▼ with Mefjus

▼ with Mefjus

“I was producing Hip Hop music before. At some point my brother just took me to a Drum and Bass party with him, and I heard Drum and Bass for the first time and I was like: This is sick!”

Interview by: Michael Janiec & Hajo Krijger.

We had a talk with the one of the winners of the Drum&Bass Arena awards, 2015. Mefjus is the winner in the category; ‘best album’. Why? Well, It’s safe to tell that, some of these tracks, were among your favorites this year – Suicide Bassline anyone…? Enough said. Mefjus wholeheartedly delivered, and then some more. The tracks themselves truly testify to this achievement. Now, a year after the release, Mefjus is not slowing down one bit; collaborations with Noisia, a dank remix of Ivy Lab’s Sunday Crunk, and the brand new EP called ‘Blitz‘, with Phace, on Neosignal, which came out yesterday. More than enough reasons to catch up with Mefjus. It’s time to get to know the man behind the artist!

Best album Mefjus

Michael: How did working on the Emulation album influence your development?
Working on it was a really tough experience. I went to my physical and psychological limits.

Hajo: I heard the title track ‘Emulation’ took nine months.
Yeah, every element of the track was synthesized, so the preparations in sound design just took forever. The actual writing of the track wasn’t that difficult, but preparing it was long..
Anyhow, finishing the album, writing the album, and dealing with promotion and stuff you have to think about; it was just a really intense experience, and I’m really happy we pulled it off. I, myself gained a lot of experience out of it.

Michael: Did you make Emulation with Massive or FM8?
With FM8, totally.

Michael: Did you make your own patches or modify the already present ones?
With the Emulation track, I had for example 25 sessions. So it took let’s say eight sessions just to make different drums. Then I made just bass sounds – just opened a couple of instances of FM8, made some bass sounds, bounced them into a folder, and on to the next one.

Hajo: So you see these are a kind of puzzle pieces, which, in the end, fit together?
Yeah, definitely with this track. At the time, I understood FM-synthesis, but FM8 is a weird one. In the beginning I was trying to write a track, while still having the synthesizers in the project. I was still in 32-bits, so I couldn’t load a lot if FM8’s. The other big problem was that FM8 can be a bitch in terms of being random. Imagine a 16-bar loop, and you have your synthetic snare, kick-drum, or even a synth – it will sound the same for the most part, but the last bars will sound slightly different, if you forget to control one small parameter. This pissed me off so much so I was like: ‘Fuck it, I need to bounce them at some point,’ so yeah.

Hajo: I wonder, because Drum and Bass hooked you because of the tempo – are you as a person also very ‘upbeat’?
Yeah, I think so. I started making Hip Hop beats, but I always was a fan of Rock music, like Heavy Metal and stuff. I always had a thing for fast grooves I guess.

Hajo: The way you produce; is that also a method of fast working or is it more precise and into details?
More the second thing. I come from a background where I was a programmer, so we always had this thinking of approaching from a concept. Structuring your basic idea and then actually starting it. When I write tracks, I try to structure myself beforehand. Sometimes it’s completely the other way tho, but generally I would say I’m a structured person. When I listen to beats, I really like to play around with the grooves in a very tiny time manner.

Michael: Royalston once told me: “If you can make one bar sound good, the rest of the song is easy.” Do you agree?
Definitely, especially when I work with InsideInfo, there are those moments when we sit together for hours in the studio, and nothing really happens. Suddenly we agree that this bar is our thing. So, especially with collaborations, there’s this moment where you aim for the right ingredient. When I work solo, I tend to work differently.

Michael: It’s like waiting for the right moment and not forcing it?
Exactly, you can’t really force it. Sometimes u might end up sitting in front of Cubase for days and no magic happens.

Michael: How do you cope with it then?
When you are with another person it’s easy; the other one will say: ‘Dude, this is shit’, so then you move on. But being alone, I tend to get into a deadlock – after three days realizing it was a waste of time.

Hajo: So in the end you are refining something over and over and it’s not it.
Yeah, either it’s one sound you need to EQ the shit out of, or a Bass-sound you need to tweak or whatever. And then you realize: “The sound I had yesterday was way better.”

Hajo: It’s quite curious, because; you say you like structure, but when you are working together with, for example Phace, it’s funny because, he told me how you work together, in our interview from last summer. He also told me he’s more of a guy who takes a drink and just starts. How do you vibe with someone like that?
It really helps me actually, because I’m really set in my ways, when I do my own beats. So it really helps me when I work with other people. Working with Flo is really inspiring. I remember working on Impuls with Phace, and being super annoyed about a one bar loop. He said like: ‘Fuck it, let’s make a track out of it. Let’s have fun and bring in the funk.’ So, I thought by myself; ‘Oh shit, he’s right, we can clean the snares later, let’s get that vibe done’.

Michael: Can you tell more about the way you approach production?
Most of the time, I have a certain idea in my mind – let’s say from super heavy to super minimal. Is it straight grooves or is it broken beats, is it in triplets or whatever – That’s where I start usually. But it can happen if you just do sound design, and you make a cool sound, and say: ‘Okay, I want to build a track around this one sound’. So both ways can happen.

Michael: But do you work with a feeling, like following what you feel at the time, and not deviating from that?
I think it’s a healthy approach to make what you feel at the moment, but sometimes – I just speak for myself here – you are not creative at all. And then I just like to get my hours done in the studio. For example making drums, while being completely emotionless about it.

Michael: Do you think routine is more important than creativity?
It depends on yourself after all. I really try to put myself into a structured schedule in terms of going to work. For me it works, as I mentioned earlier.. If I’m not inspired to write this certain track, if I don’t have this cool sound laying around, I just don’t write tracks. I just make new sounds, new patches, or learn about a new synthesizer and read about new plugins and stuff.

Michael: So, your first release was around 2008/2009?
The first one was about that time indeed. But it was at a time I didn’t quite know how to do DNB stuff properly. I didn’t really know how to make beats compared to nowadays.. But you have to start somewhere I guess?

Michael: What got you into making Drum and Bass?
I was producing Hip Hop music before. At some point my brother just took me to a Drum and Bass party with him, and I heard Drum and Bass for the first time and I was like: ‘This is sick’. The textures, the drum patterns and tempo, yeah, that was the thing that hooked me.
The first record that really stuck was ‘Block Control’ by Noisia, I guess it was back in 2005. It was amazing.

Michael: Are you a classically trained musician? Like, do you read notes?
Yes, I can read and write notes. I played Jazz trumpet for about six years. But, the thing is, a trumpet is a monophonic instrument. Meaning you don’t know chords. It was something I had to read about. The thing is though; Drum and Bass is really limited in terms of keys – for me D-sharp is the lowest, and ultimately you end up in F# or G at the highest. So I work with a limited amount of keys anyway.

Michael: What’s your most cherished Dutch moment so far?
Obviously; working with Noisia – it was a fucking dream coming true. And seeing them just being super cool dudes was just wicked. I realized they were playing Disrupted – which was big news for me; seeing them play it at big festivals. I remixed a track for the Neosignal band project, which came out on Division. I came into contact with the label manager of the Noisia crew and we kept talking. At some point they invited me to a show in Groningen, and said: “If you want to stay a couple of days in the studio…” I was like: ‘Fuck yeah, let’s do that!’

Michael: So who are the upcoming artists you would like to mention?
From Austria, Phentix – he’s youngish; about 25 years. He’s a really cool and friendly dude doing SAE and helping his parents out with the music shop in the city. He’s a wicked DJ as well and a good producer. Basically he’s just an awesome person. He just did a track on ‘Cyberfunk‘, Xtrah’s music label. He also did a track with the Dutch guy Signal called ‘Onset’. (In the Radio mix below, starting around 20 minutes and 50 seconds) Signal is actually another guy worth mentioning..! I actually mastered his latest EP for Critical a couple of months ago. That was the first time I heard about Signal – that’s really cool stuff; really fresh!

Michael: So you also do mastering work. What is your setup at home?
A PC with Windows 7, running at 64-bit, and Cubase 8.

Michael: Why Windows?
Well, when you work in Cubase,  there’s no reason to go for a Mac. In Austria the ‘Mac thing’ wasn’t so big around 2000. So when I was making music it was on a PC. If I would live in the UK I probably would have a Mac and be in Logic or something. It really depends where you grow up I guess.  My setup is; a computer, Cubase 8 and Adam a77X speakers, they are the smaller brother of the s3X. But the a77X are like half the price and totally worth the investment.

Michael: Do you have certain places to test your tracks for a different reference?
I asked myself: Why do people say you have to check out the mix-down in the club?  If you have a cool studio and cool speakers, why would you want that? When I started doing it, it made sense. Imagine yourself mixing for half an hour in the booth, mixing, for example, a Noisia or Phace track, knowing how it should sound, bringing in your track and comparing it in terms of loudness, pressure and crispiness etc.

Michael: I’ve read about producing that you should put a vacuum cleaner in a room and put music over it you should be able to hear the music.
I can imagine you are aiming for resonating frequencies, or something like that. I’ve heard some weird stories of people making super-expensive studios. Like really ‘dead rooms’ and then just, you know, put some cans on a table to get some resonating vibration to feel if there’s something going on in your room.

Michael: Bit superstitious, maybe?
Well, when I was with the Noisia guys their studio was -so- dry. It was almost uncomfortable, like the first two minutes. It’s just perfectly treated; there’s no reverb whatsoever, so I can see why you’d do that. But in the end I think you get used to every room.

Michael: Do you live from your music? Is it your main occupation?
Yeah, for three years now.

Michael: It’s a good thing.
But it’s not easy..

Hajo: But are you happy about it?
Definitely, dude! That’s the most important thing. Like, I talk to people a lot; friends of mine, I used to be a programmer, so the paycheck was really good back then. Obviously, because it’s kind of a corporate job or whatever. So I still hang out with colleagues here and there and they’re like: ‘You’re doing this music thing, playing show’s for so many people, you must get sick amounts of money!’ I was like, ‘well if I was in for the money, I would have stayed with you guys, programming these machines.’
But in the end that’s not what matters. It’s about doing what you love.

Mefjus foto

Hajo: Are you keeping up?
Yeah, dude, I’m not starving! Here’s the thing; I don’t live an exquisite life or something. I got my shitty old Skoda car, which I love. I quit smokin that safes money which is good. That’s it – I just don’t go into fancy restaurants every day. Being a normal dude is what makes it work.

Michael: Do you always have to keep investing in yourself?
Definitely. I mean, look at the progression of the music. Let’s say from… the last 10 years until now.. The mix-downs, techniques and technology, everything’s progressing!

Michael: How do you go back into investing in yourself?
I like to constantly read about stuff, like plugins. Or talk to a friend about new techniques and synths. You just share your ideas or whatsoever. And you could also just buy new gear. Sometimes, especially at airports, I like to buy those classic production magazines where you learn these cool tricks from an old school 80’s dude mixing with his analogue desk. Even from an old school perspective, you can still pick up things like: ‘Oh that’s a cool idea!’

Michael: Do you produce on tour?
No. Well, on longer tours, like my tour in Australia last year, me and Enei started some tracks, when we were touring. On his laptop, on his shitty laptop speakers(!) But normally I want to be in my room; in my environment with my own setup.

Michael: Does your programming relate to your producing?
I did this longer in depth interview about my album Emulation last year which explains my musicals relation to programming. To “emulate” stuff was a phrase we used a lot in my old job. Like making an analog thing synthetic or the other way around. We built logical system solutions for warehouses. Imagine a big music shop with instruments in storage for instance . A crane drives in, picks them up and delivers then via conveyors to the customer. That’s what we programmed. So ultimately we got rid of humans in the workplace. It was a tough time for me bearing in mind that I’m the guy costing other people their jobs.. On the other hand it was a really interesting job. The technology itself, the robots and everything. Hi-tech and Sci-Fi stuff. I still love the science aspect of it, it’s sick! So that was my tower of strength.
It inspired me for my album title emulation. Me, emulating from a Hip Hop background into Electronic music. Also having my work perspective in mind and also producing almost everything inside the box.

Michael: Is thinking outside the box like, cheating your previous idea of yourself?
Well, it’s not really cheating, it’s just progression I guess. Like, when you are 17 or 18, you do your studies and everybody tells you that you will become super successful at a job. You don’t really think about that stuff yourself, do you? At some point in your life when growing up just start to think “ Why?”.

Michael: Do you think you’re a free spirit?
How free can you be in this society? I think I’m open minded to music, cultures and people. The basic thing we all should start doing is; not being a dick (HAHA!).

Michael: Anything new from yourself, worth mentioning?
The new “Blitz” EP on Neosignal of course!
Also, there’ll be a remix EP of my album on Critical, with a VIP of Suicide Bassline and Continuous and other additional remixes, including Suicide Bassline and Continous, 6 in total.
I’m not sure I can talk about it but the artists are; Rawtekk from Germany, InsideInfo, Ed Rush and Audio. It’s going to be a double vinyl as far as I know. Estimated time for release? Early next year.

I’m also working on a new thing right now which is promising. But I’m not really sure what it’s going to be. I wrote a lot of solo tracks, so I’m going to take the cool ones and finish them.

Michael: Perhaps a new Mefjus album coming up?
Could be! I don’t know yet. I’m working on 12 solo tunes and 4 collaborations at the moment, which are kind of cool I must say. With Emulation I put everything under one concept. But I haven’t found a new concept, which I found worthy to explore deeply. I’m just writing new tunes and trying new techniques.

The future’s looking quite good for this extraordinary young producer isn’t it? What are the things you hope he’ll be doing in the nearby future? We can surely tell this Hip Hopping Drum and Bass-God from Austria is living his dream. Let’s see what 2016 is going to bring! We are excited!

*EDIT*: If you would like to see what 2016 brought to him, you really have to visit Belgium to see him perform on the BIGGEST Dubstep & Drum and Bass party in the WORLD called; RAMPAGE! (Click here to get here with 1 of our buses)

Michael and Hajo.