After releasing the 'Do It Better' EP on Roska's 'RKS' label back in March, MA1 has spent much of the last six months putting the finishing touches on his next offering, the 'Elektron EP'. Released this week on T Williams' promising 'Deep Teknologi' imprint, the EP consists of 4 excellent tracks; 'Elektron' is possibly the stand out of the lot although 'Bora Bora' runs it a close second as an superb dance floor filler. Now working on new material for 'RKS' after returning from an eventful night in Cologne, I caught up with the man himself to talk about everything from mingling with Skream and Benga at 'Big Apple' to the difficulty he has naming tracks:
"I've been working with T Williams quite a bit trying to get various bits and pieces sorted in the studio. We've made 'two tracks called WBS'' and 'Capture' which are both quite two-steppy but we're not sure when they'll be released yet. We've both played them a few times on Rinse and got good feedback though so that's cool. Besides that I've dedicated most of my time to getting this EP released - I made it earlier in the year and decided to send some of the tracks to T Williams. I sent him 'Stand Off' and 'Bora Bora' which were just unnamed tracks at the time but I wasn't sure if he'd like them. I'd made a track called 'High Definition' last year that got a lot of love from guys like L-vis and Danny Native that was more tech-house but then I started dabbling in bass-driven two-step stuff so I didn't know what Williams was gonna think - I do like to mix in and out of styles. Luckily he loved the tracks and asked if he could release them via his label and that was it.
Deejaying wise, I got back from a great night in Cologne in September. The guys who invite me over there are really clued up on everything we do over here and regularly lock into Rinse which is kinda weird but good at the same time. I never really considered people outside the UK would pay much attention to what we do here but the crowd we're really receptive and it was good fun. I played at Fabric recently too for Roska Kicks and Snares (RKS) alongside Roska, J:Kenzo and Jamie George which was cool. I like Fabric because I never feel I have to stick to a particular genre and the crowd are always up for t. I managed to showcase a few tunes from my forthcoming EP for RKS as well which was nice; 'Beyond the Sea' and 'Rockstar', both of which are two-steppy.
I've also got my Rinse show too which I try and put a lot in to - I really enjoy doing it and I make sure I'm always letting people know track names and new EP information. I think its important for supporters to be kept in the loop!"
MA1 cites his journey through UK Garage as a teenager as one of the main reasons for first falling in love with music but also acknowledges the roles both pirate radio and 'Big Apple Records' played in his rise to the top:
"I started really listening to music when I was about 11 or 12 - me and a friend from school listened to pirate radio a lot when it was all proper exciting. I listened to a lot of hip hop too and spent my pocket money on Wu Tang CDs and quite a bit of East Coast stuff. I'd say that was what I listened to up until I was about 15 or 16 - I was too young to go out then but once I started going to college, i became aware of Garage. Once I started to go out and experience clubs, that was all I heard!
About that time, I knew a mate who lived not too far from me with decks and a load of jungle records and quite a lot of Andy C stuff - I started to go round every other day and tried to teach myself how to mix, not for any particular reason other than enjoying it. It was weird because I'd be mixing jungle but raving to Garage so I guess it was a natural progression to start buying the records I spent my life dancing to. I'd go up to Black Market Records and Uptown and make sure I was buying regularly and eventually found myself a slot on a really cruddy pirate station and ended up going down that route for quite a while. A little while after that, I managed to get on a quite a big pirate station in South London, 'Upfront FM', and before long I was guesting on stations like 'Freek FM' in North London and 'Delight' in South. I actually met Hatcha on Upfront and used to hang around with him a bit so I started to see Skream, Benga and Artwork quite a lot - they were always at 'Big Apple' too. The great thing about that place was that it wasn't in Central London so they got all the tunes!
Once Garage started to fade in 2004, I stopped deejaying for a while which was weird having being on pirate for so long. The whole grime thing had started but I wasn't really feeling it at the time so I started to get into House and by 2005-2006, I got involved with Supa D and started to play a lot on Deja Vu. About a year later, I got a call from Geeneus at Rinse and made the move just after Supa D and its been plain sailing ever since. It's a lot different being on Rinse, they've got an international audience now but even back when I started they were making full use of the internet where as other pirates at the time weren't. Geeneus isn't called a genius for nothing - he knows exactly what he's doing and I'm really happy to still be a part of the station."
Despite spending much of his time working on tracks at between 126 and 130 BPM, MA1 also experiments at 140:
"My style incorporates everything - garage, house and all the new sounds I'm hearing through Rinse. It's a weird combination really! One day I'll make a house EP like 'Elektron' and the next I'll do something completely different - I'm like water, I'll go anywhere. I try to keep things between 126 and 130 but I do make the odd tune at 140 - sadly I'm not confident enough to go anywhere near releasing anything. As production goes, I tend to just sit down, make a few loops and then just mess about with different sounds. I'm free to make whatever i feel like making because I'm not a part of any particular scene. It might take me longer having that outlook but you just do what you feel like. I did focus on making straight house a few years back but I dabble in a lot more these days - I found I'd get bored making and playing the same stuff."
With the release of the 'Elektron EP' this week still fresh in his mind, I asked MA1 about the thinking behind his latest offering:
"Initially, I had a load of tracks together and wasn't really sure what to do with them. I was thinking about sending them to Rinse but ended up sending a few to Roska to see what he thought. I ended up with two tracks left over so I decided to make a few more that'd fit the same vibe and before I knew it, I kinda had an EP on my hands. It was organic how it all came about really. Track names are a killer though - I'm just no good at it at all man. I had track 001 and track 002 just sitting there and you end up having to listen for a while until words come into your head; 'Bang, that's Elektron' , 'Hmmmm this reminds me a bit of Ibiza, lets call it Bora Bora after the beach' - it is literally like that. I didn't have a name for the EP itself either but eventually decided to go with 'Elektron'. The whole process is a lot harder than it looks, trust me!"
Having set up his own label back in 2004 as an outlet for his own music, MA1's recent releases have come via 'RKS' and 'Deep Teknologi', a move he credits with opening up his sound to new audiences:
"I've got a label that i started in 2004 called 'Karnival Music' that I used to release my own stuff on. The whole purpose of that was just a different way of getting my music out there but I always recognised the importance of releasing on different labels. Roska and Williams started to hit me up about opening up my music and taking it down different avenues so it made sense to work with them. Both of them offered me the chance to send music that i thought would fit their labels and I know T Williams very well too so there was no better place to start really. It also helps take the stress away from releasing my own stuff, as well as opening up the music to different audiences - its a definite win-win. When I was younger, my attitude was much more, 'Nah, fuck it, I can do it myself' but it didn't get me very far. I remember getting lots of offers from various labels for a track I'd made called 'I'm Right Here' featuring Sophia Black but I turned them all down and opted for the DIY route. I'm much more aware of how important it is to release on different labels these days."
MA1 is also a firm advocate of the ever expanding UK bass music scene and explains how different things are now as compared to at the turn of the millennium:
"Its a lot different now to what I knew previously. Back in the day it was kinda one scene at a time; in '93-'94 you had jungle and then '96 to '00 was garage before that kinda split and we got the whole grime movement coming through and soon after that there was dubstep and UK Funky. They were all really clear and defined sounds you know? Today its all mixed in together and everyone's getting involved in different things. Everybody seems to know each other too now - somehow or another, deejays and producers have all crossed paths and get along. It gives artists and fans alike a lot more choice and variety."
With 3-4 releases already planned for 2012 and hopes for an album on the agenda, MA1's reputation can only continue to grow as we enter the new year:
"I'm going to be focusing on more vocal releases next year and trying to push my own sounds too - i want to mix it up a bit and play some different stuff. I'd like to do an album too but that's probably a little way off yet. I am looking to put out 3, maybe 4 releases next year though and I want to try and keep the bookings coming in. I've played out quite a bit recently so it'd be nice to keep that going. It's just a case of generally keeping it all moving in the right direction."
Deep Teknologi: http://soundcloud.com/deep-teknologi-records
Roska Kicks & Snares: http://www.roska.co.uk/
Buy the 'Elektron EP' via Juno here: http://www.junodownload.com/products/elektron-ep/1832148-02/
You can also listen to an MA1's exclusive 'Elektron' promo mix via Hyponik too: http://hyponik.com/2011/10/ma1-drops-mix-in-anticipation-of-his-elektron-ep/