We’re nearing the end of 2018 and we’ve seen a couple of electronic music artists ascend to near stardom across the globe. There are a few more that aren’t too far behind that feat, and one of them is UK producer Mella Dee.
The man may be most well known for his banger ‘Techno Disco Tool’, but before he rose to fame for his unique infusions of house and techno, he had been doing the rounds producing a variety of different sounds. Tracks like ‘GT Turbo’ and ‘Trellick,’ both echo a raw, Tessela-sounding adherence to breakbeat rave, yet he has managed to create a totally individual sound from EP to EP. While some might say that he’s sold out or given in to a trend, Mella Dee is just flexing his production muscles.
That statement is strengthened by his most recent techno EP under his Ryan Aitchison alias (His real name), which he released via his Warehouse Music label. While ‘Techno Disco Tool’ has been backed by the more commercial likes of Annie Mac and the BBC, he also has Daniel Avery playing his heavier stuff in fabric, openly showing that a number of genres can co-exist on one label and in one producer’s catalog and he’s been doing so since the start.
We got the opportunity to chat over the phone where we could expand precisely on how he’s carved out his name as such a versatile DJ and producer, which has allowed him to inhabit the same lineups as the star studded likes of Annie Mac and Denis Sulta as well as the underground champions such as Josey Rebelle.
A lot of people of late will know you for your house and disco-infused tracks, how are you managing to infuse everything into your sets?
“I don’t find it hard to go from different styles and different sounds, as long as it makes sense. People seem to like the harder sort of techno stuff as well as more soulful things. Basically, along as it’s got a good groove and a good vibe then I’m happy.”
Does the popularity of ‘Techno Disco Tool’ hamper the crowds at your gigs? Alan Fitzpatrick has been vocal about the number of people attending his sets solely waiting for ‘We Do What We Want’ and that he finds it tricky to play heavier stuff, is it the same for you?
“Not massively. It has changed the level because a lot more people know me for that, but people seem pretty open to what I’m playing. It all makes sense together. Even though Techno Disco Tool has got the big sample in it, it’s still tough so it makes sense alongside that sort of stuff.”
With your Ryan Aitchinson alias you’re releasing techno, but you’ve had heavier material under Mella Dee too, so how are you allocating what tracks go where?
“It’s just me experimenting. With Ryan Aitchinson, I can just put it out, don’t have to think about it too much. People won’t have pre-conceptions about it being Mella Dee or not.
If it’s genuinely heavier and a lot darker and it makes sense, then it’s more when I’d use the Ryan Aitchinson alias.”
People might have questioned your Underground credibility after the success of the Techno Disco Tool EP, but recognised figures like Daniel Avery are still playing your Warehouse Music tracks from Ryan Aitchinson, that must be a good feeling.
“All the releases so far have been played by so many people across so many different clubs across the world and everyone has their own favourites. Obviously Techno Disco Tool is the one that has popped it but there’s been multiple releases before that with varied ideas. They’re there for people that want to play whatever they want to play. I’m always going to keep doing different stuff.”
How have you been building up Warehouse Music and what’s in store for it in the future?
“At the minute, it’s mainly just me. If something came along and it sounds amazing and it needs putting out then I’ll definitely try and do that, but I’m quite picky and releasing music can take a long time, especially when you’re a touring DJ, so my priority isn’t really to release a lot of other people’s new music, it’s to put out projects and to keep it moving.
“I make a lot of music and it’s a good outlet for me to put it out on without loads of other people having inputs and opinions on whether or not it should go out.”
It’s been great that you’ve been ascending to people’s attention just as you kicked off Warehouse Music, rather than starting it after you became recognised. It’s been a natural progression.
“The reason I started it was because I was fed up of pleasing people. I can do what I want and I don’t have to stress too much. I’ve been busy touring but when I started the label I wasn’t as busy touring, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do.”
Special Request [Paul Woolford] has been on a tear of late after the release of his last album. Would ever be tempted to dip back into your earlier breakbeat tracks given the success of his style? There are definitely some similarities.
“The thing with the breakbeats is that I used to make them with the idea in mind that it’d be played in a techno set as a little moment. The problem was that I was brandished as this breakbeat guy and that everything I was going to do had to be breakbeat, but I’m not. I wanted to not do that for a while. You do so much with it and it just ends up getting a bit stale.
“It was a different time and space. It’s still there, it’s not like I’ve just forgotten that part of me. Paul [Woolford] took it to a different level anyway. It felt as if everyone started to do it and as soon as everyone starts to do something, I tend to just cut out from doing it. I can’t be bothered being somewhere where everyone is trying to impersonate the same sound.”
Your evolution from breaks and heavier tracks to more house influenced things, has that been a product of travelling and playing abroad?
“Everyday is a learning process for me. I find new music all the time that I’m inspired by. At the minute I’m playing in the clubs two or three times a week so I’m learning what stuff works where and I’m building things that work in different spaces.”
A lot of the time when someone gets to the stage you’re at, where they get mass exposure, promoters can often throw them onto lineups that sell easily without too much thought for which acts work well together. Are you being careful that you don’t fall into a category that mightn’t necessarily suit you when you’re looking at potential lineups?
“I’m massively careful about that. I released my first record (not under Mella Dee) back in 2009, so I’m aware of the industry. I want to play on lineups with people that play music and promote things I do too. I don’t want to back shit music. I’m very picky, there’s certain things that I think are shit that other people love.
As far as I can, I try and control where I’m playing. There’s no point in focusing solely on money. The idea is ‘Why can’t I do what the older legends are doing now?’. I want to be relevant, I don’t want to just keep being about and not doing anything relevant. Down the line, I still want to be making music and for people to respect what I’m doing and see that I’m not just chasing money.”
Style has become a somewhat important thing in electronic music of late with some of its biggest stars being commended for what they wear. You definitely fall into that category.
“Everyone sees all that stuff a lot more. It’s not me tapping into that idea, I just like wearing these clothes. A lot of the house and techno people come from different backgrounds and have a different style to me. The way that I am stands out a bit more and I’m a bit more relatable to people who wear tracksuits and Air Max 95s.
I always want to be relatable. If somebody sees me and they want to come up and chat to me that’s cool. Social media is a good way to interact with people, if they like to get to know you then I don’t mind just show your true self.”
Mella Dee returns to Dublin on Stephen’s Night for a huge night in District 8, support coming from Quinton Campbell on the night. Click here for the event page.