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In Conversation With: My Nu Leng

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My Nu Leng AKA Tommy Jackson and Jammo Irving, are renowned for their incendiary DJ sets, which join the dots between a myriad of genres to create an all-out audio assault. Their deep musical knowledge, intuitive versatility and technical dexterity have led to bookings all over the world, delivering blistering sets on the big stage at festivals like Glastonbury, Outlook and South West Four, plus a long list of prestigious club spaces.

Parallel to their exploits behind the decks, Tommy and Jammo are accomplished producers with an armoury of acclaimed releases under their belts, signing music to era-defining labels like MTA, Black Butter and Shogun Audio, while also drawing from their broad palette to produce remixes for several major labels. Now focused on their own label, Maraki, with the intention of showcasing music from relatively new and unknown artists, they’re intent on using their status to help others on their way up.

Driven by a deep passion for their craft, My Nu Leng are contemporary trailblazers whose enthusiasm for performing, creating and discovering music is unrelenting.

Based in Bristol, a hub for UK electronic music, My Nu Leng broke through in 2012 with ‘The Grid’, a track that ignited the scene and announced their arrival as the UK’s new prodigal sons. Eight years on and they can lay claim to a legacy that includes an impressive list of accolades and achievements. Still firing on all cylinders, still enjoying life on the road and still flying the flag for rave culture.

Fresh from releasing their ‘Champion Sound’ EP on Soft Computing, I caught up with the My Nu Leng boys for a little chat about the EP and what we can expect in 2021. 

My Nu Leng with Dread MC

Let’s kick things off straight away by discussing your recent EP, ‘Champion Sound’ on Soft Computing. What were your main influences and how did the EP come about?

We went down to the Devon Analogue Studio in March, around the start of the first lockdown and started about ten ideas using all of their analogue synths and drum machines. It ended up that two of the three tracks on the EP were started down there so we wanted to nod towards the analogue and synth sound of the house and techno world. It was really inspiring in the studio because you’re kind of just learning as you go, messing around with all the hardware and before you know it something comes out in a way which you never intended it to. When you’re down there it’s about utilising your time well so we just wanted to get as many tunes started as we could. 

Following on from your time in the Devon Analogue studio, I wanted to ask how the past year has affected your time in the studio. Has it caused you to work more independently rather than actually together in the studio?

To be honest we kind of worked that way anyway, we both work in our own studios and then we just swap projects. It’s always worked well that way because we manage to get double the amount done because we’re not just working on one tune at one time, it’s always two tracks at one time. We have a Dropbox that we use that automatically updates so we can jump into different projects when needed. When there’s a deadline to meet we’re quite quick at polishing off tunes when we’re both sat in the studio together. Lockdown didn’t really affect that side of things too much, it was more the stuff we were writing. We found ourselves writing much more chilled and less ‘aggy’ music.

Yeah exactly, I was going to say that the EP is much more melodic rather than heavy. It seems to have an acid house influence with all the pads and musical elements. Was this intentional?

We wanted the tracks to still work in the club but obviously knowing that the clubs are closed, we wanted them to still work at home, in the car or even on a run. Now that we know clubs are going to start opening up again, it’s given us a bit more of an incentive to write those tunes for the dancefloor. Whereas, this release was quite broad and can work in a lot of different situations. 

The three tracks fit so perfectly together, when producing them did you have the other tracks in mind?

As they started getting a bit more complete we decided to send them over to DJ Haus, who runs Soft Computing, and he was really open about all the tunes and everything we sent to him. When we were down in the studio, we put up a clip of what is now ‘Champion Sound’ and he messaged us straight away asking for music for the label. We love ‘Unknown to the Unknown’ and the labels he runs so we wanted to put something out with him. Also, the fact that Soft Computing is based around using hardware I think because we were down in the studio it just kind of just all fitted together.

Do you normally use a lot of hardware or are you more typically in the box?

A bit of both really. We’ve got tons in the studio which doesn’t really get used because it’s easy to just load up Serum but recently, especially in lockdown, we’ve been using hardware a bit more. It’s easier and just a bit more fun writing with it. We’ve actually been swapping synths with each other to try and give ourselves a bit more inspiration.

We touched on it briefly earlier but the EP has quite an emotional response, did recent times influence this at all?

It kind of just happened. When you look at a lot of our intros or on every EP, we’ve had that one track like ‘Signal’ or ‘Turn It Around’ that’s more melodic. This was just a bit more of an exploration into making a whole EP of that style. With ‘D.A.S’ it kind of definitely hit a nerve during this last lockdown, Annie Mac has been supporting it quite a lot on Radio 1 which was nice and it worked quite well in the current climate.

Despite the more melodic vibe, it was nice to hear your heavy influence in ‘One More Tune. Did you intend on making it more hard-hitting than the other two tracks?

It was actually a bit lighter than that at first but we decided we needed something a bit harder on the EP to kind of show three different styles.

What’s your favourite track on the EP?

‘D.A.S’ is a viber and it was actually one of the only tunes on the EP we got to play out. When we get into clubs we’re definitely excited to test out ‘One More Tune’. We’ve got all this new music and we don’t actually know what it’s going to be like in the club so we’re really looking forward to testing them out, although they will all be released by then.

Is the new EP showing a new direction for you or is it just a case of you exploring something new?

We’ve kind of always progressed as producers and made different stuff, this is just the latest in that progression. We’ve played techno and house in our sets for years, even some of our early sets from 9 to 10 years ago have some dub techno in them. We’ve never really had a chance to put that music out but as we’ve progressed, people like DJ Haus have heard our music and were keen to hear what we were up to. We’ve got loads more music on that tip but we’ve also got Drum & Bass, Bass and other heavy dancefloor stuff. So many people associate us with that more bass-heavy sound because that’s the main thing they’ve heard so a lot of people are listening to the new EP and thinking we’ve changed our sound. But as time goes on people will realise that it’s still our sound it’s just a lot broader now.

Have you got any more releases lined up soon?

We’re working on this singles series for Maraki Records which we can’t talk too much about just yet. We’re working on a really big My Nu Leng project as well as lots of other little singles which might happen but we’re just trying to put out as much music as we can this year. We’ll probably have at least six more releases this year, maybe more. 

Are you looking to get the My Nu Leng & M8’s tour started again once the clubs re-open?

Definitely. The first lockdown cut the last one short, we were only two weekends into it and it was a really tough decision to cancel it so early but the following week was when the lockdown really kicked off. We really want to get it started back up again but want to be cautious about the size of the venues that we play in at the beginning. The Leng & M8’s tour will probably start up again next year but we’re looking to do a small UK run this year because it’s 10 years of My Nu Leng and we want to do something special for that.

What festivals or clubs are you looking forward to getting back to the most?

Glastonbury and DC10 Ibiza, that’d be lovely. Towards the end of August and September time of each year, we were doing all night sets at Phonox which was always a special occasion. It would be good to do some stuff like that again, the intimate clubs that have amazing sound systems.

Touching on your label Maraki Records, are you looking to have a more consistent release schedule this year? 

We’ve got a single coming out in a few weeks and then the My Nu Leng project is coming after that. We had some rearranging in the label and we’ve finally got to a place now where everything’s slotting into place and we want to get as much music out as we can. It’s just a proper tricky time at the moment as a lot of music is being released but it’s not quite hitting or connecting. Running a label can be quite stressful as you want music to hit as best as it can but it’s about finding the best way for that to happen. This year we’re trying to be positive and hopefully, the music we are releasing will make more sense once clubs are open because we normally have loads of content or clips of people playing music in clubs to build hype. It’s just a bit of a strange time at the minute to be putting out dance music.

I just wanted to finish things off by saying big ups for taking the time to chat to me today and I can’t wait to hear what else you have in store for 2021!

No worries man, big ups!

Next Thursday (25th March) the guys will be bringing you a DJ Set with Dread MC from Thekla, Bristol. They promise to showcase a bunch of new music from themselves and some of their friends. Join in the fun on the livestream here

Check out the ‘Champion Sound’ EP on Spotify below and buy or stream here

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