Miles Mitchell, aka Mr. Mitch, has spent the past few years exploring some of the softer, more ambient possibilities of grime music, unravelling its frenetic core into echoing harmonies, supple melodies and spaced-out bass. As part of the Boxed collective, he is partly responsible for re-asserting the centrality of the producer/DJ to the genre, and bringing a sophisticated grime sound to the dancefloor that had no need of vocal support.
Next month he will be releasing 'Devout', his second album on legendary British label Planet Mu, a home which has given him the freedom to pursue his work at the outer edges of genre boundaries, and develop a style that marries underground, avant-garde foundations with a wistful nod to radio-friendly pop. We caught up with him over the phone to talk fatherhood, family and collaborating with musicians he admires.
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Congratulations on the new album. Can you tell us a bit about the concept?
It’s loosely about fatherhood and my views towards fatherhood – how at the moment, for me, it’s my main reference point for everything that I do, because it’s something that’s always with me. I wanted to make sure it was spoken about, because I don’t see fatherhood as being spoken about a lot, especially with black males and obviously the stereotype of the dads who don’t do their job. But there’s a lot of black dads who are doing their job and I don’t see them spoken about. So I kind of wanted to highlight that as well.
I didn’t set out to make an album about fatherhood, it kind of just happened and a lot of the tracks I was making just seemed to be about it. Some of it actually stemmed from a track I made previously called ‘The Lion, The Bitch And The Bordeaux’. Even though at the time of making the track it had nothing to do with fatherhood, later I went on to make the video for the track and it kind of turned it into something completely different – a story about my own father.
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There’s a lot of black dads who are doing their job and I don’t see them spoken about…
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The album’s been described as leftfield pop, was that a conscious direction for you?
I think it’s just always the case when something becomes a bit more of a vocal thing that for a lot of people it stops being this underground thing. Especially when there’s singing on it. But I don’t really have a name for it; I’m easy with people calling it whatever feels right for them. It wasn’t a conscious decision to try and make a pop album, but a lot of the music I listen to, that prick my ears up, is the hooks and melodies, and I guess the pop elements of tunes is what I like about them.
If you listen to the tracks with my own vocals on it, it’s a hook repeated over and over again. It’s the same thing I used to do with previous work, and with samples. Like ‘Don’t Leave’ [from his first LP ‘Parallel Memories’] for example is just my favourite part of the track looped over and over again, so I guess in that way it has pop sentimentalities, definitely.
You’ve worked with a handful of vocalists on the album. How did those collaborations come about?
I knew I wanted to work with an MC, and I knew I wanted to speak about being a father. I know P [Money] has previously mentioned his kids in a tune before, and also, growing up in south east London, in Lewisham, from a young age he was one of the biggest MCs in the area. He’s someone who’s always been around and he’s always been someone that I’ve wanted to work with. So it just felt like the right person to go to about it.
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I guess in that way it has pop sentimentalities, definitely…
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The other tracks on the album, like the one with Palmistry for example, he was almost gonna be on the last album – we’ve been talking for a few years now. I think we first met at a FWD years ago and we’ve just been talking via email since then. We couldn’t get the last track on the last album, just cos of time constraints we couldn’t get it done in time, so this one I was just like yeah we definitely need to get something going. So that’s been in the works for a long time really.
I’ve been wanting to get Denai Moore on a track for a while. The first time I heard her was on SBTRKT’s album. That track on there was my favourite track on the album, and then I got asked to remix one of her songs and from there I just kind of tried to initiate a relationship and get some work done with her. So that was another thing, it’s people I’ve always wanted to work with and who had a story to tell – that’s who I wanted to work with.
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You also sing yourself on some of the tracks. Was it important to have your voice in there too, given the subject of the album?
‘Our Love’ was actually the first track I wrote and the intro track, a different version of the intro track, was the original sound of how ‘Our Love’ was. The track just felt so personal to me it made sense to have more of that on the album and it wouldn’t make sense for anyone else to be saying it or singing it, it had to be me. To come from my perspective and actually mean something to me it had to be me saying it.
This is your second album with Planet Mu. What’s the experience like of working with them?
I’ve always enjoyed working with Mike [Paradinas] and having someone that actually A&Rs your music and gives you real critique – he will tell you if a track is just filler. He’s someone who can give you real criticism on your music and helps you to make the best album that’s possible for you.
And obviously being on a label with such a big history and depth of catalogue in all kinds of electronic music fields, it kind of gives it a seal of respect. People approach the music a bit differently if you’re on Planet Mu than say for example if I released with a different label who hadn’t got that pedigree. It’s been through so many different genres in its time you’re able to listen to a new release and not know what it’s gonna be, so each one is gonna be exciting.
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People approach the music a bit differently if you’re on Planet Mu…
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You played in Brazil quite recently, how do you find travelling abroad? Do you like to explore the music scenes in the places you visit?
Yeah, I was in Brazil in December last year. Usually when I go away, if I’m actually in the country for longer than a day, I try to get someone to show me what’s going on in the area and get a vibe of what the different scenes are and different places. But a lot of the times when I go to places, because I’ve got a family, I try to get an in and out kind of flight. So I rarely get to see as much of the country as I would like to or as much of the music scene as I would like to, but it’s a decision I have to make.
It’s normally the weekends when I’m going away and that’s kind of the time I get to be with my family. As much time as I can spend with them the better really. I’m touring in the States in May and it’s gonna be for three weeks, that’s gonna be the longest time I’ve spent away from them, so it’s gonna be quite hard.
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'Devout' will be released on April 21st via Planet Mu.
Words: Alex McFadyen