Every week or thereabouts, Mutant Dance Moves takes you to the shadowy corners of the dancefloor and the fringes of contemporary electronic music, where new strains and dance moves are evolving.
Daniel Martin-McCormick has had quite the hectic 2012. In the spring, he released his first solo album as Ital, Hive Mind, to strong reviews. Soon after, he followed it up with a split single on the 100% Silk imprint. Not too long after that, that same label released Decade, the spiky dance-punk-turned-Chicago house from Martin-McCormick’s duo, Mi Ami. Therein followed US and European tours, a live collaboration with fellow producer Hieroglyphic Being at this year’s Unsound Festival, and now here comes yet another full-length Ital album, Dream On. Across seven tracks, Martin-McCormick goes further down wormholes, the end results being darker yet more playful. Having just returned stateside, we caught up with Martin-McCormick via email to discuss both albums.
“Doesn’t Matter” had been initially conceived of as a track that would be all Lady Gaga samples, syllables and trills and micro edits reconfigured into kick drums, melodies, whatever. I was on the plane, going to Europe and started cutting up this song, as one does on a transatlantic flight. I cut up the vocals and then I started constructing drum sounds out of samples, but then three minutes later, I was so bored and thought it was the stupidest idea. That turned out pretty difficult and, more importantly, boring pretty quickly, but the swirling mess of “doesn’t matter if you love him him him” remained, cuz it sounded so nihilistic and psychotic to my ears.
And then the song happened but what hooked me in was … I’m a big fan of up-to-the-minute digital detritus and I feel the cut-up stuff and time-stretching is something in Audacity that I can do. It’s really appealing to me. It’s like older sampling techniques from the ‘80s, but there’s something about the way you sculpt audio in this totally stupid way and I wanted the record to stick to you in an uncomfortable way. I know that sounds uplifting and fun, but taking out this one part, it becomes menacing. You can hear this minor-key cello behind it. There’s a self-loathing society-questioning aspect to that sound and that’s what I wanted.
I’m sure there are classic breaks to be sampled but I don’t have time to dig through records. I’d rather sample something that we’re hearing all the time and use it musique-concrete style, so that when you recognize it, it registers immediately because you heard it on the Grammys or something.
So how did you approach the use of vocal samples the second time around on Dream On?
Not super differently, but in that song it’s the hook. Whereas in “Enrique” it’s more this murmuring presence, and on “Boi” it was a vocal motif I had been hearing in my head — independent of Beyoncé — before I typed “’Baby Boy’ a cappella” into Google. In that respect, not much has changed; Beyoncé sounds trapped in some psycho-erotic fever dream and Enrique Iglesias is, uninvited, licking your face in a dark corner. There are also Pussycat Dolls, Nigerian boogie musicians, iPhone-recorded politicians and resultant Youtube commentary, but these voices drift through either a little more anonymously or, conversely, less cut up, allowed to speak a bit more of their piece.
Are these tracks from the same time as Hive Mind? Is a second album in a year the result of creative flow or just a matter of process?
Dream On dates from about six to eight months after Hive Mind, after I had come home from about 11 weeks of touring. “Despot” was one of the first songs I started playing out when I put together the live set during the summer of 2011, but that was a pretty separate process (don’t ask me why) from writing and recording the record. Anyways, I got back and I was pretty fired up to put together some new tracks and explore some ideas that had been a little more under the surface on Hive Mind, or maybe just to do something that built on it but had more raw, lean immediacy. I did about 10 or so and Dream On were the best seven, and a couple months later it was out. So yeah, creative flow, process, all that.
“I hadn’t realized until sometime this spring that I was concerned with being a ‘proper’ producer somewhere in the back of my mind, a goal that now seems ludicrously elusive and also kinda pathetic. Who wants to be a ‘proper’ producer when you can just do your own thing super hard?”
What led you in the first place to sample Lady Gaga on “Doesn’t Matter (If You Love Him)” (the first track on Hive Mind)? Did you have different goals or intentions in mind?
I hadn’t realized until sometime this spring that I was concerned with being a ‘proper’ producer somewhere in the back of my mind, a goal that now seems ludicrously elusive and also kinda pathetic. Who wants to be a ‘proper’ producer when you can just do your own thing super hard? The embrace of distortion, weird mixing, the further integration of digital detritus…these are all things that felt very much my own and I was eager to — and am still eager to — explore them further on the new record. Also, I just felt like I had a lot more to say. Although what a musician ‘says’ on a record is usually hard to quantify, but I’m sure you know what I mean.
It’s been a busy touring year for you. So how does playing every night change the music?
Touring definitely makes the music more noisy and fucked up.
Dream On is out now via Planet Mu.