Interview: Blend Mishkin is excited
Somethingyousaid.com’s 25ThC is a big fan of Blend Mishkin and regularly plays out his tracks when he DJs, so he chatted with him about his new album, “Survival of the Fittest”, his recording techniques and how the economic crisis in Greece has affected music there:
I’ve been following you for a few years now and love your productions and play them out when DJ’ing. For those that may not be aware of your huge discography can you pick out a few of your highlights?
I’m afraid that such a pick would be based only on my experience and feelings, highlighting the ones that had a special meaning to me. As working with Jamalski on the “We are Roots” single; I’ve been a big fan of him since the 90’s. Also getting to record Carlton Livingston! The man is a true legend and has helped me a lot. But having to choose is really tricky, mainly because the list covers a wide spectrum of genres that I have been engaged with through time and different periods.
Survival of the Fittest took over a year to produce and involved putting together a group “Roots Evolution”, specifically to record the music for this project. Can you tell us about the group and how and why you chose the musicians involved?
Last year I was working with a band called The Burger Project, producing their new album, when I heard from Nice Up, asking if I’d be interested in making an album for them. Excited by this request, I felt I had to create something challenging and also out of my safe environment. I had to start on a blank page and do something completely different so my first thought was to ask the band if they would be interested in making an album together. These guys definitely have great skills and they were already performing together for years forming a great musicianship. The way we worked on this is as follows: I was putting together demos of rough ideas for a song; a bassline, a skank, a beat or a simple melody line. Then I would meet each musician in the studio to jam on the idea and eventually record his part. After that, I’d took all recordings back to my home studio and started shaping up the track for the next stage, the voicing.
In recording the album you also travelled the world to work with a number of MC’s including Gappy Ranks and Exco Levi. Who did you most enjoy working with and why?
Sadly not all artists could be recorded with both of us being present in the studio. In some cases we had to communicate through Skype during sessions. This is something I’m used to doing; most recordings take place this way since the artists might live in Jamaica, New York or London. Every song has a story from the making of it and it’s a different experience. I really enjoyed working with Georges Perin and was amazed by his speed and efficiency. I remember asking him if he’d like to have a listen and tell me if he wanted to sing on “headz together” on a Friday and by Saturday night he’d written lyrics, rehearsed and recorded the song sending me the final vocal tracks. BnC is also always cool to work with. We’ve been recording together since 2006; we have recorded more than 15 songs over the years so we know how each other works very well. Mandinka Warrior sessions were also memorable I met him in Switzerland while on tour; he was there visiting some friends and we linked through Max Rubadub. Next day we started rehearsing on some tracks at Max’s studio in Olten. He is also the one who introduced me to Skarra Mucci and brought him along in the tune.
The album is being released by Nice Up! records in the UK, for whom you have previously released a couple of singles. Why did you choose Nice Up! To release this album?
Well the main reason is I’m a big fan of everything they put out since they started, with their 7″ releases of reggae remixes and mash-ups. Obviously their continuous interest in my music played a big role as well, as I received huge support from them from our previous single releases, Foundation Style and Bubble Up.
You are touring the album around Europe in the next couple of months. Where can people see you play and what do you have lined up for the tour?
Yes, I will be on a mini tour in August promoting the album with some festival gigs. I’ll be playing at Turtle Festival in Albania, Overjam reggae festival in Slovenia, Boomtown Fair in the UK and Gampel air in Switzerland. It’s basically the second part of the tour I started back in May playing clubs in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Greece and Bulgaria.
In addition to your own productions you founded Cast-a-Blast records in 2006 and still run the label. How do you manage to successfully maintain and run a record label in these days of streaming music and free downloads?
It is not the easiest thing, especially if you are also the artist. You come face to face with the reality in the music business nowadays, which is not going that well in general. One thing you have to learn over the years is to always try and adjust to the current situation. I also think that, although actual sales are dropping, people still enjoy and need music now more than ever.
You are based in Greece, so I’m interested to know if the current economic and political situation has affected the music scene over there?
The crisis affected everything. Music and arts were of course one of the first sectors to have losses and cuts. People’s psychology is a big issue also, especially the young ones that see no future ahead. Being creative can be liberating in times like this, but it needs a lot of hard work.
I understand that you are also currently working on an album with a group of Ragga MC’s from Brazil. How did that come about and what is the Ragga scene like over there?
Yes, I’ve started to work with a very talented group of MC’s, singers and musicians from Sau Paolo called Mocadao. They already did a take on one of my riddims and we are giving it for free on Soundcloud. They’re currently recording more songs on my material so I’m very excited of what will follow.
Which artists are you currently following and playing out when DJ’ing that we should check out?
I’m a big fan of all the new reggae roots revival that is going on in Jamaica with artists like Chronixx, Protoje, Rc,, Exco Levi, Kabaka Pyramid, Tarrus Riley etc but I also have huge respect for a lot of European producers like Weedy G from Switzerland, Silly Walks and Jr. Blender from Germany. As a DJ, I like to and, depending on the occasion, play almost every style within reggae music, past and current. From old school 80’s rub a dub and dancehall to roots to dub and so on. I also enjoy what we like to call “Jamaican Bass” this mixture of electronic dance music infused with Jamaican flavours like the works of Ape Drums, Major Lazer etc.
Interview by 25ThC