INTERVIEW EXCLUSIVE: MASON Shows ‘They Are Among Us’ In All Kind Of Ways

4 05 2011
Mason: Pub Image

MASON: The perfect music addition to your mantle!

In honor of MASON making moves into some amazing visuals (the new video for their now classic collbo with Róisín Murphy BOADICEA – which you can catch below) and delicious new work with Brazilian bossa nova legend Marcos Valle (hear it here) , I took the opportunity to talk DJ with the dutchmen duo and here is what they had to say …

How do you describe it? MASON: Dutch DJ duo, electronic music label hub (Animal Language), critic / industry one-to-watch and a “refurb”-ing, baboon booth-ing live act (??) what a thrill it is to see your debut release THEY ARE AMONG US finally make its way to the fans worldwide.
What a release it is too, touting ol’ skool rap acts like Kurtis Blow and Run of Run DMC while paying new dues to the latest arsenal of global talent like Sam Sparro, Aqualung and the genius Róisín Murphy. It’s been five years since MASON properly have been releasing mixes and hits, why now for a full-length album?
Iason:  The last few years we’ve indeed been very busy releasing dance floor driven instrumental stuff,  but on the side we’ve been working on this more pop album as well for the last 2 years. Its a nice way of balancing things out, as it would be boring for us to make techno all day! We’re also both big lovers and manic collectors of pop music, present and past, so it felt like the right thing to do. 

DW: You have a love of the craft that seems to go way back to backgrounds for both of you in instruments (Iason on classical violin and his grandmother’s turntable – NICE! – and Coen with rock bands and electro-synth) and of course, the decks. How did you two find each other and what strengths do you each draw on to get you inspired in the studio and on the road?
Coen: We both studied music technology at a …
Coen: We both studied music technology at a Dutch university about 12 years ago, and formed a little clubby act with a 3rd person called ‘Systex’. This fell apart rather soon,  but Iason & me kept on making house music together in our spare time. About 7 years ago we both quit our jobs to try and survive on music, which was a big step at the time, but luckily worked out. In the studio we have our ways of working: I’m more of the synth tweaker and sound designer, and Iason throws in his dj experience in arrangements and general direction of tracks, but we do work back and forth,  so a track get’s worked on by the both of us off and on, until the finish part, which we do together.  Inspiration is never ever a problem, we have about a million sketches and ideas lying around that we still need to work out as tracks. Inspiration comes everywhere, and we tend to sing into our voicemails a lot to remember ideas the next day in the studio. It’s very cool to compare the initial voicemail with the finished track, usually it’s still very close to the original idea! 

DW: Tell us about ANIMAL LANGUAGE the label. It seems to have some deep roots to the dancefloor. Is that the main intention for the label and its releases or is there other genres / angles that you wish to get at. I ask that because you do a mean re-fix of tracks you call ‘refurb’s: where you tweak a song to another genre for a altogether different effect for the listener. Do you see your label refurb-ing itself as it grows?
Iason:  The label was created to release a lot of stuff I would play myself as a dj. We also try to keep it fun, a bit unexpected and not ‘more of the same’. I suppose the Refurbs reflect that!  For the ongoing repetitive trippy techhouse (which is great too!) you should look at other labels.  The first 10 releases were our own to get the label on the road,  but right now we’ve signed a bunch of artists to it too,  such as Arveene & Misk, which we’ll continue doing so. We’re doing labelnights in Amsterdam and around as well, and there will be an Animal Language compilation cd later this year, so we’ll keep ourselves busy…

DW: If you check out your online resources like soundcloud or Facebook, you have a faithful following of credible DJs and outlets. Do you look around you to those folks in the industry to help grow or do you ever use any of them as sounding boards like “is this the right build in this mix?”, “will this kill on the dancefloor?” Seems like a tight knit community of respect for the craft.
Coen:  we do. We have a bunch of friended producers that are honest about for instance a mixdown, such as Sebastien Leger.  Your friends will always say something is cool, you need the opinion of people that will tell you the truth and know what they’re talking about. Saying that, these are usually mixdown and technical issues. Music-wise we’re pretty sure what kind of music we wanna make, we don’t need other people to tell us! 

DW: THEY ARE AMONG US got a major boost in love from across the world with the lead tracks of ‘CORRECTED (Feat. Sam Sparro and RUN)’ and ‘BOADICEA (Feat. Róisín Murphy)’ How does collaboration with a vocalist differ from jamming through an instrumental track?
Iason: As we’ve been doing instrumental tracks for ages, it was much more of a new challenge to work on proper pop songs. It’s also really inspiring to sit in studios and work with vocalists that have such a big talent and experience, it makes you wanna work even harder.

DW: Tell us about being in the studio with pioneers of rap like Kurtis Blow and DMC compared to folks like Sway or Sam Sparro. Did you learn anything from them as you worked on the tracks together?
Iason: It was a big thing for me, as I started out as a hiphop dj about 17 years ago. So Kurtis Blow and DMC mean a lot to me personally. For them it’s also cool to keep on mingling with modern day producers like us,  to keep on blending their style with contemporary things. With all vocalists we’ve worked, old- or newskool,  it’s been an inspiring process, as they all have so much experience in their own field. 

DW: Speaking of looking back, when ‘EXCEEDER’ blew up across the world, did you like the mash-up between your instrumental and Princess Superstar’s track? Mash-ups seem to be a major rage right now. What would you mash-up with ‘Who Killed Trance’ if you had to add in vocals?
Iason: Well, the Perfect Exceeder vocal vibe isn’t something I’d dj let’s say 😉   But at that time, when Exceeder was already blown up all summer in Ibiza and around, it made sense to have a radio friendly version, and that bootleg mashup was already going around on the internet and gaining a lot of popularity.  Ministry Of Sound then did it properly, which was fine by us, as long as it was clear it’s a mash-up of two songs, our Exceeder with her ‘Perfect’.  
Hmm vocal on Who Killed Trance….  Blondie? Lemme get back to you to see if she’s available!

DW: The video for BOADICEA: there is a great moment where the main character shifts from victim to ass-kickin’, trench-wearin’ assassin with a camera-shift to an older publicity photo of Róisín Murphy on the wall. She is an icon to lovers of electronic, from her Moloko days, to her solo work on the highly underrated RUBY BLUE and OVERPOWERED albums, to her recent work with folks like Crookers and yourselves. Was there any talk of her actually making an appearance in the video and did she bring baby to the recording sessions?
Coen: We recorded the track in London just a few weeks before she had her baby, so luckily we weren’t disturbed by crying children, as that wasn’t the sound we were after. She’s mad busy, so couldn’t make it to the video shoot day unfortunately, but she’s supporting the record heavily and is also performing it live in her dj sets, which is cool.  We loved the collaboration, so don’t be surprised if there will be some more of that ! 

DW: There is a great moment on the album with SYNCROM that has this throw-back Vangelis kinda of vibe to it. Do you have a certain era of electronic music that strikes you a certain nostalgic way?
Coen: we’re both children grown up in the 80s,  so synthpop is indeed quite nostalgic for us. Apart from that, we both really dig old italo house, I suppose a record like Syncrom shows that. 

DW: Tour wishes? Where are you going to promote the album and the label and where do you want to go boldly where you haven’t gone before?
Iason: We got a brand new live show,  where the two of us play all kinds of gear and instruments live, as well as a light and video show that comes with it. So the upcoming year we’ll be doing a lot of that, and a bit less dj-ing for me.  This summer we’ll stay around Europe,  and after the summer you can catch us in further places such as Asia, Australia and South America again.  I have a huge wishlist of places I haven’t played before, such as Canada and Argentina. It’s always exciting to play for the first time in a new country, and I enjoy playing just as much as I did 16 years ago in the local bar, that never wears off

Decks or CDJs?
CDJs, it saves the dj’s back
7″ or 12″?
12″,  7″ always get lost between the 12″es in my record room. 
Fave song on THEY ARE AMONG US for you right now?
‘As The World Turns’
Vocalist you’d like to cut a track on your label Animal Language?
We wouldn’t mind giving upcoming talent such as Prince a chance …
Being Dutch, Double-Dutch or Going Dutch?
Have to look those expressions up,  they better be positive! 

Great guys and great music. Check out all the necessities below …




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