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Split Personality: Maceo Plex & Maetrik

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On an altogether different note, you have had a steady stream of Maetrik releases for several years now, though your last Maetrik album was in 2005. Is there anything in the offing on the album front?

I’m doing a new Maceo album that’s not going to be anything like the last one. It will be a mix of all of the stuff that I like. As well as house there will be some electro music, there may be some dub on there as well and some other stuff. That will satisfy my needs to do different sounds. On the Maetrik front, I wouldn’t say that it’s a best of, but I’ve found all of the original sounds and files from the late 90’s up till now. I’m going to completely remake a lot of tracks that I feel should have had a lot more exposure.

Your first Maetrik release was “Entering the Cycle” back in 2000 though you’re involvement with electronic music extends back beyond that. How difficult did you find those early years breaking through as a new artist?

Pretty impossible. It’s pretty difficult especially when you’re in the US and you can’t regularly play for the people that make the scene happen internationally. For instance I couldn’t come to the UK, Germany, Italy or Ibiza very much, so when you’re over there you have to put out a lot of music and hope that something catches somebody’s attention. By the time that people started to hear the Maetrik stuff I had already put out thirty or so records, they thought I was German and I found myself touring Germany a lot.

Thankfully the labels were right for me as that plays a large role. While I do think that the first few Maceo tracks were genuine hit tracks sometimes people at all levels of production, from newcomers to old school artists, write hits that don’t enjoy the deserved level of success because they’re not on the right label. So thankfully these tracks were hit tracks that came out on a hit label at the time.

That’s the problem with breaking into the scene and why the first Maetrik label is called “Entering the Cycle” because I knew it was going to be a big cycle of releasing records and disappointment and more releases and more disappointment. That continued for the first nine years or so. It takes a while and you learn from that and learn how to appreciate it when you do get the attention.

And in that is the principle of staying true to a sound that you believe in rather than changing to sound the way people want you to. Do you feel that with Maceo Plex you changed your sound from Maetrik to what was popular at the time?

It was natural and that’s kind of what happened as I always loved house music. I wrote one track and sent it to all of the labels that I would send my music to at the time. I had already released some stuff on Poker Flat and Audiomatique and so I sent it to them first but they weren’t too into it. Then I sent it to some other labels, until Damian Lazarus got it and he heard something in it that I think he thought I could do more similar stuff to. That’s what I did, I made more similar stuff, made the album and put it out on Crosstown (Rebels). It was pretty natural but I guess from an outsider’s perspective it seemed as though I was changing my sound to get more popularity. There are a lot of artists nowadays that do that, there are people who have made hard techno for 20 years and now are making house tracks. Artists that made dubstep and then make a very conscious effort to go from dubstep to deep house. It happens all of the time, it’s pretty normal now and sometimes what you have to do to get heard.

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You’ve had Maetrik releases on a number of well-known labels, some more than others. For example Treibstoff is an imprint you’ve stuck with for many releases. How have you gone about selecting labels to release on?

I think it was more that they stuck with me! I just couldn’t get the music on other labels. It wasn’t until I’d released a pretty good amount of Treibstoff, Substatic and Audiomatique records that I realised that it wasn’t the music that was bad, though some of it was, but actually the label wasn’t getting me the exposure that I needed. Now when I choose to work with a label it’s based on whether a label have got their shit together rather than a label trying to put out cookie cutter music. I knew after the Crosstown thing that Seth and those guys at Visionquest were putting out good music so I gave them a track, it was the same thing with the Art Department guys (on No. 19 music) who did a good job with press. I realised then that you can waste a hundred tracks on good labels with bad connections and bad press, or you can put out two tracks on one label that can get it out there and has good distribution.

Considering all the work that you’ve done with labels and your experience with distribution and press, why have you only had the one Maetrik release on your own label, Ellum Audio?

At the time Ellum was pretty well known for its first record, which was “Stay High Baby” and it has the same distribution as Crosstown Rebels and Hot Creations. I knew that releasing Maetrik tracks on a house label would probably be a little bit weird though and perhaps the label would appear to be moving too fast. Now though we’ve been able to break that mould to show that we aren’t just a Crosstown spin off.

So you foresee more releases on your own label having had a taste of working with some of the biggest labels in electronic dance music…

That brings up another good learning experience that I have had in my career. You realise that there are labels literally structured in a pyramid fashion with a super egotistical DJ at the top taking praise for everybody else’s hard work but can’t make their own music. I’ve worked with some pretty big labels where the guy at the top just pushes his own guys and nobody else. Then there’s a culture of label bosses taking all the praise for the guys releasing good music on their label. So I’m going to release stuff on my own and push the artists that I discover on my own label. No more other labels.  I had an epiphany in my own career and decided that I didn’t want to work with labels structured in that way. It’s a dead-end job and there are a lot of labels structured in such a way that the main guy at the top doesn’t really push you as much as his core nucleus of personal artists. There are of course other labels that push your sound and give your sound credit for the label’s success. Unfortunately I think that labels that I chose to break off from took it personally and got upset but I just want to do my own thing now.

Continued on page 3

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