Google+ Beathearts: The Beathearts Mala sitdown


The Beathearts Mala sitdown

Fall is closing in fast and we thought it was about time for another sit-down. Friday we hooked up with dubstep legend Mala to talk about his music making, inspirations and his current Mala in Cuba project.

The vibe was electric when Mala took the stage with MC Sons of Selah. He set the vibe straight off by honoring the roots of dubstep by dropping Barrington Levy's classic The vibe is right (1985) before going heavyweight.

  Barrington Levy - The vibe is right (1985)

Artist: Mark Lawrence a.k.a. Mala
Event: AllOutDubstep @ Fabriken
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Date: September 14th 2012



Where does the name Mala come from?
It’s a nickname from when I was very young. It was an abreviation of my real name (MArk LAwrence). As I got older it just stuck. It’s just a nickname that people has called me for ages.

Beatmakers and drummers are great sources of inspiration for us. People like Karriem Riggins, Chris Dave, Madlib, Questlove, Kenny Dope and of course Dilla's music was a major reason for us to start writing about soulful underground music. Are you a drummer as well?

Nah. I mean I drum on the tables if that means I’m a drummer? But you know I love beats. For me it all started out with jungle. What the jungle guys were doing with breakbeats that’s what got me into listening to beats. Whatever they used to sample.

The good old Amen break?

Yeah, of course the Amen break. Tearin! I heard that track in many, many variations. That break with everything surrounding it could do wonders on the floor for energy.

The Winstons - Amen Brother

We first discovered you through the DMZ dubplates back in 2005. Was that when you started releasing music or did you put out anything before that?

No, I was doing stuff before that. From my mid-teens really. In the mid-ninties I started MCing. Where we grew up there used to be alot of pirate radio stations and we used to listen to alla the jungle DJs. You know Grooverider, Wookie, Kenny Ken, Micky Finn, Daren J, Nicky Blackmarket, Ray Keith, Goldie, you know what I mean? Doc Scott, DJ Hype...

From the early ninties I listen to jungle and when I heard that sound I wanted to get involved. I enjoyed what the MCs were doing back then. You know the raggaetons, Navigators, Moose and Five-O, Stevie Hyper-D, GQ. When I heard what those guys there were doing over the drum’n’bass tunes I knew what I wanted to do.

Embee - Niceness (1994)

You didn’t have to buy a turntable or buy records, you could just sit there with your pen and paper and write lyris down. So from a young age I started playing in clubs. I was really lucky to be able to play with some of the DJs I just mentioned when I was like 14 years old. And it just progressed from there really, until I got to about 19 when I started making beats.

What was your name back then? Many artists start of their careers with a cheesy name.

The same. I didn’t feel the need to change name.

What does the creative process behind a new Mala remix or original track look like? Is there a difference to your approach?

Well, not necessarily technically but mentally the approach is different. Because if I’m going to the studio to write a tune, I just go there, turn on the computer and just jam. And whatever comes through, comes through. Sometimes after a sessions in the studio you leave the track and when you come back the next day you’re still in the same space so you can continue working on it. And that’s how I eventually finish a track.

Sometimes I spend the whole day working on a track and when you come back the next day it’s just gone. You put it to bed. That’s what I call training mode. Just because you write a piece of music doesn’t mean you have to finish it in my opinion.

For me it’s really a natural process and I try to let the music write itself so to speak. You might start off with a chord on a synthesizer and from that sound I get inspired to chose a certain sounding kickdrum. And that kickdrum will make you pick a certain sounding snare. So the music builds itself. That’s how I make tunes.

It’s very rarely that I go into the studio and know exactly what I wanna do. It’s not like that for me. It’s more like a freestyling thing.

King Midas Sound - Earth a kill ya (Mala remix)

One of our favourite remixes of yours is King Midas Sound Earth a kill ya. Could you tell us the story of how that came about?

I’ve known Kevin (Martin), The Bug, for many years. We met through the music we were doing. I’ve been listeing to the music Kevin’s been making for many years and he used to come down to the DMZ-sessions. He was looking to do a remix LP for his album so he just phoned me up and sent me the parts.

You know, anyone who sends me remix has to give me time, ’cause I’m not the fastest worker in the studio. I actually did a version and I finished it but didn’t like it. So I scrapped it and started another one. When I sent it to him it wasn’t finished. But he really liked it so I went back and found the space to finish it. You see that’s my problem really haha! Just because I do a track doesn’t mean that I’ll finish it. I’m not one of them guys who finish a track just for the sake of it. Some people do the first half, like 64 bars or 128 bars, do a little intro in the middle and just drop the same thing all over. But for me, I have to go with it the whole journey you know, feel it out. And that’s the only way I can finish a track. Luckily Kevin was very patient and when I sent it over the whole band was really into it. So luckily it came out.

We have to ask you about the epic Digital Mystikz Return II space. We were blown away by the minmal but yet menacing sound and it featured in our Top Selections 2010. How did that come about?

Well, Return II Space was something that I put out when I hadn’t released any material for quite a while.  And I wanted to release a couple of tracks. It’s actually tracks that I had been working on for quite a few years actually. I think I made Pop Pop Epic in 2006 and Return II Space (the track) I made only a year before it was released. I guess the thought behind calling it Return II Space was because, like I said, I hadn’t release any music for a period of time and it was really about me just finding my space again you know. Because, I work in an isolated environment and sometimes you’re in the studio working on a piece of music and you’re deep in your zone. But after months and months beeing out of that zone it’s like being under water for a long time and popping up in the middle of the ocean. You’re totally lost and don’t know where you are. Sometimes I feel like that and that album was just about me reconnecting.

We’re really happy you took your time to finish that one. Epic release! What were your inspirations growing up? What kind of music did you listen to?

Oh, I used to listen to everything. My parents had alot of different music being played. They weren’t die hard music fans but when I look at my mums record collection and my dad’s record collection it’s like everything from Motown, Michael Jackson, to Bob Marley, to stuff on Trojan (Records) to Dire Straits to Pink Floyd. I listened to alot of music growing up but it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started to discover music for myself. Jungle music was really what opened up my mind because listening to that sound you could hear that they had influences from all sorts of places. From dub, from reggae, from roots, from jazz, from classical, from techno, from acid. So from that it just opened up my mind to all sorts of music.

I’ve got a big house collection from the mid-nineties. I listened to people like Nithin Sawney alot. I listen to everything bruv.

And today? Could you drop a tune or artist that blows your mind right now?

I love listening to Ryuichi Sakamoto. I really enjoy his music.

Ryuichi Sakamoto - Forbidden colours (1983)

How did Gilles Peterson convince you to do the Mala in Cuba project? (Covered here) What as his pitch?

It wasn’t really that he convinced me. It was just the way that he approached me. I’ve said it before, I’ve been offered many things over the years, musical projects or business ventures. But like for most people I do things that I feel are right for me. I met Gilles many years ago. He’s been playing my music and I know what he does so we have a mutual respect for each other. It just seemed like a genuin offer that I couldn’t refuse really. It was November 2010 and Gilles was doing his Havana Cultura project and wanted to bring me along. We went there twice in 2011. I mean it’s not every day someone comes up to you and say ”Hey, come to Cuba with me a write a record!” you know. 

What track off the album are you most proud of?

Hm, I don’t really say that I’m proud of anything I’ve done really. My understanding and definition of that word is not something that identify of wanting to be to be honest with you.  Because like I said before I feel that the music write’s itself.  The album isn’t just my contribution, it’s the contribution of the Cuban musicians, Gilles Peterson for taking me out there, Simbad who coproduced the album with me.

Simbad the producer/remixer of Raw Fusion, Brownswood Recordings fame?

Yeah! Simbad does alot of different types of music but yeah! The record was probably finised about 80 % and I lost quite a bit of objectivity and wanted to invite someone to the studio. You know, if you were to come in to my studio and I’ll play you stuff that I was working on. Just the very fact that you’re listening to it makes me listen to it in a different kind of head space which can then allow you to get back into the zone. So that’s what I did, I invited Simbad over and we ended up mixing down the record together. Like I said it’s not just my doing it’s also the unknown as well. There are elements in there that I have no idea of how they came about but it did.

But the track that I’m maybe most grateful for is a track that came late in the process as I was already mixing the album down. A record called Ghost. It was a track that just came over night really. I wrote it over night as I was mixing down the album and I was a bit bored. So I decided to just treat myself and be creative. I’m just gonna write a beat. But then I ended up putting on more Cuban samples and used the hand claps and congas and it ended up on the album.

Last question then, what more can we expect from the Mala studios in 2012?

I don't know really. I'll let you know when I know. Right now I'm preparing the live show for the album. After the album was done I really just wanted to put it to bed. But Gilles and the others really thought I should develop it into a live project. I'm trying to include as many live elements as possible to keep it as authentic as possible.


Mala in Cuba is out now on Brownswood Recordings.

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