Mojo Filter: The Master Chameleon
Equally at home hippyflippin’ in the forest as he is spanking a South London squat party, Mojo Filter has become something of a chameleon on the UK’s ever-evolving dance scene.
A DJ, producer and master remixer, his hyper blend of old school, electro, disco and slow-mo lends itself as well to a mud-pit of frenzied treehuggers as it does a swanky bar of suits.
Spawned from psytrance’s psychedelic loins, he’s digressed through the techno/house/disco motions and landed snugly in a slo-mo groove. As surreal as it is saleable, his music seamlessly fuses the counter-culture with the commercial, the erratic with the organic.
‘I’ve managed to branch-out into new genres but keeping core values intact,’ he says. ‘Making slo-mo the new full-on has been an interesting re-appropriation of energy for me.’
A techno scientist of sorts, he is a self-confessed obsessive compulsive who describes his sound as ‘an eclectic mix of proggy grooves and heady arrangements’ and hones his craft in an outer London lab. Out of the studio his playful, intuitive approach to performing affirms his crowd-pleasing, genre-defying versatility. ‘I am a read-the-room kind of guy and love to feel the vibe and take elements of what’s going-on energy-wise and build on that. I play loads of weird and wonderful locations with strange and exotic people.’
A veteran at polishing dreamy, vintage classics with a broad spectrum of musical tastes, retro mashups of Supertramp, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Iggy and the Stooges, Prince and Jefferson Airplane have filtered his signature sound into the stratosphere.
This summer he’s joining old muckers The Secret Garden Party, plus Glade, Bestival, Bimble Bandana, Sunrise, Festibelly, Wilderness, Standon Calling and Manifest festivals for some ‘hard-edged electro and techno’ sets, through to more ‘dreamy disco and deep house’ vibes . ‘Each set varies depending on the feel and Feng shui of the venue,’ he says. ‘Whether it’s a tent or woodside venue will determine the nature of the set.’
For the unacquainted, can you talk through your most recent music releases?
‘They have practically all been edits of whack tracks, like Prince’s Raspberry Beret. I love to apply my production-jazz to enhance or rework stuff I play out. Although I was into my heady minimal tech stuff, it’s got a bit boring so I’ve started to move into slo-mo house and disco. There seems to be more room with the lower BPMs, hence my string of slower stuff. In particular this Bert Jansch edit I did was tweeted by Eddy from the Chemical Brothers and the tune went stratos-ridiculous in two weeks!
California Dreamin’ has also been huge. I only did one take ‘cos I accidentally deleted the arrangement file but it was sublime. I re-listen to it over and over in disbelief. Goosebumps every time, it was like I was abducted or something.’
How would you profile your career as a DJ and producer?
‘I spend every minute of every day working, or working towards, producing a better tune. Health, family and friends are close behind. I’m quite a simple guy driving an impossible career-car into a random field and cranking it up for the resident animals. As a DJ foremost, my productions developed naturally until I got quite good and getting down what was up-top; that’s the key for me, feeling you have expressed the otherwise inexpressible.’
Thinking back to your first experience on the decks, how and when did DJing first transpire?
‘I was at Uni with my decks playing psytrance trying to freak everyone out as I had been freaked-out when I discovered it. The fluid, continuous mix of this heady, hypnotic stuff blew me away. I knew I had to get to the bottom of that Dark Art immediately.’
Technically speaking, were you shown the DJing ropes, or self-taught?
‘There were a few great psytrance DJs back in the day who would never falter, never play a single bad tune and so set the standard for me. It took a lot of listening to mixes to figure out how it was done, but essentially I’m self-taught.’
Who were your initial influences?
‘This guy called Anti from a label called Spiral Traxx was taking psy into more progressive avenues back in the day. His mixing was extraordinary.
‘2ManyDJs also had a style I liked that managed to fuse all kinds of genres without interrupting the energy flows. So really the seamless and the erratic both appeal if done well. Like, really freakishly well. Like a magician making it look easy but really takes years and years of practise.’
You’ve remixed some classics, which are you most proud of?
‘California Dreamin’ is profound. I hardly recall making it. It was a moment of channelling supernatural forces. And it features a hang drum; the most amazing sound ever. It epitomised the fluent motion of creativity when you are happy and unhindered. It was epic – all downhill from here though! Not really. I’ve still got a crème brûlée in the fridge!’
Which of your tracks makes the biggest impact on the dancefloor?
‘Raspberry Beret has been big, just because Prince is the man and the remix beat I fluked is so hairy and filthy – complementing his slightly creepy-sleaze.’
Which of your tracks has made the biggest impact on the downloads?
‘Bert Jansch went crazy when Eddy Chemical tweeted it. 23,000 downloads in two weeks!’
Which tracks were making waves in Ibiza last summer?
‘A couple of residents out there, namely Jon Sa Trinxa, have been airing my more techno stuff like a remix I did of Andy Weatherall’s Sabres of Paradise; a very airy, future Balearic vibe.’
Where do you get most fulfilment as a DJ: in a club or festival environment?
‘Festivals every time; people feel freer to explore and engage themselves and the music. Although a heavy squat-rave with a ridic’ soundsystem in an old Job Centre in Hackney is pretty exciting too.’
With your producer hat on, can you talk us through the creative process of producing a typical Mojo Filter track?
‘I have to get a vibe for something that I want to do – like a pushy techno track. I’ll then look-out for old-school vibes that suit the energy I’m going for. I’ll start to get a vision before I do anything so when I get in the studio, I have direction. It’s then just a matter of articulating my vision into sound.’
How does London inspire your sound?
‘Hmm, it makes me more dance-driven that’s for sure. Giving everything a more prominent punch and clarity is what London does. I know I’d struggle to get out there if my sounds were as dreamy and soft as I would often like. I could dance to a cloud so I have to toughen it up a bit for the physical realm to dance in. But that’s all good.’
Favourite record of all time?
‘The Chain by Fleetwood Mac, or Terrapin Station by the Grateful Dead; both epic stories with groove and emotion that totally captivate you.’
‘Working with Fear of Theydon ‘cos he is the best ever. He puts so much into his music and could easily have been bigger by making more obvious house or something but kept true to his own interest in slo-mo-breaky-dub-ton-house-folk. And the nicest guy you’ll ever meet.’
Any gems up your sleeve or projects in the pipeline?
‘Just bolstering-up the label roster with original material at the mo’ and doing some remixes for some of my top piers such as Richard Norris. Pill Party in India it’s called.’
How do you make your music accessible to the masses, and what’s the secret to global appeal?
‘It’s something to do with the sound. It’s not too juvenile or too clinical, but it is quite futuristic in some ways. It’s kind of heady, meaning it can make you feel a bit dizzy and takes you on a journey. It’s stimulating so anyone with a third-eye can enjoy it – old and young.’
First published on I Voice, Ibiza, March 2012.
© Abbey Stirling