Mr. Carmack on the power of technology in music production… and socks
MR. CARMACK has established himself as a household name in bass music all the while maintaining an attitude of never trying too hard.
The Honolulu-born, Los Angeles-living producer is in Australia at the moment for a string of east coast shows. He took some time out before heading on his continent-spanning world tour to chat to PS about his writing process, dream rider and where he sees the electronic music scene at the moment.
What are you up to at the moment?
I’m good, I’m good. I’m at my house here in LA., in the kitchen currently. I just got a haircut.
That reminds me of Ta-ku who opened his own barbershop. I guess a lot of Australians heard about you from your collaboration last year (“I Miss You Most At Night.”)
Yeah, he’s started his own fucking store. I like it. Nah my buddy comes by and comes over and hangs out, smokes weed and cuts. Nothing too cray.
One of your last tweets for 2015 was “Reorganization can be a stem to inspiration.” What is that about?
I don’t mean complete reinvention. I just completely overhauled the bulk of my music and my computer, pretty nerdy stuff but very necessary. You need to have a moment to re-evaluate everything that you have, the things that you need or things that you don’t need, things that are necessary or taking up space. It’s kind of like cleaning your room you know. Except for me it took a week. I had so much music on my computer, so much music.
You have been unlucky and lost your laptop before, what kind of gear are you taking on your world tour?
I actually lost it in my backyard here in LA. It wasn’t really lost, what happened was I blacked out and it got ripped out of my bag. I woke up on a bus in San Francisco with no backpack. I headlined my own show here in LA, which was sold out, and I got really, really drunk and all my friends left and then I ended up doing stuff I don’t remember. I regret it because there was a lot of good stuff on the laptop. But now I’ll be bringing two laptops – my production and my DJ laptop – a Traktor S5 and a midi keyboard so I can keep things tight and easy.
How are you feeling about the upcoming tour?
I think the longest I’ve done is maybe 55 dates but that was spread over two and a half months. I think this is like 25 dates and it’s spread over three continents. It will be a really fun time, however touring is taxing on the body. It’s a lot of work, this continuous output of content – you work on something and two hours later you have to go catch a flight or one hour later you have to do an interview or in 20 minutes you have to go check into a hotel. So I can do as much as i can on the road but I’m focused on playing my new stuff like the red, yellow and white EP. It’s been a year since I’ve been Australia!
What are you most looking forward to about playing down under?
I love every part of it. I love Australia. I’m excited I’ll give it all I’ve got, play everything that I’ve made, playing my tunes you know. I just try to play my tunes and hopefully it goes down, you never know what happens.
What will you put on your riders in Australia?
Two handles of Jameson whiskey one bottle of Moët champagne and a towel. Sometimes when it’s not as strict – as much weed as possible. That’s pretty much it, simple.
I should start putting socks because as a touring artist you tend to lose underwear and socks at various hotels, so maybe I’ll think to put that on my rider when I come down. What’s an Aussie sock brand?
I don’t think it’s Australian, but Happy Socks are pretty popular.
Only if they make you happy when you wear them.
Artists like Flume praise electronic production because it means an instrumentalist can be self-sufficient. (Mr Carmack played French Horn in highschool, among other instruments.) What is satisfying about having that technology available to you?
I 100% agree with what Harley’s saying in that you have an entire orchestra at your fingertips and that you can repurpose an orchestra. You can get past the instruments and the sound and get into actual technical audio wave files and shapes and forms. You can get really into the building blocks of what makes a sound a sound and if you can harness that power you can literally make anything you want.
I think it goes beyond instrumentalism and beyond playing instruments and understanding core structure and musicality. It’s crazy. I could never, ever get bored of reusing certain sounds, say an ordinary door closing or a piece of wood getting cut or things like that. Computers have opened the floodgates to limitless creation.
I read in an interview with RL Grime that he thinks electronic music hasn’t peaked and we’ll always find a way to make music crazy. What do you think about that?
More and more I feel kind of jaded in that idea in that I hear a lot of the same sounds recycled and the same tunes. Even with me, I can tend to use similar sounds and create stuff that sounds “stale.” Music’s also taken on this thing where you’ve always got to create this new sound over and over. Every six months you got to reinvent and create and with technology you’ve always got to push for constantly reinventing new sounds new sounds, finding that limitless bank of sound. That can be really, really pressuring. it’s not conducive to sitting down for months or maybe even years of just sitting and cultivating one sound and working at it.
It’s only with that, with tireless hours of work put in, a new sound comes out, you know, a new thing comes out that you’ve never heard before. I guess on the surface level RL Grime is correct in that music will never find a glass ceiling but at the same time it’s easy to just get lost in the search for new sounds and not take time to appreciate and understand the existing music of yesterday and today. People don’t take time to listen to music anymore.
As well as listening to hip hop jams then you are also listening to classical music, given the Faure sample in “I Always Loved This One.”
Oh yeah I loved that. Classical is the best.
Finally, what advice do you give to young producers trying to get into DJing or music making professionally?
I’d say never stop being an apprentice, never stop being a student. There’s always someone to learn in music and someone to learn from, something to take in, so just be receptive to any and all forms of music and don’t be close-minded. Also save your money! I’m serious man.
Mr Carmack will be performing on these dates in Oz:
ESPIONAGE FEAT. MR CARMACK
Secret Location, Melbourne
Friday, January 8 [TICKETS]
BEAR OPS w/ Keys N Krates & Mr. Carmack
Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Saturday, January 9 [TICKETS]
Saturday, January 9 [TICKETS]
Words by Antigone Anagnostellis