Interview: Mumdance & Logos

Mumdance and Logos are rarely without a new project. Over the past six years, their productions – both separately and together, on labels including Keysound, Rinse and Tectonic – have been a crucial part of the fabric of UK electronic music. Right now though, all their attention is focused on Different Circles, the label they run together. We write this on the two-year anniversary of the label’s first offering – Weightless Vol. 1, a collection of beatless club tracks from the likes of Rabit and Dark0 that set the tone for future releases.

Now, there’s the Different Circles Mix CD – released last week, the 21-track collection acts both as a survey of the label’s first two years and also as a window into its future, with forthcoming material and dubplates from the likes of Inkke, Yamaneko and Sharp Veins. There are always hundreds of mixes doing the rounds online, and the saturation can feel overwhelming sometimes, so having the conviction to make a physical edition feels like an assurance of quality. Indeed, the clarity of vision that’s transmitted here is hugely impressive, and one can imagine coming back to this project for a while to come. Mumdance is no stranger to the mix CD format, having put out one every year for the past four years – the Twists & Turns mixtape, his B2B with Pinch, Fabriclive 80, and now Different Circles.

“I really enjoy mixes, and I see them as setting your stake in the ground,” says Mumdance. “Just like, this is what we’re doing and what we’re about at this time. With each of those mixes there’s been a different set of ideas which I’ve been trying to convey, and I think this Different Circles CD is the best one.”

“Mix CDs are a bit of a forgotten ’90s format, and in one sense you could argue they’re redundant now because of the internet,” adds Logos. “Recently my missus was making me clear out some of my thousands of CDs, and I found Northern Exposure 2 by Sasha & Digweed, which was one of the first ones I bought. That was a great little snapshot.”

“We put a lot of work into this, and I feel it’s something that deserves to be realised in a physical space,” Mumdance continues. “The way things are going, this will probably be the last CD we put out, so purely out of vanity James [Logos] and I wanted something that we could hold in our hands and give to people.”

After the mix CD, the next project on the way is Weightless Vol. 2. The pair have spoken about the ‘weightless’ concept before, but we wanted to hear how it has evolved since its inception.

“To me it captures the feelings you get in different genres of music and brings them into one place,” believes Logos. “It has elements of ambient music, but also elements from radical steps in other genres, like devil mixes in grime. It’s just a way of expression.”

“Yeah, it’s a mood,” Mumdance agrees. “I see it as an extension of spacious music, as an exercise in minimalism. I’m fed up of everyone trying to be too clever with dance music, man. Trying to put too much theory into what they’re doing – and I’m guilty of that myself. Ultimately, we just like making either banging tunes, or tunes that aren’t so banging, and that’s it. Stuff to listen to at home, stuff to listen to in the club.”

It seems as though ‘weightless’ has expanded a great deal and taken on a life of its own. “In some ways”, Logos explains, “it’s moving away from grime, so we wanted to keep something which is still deeply rooted within grime.” To this end, there’s now a Different Circles sub-label on the horizon called Devils, which will be a home for one-sided 10”s featuring more conventional devil mixes of 140 grime tunes. The first release will be a DJ Sinclair track called ‘Bells’ which you can find on the new mix CD, and has been getting played out by the likes of Grandmixxer and Blackdown.

It’s actually been a little while since either producer released any music of their own. The pair have a close working relationship, and are always in and out of the studio. Right now they’re working on dance-floor material together, but both of them have also got new albums on the way. Logos is working hard on what will be his second solo album, the “deeper” follow-up to Cold Mission, which Mumdance describes simply as Cold Mission 2.0. Mumdance is also working on a solo album, but seems less sure on its direction. Having spoken earlier this year about moving into his “third stage” as a producer, it’s clear he’s taking his time with this one:

“Some producers make tunes day after day and have loads of stuff sitting on their hard drive. I’m not like that. Generally what I’m doing in the studio is experimenting, thinking about things, working out ideas. Then when I need to put something into practice – someone goes ‘I want you to do an EP for me’ – that’s when I make music. When James and I were writing Proto, it took a while to understand what we were going to do, but once we had the processes down we actually wrote it very quickly.”

While they share a love for jungle, hardcore and grime, one of the keys to their collaborative work is bringing different reference points to the table.

“We both draw from the past as much as from the present day,” says Mumdance. “We’ve got backgrounds that are rooted around UK rave music, but we’re looking at it from different angles, and I think they complement each other. More than anything our music is the sum of its parts. It’s never a compromise – we’ll only go with something we’re both happy with.”

Logos adds: “We were having a chat the other day about trying to push ourselves and not tread over what we’ve made before. That’s too easy. Sometimes it’s also about pushing boundaries of taste, or what’s perceived to be in good taste in 2016.”

Mumdance agrees that “taste is very fluid, so we’re not worrying too much about what’s going on around us – [instead we’re] going deeper into what’s actually good”. Clearly this attitude extends beyond production and into their DJ sets. Mumdance’s monthly show on Rinse celebrated its two-year anniversary back in August, and has cemented itself as essential listening in that time.

“I grew up listening to John Peel, that was a massive influence for me. I’m trying to echo that in terms of broadening people’s horizons – opening their minds and ears up to different things and taking them outside their comfort zones. The radio show is central to most of my other movements. It builds up a culture around what I’m doing. Rather than worrying about genre, I’m trying to convey a mood that runs throughout. And I like the fact that it’s random and sprawling – one time I might be hungover so I’ll play ambient tunes, and another time I might be in the mood to bang out loads of gabba!”

The pair have spoken before about the current musical landscape being comparable to the early ’90s, in terms of genre boundaries being dissolved. So I want to know whether they think that still applies at the tail-end of 2016, and if not, then what happens next after a period of fluidity?

“Maybe that period has passed a little bit. It’s still very fragmented, but I think things have been solidified more than they were. There’s still a lot of opportunity, it’s just about building your own corner of things. That’s what James and I have been trying to do with Different Circles. I used to have to send music to people who didn’t like me and who I knew weren’t gonna play it. Now I don’t have to do that – I’ll play my own tune on Rinse, and I’ll play other people’s tunes too. It’s about making things as independent as possible so that you only have to deal with the people you wanna deal with. People that enable you rather than disable you, y’know what I mean?”

Last week we got to hear Logos and Mumdance at a Boiler Room show they curated. Logos played deeply weird music grounded in stomach-clenching bass that shook the room. His remix of Jamakabi’s ‘Juicy Patty’ got a particularly good response. Discarded beer cans on the surface vibrate in unison like some strange ballet, occasionally dropping to the floor. People are getting pretty crazy for a Wednesday evening. It feels resolutely contemporary, in the best possible way. For a special birthday set, Mumdance reaches further back, drawing for old-school grime and drum n bass cuts, alongside newer stuff like the AJ Tracey/Snowy dub of his own ‘1 Sec’. It all sounds completely of a piece, linked by mood rather than genre or era. The pair traverse different tempos with ease – the idea of a ‘groove’ couldn’t be further away, replaced with jagged peaks and troughs. It’s these dynamics that make things so exciting, constantly keeping the crowd on their toes, unable to anticipate what might happen next.

The legendary DJ Storm closed things out with a riotous, celebratory ’90s dnb set, lasers beaming overhead. Beforehand, Mumdance had posted about how Kemistry and Storm were the first DJs he ever saw, at Essential Festival ’97 in Brighton (“That day literally blew my mind and was a big factor in setting me on my path”). Any sense of nostalgia was pushed away when Storm took to the decks, and the hardcore spirit so evident in Logos and Mumdance’s sets was unleashed in its original ferocity.

If you missed out, then worry not – Mumdance and Logos are hosting a night at Corsica Studios this Saturday in collaboration with Contort, the Berlin label/event series founded by Samuel and Hayley Kerridge.

“The link-up came through Ajay [Jayaram] who’s the promoter of Clock Strikes 13,” explains Mumdance. “I’m a fan of Sam Kerridge’s music and we’ve been aware of each other for a long time. I think our booking policies complement each other, and of course the people on his label and that he’s brought to the lineup are really good. I’m not getting there til super late so I’m gonna play a gabba set I think…”

“Yeah, you’ll be playing gabba to two Spanish blokes who’ve turned up for an afterparty!” jokes Logos. “Nah, it’ll be rammed til 7am. We’ve got Wen & Parris which is gonna be sick – Wen is a very underrated producer, and Parris obviously is a don.”

“We’ve got Fis playing – and you’ll be seeing a 12” from him on the label soon,” Mumdance reveals. “Raime are good friends of ours, we have a shared love of UK hardcore and they’re gonna do a really good rave set. Randall is one of our favourite DJs, Shapednoise is a good friend of all of ours, and also Conor Thomas [who runs The Death Of Rave label] is one of the best DJs I’ve seen play for a long time.”

Different Circles Mix CD is out now. Mumdance and Logos play Different Circles x Contort at Corsica Studios as part of Clock Strikes 13 this Saturday 26th Nov. Buy tickets here.

Cosmo Godfree