South Africa has long been home to some of the sickest beat merchants on the planet and Cape Town-based African Dope Records is the one label supporting the best-of-the-best South Africa has to offer. Mix n Blend, made up of Kevin, Jon and Ross, is one of the newer acts in the Dope stable and they have just released their debut album Look Mom, No Hands. The album is an awesome mix of monster bass, reggae backbeats, and toe-tapping funk with a definite ska undertone. Although Mix n Blend is an electronic act, the guys have made an effort to include plenty live instrumentation and vocal collaborations that showcase some of the Mother Cityâ€™s finest vocal talents. Format caught up with the â€˜muppetsâ€™ from Cape Town to find out about the album, the live performances and more.
“Because we have it in separate elements and weâ€™ve got eight channels, we can take a track thatâ€™s about 80bpm, and in a second you can start making a drum n bass version out of it.”
Format: Tell us about your different roles in Mix n Blend.
Kevin: Well in terms of our performance we swap in-and-out, itâ€™s more fun that way.
Jon: I think weâ€™ve all got different things that weâ€™re into. We all like different sounds, I know Iâ€™m into everything from jazz to punk, and Ross is more into that West Coast, glitch-hop / click-hop vibe. Kev will play anything from breaks to drum n bass, but we all crossover. I think thatâ€™s whatâ€™s cool about us — we all flip through a whole bunch of different equipment on stage — itâ€™s not like one guy will be rocking the sampler all night.
Format: What, or who are you influenced by at the moment?
Kev: I think the person who has influenced us the most musically, is Heather â€˜Honey Bâ€™ Nel and sheâ€™s pretty much into everything. She was the first person who actually showed us that you could play a big time swing track and then smash it into drum n bass and then people would go crazy!
Ross: For me it was more Sibot and Marcus [The Real Estate Agents] and that kind of movement.
Kev: A lot of local guys, like the original Dope crew.
Ross: At the moment Iâ€™m getting influenced by Bayside California, glitchy sort of
crunk. Itâ€™s called EDM or Emotional Dance Music.
Format: Tell us about the production process for the new album Look Mom, No Hands.
Jon: We pretty much did it all ourselves. Some of the vocals we recorded at Rossâ€™s studio. The other studio that we did some tracking in was Ross McDonaldâ€™s from The Rudimentals. Heâ€™s got a really nice studioâ€¦ good micsâ€¦ great mics!
Kevin: We played with a couple of ideas and we needed live instruments, so we got guys in to record and then put it all together and engineered it.
Format: How do you translate your studio tracks into live performances?
Kevin: Well when youâ€™re making a track youâ€™ve got all the separate elements. So when it comes to the live performance you take it from the stage before youâ€™ve mastered [the track], when itâ€™s all still in itâ€™s separate elements, we basically set it up so that with all these elements playing, we can slot in elements from the other tracks and basically have the ability to match tracks together.
Jon: Because we have it in separate elements and weâ€™ve got eight channels, we can take a track thatâ€™s about 80bpm, and in a second you can start making a drum n bass version out of it. Break it down again and maybe start looping it out and bring another element in. Itâ€™s not like a DJ thing were youâ€™re just playing one track and bring another track in.
Ross: The result is that it never sounds the same.
Jon: When we actually sat down and decided how we actually wanted to do stuff, what we realized was that a lot of electronic acts out there, like The Real Estate Agents, all their stuff is done on the fly. But with other electronic acts a lot of their stuff sounds rigidly the same. We donâ€™t want people to go like â€˜hereâ€™s the drop, here it comes.â€™ When weâ€™re operating with Ross on the sampler and Kevin on the APC, for instance, thereâ€™s quite a big opportunity for things to go horribly wrong.
Ross: We kind of look at each other and go â€˜OK, now whatâ€™s going to happen?â€™
Kevin: Sometimes we can just get lost. But thereâ€™s a few safety exits that we have.
Format: You seem to collaborate with a wide variety of other artists, did you initially decide that you would collaborate on this album or was it just a natural outcome of the production process?
Kevin: Well, we wanted to have as many live instruments as possible, for example, a bass guitar when itâ€™s played live, you can never mimic that with an electronic bass. And we decided weâ€™ve met all these creative people, brilliant artists, and we were like â€˜letâ€™s take a stab in the darkâ€™ and it worked well. Often we wouldnâ€™t say what we wanted, we just gave them the track and every time it came back we were like â€˜wow!â€™
Jon: Pedro we kind of highjacked at Oppikoppi. And we were like â€˜weâ€™ve always wanted to work with 340ml.â€™ I donâ€™t think he knew what hit him because he was like attacked by these muppets with samplers.
Format: The album artwork is awesome, whoâ€™s responsible?
Jon: Mike Saal, heâ€™s been a friend of mine for a while.
Kevin: The idea was youâ€™ve got us being the three monkey muppets who take this ship and off we go on our little endeavour. Kind of like what happened with the album, and the interesting people weâ€™ve met along the way.
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