Collabs, perspective and Standing Rock: In conversation with Mr Carmack
Next year’s St Jerome’s Laneway Festival marks MR CARMACK‘s fifth visit to our shores in just a few years. The bass producer has made a name for himself worldwide, working with the likes of RL Grime, Djemba Djemba, and Kehlani to name a few, as well as a prolific output of original material. Always staying ahead of the curve, Mr Carmack carved a spot out for himself early on in his career, and has only flourished and strived with each and every release. He’s responsible for some of the biggest tracks out there, and knows how to rock a festival, a club, a party and more.
In between loads of washing, he was kind enough to have a chat with us on his latest collaborations, his inspirations, and whether he’d work with the Dixie Chicks.
What are you up to right now?
I’m at a laundromat doing my laundry. My laundry is in the dryer, so when this is over I’m going to go fold my laundry.
Exciting stuff. So I noticed you’ve been moving around a bit, has moving around changed the way you make music because of your surroundings?
You mean like travelling?
Yeah, but like even moving your residency… From San Fran to LA, you’ve spent some time in Hawaii… What does that do to your music do you think it changes your sound?
Yeah, it definitely effects my music, travelling. I love travelling… My surroundings definitely influence my music. If I make chill music it’s probably in a chill area, like when I lived in Hawaii I would make more relaxing music, definitely. But I also wrote… I have a song called “Pay For What” and I wrote that shit in Hawaii. It’s definitely not a black and white thing where it’s like chill place chill music, crazy place crazy music…
I guess it depends on what’s happening in your life as well, not just your surroundings. I mean you could be still having turn up times in chill Hawaii.
Exactly, there were some turn up times in Hawaii [laughs]
I can imagine. So you’ve been in the producer game for a while now, how do you think it’s changed from an insiders perspective?
Well, the concept of being an artist itself has changed because you have the ability to communicate with people, like this just face to face. I just met you I don’t know who you are but the thing is we can talk like this over the phone and it’s instant. If you know someone that knows someone or if you have a reputable kind of profession, or if your reputation precedes you, then you have access to contacting people in much easier fashion than like say the 90’s…
So it’s not really about the music anymore, hey?
It is about the music I think, but –
-There’s a lot more factors –
Yeah it’s just…the basic idea of an artist has changed forever really, unless the internet shuts off or something goes crazy.
Oh my god what if that happens?
It probably will.
Do you have a plan for that if it happens?
I don’t know, do you? Do you have a plan?
Yeah man, I like it old school, I’ll write letters. I’ll go back to letters if I have to.
Okay! Yeah yeah true, I’ll go back to playing an instrument or singing if I have to.
Exactly, what instruments do you play?
I studied french horn and trumpet, so I’m a brass player, but I play piano and bass.
Damn, that’s why your music is jam packed full of instruments…
You like my music?
Yeah, there was a heavy trap scene in Melbourne a few years ago, and so I personally was working at some of the clubs that were predominantly playing trap, so for a while I got to know your music. Everything blew up here when Mad Decent started to notice Australian artists, but you’ve been coming back here for a long time, you keep coming back.
Yeah, this will be my 5th time for Laneway… My 5th time, that’s crazy. I mean I really love it, really. I love being able to go somewhere that’s summer while I’m celebrating winter.
Yeah, but winter where you’re from isn’t really that cold either. Have you ever been to Australia in winter?
I think I have, I don’t remember specifically if I’ve been in winter but usually when I go it’s January or February.
Because that’s usually the time you’d be booked for our festival season. Winter is nice too though, bit cold but still beautiful. So, you just released an album with Djemba Djemba over Thanksgiving, with all profits going towards Standing Rock. Can you tell me a bit more about the cause and why you chose Standing Rock in particular?
I chose Standing Rock because an older friend of mine, someone I hadn’t talked to in years, called me, and just we reconnected, got some lunch, and she just told me her plan. The money wasn’t to go to like a charity or something like that or have it tax deductible, but it had a direct objective [for] some people kind of in winter homes to withstand winter conditions. Because people are still up there protesting, protecting as they say, protecting the water, and it’s an ongoing thing. It’s not, “Okay, yay we won now we’re leaving.” It’s like they’re there to stay until the pipeline builders leave.
How long has this been going for?
Shit, it’s been for the better part of this year. I think they’ve been planning the pipeline for 4 or 5 years… or 3 years or something or they started building it. They had a bunch of town hall meetings or something a couple of years ago, I was reading about it – about the building – and like people expressed disapproval of land and then I guess they didn’t listen or… Multi billion dollar companies have ways of going around laws, right? She called me and told me the plan and I had been wanting to do something so I just did it. I wanted to do it and I used some music I had been writing kind of at the same time, to just put it together and then put it out.
I think it’s important for artists to use their platform as a voice. I think it’s great seeing artists like you using their voice to express the bigger issues, and bringing them to attention.
I try. I mean, it was just kind of an exercise for me, you know? For growth, like I don’t really do things like this so for me to try and do it gave me a little bit more experience. Dealing with sensitive topics and issues that deal with life or death, it deals with security and humans rights and environment, so all those things are very serious but for me, as someone who is getting older and more involved, it’s teaching me how to do shit. Teaching me personal growth.
Do you think more artists should be following in your footsteps?
I think they should be able to do whatever they want, you know? I think they should be aware enough to make decisions that could affect others positively, but whether or not they care is not up for me to kind of…It’s not for me to judge them on that, you know what I mean? It’s like, we’re all adults, well some artists are kids, but for the most part we’re all adults
And at the end of the day artists are still people, so it’s whether they’re that kind of person –
Yeah, at the end of the day we’re all in our zone, we’re poor rich or whatever. I think awareness is good, it’s admirable, at least knowing and reading and not taking an emotional side, but more of a, “Damn, I wanna learn about this,” kind of side, you know? I want to learn about this shit. Reading it and listening and being able to hold a conversation about these kinds of issues, and having general awareness is 100 times more a step in the right direction, and THEN if you want to take a stand or go up a level then do it. But first, knowing you can do whatever you want, and second, having a general awareness of what’s going on in the world, then thirdly, acting on it. Probably a good little three steps, but I wouldn’t say just because you’re an artist, you’re obligated to take stands on issues just because you’re an artist, that just creates egos…
Yeah, some people would be like, “You are an artist therefore you should be doing that.” Then there’ll be people saying, “You’re an artist therefore you’re a person and it should not matter.”
Yeah, because I’m a human first and you’re a human first.
Okay let’s talk about that Dixie Chicks tweet…
Did you end up hearing from them or anything like that? Tell me about that
Oh no, I just heard a couple of their songs, actually at Standing Rock, and I was just, it was just striking a nerve with me. Just the message they were saying on certain songs, I just said it as a joke, I mean it’s not going to happen, shit [laughs]
Why not get them to open for you?
I mean, I don’t even know if us together is a good idea anymore at this point, it was just kind of an impulsive tweet really. It would be funny, I think it would be pretty funny. It’d be like me playing with Travis Scott or me playing with, I don’t know, a symphony or something, like it’s just weird. It would be a cool concert though. I like concerts that have a good variety in different shows.
Yeah, I like a good contrast in a show.
Yeah! You know you get different styles and it’s not just all bangers, or it’s not just all chill music, it’s not just all jazz.
You know what I love? A good guitar in a hip-hop track.
Damn, you caught me off guard… You’re the one that’s meant to be interviewed here not me. There’s one in a Travis Scott song… ‘Piss On Your Grave’
That contrast, it’s very nice. What are you listening to at the moment?
Oh shit, I don’t even know. Uzi’s pretty good, what else? Arthur Verocai, I’ve been listening to a lot of old Brazilian music.
If you could collaborate with anybody who would it be?
Ab-Soul would be cool, Kendrick, anybody from TDE, TDE is the most… ’cause they’re from California and I’m from California, like, I align myself with the shit they talk about, a lot. Who else… Dixie Chicks! Only because they have a violinist and they do some Celtic shit and it’s awesome.
Maybe 2017 Dixie Chicks would be a completely different sound too.
Even if we didn’t do a show but I wrote a song with them, that would probably be cool.
But then they could open for you and then they could come out at the end as a surprise and perform that song live.
[Laughs] What an idea!
Catch Mr Carmack alongside Tame Impala, Floating Points, NAO, Tycho, Tourist and more at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival next year:
Dates and venues:
Thursday January 26 – Brisbane Showgrounds (16+)
Saturday January 28 – Footscray Community Arts Centre And The River’s Edge, Melbourne
Friday February 3 – Hart’s Mill, Port Adelaide (16+)
Saturday February 4 – Sydney College of the Arts, Rozelle
Sunday February 5 – Esplanade Reserve and West End, Fremantle
Words by Julia Insolia