Few artists are a better fit for collaboration than Mr. Mitch and Yamaneko. Both ended 2014 with spaced out explorations of grime’s inner world, re-conceptualizing the roughneck genre and taking it into new territory. Since then, they’ve both been working on new releases, but have also found time to team up for a 4 track collaboration for Local Action, extending their dream-like deconstructions into new reaches while still remaining firmly rooted in grime’s primary signifiers. Speaking via Skype, we discussed work flows, ideas, saxophones and the details you can find when slowing sounds down. It all makes for a great record, and one that again expands the definition of grime.
Just don’t call it watercolor. That’s a terrible genre name. —Son Raw
How did you two decide to work together? Obviously you run in the same circles but this is an extensive project rather than a one off tune.
Yamaneko: I guess, we chat to each other at Boxed and Miles’ music has had a big influence on me for a good a while. Boxed just brings people together and when our albums came out, people just linked them together and spoke of them in the same context, so we figured we should make some tunes together. We went into T. Williams’ studio and it just felt natural. We figured this could be a project and we met up a few times over a year and made a few tunes.
You guys have done remixes but in terms of a full collaboration, was this a new experience?
Mr. Mitch: Definitely in terms of a full project. I do enjoy doing remixes because there’s no one there to tell me what to do, they’ve already had their input and then I work around it. But this is one of the first times it’s worked having someone giving me input while I’m also working on the tune. It’s the first time that’s really been successful for me.
Yamaneko: Same for me. Previously I’d been sending stems back and forth to people for remixes. That’s great because you can be inspired by their ideas and then put your own in but that feels like a separate thing. This felt like coming together towards one single idea from two different people. It was definitely the first time for me that it worked so easily. Being in the studio you can sometimes feel pressured to knock out something quickly that may not be what you had in mind, but for Yaroze Dream Suite, we had a vision from the beginning and it worked really quickly.
In terms of that vision, did you discuss it ahead of time? This feels very distinct from your solo projects.
Yamaneko: I think there’s a venn diagram where Parallel Memories and Pixel Dream Embrace meet and a lot of this project came from there. There was quite a lot of crossover but we both have our own individual ideas. I think you can see certain areas where you can tell who made what but our ideas complement each other really well.
Mr. Mitch: I don’t think we came into it with a fixed idea of what the project was going to be. Over time we realized what it was becoming.
What was the process, going into the studio in terms of workflow?
Mr. Mitch: There was a lot of back and forth on our own computers. Yamaneko uses Ableton and FL Studio and I use Logic and we’re not familiar with each other’s programs.
Yamaneko: The shortcuts are different. It’s deadly!
Mr. Mitch: A lot of it was that we’d meet together, come up with loads of ideas regarding what we’d want to do. Go back to our own computers, get them down and then almost do a swap. That way we’d just keep building bit by bit together.
Yamaneko: We had our two laptops set up on the desk in the studio, one of us would have headphones in the other monitors and then every now and again we’d nudge each other and go “listen to this.” Using different software was great because I love combining the different things that each program can do. I use Fruity and Ableton myself and I like utilizing what both are capable of and that was definitely the way it worked with Logic and Ableton on this project as well
I don’t think I’ve heard of too many people talking about using two different laptops like that. Especially with everyone going nuts over hardware right now.
Mr. Mitch: It was all in the box.
Yamaneko: Yeah, it’s all internal sounds that we’re using. I think that’s just where we’re comfortable. The hardware stuff is cool but it’s more considerate if you’re in the box, unless you’re going out of the way to use certain controllers. It’s less of a jam, and I like that considerate approach.
How did “In the Moonlight” come together? That’s definitely a standout given the vocal and sax. Not immediately what people think of when you guys come up but I love it.
Mr. Mitch: That was a strange one. I’d never met Hannah before she vocaled the tune. I was at Rinse’s recording studios and they brought her in. They said she was a new talent they wanted to try out but realized they didn’t have any beats for her. They asked if I had anything for her and I gave her something we made and a couple of hours later she’d laid down that sax line and the vocal—the whole song basically. Luckily Rinse didn’t use it for anything so we got it for our project.
Yamaneko: She’s really good. Like you said, it came out in a couple of hours. I’ve listened to more of her work and it’s just really cool experimental jazz stuff and that fits into a lot of the music that influenced Yaroze Dream Suite anyways, so it was really good to have that sort of kind-of-live element but still within our computer dream world. ‘Cause we retouched the saxophone a tiny bit, but it’s all her.
I didn’t realize she’d played the sax. I had no idea if it was live or sample actually.
Mr. Mitch: We just added some kind of pixel effect to bring it into our world, but it’s definitely real.
In terms of the title, Yaroze Dream Suite really hints at a lot of internet-centric music floating around. Was that a going concern as you were writing this?
Yamaneko: For us, I don’t think either of us focused on other dreamy internet stuff, it was quite a lot of themes to environments. Lots of visual references. We talked about the artwork a lot very early on. All of those ideas influenced the music. I think we’re both into atmospheric music and trying to operate in a way where we make music out of grime. We come from a grime mindset in terms of how the music is structured and put together. Contrasting hard and soft sounds a lot. We took this mess of ideas and tried to bring it into this dream world in a way that’s understandable.
One of the things I really like about the project is how it plays with time and slowness through the tempos, pitched down drums, etc. Was that a conscious decision?
Mr. Mitch: We definitely were exploring it a lot, even in our DJ sets. Slowing things right down allows you to find different elements in the music. I think when a track is slowed down it lets you bring out the minor details. A lot of the time when I was making grime at 140BPM, something would be missing or it wouldn’t feel complete. A lot of the time it was just too fast and I’d miss a lot of the input ’cause it was going by. I don’t even know what the tempos of the tracks on this EP are but there’s definitely a slow vibe to it and a lot of detail to be explored.
Yamaneko: Even the 140BPM tune we have on there doesn’t feel that fast. The slower tunes in the mix, we purposefully recorded some stuff slowed down at 33RPM, some vinyl rips, including a Scratcha DVA tune which is one of our favorite grime instrumentals. I’m definitely into trails of sound, things that hang in the air a bit, and by slowing stuff down you can definitely explore that space, what’s left over when a sound is done.
It still feels connected to what we were doing at 140BPM, but it’s another exploration of it. We still structured these tracks like we were making grime tunes. My favorite thing about grime is unpacking the most potent emotion in one small sound. Like how much emotion is in the fucking, distorted 808 from “Pulse X?” It’s just one drum sound. That sort of exploration of sound—along with scattershot drums—directly links it to that world, but this is a more introverted exploration of it.