exclusive interview with Mo Magic

interview by dimmSummer
date: 03.15.02
painfully transcribed by dimm
listen: Streaming MP3 40kbs mono
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ET: This is ethnotechno's interview with Mo Magic, live and direct from the UK. Tell us about yourself and how you got into this scene.

MO MAGIC: It kinda started off in school really. Had a friend who had decks and and used to buy a lot records. One day he decided to bring his decks in and that was it. I saw him mixing and thought, "Yeah, I like this."

When we started DJing, we used to play house, hiphop, swing, raaga all in one night. We used to have different raves where you wouldn't have just one style of music like you do now. When I first started you didn't have that many people doing the asian scene. You had the pioneers like Joi -at the time it was Joi Bhangra, they had a live band, live dancers... you had Haroon and Farook and Sam (who's State of Bengal) he was with them. Then you had other guys like Atomic City who aren't around anymore.... Osmani Sounds (which used to be Osmani Nights). They used to be a big crew - they used to have dancers, rappers, all sorts... and there were other people doing it, so I kinda got influenced by them. For a while it was more underground stuff, not this asian breakbeat, or whatever pigeonhole name you want to give it. That just slowly came about, mixing the hardcore tunes, bringing in flute here and there, slowly mixing music... One of the first projects I did was for a show called Cultural Fusion to show all the cultures in East London.

ET: So you mentioned people like Sam from State of Bengal... are you still tight with all those people?

MO MAGIC: It's funny how the scene works. When I started getting into it, we saw all the same faces, same artists, spinning at the same clubs. And after ten, fifteen years we do club-nights and it's the same old people again... Yeah, we still see each other, but since it's all gone international now people are doing their thing in different places, so you're not bumping onto fellow artists as much as you would five years ago.

ET: Were you ever part of that Anokha scene with Talvin, or did you guys have your own camp brewing?

MO MAGIC: No, I didn't actually spin with Talvin. The thing is that my brother was with Osmani Sounds originally when they had their whole sound system, and we were spinning that music years before Anokha started. Joi used to have club-nights at the BlueNote which used to be called the BassCliff, that's where they started, and we used to have nights there too. We're talking early nineties... Joi was doing it late eighties over there. But i knew most of the Djs from Anokha, didn't really know Talvin... There was a whole series of parallel club nights going on, and you could go out every single night to a different club and see the same faces... Talvin did blow it up, got it in the mainstream, people were aware that there was this asian-breakbeat-underground scene (or whatever you want to call it).

ET: There are so many different camps, different flavours that have sprung up, how do you feel about the different sounds for the different areas of the world?

MO MAGIC: It's crazy you know? For the last few years I thought it was just our thing in London. Then i started getting in contact with other people like you who actually told me about other people and realized that it was more of a world scene than an London scene now. A lot of us in London thought, "Yeah, this is us. We're doing it and no one else is doing it." But I've opened my eyes and found all these DJs doing the same kind of music over here... What guys are making here I can go play over there and no one would know the difference. Like the Fabric tune from the Punditz, it's like the music I make... It's a universal sound man.

ET: So you're going to go home with a lot of new music...

MO MAGIC: Yeah, definitely. I'm going to show the UK what's going on.

ET: Are you inspired by all this music to go make more of your own?

MO MAGIC: I'm actually working on my own album, but it's a bit slow-coming because of family, work, and all that. But you get inspired by people like Karsh over here that's doing stuff just as strong as what Talvin or Nitin are doing... I always hear elements of certain tracks, doesn't even need to be asian-breakbeat, like Timbaland's producing of that Bubba Sparks and Missy Elliot tune with a little bit of an asian element. We've been doing that for years, but when a really renowned figure like Missy Elliot does it, people go crazy when we play that track. And when you compare that track with another Missy Eliot tune, they're both great tunes, but what makes that tune stand out more? It's got a certain vibe to it. Our vibe. [smiling]

ET: Someone who incorporates quite a bit of hiphop into their work is Nitin Sawhney as you mentioned earlier, but I don't see too much of that out there, do you plan on hitting that in the future with your music?

MO MAGIC: There are a few people like Invasion whom ADF are working with... they're basically hiphop meets chatting (UK MCing)... as far as me, I've tried it with a few MCs, but I'm just waiting for the right person to come along.

ET: You're also trying to get a label, Asian Dawn, going. How's that working out for you?

MO MAGIC: It's really difficult., trying to get distribution, trying to get the markets sorted out, financing... but it's going to be one of the things that will slowly come about.

ET: So you're working on your album, but are you also asked to any remixes?

MO MAGIC: I've kinda done a few remixes, they weren't actually for commercial use. I've done a few remixes of Nitin's tracks that I liked, Nitin being from the same camp through Outcaste, I could get any of his tracks and remix it... a dubplate tune really.

ET: Do you have any plans to do any work with Nitin? Is he still accessible to you, or is he too busy to be bothered?

MO MAGIC: You'd be surprised by this but Nitin, who's one of the most talented guys I know, is very, very busy, but anytime i get through to him he's so down to earth. He's been to my house and played stuff on my tracks. He's so talented he can listen to a tune once and play a piano piece over it the next time around... I am trying to hook up with him, but obviously, he's doing stuff internationally and it's really hard to get him. Even his closest friends need to keep ringing him up because he's so busy. He's in the studio 24hrs a day producing his own stuff as well as others... Yeah, he's helped me out with personal things. There's not a lot of people, not a lot artists that I'd talk to about personal things... He's great.

ET: It's nice to see an artist stay down to earth after they get a lot of attention put on them. That tells a lot about a person's character.

MO MAGIC: Yeah, definitely. In the kind of music we spin, he's the top man really. No one else can touch him. And yet you can bump into him in the streets or in a club and have a chat with him about this and that, doesn't even have to be about music. And he won't be stuck-up or anything. He'll sit down and have a drink with you.

ET: Where do you see this music going? Do you think it's reached it's apex of evolution, or do you think that it's just beginning and that all these different camps with the different flavours just reflects the the ways the genre's moving?

MO MAGIC: There will be a lot of other people using asian-influenced stuff. I'm sure it will take a while for it to kick in It will be like reggae, we'll have a Shaggy who'll be #1 at some point in our music. And then you'll have the Shabba Ranks, all the underground guys doing their thing. It will be mainstream, but the best thing about it is that the quality of music will get better. People will understand it a lot more and really get into it.

ET: Do you ever hear a really good track from another artist and get jealous that you didn't come up with that riff or hook?

MO MAGIC: Uhhhh...

ET: Ok, maybe not jealous, but it makes you say, "Ahhh, I could do that..." it gives you the itch to produce something just as good or to outdo it.

MO MAGIC: Happens all the time. I go out and listen to tracks and think, "Wow, that's really good." Then you evaluate your own work and find that's it's not up to the standard that it should be. And that's a good thing. it just makes you want to work harder, better yourself. Competition is good, you know?

ET: So now you've heard the music here, and from India, what do you think the main difference is between them and the UK is?

MO MAGIC: I really don't think there's much of a difference. I think that some of the stuff here is a lot more bhangra-based. There's a huge bhangra scene. Harry was telling me that they do a couple of bhangra nights here and people go crazy for it. Some of Navdeep's stuff's got a bhangra base to it, and Karsh's stuff is like Nitin Sawnhey's, doesn't really stick to one style. It's quite open to interpretation... I was listening to Navdeep's "Home" remix, it's a top tune, and it's like any other tune the guys back in London are doing. When I do a DJ set I can play music from both continents and blend it in such a way that you wont even know where it's from. It's like a universal sound that's happening.

ET: Yeah, that "Home" remix from Nav has a dark, driving force behind it, and we both think there should be more of that sound. Do you feel that there's not enough of that kind of music?

MO MAGIC: Well, I listen to Drum and Bass for that [laughs]. I've got some heavy stuff that I don't always play. But i come from a hardcore breakbeat scene, i love spinning drum and bass, so i love that hard edge. It depends on what club nights your' re doing, but you cant always spin that, but that's why i like the "home" remix, it's just there. It's dark. I'll play you some shit tonight [evil grin]

ET: NICE. I think you have to go do your sound check now, but it was dope talking with you.

Fade into Groovinda (DnB mx) -original composition