Truancy Volume 42: Mr Beatnick

Photo by Steve Braiden

For our latest volume in the ever-expanding Truancy series we reached out to London beatsmith Mr Beatnick, hip-hop and house producer, FACT Magazine scribe, radio show presenter on NTS and all-round general good dude. His “Synthetes” EP really wowed us last year and the forthcoming “Sun Goddess” EP on Don’t Be Afraid sounds to be continuing in that gorgeous, blissed-out vein. We spoke about record collecting, Red Bull and how house music is a feeling.

Getting straight into your own productions, what defines the direction you’ll take on an EP genre-wise? “Good question. I see everything through a hip-hop lens really, it’s a way of seeing in itself. Hip-hop and house are the same thing at the core, Larry Heard was a hip-hop producer at one stage in his life. Hip-hop production is about looking to the past for a way to see the future and in that way it shares a lot with house. But as you know, house is a feeling… I started off with hip-hop so that’s in my heart. But some of the first 12” records I bought were Thomas Bangalter and Joe Smooth. So it’s all interconnected. The hip-hop part of it is in the texture and the crackle, the house part is in the rawness of the machines.”

Ah, so it’s all parts of the same whole? “Tempo defines how we interpret which genre it is. Because we don’t associate hip-hop with 120 BPM. Even though DJ Dez makes hip-hop under that name and then house under Andres, people are taught to see them as distinct. It’s funny you ask me about this cause it’s on my mind, because the topic of hip hop producers making house music is oft discussed at the moment.” It seems it’s all going in that direction – even dubstep producers are making house too now. “House will never go away, hip-hop will never go away. Their enduring appeals are infinite. As for the dubstep guys, I’m not sure I hear all of that stuff as house really.”

What’s the latest vogue, once this dies out? Will it even die out? “This happens every year, people try to find ways to describe what’s going on. I wonder. I think what Evian Christ is doing is dope. My jokey name for that is triap-hop. Fifty per cent trap music, fifty per cent trip hop. Seriously though I love that stuff, serious one to watch. I’ve seen his live show and it was great.”

Well my next question was going to be about who’s exciting you this year – why not now? Who do you think will make a big splash in 2012? “Lots of people across the spectrum. I have my personal favourites that I’m always listening to, the Paul Whites, Tapes, Lukid, BNJMN, Architeq-type dudes. People that have that great old-school quality about them. My Truants mix showcases some of the best stuff I’ve been sent by new artists.”

I was just listening to that BNJMN set on your show today! “Oh yeah? Wicked man! Thanks. He is brilliant. For who will blow up, I think XXXY is in for a big year. I hear his new record is great, he hasn’t played me it yet. I rate Photonz as well, people are sleeping on them. Samoyed is a talent. I’m intrigued to hear some good new hip-hop. That would really improve my year. I wasn’t mad on last year’s Drake type stuff.”

Casio Romance (original mix) by mrbeatnick

For me personally, I’m really underwhelmed by most US stuff right now. “Yeah exactly, I can’t stand The Weeknd either. To me all that stuff is horrible anodyne, emo music.” Full of emotion – but the wrong kind. “Exactly, it doesn’t tell me what I need to hear, it tells me about how fucking cool it is. It’s like “Watch The Throne”, all that self-obsessing is just not healthy. You have to speak to the people, lift their spirits, show them something new, take them new places.”

Absolutely, it seems like now they’re just dragging them down or lord over them how rich you are. “Exactly. Having said that, parts of “Watch The Throne” were really amazing music wise. Like “N-words in Paris”. But yeah, people like Evian Christ or BNJMN take me places I haven’t been to before. Or Actress, that is real tapestry. It’s artistry, it’s rich. It’s like a Jim Jarmusch movie. It’s more about dynamic and mood than sequencing. Move minds, not bodies. If we go back to house as a topic, house does both. A record like “Distant Planet” by Mr Fingers has something for your body, your soul and your mind. We can’t say the same of some of these future post garage hybrids. Maybe it’s about a balance.”

I guess there’s a reason all these faux house DJs play “The Sun Can’t Compare”. “Haha. With “Synthetes” I was trying to address exactly these thoughts. I wanted to make something that would work at home and in the club. I wanted to make something that was as house as hip-hop. To explore that balance. I think the new one maybe takes it further away from home. More towards the club.”

I can’t wait to hear it. Can you talk a little bit more about it? “Yeah I’d love to! It’s been very interesting writing it. The EP is called “Sun Goddess”. It’s four compositions I did. All are 100 percent analog, very raw, played live off the machines, mixed at Architeq’s studio on a reel to reel. But similar idea, trying to explore that space. The house mood, the hip-hop texture. Try to balance the body with the mind. I felt like I had failed when I finished it somehow, I felt really unsure.” How come? “Because I felt like I could have put more bits in there you know, like parts of it are very sparse and industrial. But then I played it to BNJMN and Kelpe and they were really positive. They said it was a progression from the last one, or sounded that way. So maybe I’m getting there.”

When’s it due out? “March 19th on vinyl, with digital to follow. I had originally planned for it to appear in stores just like that, with very little fanfare. The final one in the Synthetes trilogy, of which this is the second part, will drop like that.”

Sun Goddess – ripped off GP BBC radio 1 by mrbeatnick

That’s cool. Some labels do that – I notice labels like UNO just put stuff our without any big fuss. Which is nice as it’s a surprise, but then you’re annoyed you didn’t know already! “Ha! I want to to be like when you go to the store and listen to it for the first time, you haven’t even heard all of it online. You know that feeling is more personal. Still I am amazed at how quickly people have picked up on this one. That’s what I liked with “Synthetes”, it felt special cause it sold out in two weeks. And many people never even got it, it felt special to me that those people went looking for it, you know?” Oh definitely. I wish I could afford/have more space for vinyl. “That’s what I did when I bought records back in the day, you never heard them online. Maybe a really shitty clip on the distributor website! That made it special, to hold it. We need to retain that tangible part of what we do, that physical feeling.”

Personally when I’d buy CDs I’d always read the inlay card on the bus home. Who produced what, different aliases, thank yous etc. “That was so great, same with Amiga games that came in a massive box. With a massive book and sometimes a comic.”

I was going to ask about your various day jobs. You do a lot if I’m not mistaken – what would you say is the most prominent activity? “Sure thing, I do a few different things. To be perfectly honest I have a really dry day job shoveling paper in an office, as well as doing lots of writing on the side for different folks. I’ve had a lot of temp jobs over the years, freelance stuff. It’s all a way to fund the music really! I was a full-time musician a few years ago, also did some consultancy for music people. But I found I needed to keep my passion and my business separate a bit. It can wear you out doing music 24/7. So I prefer to diversify, I like words. Words put food on the table, music keeps me sane. Again it’s balance.”

Can you tell me about your involvement with RBMA? “Yeah sure, I help out. I’m really no one important over there, I am just old friends with them. I went to Cape Town with them back in 2003 in the early years of the project, and fell in love with the whole thing really. It’s a very special place. It’s a family now, a global family.”

It seems that as corporations go Red Bull are really involved with non-corporate projects, like RBMA, the F1 team and those crazy flying construction competitions. “Very true, they do some cool stuff don’t they. I think the academy has helped some great students over the years.” I’m going to see Just Blaze give a talk in Dublin soon, I mean who else would do that? “Yes exactly! It’s a brilliant thing. I’m glad you are going to the talk! It’s totally unique you know, I have no words in a way. Respect would be the best one. Everyone gets a kick out of it, the artists and the students.”

Back to yourself, what is your general approach to DJing? “First point – I only play records in clubs. Just personal preference. [It’s a] texture thing. It’s the only way I know how.” No Serato-o? “Nope! I collect records so I play them out too. The Truants mix is different cause I wanted to play lots of upfront stuff which I couldn’t get on vinyl, so that’s a mix of mp3s, software and vinyl.”

When it comes to new stuff, does that limit your selection? Or is that just a by-product of your choice? “I never find it limiting to be honest, usually it’s the other way round. Like most of the best things are only on vinyl anyway. I’ve never found mp3 sounds dope in the club, always the reverse.” Because the standard has to be that much higher if you’re willing to press. “Very true, vinyl usually has exclusive tracks. And I mean, it’s just different. It’s a different feeling. It’s more noticeable on better sound systems, it’s very noticeable when people play vinyl. I talk about this with Semtek all the time, the guy who runs Don’t Be Afraid. We are obsessed with getting records cut properly at the moment, it seems to be such a key part of the process that is overlooked. Like, actually cutting the fucking record right. So many records are cut bad these days.”

Quick job? Or cheap? “I guess once you start making the records, every part of the process becomes part of the art form. From the factory of your mind to the factory floor where it’s produced. Nerdy stuff I suppose. Frequencies. Trying to create the best possible experience for the listener. Like I said this is about trying to take people somewhere they haven’t been. This is what we are losing these days, the care in the process. We are serving McDonald’s on Facebook when we should be selling home-cooked burgers off our porches. Tangible experiences.”

That’s an amazing way of putting it. “This is why I struggle to get through new music in my inbox, the way I’m receiving it is not conducive to taking me somewhere. It’s not like the record shop, it’s not like the vinyl experience. It’s just a bunch of files in my email that I can’t get through. Haha, am I just talking shit?” Not at all! What does the name “New Jerusalem” mean to you? “Wow. Well it was Femi from NTS who gave us the name, I don’t really know.”

Ah shame. Props for playing Martial Solal by the way. I love his “Breathless” score.“BIG UP! Man, I love Martial Solal. I thought maybe he meant like “till we have built Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant lands” like the old hymn goes. I don’t know, I love that hymn despite its imperial connotations.” Promised land through music. “Yes maybe! Like Joe Smooth – Promised Land. That’s my idea of Jerusalem. And the first Chicago house record I bought.”

Back to Joe Smooth! That’s a nice full circle. Now can you tell me – what has been the inspiration behind the tracklisting for your Truancy mixtape? “For the mix I wanted to reply to the interview questions with a mix of the sort of hip hop/beats stuff I still love and play out, with some newer things that explore different ideas in house and techno, even electro, and some older music that inspires me. It’s a snapshot of my tastes in a way.”

Complete this sentence: At heart I’m just a frustrated… “At heart I’m just a frustrated sperm trying to find its way to the egg in the uterus of the cosmos.”

When was the last time you danced? “This morning, whilst making toast. I was listening to Ralph LTF’s Pool Hall mix, he’s my favourite pirate house DJ at the moment.”

Truancy Volume 42: Mr Beatnick by TRUANTS

Big K.R.I.T. – No Wheaties (feat. Curren$y & Smoke DZA)
James Pants – Close To It (Stones Throw)
Jon Phonics x Pete Cannon / ROMES (Pedestrian Remix) (Prism)
Kelpe – I Felt Fuzzy (Svetlana Industries)
?????? – ???????? (?????)
Photonz – Spectre (Don’t Be Afraid)
Metro – Angel of Mercy (Nu Groove)
Wind Jammers – And You Know That (prelude)
Cutting You Better – Make It Hotter (Modern Soul Records)
About Group – You’re No Good (Theo Parrish Translation) (Domino)
Hodge – Holographic Prose (Unreleased)
Samoyed – Cherry Ripe (Glum)
Suit Chaser – Touch My Heart (Tone Control)
Mo Kolours-Mini Culcha (Beautiful Swimmers Remix) (One-Handed Music)
Alex Deamonds – Baldin’

Aidan Hanratty

Dublin ...

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