From lovers rock to instrumental grime: An interview with Mr Mitch

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Mr. Mitch is a key player in the burgeoning instrumental grime movement. Whether through his own grime mutations, or from the ever increasing roster of forward thinking producers on his Gobstopper Records imprint, he successfully manages to push the grime sound in new directions. He is also one of the four members that run Boxed, a club night that has acted as a hub for the emerging scene of producers and DJ’s currently developing this new sound. His second album, Devout, was released in April 2017 by Planet Mu. It features several guest vocalists as well as his own voice and the voice of his children. 

Can you recollect your first encounters with music and, in retrospect, how do you think they formed your current musical activities?

My dad used to be a musician. By the time I was born he had stopped most of his touring to focus on his 9-5 and raising me but I was aware of it from when I was very young and it was my first entry point into music. He used to play lovers rock and reggae which I rebelled against as a boy/teenager and refused to listen to but it has always been an influence in my sound even down to the way I would play a bass riff.

How did you become part of the London grime scene, and how has the scene changed over the years?

I used to hand out CD’s with my beats outside grime raves and then send them to a bunch of DJ’s, eventually getting played on Rinse FM, which at the time was a massive deal. To be honest, I have always felt like an outsider to the “grime scene”; my music even then was often left of centre. You wouldn’t think it if you listened back now but in 2008/09 when I first started getting played the primary function of a producer was to make beats for MC’s to either vocals in the studio or on a radio set. Myself and a few others wanted to make instrumentals that could exist on their own. Over the next few years a lot of experimentation in production happened and the idea of beats existing on their own became normalised. When we started our club night Boxed we wanted to create a home for these adventurous beats that people were making and in essence created our own scene by putting the producer to the forefront.

Can you talk about how you create your music – in terms of the concept, the more abstract ideas, and their execution in practice?

I think the concepts for my projects are usually realised at some point during or after the creation. I rarely go into the studio and try to make music to fit a concept as it rarely works or feels forced. I try to turn off my conscious mind and just let the music flow out of me. There is an exception to that rule with my Peace Edits, though the concept is still fairly abstract. To edit/remix a track and make it more peaceful whatever that may mean.

Your recent album Devout dealt with topics such as love, relationships, fatherhood. Can you talk about the role of your (nuclear) family, and family in a broader sense (community)?

I have been a father for pretty much all of my adult life, so my children have been a great drive for me and I don’t think my music would sound the way it does if they weren’t here. My partner gets me through those crippling moments of self doubt that every artist goes though, I would be a very different artist with very different motivations if I didn’t have them.

Outside of my nuclear family my only relationships with people have been professional. Luckily my profession as a musician/DJ is something I love and many of these relationships have turned into friendships. I think it’s important to work with people who inspire you and make you push yourself further in your art.

Your image, as well as output (such as “Peace Dubs”, etc) imply a more cohesive, positive image in contrast to the competitive, insular vibe that a lot of the music crews and producers have. Did you feel there’s a need for a change/statement?

I’m not necessarily trying to make a statement with the way I present myself and my music, it is simply an extension of my personality and my temperament.

Can you talk about your label Gobstopper Records?

My label has been going for seven years now and started as a platform to share some of the instrumental grime around at the time as there weren’t many labels releasing grime and even less releasing instrumentals. The label has broadened a lot more now along with my personal tastes and we’ve been lucky enough to debut a lot of artists. Much of the music I sign is very melodic and emotive but at the same time it’s music that exists both in the club and in the home.

You’re one of the founders of the London club night Boxed? Can you talk about the booking and the role of the club in the scene?

Boxed was started by myself, Logos, Slackk and Oil Gang as we just wanted a place to play these weirder beats that we were making and that other producers were sending us and that other grime DJs weren’t really playing. Most of the people who came down early on were producers and it was a really inspirational place to hear the people pushing the genre in all different directions. Boxed will always be a night pushing the most forward thinking/progressive electronic club, coming from the world of grime and beyond. We’ve been quiet this year but are hosting a Xmas Party next month and have some exciting parties lined up for 2018.

What are you working on right now & planning?

More releases on Gobstopper Records, and working on my next project for a release next year.

Dynamons mix for NTS Live

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Listen to  a new mix by SHAPE artist, Greek DJ Ilias Pitsios a.k.a. Dynamons, produced for the London-based radio station NTS Live.

Ilias Pitsios is the co-founder of the Greek labels Echovolt and Into The Light Records. Based in the beautiful surroundings of Athens, Echovolt has been beaming fresh and versatile waves on the international club and electronic music scene since 2009. It’s been 4 years since Ilias and celebrated selector Tako Reyenga got together to form Into The Light, with their inaugural compilation of Greek Electronic Music, Classics & Rarities, a sublime introduction to a world of lesser known musical excellence which received deserved critical attention. In 2017 Into the Lights will continue to shine light on the undiscovered heritage of Greek electronic music, highlighting the work of prolific Greek composer Akis and a George Theodorakis’ side project called ‘2 Katara’.

Ilias Pitsios’ DJ sets are elegantly rooted in classic and leftfield dance music approaches with a modern and contemporary twist.

Track list:

USKRIPCU – SAMURAI
GAZNEVADA – WHEN THE MUSIC IS OVER
TONY WILSON – HANGING OUT IN SPACE (DUB MIX)
THE LINES – OLDTOWN
HIT MAN – FUTURE TIMES
400 BLOWS – PRESSURE
RICARDO CIONI – FOG
STEVE MILLER BAND – MACHO CITY (LONG VERSION)
ZAZU – CAPTAIN STARLIGHT
EURYTHMICS – MONKEY MONKEY
CURT PRESS – AVANTI
MON DINO – LA DANSE DES MOTS

For previous collaborations between SHAPE platform and NTS, click here.

Pictures: SHAPE @Maintenant 2017

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The 2017 edition of Maintenant festival happened in Rennes, France on October 10 – 15, and featured performances by NSDOS, Inga MauerN.M.O., Varg, Andreas Trobollowitsch, SKY H1, Black Zone Myth Chant, Fraction, V4W.ENKO.

The festival edition was defined as “a journey dedicated to curious publics, a new urban course made of intimate meetings and gigantic installations”. Maintenant is an annual event that aims to present a snapshot of artistic contemporary creativity in visual arts, music, and new technologies.

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Photos by Guillaume Julien, Gwendal Le Flem, alter1fo and Francois Baudry.

Resonance FM show on Schiev 2017

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Listen to a special one-hour broadcast by the art radio station Resonance FM, devoted to the upcoming edition of Brussels-based festival Schiev and the SHAPE dimension of its programming.

Schiev is a Brussels-based music festival which offers a broad vision of avant-garde pop music while trying to make it accessible to the widest possible audience. The festival aims to showcase an eclectic line-up of innovative Belgian and international projects and to present them in an easygoing and relaxed atmosphere. This show goes through SHAPE Platform’s artists that have been selected for the third edition of Schiev, which takes place on 10, 11 and 12 November, Beursschouwburg, Brussels.

Track list:

Danny L Harle – Always Remember
Új Bála – The Sad Thing
Mr. Mitch – It Takes Hold of You
Slipknot – Psychosocial (Toxe edit)
Valerio Tricoli / Thomas Ankersmit – Brent Mini
N M O (Numerous Miscommunications) – Armchair Evader
Black Zone Myth Chant – Pass Over Into Nothing
Varg – Gore-Tex シティ
Machine Woman – Camile From OHM Makes Me Feel Loved
Hiele – Mode D’Hiele
Rune Bagge – Secret Solutions

Pictures: SHAPE at Insomnia 2017

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Tromsø is renowned for breeding innovative artists within the electronic music field. Insomnia festival seeks to evolve the creative energy this has given rise to by creating a platform for new electronic music and techno culture. Its 2017 edition occured on  26 – 28 October, and featured such SHAPE artists as Apeiron Crew, Olivia,  SKY H1, Boska, Marie Kvien Brunvoll, Boska, Inga Mauer, Machine Woman as well as Varg with FLORA -a special collaboration with AnnaMelina.

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Varg with AnnaMelina, Mari Kvien Brunvoll and J.G. Biberkopf by Mats Gangvik. Boska, J.G. Biberkopf, Varg with AnnaMelina, Machine Woman and Inga Mauer by Isak Dalsfelt. SKY H1 by Sebastian Wilches. 

Video: Unknown Child live in Budapest

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Watch a video from a live gig by Unknown Child in Budapest (4 Nov 2017), co-organised by UH Fest.

Erika Szurcsik aka Unknown Child is a multifaceted graphic artist deeply rooted in music and poetic imagery: her songs are expressionist human landscapes, her visuals are fragments of poetic narratives. Mainly known as the vocalist and intense live performer of Budapest based art punk band Gustave Tiger, in her solo project Unknown Child she represents quite the opposite with her inner persona. Unknown Child is stripped down into soulful singer-songwriter loneliness, while her looped and multilayered hypnotic live melancholia opens up a wide range of sounds, distortions and harmonic interferences with the ethereal and deeply intimate sung words of a wonderfully touching voice.

Photo: Rádi Gábor

SHAPE-supported album by Oriole nominated for Latvia’s Austra award

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Beatmaker Oriole has been nominated for an Austra Award – Latvia’s equivalent of the Polaris Music Award or Mercury Prize – for his album “The Mushroom Music Vol. 4″, which has been released by Skaņu Mežs festival (Skaņu Mežs Recordings) and supported by SHAPE platform.

The Austra Award is annually granted for outstanding albums, released in Latvia. Such criteria as genre, popularity or lenght is disregarded, with artistic quality remaining as the sole criteria. in 2017, the jury of the award consists of 19 professionals from 4 countries. Oriole’s album, along with 9 other nominees, had been chosen out of more than 80 recordings, released in Latvia between October 19, 2016 and 18 October, 2017. The winner will be announced on November 17. The award is supported by Latvian Performers’ and Producers’ Association (LaIPA).

Oriole is a participating artist of the SHAPE platform.

Photos: SHAPE at Unsound: Flower Power

The 2017 edition of Poland’s Unsound festival happened on 8 – 15 October, and its theme was “Flower Power”. Several SHAPE artists, such as J.G. Biberkopf, Danny L. Harle, Inga MauerVarg, Black Zone Mytch Chant and Maoupa Mazzochetti, participated in the event, and some were also featured with special collaborations: SHAPE 2015 alumnus Kubia Ziolek performed in duo with SHAPE 2017 artist Wacław Zimpel, Olivia did a joint DJ set with Ron Morelli, and the band Księżyc performed with  Svitlana Nianio and Paweł Romańczuk.

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Photos by Theresa Baumgartner, Dominika Filipowicz, Maja Chiara Faber and Michal Ramus.