Post-Genre Creativity: Mr. Mitch On Gobstopper, Techno Dancehall, And Club Culture
Genre. We have a complicated relationship with it, don’t we? Writers continue to implement it as a descriptive tool. Fans share music amongst each-other, using it as a way of quickly describing something in an increasingly fast-paced world. In an instant, an artist can be categorised for the rest of their career. As the levels of music filtering into the world reach dizzying heights, we as consumers are constantly seeking fast ways of depicting someone’s work, without taking the time to explore what it really is, or really means.
The issue of catergorisation is something that Mr. Mitch, Gobstopper Records label head and co-founder of BOXED LDN, has had to deal with throughout most of his production life. Never satisfied with restricting himself creatively and artistically, he has been sub-consciously flying the flag for future-facing sounds for nearly a decade now.
“I’ve had problems over the years with being labelled as one thing,” he tells me. “People then create a picture in their head of what your music is going to sound like. Especially with me, coming through on grime, and then making stuff that, in my head, was pushing the experimentation of grime forward. For anyone else who hasn’t heard my music and has a basic picture of what grime is… If they don’t like grime, they aren’t going to give my music a chance.”
“I see it happening all the time with techno, too,” he continues. “A lot of producers really hate the term ‘bass music’, and it’s not one that I like that much either. There seems to be a bit of snobbery around the term ‘techno’ and the term ‘bass’, when there’s a lot of blurred lines between the two. It really depends in what context you’re listening to it from for you to define what it is. If someone played you a bunch of tracks with no context you could easily call it techno, but if you’re told that it comes from the scene over here then suddenly your opinion on what it is changes.”
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Mr. Mitch has unlocked all secret characters when it comes to blurring the lines between genre. Be it through his own productions or his own curation of intriguing artists and sounds on his Gobstopper imprint, he is truly pushing his sound - whatever he chooses that to be – forward.
His most recent concoction of genre has seen Miles take on the techno concept, but in a way that is familiar to him and his cultural upbringing. Techno Dancehall is a distinctly unique take on the genre, and one that makes sense given the cultural melting pot that is London. “A lot of the producers who came out of dubstep and started leaning towards techno, their stuff definitely didn’t sound anything like the techno that was coming out of anywhere else,” he says. “It had a different kind of feeling, and that’s because of the influences that are in the UK currently.”
Two mixes have been put out on NTS and Rinse FM, and a techno dancehall set has been locked in for BOXED LDN’s seventh birthday taking place at Corsica Studios on March 6th. So, when did this perspective on techno begin to take form?
“It really just started with me digging around and getting tunes from all over the spectrum of sound, and noticing that the songs I gravitated to a lot all had a similar rhythm pattern that linked to the stuff that I’m used to hearing or stuff that is relevant to my cultural background,” he says. “I was trying to explore techno more as it wasn’t my introduction to dance music – initially for me it was garage, then grime and then it expanded from there, so for me to get to grips to techno a bit more I naturally found rhythms that made sense to me.”
There’s something very sincere and honest about Miles. Throughout our conversation he speaks of “naturally” being drawn to future-facing sounds and unique aesthetics as opposed to directly seeking them out. Most of the music that he has put out has been discovered on SoundCloud, or on online forums, or from people simply reaching out through Twitter. Using the same head to curate his label as he does for DJing, he can never pick tracks that are simply “ok”.
“It’s always like, this has to be THE track. They all must be incredible. I just look for stuff that stands out to me.”
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Speaking of tracks that stand out, I’m keen to discuss a track that Miles – and many others – thought was deserving of a place on many end of the decade lists. Bloom’s 'Quartz' set the scene alight when it was released in 2012, and it still resonates today, having paved the way for many of contemporary grimes most experimental and forward-thinking artists and uniting the grime purists and grime experimentalists under an umbrella of arcade nostalgia, gun cocks and bass pulses.
“I had been speaking with Bloom for a few years prior to hearing the track,” he says. “He had another release on another label, that was bit more of a different sound again, so we’d been sending tunes back and forth on MSN at the time. He posted 'Quartz' on SoundCloud and I messaged him straight away telling him that I needed to put it out.”
“I posted it in grime forum after I’d signed it, kind of pretending I’d just found this tune. People went crazy for it. Even though it gets credited for being a song that pushed grime instrumentals in a different direction, it was still enjoyed by fans of grime and fans of those original instrumentals.”
UK music is in a very good place right now. You only must dip briefly into the back catalogues of labels such as Gobstopper, Circadian Rhythms, or Planet Mu to get an idea of how interesting the perspective on sound is here. The very reasoning behind that perspective has become threatened with the introduction of increased restrictions on immigration in the wake of Brexit, and with the recent damning announcement that artists seeking to travel between the UK and the EU for work will face their own list of boxes that they must tick.
“I don’t know exactly what’s next, but in my head, the reason why I think the UK produces some of the world’s best dance music, or music in general, is because of the huge pot of different cultures that have come together,” he says. “Especially in places like London where it’s quite dense and everyone is on top of each other, and areas like Bristol and Manchester – places where a large amount of different communities are coming together. I think immigration is the key factor for making music interesting, and making people come up with new ideas and feeding from each other.”
“I really hope we don’t move to a society where immigration is stopped, as it helps everybody artistically.”
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Words: Andrew Moore
Photo Credit: Piotr Niepsuj
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