drugs, according to The New Orleans Advocate. She reportedly tested positive for marijuana and methamphetamines across three drug tests administered between April and June. The presiding official, US District Judge Lance Africk, ruled that these actions violate the conditions of her existing bail terms.

Back in March, Freedia pleaded guilty to felony theft, having understated her income on housing aid applications between the years of 2010 and 2014, accepting approximately $35,000 in Section 8 vouchers despite being ineligible to do so. Though the “Queen of Bounce” was granted release ahead of her sentencing date by posting bail for $25,000, the results of the drug tests change those circumstances.

As a result, The FADER adds, Big Freedia will need permission from her probation officer to leave the halfway house, and all of her upcoming live dates must be approved by the US Probation and Pretrial Services.

Big Freedia’s sentencing is scheduled for August 11, where she faces up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Let Lauren Lane Take You Through An Idyllic Week In Her Life In Ibiza

All photos courtesy of of the artist.

The Summer season in Ibiza is one of the most important nodes in the world of international dance music. As DJs and clubbers from all around the world descend on the White Isle, the year’s musical identity is defined through all-day beach parties, all-night sessions at clubbing meccas, and secret jungle parties tucked into leafy enclaves.

To get an inside look on what’s it like right now in Ibiza, we’ve invited some of our favorite DJs to bring us along on a week in their life on the island, in a series we call White Isle Journals. This week, we welcome LA-via-New York DJ /producer Lauren Lane, who shares how Ibiza prompted her to pursue a full-time career in DJing, as well as a week in her life on the island.

“I came to Ibiza for the first time in 2008. At that point I was DJing in local clubs in NYC, and going to Ibiza definitely changed my whole opinion of music and club culture. At the time I thought NYC was the whole world and then my mind was blown after I experienced the island. I planned to stay for one week and eventually I made it home about a month later. I knew from that point on I only wanted to DJ and produce music and that there was no possible way to go back to my “old life.” A lot has changed since then on the island. That first year DC10 wasn’t open and a lot of the clubs were focused on more commercial sounding dance music. Things have evolved quite a bit now and tech-house and deep-house have a much more substantial footing. This makes me happy considering that’s the music I love.

THIS WEEK

There are so many amazing things about living in Ibiza that sometimes it gets a little overwhelming because there’s so much to do and so many friends around. My week usually starts on Sunday when I go to Rumors to hear Guy Gerber & friends. Some weeks I play, other times I go just to hang out and catch amazing music in a beautiful outdoor venue. Afterwards we either go to Heart or just hang at a friend’s place. Mondays I try to get some productive things accomplished then go to Circoloco or possibly just relax if I can resist the FOMO. Tuesday I like to go to a beach or on a boat ride to Formentera. Some of my favorite beaches are Aguas Blancas and Cala Comte, which is great to watch the sunset.

This past Wednesday I played at Paradise at DC10. I spent most of the day going through music and getting ready to play on the Terrace. Jamie Jones has created one of the best parties on the island there and it is an honor to play with so many talented artists. The night was a lot of fun and after we went by The Martinez Brother’s place after to hang with friends.

Thursday I spent time resting a bit and celebrating my friend’s birthday on a boat. We went by the “magic rock” on Es Vedra for Sunset and it was beautiful to see the sun sink perfectly between the two rocks. When the boat returned to the port we enjoyed a walk around Old Town where Dalt Villa is. That’s the charming old area of the island that looks like a castle. There are lots of shops and restaurants to sit and people watch there. On Friday we went to a late lunch at the legendary Fish shack and then for a refreshing swim in the sea by Talamanca. After we got ready to go to Blue Marlin for dinner/party followed by Music On with Marco Carola at Amnesia. This Saturday I play at Ants at Ushuaia which is the biggest outdoor venue in Ibiza. Besides taking in the beauty of the island I’m really looking forward to all of my upcoming gigs this summer at Rumors, Paradise, Ants, Abode and El Row.

TRACK OF THE WEEK

Chaim is a talented DJ and producer and I always appreciate his tracks. This one is perfect for early in the night, sunset or sunrise set. It is really perfect for Ibiza in general. Each track on the EP is ideal for a different part of the evening. Saved, as a label, is always pushing ground breaking artists with a vast array of styles and I’m honored to release my music on Saved as well.

Bob Moses’s Tom Howie Has A Brother Who Is Releasing His Debut EP

Photo by Mason Barnes Crouse

Take a look at the wide-ranging tracklist from Bob Moses’s Essential Mix earlier this year and you’ll see a track called “Fleur” by a little-known artist named Iain Howie, whose surname matches that of the fast-rising duo’s own Tom Howie. It’s no coincidence: Iain is Tom’s younger brother.

While Tom and his Bob Moses partner Jimmy Vallance have been touring the world following the crossover success of their 2015 debut album Days Gone By, Iain has been building a name for himself in the Howies’ native Vancouver with track releases on labels including 6n7 Music, Re:Fresh Your Mind, and SOSO. On Monday, June 11, he’ll step further out of his famous sibling’s shadow with his debut EP, Awake, via Vancouver-Berlin collective Rhombus.

In an interview with The Georgia Straight, Howie discusses Awake, describing the overall sound of it as “quite varied.” The eerie, melancholic title track is vocal-heavy in the vein of Bob Moses, but the other three tracks are crisp, instrumental club cuts more suited for seamless play on dark dancefloors than during a stop-and-go show on an outdoor stage at Coachella.

“It’s worked out really well that the record’s got a range of different styles,” he told the Straight. “It helps set me apart.”

Listen to the EP below ahead of its release Monday, July 11.

Culoe De Song Envisages A Fictional Apocalypse On His Label's Debut Release, 'Washa'

Photo courtesy of label.

South African DJ Culoe de Song is gearing up for the upcoming release of his Washa LP, the debut offering on his new label, De Song Music. Despite already receiving international acclaimthrough his globetrotting performances alongside the likes of Dixon and Black Coffee, and his releases on Germany’s famous Innervisions labelde Song is further proving his creative prowess with this LP. Washa is no casual techno record, it’s a concept album which tells the tale of the Guzu empire, a new civilization erected in place of an earth destroyed by evils, and it celebrates mankind’s entitlement the joy of music. As King Gasa, the Guzu Empire’s beloved monarch, says on the “King Gasa’s Proclamation” track: “It is now our duty to eliminate our fear through our right to hear music, through our right to dance…”

The music itself functions differently on and off the dance floor, but is tremendous in either context. Catching basslines are met with powerful chants, many of which de Song recorded himself, of political speeches regarding de Song’s fantastical Guzu Empire, and field recordings. It’s danceable music that makes you think: meant to be listened to through a giant rig on a packed dancefloor, or through your headphones in your room.

Over email de Song said to THUMP: Washa is a story of overcoming fear and bringing faith into life. Growing up, self-doubt has been my biggest enemy, but I seemed to achieve so many things when I address the will to do them. Like in the story, the Guzu Empire was saved through the powers of music and the energy generated through the act of rejoice. It’s the same for me, music has been my biggest saviour and I’ve fought my own enemies to the end with this great weapon.”

Washa is out on De Song Music on July 8.

Gucci Mane And Canadian Footwork Collide In Hood Joplin’s High-Energy Mix

Photo by Levi Manchak

While Edmonton isn’t a city that many think of when it comes to electronic music, in Canada or elsewhere, DJ and producer Hood Joplin is working to change that. The Alberta native’s playful and in-your-face mixes for local labels slash collectives including Manicure Records and carepackage, the latter of which she co-founded, blend footwork, trap, and everything in-between with plenty of personality to spare.

Last month Joplin released her debut EP, #75FFA1, via Drama Hands, consisting of five tracks that see her expanding the palette and possibilities of her sound. Composed during a typically frigid Edmonton winter, the music takes a darker direction, tempering the high-energy of her DJ sets with thoughtful exploration.

Naturally, we asked her to make an exclusive mix for us, and the result includes expertly selected songs by artists including Baltimore rapper TT The Artist (who Joplin played with recently during Calgary’s Sled Island Festival), the recently freed Gucci Mane, and Albertan talent like footwork and jungle producer HomeSick. Listen to it below while you read our Q&A with the up-and-coming DJ and producer.

THUMP: Tell us a bit about your mix.

Hood Joplin: With this mix I wanted to showcase a selection of tracks and sounds that I’m listening to as of now, rather than stick to a genre, I guess most of my sets are like that as well. The BPM goes from 140-160 which is my favorite range for club tunes. You’ll find a blend of everything from tread to footwork.

How did you get into DJing?
The scene was kind of stale in Edmonton and no one was putting one another in check. Some dudes have been playing the same set over and over and I was sick of it. There was a turning point where I was like, okay I know enough after years of studying hip-hop, so how can I contribute? I literally locked myself in my room for a long-ass time until I was comfortable enough mixing, no one really knew but a few of my URL friends.

My homie Mier asked me to do a mix for a compilation he put together based out of Philly, so I did. The mix made its way through the digital realm and ended up in Canada where the homies who threw the legendary Rude Haus parties caught a listen, asked me to play my first show, and I’ve been playing shows ever since.

The title of your EP is an HTML color hex, do you think about the music you make or play when you’re DJing in terms of color?
I think I have some form of audio synesthesia. Colors are prevalent but I definitely can taste music if that makes sense. Some classic boom bap feels like the first bite of a good burger; conversely, trance gives me the feeling of fluoride after leaving the dentist. #75FFA1 is my favourite colour and the glue holding the tracks together. Seeing that color takes me to a point in time and certain headspace in which I made those tracks.

Is there anything particularly “Edmonton” about your sound?
There’s quite a bit of footwork influence in my production and DJing. Alberta surprisingly has an small but incredible footwork scene, with artists like HomeSick, Sven K, and parties like Percolate. I was born and raised on the internet though so I think my regional sound is more Wi-Fi than Edmonton. No one is doing what I’m doing here.

Tracklist:

AJ Tracey – Naila (Murlo Remix)
TT The Artist – Queen
Ghostwhip – Warehouse Tech
LSDXOXO – LOVE TAPS
Ganjoid – Lounge Out
Branstone – Cloud Rhythm
Young Thug – Amazing
HomeSick – Carnivore VIP
Tracy T – They Watchin’
Philthkids – Hydrolics
wavyOD & Lashington – Quinoa
FLP X Megablown – YOUNG PLANT
Gucci Mane – My Kitchen
DJ Earl – Gettin Blowed
Banta – Frost Glacier Cherry
Sinistarr & Philthkids – Pay Billz
DJ FLP – Bounce Like
100s – Ice Cold Perm
Hesk – Dig It
VANTAGE – Dat Boi

Hood Joplin is on Twitter // Facebook // SoundCloud

Michael Rancic is on Twitter.

A Conversation From A Rave Road Trip With Derek Plaslaiko

Derek Plaslaiko is one of the finest DJs to come out of Detroit’s mid-90s techno scene. The current Berlin resident is known for playing extended sets that test the very limits of what might be considered house or techno, with a fearless attitude that’s guided him through several important residencies over the past 20 years, including Family and Untitled in Detroit, and The Bunker in NYC. It’s also the sort of musical muse that lead him to play an hour of hip-hop during his record-breaking 12-plus hour DJ set streamed from his living room on Boiler Room in 2014.

“In Detroit, you could play anything you wanted,” he says of the environment where he developed his DJ discipline. Derek drove down the California freeway with host Joshua Glazer for a casual conversation unlike any other you’ve heard on Rave Curious. Check it out.

Subscribe to the Rave Curious Podcast on iTunes or listen on Soundcloud, and get a new episode every other week, plus download past interviews with Adam Beyer, Chris Liebing, Danny Tenaglia, Radio Slave and more. While you’re at it, you can also follow Rave Curious on Facebook and Twitter.