Mha iri is a very talented Scottish lass with a unique techno sound, who made the move down under to Melbourne a bit more than five years ago. She is playing with Chriss Mattò at La Vibrations & Bass Swag Present Eat The Beat Showcase (Melb), at Capulet in Brisbane on the afternoon of Sunday 24 June 2018.
Q. Mha iri, you were born in beautiful Edinburgh and came to live in Australia, in Melbourne. You are no stranger to Queensland either, having lived in a small town near Brisbane for six months while you worked as a farm hand. But you found your way back to Melbourne, and aren’t we glad you did! It is such a melting pot of different cultures that supports an incredibly diverse group of musicians. How has life been treating you in this part of the world compared to where you are originally from?
A. Well first of all I came to Melbourne on a one year working holiday visa to travel six years ago. I started to fall in love with Melbourne after getting over a few months of home sickness, and that’s when I decided to complete my farm work in order to stay for another year. After that I went from visa to visa and eventually became a permanent resident last year.
Melbourne has so much to offer. Amazing nightlife, beautiful surrounding beaches, lush parks and greenery and a great artistic culture, among other things. Melbourne has been treating me very well, and because of the thriving underground scene I have been able to carve out a name for myself here and really explore my sound in my sets around the city.
Q. Music is an important and ingrained part of Scottish culture and history. Did you grow up in a musically inclined family?
A. I did actually. My grandmother dabbled in opera, and my dad was a folk singer in his younger days. He sang with The Corries, who wrote Flower of Scotland, which is Scotland’s National Anthem. I have a very early memory of watching my father sing Annie’s Song by John Denver on karaoke when we were kids, and I was moved to tears. He’s a wonderful singer and that’s definitely where I get my voice from.
Q. How did you first get into techno music? What has the journey been like for you from when you first heard it to where you are now, having become a DJ and producer and crafted what is a very distinct style of your own?
A. My dad used to buy cheap CDs from car boots sales when we were kids. He brought a John Digweed and Sasha CD home and when I put it on my love affair with dance music began. As a teenager I loved electro and DnB as well as techno, but my taste for techno deepened as I matured. I started attending raves in my teens and found a solace in the harder sound that I didn’t feel with other genres. I always loved digging for music and dreamed of being a DJ. Then I had the opportunity to present on Kiss FM every week and from there I decided to buy a set of decks and get learning. After a few months I played my first set on Kiss FM, and started playing regularly for crews and landed a residency with Eat The Beat.
I absolutely loved DJing and I realised quickly that I wanted to make a career in the music industry. I had this deep urge to produce and I decided to quit working for six months and take an eight week intensive Ableton course, then spent the next four months practising as much as I could. Those months were very testing, there were points where I wanted to give up on production because I didn’t feel I was progressing fast enough or I was really struggling to create a sound I wanted, but I’m glad I persevered. It’s such an amazing feeling when you finish a song and you really love it, knowing how much time you spent on it and how crazy it drove you, haha. I should also mention that I was a singer/songwriter in the past and producing has enabled me to make the music I want to put vocals on, rather than trying to find a producer that I want to work with. It gives me freedom to do exactly what I want creatively and that’s a great feeling.
Q. Your productions are a unique take on techno, and you often include your own vocals with your tracks. They are amazing pieces of music and your voice is simply stunning! I’ve really enjoyed watching the videos you have posted on Facebook this year as you’ve given your fans previews of what you are working on. What has the response from people meant to you as you have shared your sound?
A. The responses have been overwhelmingly positive and it feels fantastic to know that people enjoy my creations. Most of the tracks I make are pretty euphoric, but hard, and it’s because I want to make people feel good but also get them dancing like mad! Occasionally I get messages from other producers who are just starting out and I think that is such a big compliment, especially since I feel like I’m still learning so much and just at the beginning of my journey.
Q. You have done vocal work for tracks by PARADIISE STATE, Julian Ess, and Kozmas, and this year you have had two songs of your own released for the first time, on Six Recordings and La Famiglia Recordings. You’ve also got your first EP due out in June, on Over Records. It’s called Tension. Your track with Julian Ess is currently in the number one spot on Beatport for Over Records, a Spanish label. They must really like your style! Can you tell us about the EP?
A. My EP has two tracks on it. Points Of Light and Tension. Points Of Light is a progressive, melodic techno track. It has quite a strong kick, but I used airy, ethereal synths which gave it a hypnotic, uplifting feel. It makes me think of space and the universe when I listen to it and stars are points of light, hence the name. Tension is much more driving and intense, and although it’s melodic the synths used are darker. With Tension I decided to add my vocal, which I pitched down an octave and added some effects to in order to make it sound like a demon, haha. I love dark vocals on tracks, they add atmosphere and a vocal often helps people to connect with the track. I feel that this EP demonstrates how I love to explore both light and dark themes in techno. I love doing this in my sets and also in my production.
Q. I’ve also really enjoyed listening to the DJ sets on your SoundCloud, they are very well crafted. You like to play a broad variety of techno, from melodic tracks to the harder industrial bangers. What does it take to get a track featured in a Mha iri DJ set? What sort of music do you look for?
A. Thank you very much. As mentioned before I spend a lot of time digging for gems and I’m basically looking for a track that makes me feel amazing when I listen to it. I also like to mix in key as sonically it sounds really smooth, so I often key check my tracks when I’m compiling a set list for a recorded mix. When I’m playing in a club I prefer to just play what sounds good at the time and let the crowd help me sculpt my set depending on their energy and reaction to the tracks I’m playing. My recorded sets however tend to be planned to flow exactly the way I want them to and I choose tracks purposefully to create a journey for the listener.
Q. You’ve played a lot of gigs in the last couple of years, mostly in Melbourne with Eat The Beat. They’re a boutique agency who run music events, and courses for people who want to learn how to DJ. Tell us all about Eat The Beat and how you got involved with them!
A. I was booked to play the opening slot of the unofficial after party of Pure in the main room at New Guernica, that Eat The Beat were running. I played for one hour and a half and the main room was bouncing, so they asked me if I wanted to continue playing in the kitchen and I agreed. I ended up opening and closing the party with a five hour set over both rooms and from there they asked me back to play, then I was offered residency shortly after. That set was one of the best of my life. The crowd at Eat The Beat is amazing and the atmosphere there is second to none. All of the residents at Eat The Beat are producers too and we are all super passionate about music, so it’s a great team to be a part of. I think our crew’s passion for music has allowed us to grow really quickly, cementing a great reputation in Melbourne.
Q. You’ve also played at a number of festivals in Australia, including Beyond The Valley, Babylon, Earthcore and Pitch. As a European, what has the Aussie bush doof experience been like for you? Has it been everything you imagined it would be?
A. I went to my first doof six years ago and it was an unbelievable experience. I’ve met so many wonderful people over the years, that I’ve kept in contact with. I love the visual aspect of stage designs and the psychedelic artwork, as well as the lifestyle and community side of doofs. You don’t get much of that in my part of Europe. It’s more dark stages with banging music, and kind of hedonistic, haha. Although I do love that too sometimes.
Playing at the festivals this year has been an incredible experience and I have definitely grown as an artist because of it. I played Tension at Pitch and the reaction was amazing. When I’m playing on a platform like that and connecting with my audience with my tracks it just motivates me further in my ambition to make music my full time career.
Q. Thank you so much for recording an exclusive DJ set for Underground Sound! Included is the title track from your EP, Tension. The EP is due out in June, exclusive to Beatport from 11/06/2018. Then it will be available everywhere from 25/06/2018. It sounds great in the mix. How did you select the other tracks to play with it in the set?
A. Thank you! It was a pleasure to record a new set exclusively for Underground Sound. As mentioned before, I like to choose songs that contrast from dark tracks, to melodic, uplifting tracks. The track before Tension is really melodic, but still has high energy and a driving nature, so I chose that to mix into Tension, which is a bit deeper and darker. The track after Tension is a little softer, and gives the listener a chance to have some respite, before being pushed again with a harder track after. I also chose tracks that are in key with Tension, so they mix really nicely together and the whole set flows fluidly.
Q. You are playing with Chriss Mattò at La Vibrations & Bass Swag Present Eat The Beat Showcase (Melb) at Capulet in Brisbane on the afternoon of Sunday 24 June 2018. I think it’s fair to say that we Brisbanites are in for a real treat. Can we expect to hear more unreleased gems from you, accompanied by your wonderful voice?
A. I’m really excited for this and I’m really thankful that Will, the head honcho at La Vibrations, asked us to come and play. It’s a great opportunity for me to share my sound with a different crowd, and it will be the first time I’ve played in Brisbane. I have a track called Guantanamo Nights that I’m currently in the process of having mastered. It’s a super uplifting and funky techno track with heaps of my vocals, and it’s definitely the right fit for a day party, so I’ll be dropping that for sure. I also have another track I’m currently in the process of finishing which I might drop if I have it done by then, but we will see.
Facebook Event: La Vibrations & Bass Swag Present Eat The Beat Showcase (Melb)
Buy Tickets: https://www.facebook.com/events/1688437001204909/
01. Nicolas Taboada – Red Moon [Riot Recordings]
02. Christian Hornbostel – LZ 130 (Skober Remix) [Kling Klong]
03. D-Unity – Right Now [Unity Records]
04. Alpha Particle Assembly – 9248 [Consumed Music]
05. Bruno Aguirre – Minds & Herbs [Oscuro Music]
06. Luca Gaeta – Self Control [Tronic]
07. 2pole – Hyperion [Tronic]
08. D.R.N.D.Y – Salvation [Deep Therapy Records]
09. Mha iri – Tension [Over Records]
10. Dave Sinner & SAMA – Sagittarius A [Kraftek Music]
11. DJOKO – Distanz [Throne Room Records]