A little chin-wag with Midland

From choral singing and school disco DJ to releasing some of the best music of 2010. Midland talks to Disconnected about producing with Ramadanman, chocolate biscuits and this n that…

Tell us about yourself, how long have you been involved with music, what’s your passion, how did you get started?

Well I’ve been ‘involved’ in music for quite a long time, at school I was a choral scholar and always ended up taking on the music at school discos, you know, changing records, not really mixing, but learning to understand crowds and stuff. Towards the end of school I really got in to Drum n Bass and then got seriously in to mixing when I got my decks and moved to Leeds Uni. I used to practice 4/5/6 hours a day and subsequently got a slot doing a pretty popular radio show on Frequency FM. From there, I played quite a few different nights in the city due to the fact I always played across the board. Production was the logical step and something I started to take seriously at the end of my third year. However, this correlated with a decline in my passion for the music I had been into. At the time I started listening to an increased amount of house, techno and UK underground music and found that when I ventured in to these territories the ideas seemed to flow much more as a direct result of the extra space.

School discos! You should send the head master your Phonica release as a thank you for getting you started!

Not that the thought hadn’t crossed my mind, but I know that he’s much more in to his gabba so would probably be wasted on him.

Gabba Master! Anyway, how did your release with Ramadanman come about?

We’ve been mates 4 years or so, and I went to visit him at his parents gaff in Dorset last summer and after a hearty day of sightseeing and multiple tea room visits we decided to try our hand at writing something together, it came about relatively quickly with a few peaks and troughs during the creation process for good measure.

How did you go about working together? was it studio time or a long distance thing?

Well we’ve lived together for a few years so upon returning back to Leeds in September after Will Saul signed it, we finished the A side ‘Your Words Matter’ and then set about writing the B side ‘More Than You Know’ straight after and that was quite a different vibe, the release is quite indicative of our different sounds and inspirations. As this is the first and only collab we’ve done so far I wouldn’t say there’s a formula, but it usually involves the guest in the others studio (me in this case) bringing samples and dark chocolate digestives and not touching the synths.

Keep them chocolate fingers to yourself aye… Did you know you had a killer tune on your hands when you had finished it?

We were really in to it, but if I’m honest I very rarely think anyone else is going to like something once I’ve finished it. I think its quite common amongst producers that after spending days on end couped up in your ‘studio’ you often start to question whether its complete tripe. That said, when collaborating it’s often easier to gauge an idea of how a tune is going to do, and although I’m very much a solo writer I do get slight vibe envy of people who work in pairs or group. [Laughs]

Your release on Phonica is huge! What were your influences when putting it together?

The influences for that were just taken from listening to a lot of new music and being completely inspired by it all, lots of muscular Germanic techno and emotive garage tinged dubstep probably. Things like the Moderat album, which although it’s a dance album has so many layers and is amazing, lots of old Boards of Canada etc. The EP has quite a broad range of sounds and I think that’s probably a direct result of me having a bit of a sonic binge! The funniest one of those has to be the creative process of the Leitmotif remix which was done in my parent’s kitchen on headphones last Christmas. When I was writing the big synthy breakdown I was literally sitting there while my mum made mince pies going a bit mental and grinning like a fool with my hands up in the air like Tiesto.

That’s an image that will flash in front of my eyes next time I play the record, thanks! It got some big support, who were you most happy to hear had been pushing it?

I found it a bit surprising really, I’m always a bit dubious about feedback forms, but hearing people like Laurant Garnier, Ellen Allien, Jimpster and co. were supporting it was a bit of a noggin scrambler! Mary Anne Hobbes supported it really heavily on Radio One and I was so grateful to her for that, she’s such a lovely woman and has great taste so it meant a lot. Recently, the real surprise has been Sasha has been playing the EP along with some other tunes, he’s a massive inspiration and I literally grew up on the Global Underground CD’s and his amazing ‘Involver’ albums so it’s very humbling to hear.

Tell us about your production set up.

It’s super ghetto [Laughs]. It’s all pretty simple really, because I have been skint for ages the real priority was good monitors which I bought 2 years ago. I forked out quite a bit back in the glorious heady days of the student loan on some Adam A7’s which are excellent and can’t come recommended highly enough, they run through my Edirol UA25 sound card which although quite simple does the job. I have a I-Mac running Logic Pro 7 with a few select synths and distortion plug ins such as the Ohm Plugins like Ohmicide and Predatohm but mainly rely on the ones within Logic, they are really excellent. I think the more you spend on sound card and monitors within reason you really notice the difference. Until recently, I had no midi keyboard but after meeting Paul Woolford in Leeds he very kindly lent me a spare one, I think he was a bit horrified at the thought of me not having a keyboard. What a legend!

What’s your favorite gig been so far? And why?

I’d have to say my recent gig at the Phonica 7th Birthday at Corsica Studios. It was a combination of a few things really, great set time, massive system, full room, lots of mates and having loads of new and unreleased music that I was really looking forward to playing. Saying that I haven’t played Audiophile yet so you might have to ask me after.

Ha, well, I’m sure we will get you pissed either way mate… Tell us about your Fact Mag mix, what’s in it? Does it represent the sound you play when in clubs?

I said in another interview recently that I have a real soft spot for mixes and mix CD’s which manage to take you on a journey and include different sounds, genres and styles.

Mixes like James Holden’s ‘At The Controls’, Joris Voorn’s Balance mix (which if you haven’t checked you must do immediately), Greg Wilson’s most recent essential mix and Aim’s Fabric Live. I had this idea of moving from around 100bpm to 130bpm which was harder than I first thought. I wanted it to be a chance to play some of the tunes I end up dancing in my kitchen to with mates after nights out, and some older less well known things that I grew up with like the Nellee Hooper remix of Unfinished Sympathy and of course a healthy dose of ego boosting own material [Laughs]. I think as a DJ nothing is more important than knowing your set time and crowd and adapting your sound to fit it. This isn’t to say you should change completely but have a broad enough selection that people can still identify it’s you. I would say the second half of the mix is more indicative of what I play out, if a crowd is up for going on a journey through the deep stuff, the dark stuff the big tunes then all the better I say.

What’s in the future for Midland?

Writing lots of music is top of the pops for the next few months, I’m lucky to be working on quite a few remixes over the next months, but then after full focus is on writing original music for some EP’s due for release in the first half of 2011 so have to keep my head down. DJ’ing is starting to pick up so hopefully I’ll be able to visit some new places and meet interesting people. Most pressing though is to continue to refine and improve my curry cooking technique and make my way through our large collection of cook

Nice, did I hear something’s in the pipe-line with our mate Max Cooper?

Yes actually. I’m remixing one of his tunes called Automnemonic for the Traum label. He hit me up a few months ago asking if I wanted to do something and after checking his stuff I thought it would be an enjoyable task. His production and mix-downs are intimidatingly good to say the least.

Cous cous or steak and ale pie?

Well since I’m starting to flirt quite seriously with vegetarianism I’d say cous cous although its quite hard to get it tasting really good. However, if on the rare chance I’m having a pub lunch and a pint of ale you have to draw for the steak and ale pie really!

For more information check out Midland’s MySpace.

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