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Debut Transmission DT DNB Interviews

Mystic State’s Own Private Desert Island Discs

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When it comes to Drum & Bass (and increasingly 140) there are few names more ubiquitous and yet underrated than Mystic State. Comprised of two creatives: Will Marquis and Mike Holliday, they’ve been at the forefront of cutting edge Drum & Bass for a while now and, as you might have heard, are just on the cusp of releasing their debut LP on their very own The Chikara Project imprint.

The Mystic State ‘My Own Private Island’ LP itself is a stunning tour de force. It’s both a recap of their style and a forward-looking statement of intent. There’s something for everyone, from liquid, to wicked ornamental halftime, to some sublime 140 cuts. So yeah, it’s really really good. You can (and should) buy it here.

It also has superb artwork

To celebrate the release of the LP, we caught up with both Will and Mike to discover the stories behind some of their favourite pieces of music and how they influence the Mystic State Powerhouse.

Will

Djrum ‘Honey’

“I’m hugely influenced by Djrum’s music in general, and to be honest this track could be easily interchangeable with so many other pieces of his work, but ‘Honey’ is, to me, a near-perfect tune, as well as being a masterclass in music production. I love everything about it. The main drums have a beautiful, organic character, and are perfectly balanced. The harsh, metallic hits and distorted 808 bass hits give the track a slightly cold, stark feel. And then you have the fluttering vocal sample, string cuts and harp to give you that more human touch. Every element in here sounds like it’s from a different universe, but it all sits together so nicely and never feels forced. When the track approaches the 3-minute mark I almost feel like I’m suffocating from the warmth. Incredible stuff and definitely a major inspiration for some of the music on our LP.”

Bambooman ‘Dulcet’

Bambooman’s older work is criminally slept on in my opinion. He has a very unique, percussive style, with natural-sounding drums punctuated by vocal stabs and very melancholic synth riffs. ‘Dulcet’ had a huge influence on our style of production, in particular the use of found-sound recordings, and the use of foley as drum/percussion sounds. All the sounds in this track are meticulously picked, and they all bring something to the table. There’s a lot of power in each musical element, but at the same time there’s a degree of restraint that I have a lot of respect for.”

Kiyoko ‘Something to Think About’

“As the title would suggest, this piece has a hugely introspective streak. What I always loved about this one is how bare and stripped back it is. The droning pads and muted strings are left to do a lot of the work here, with the drums providing just a touch of rhythm. The vocal sample is perfectly placed, and there’s some great piano notes to provide a contrast of warmth against the moodiness of the main bulk of the track. There’s almost a misty feel to it which we also emulate a lot in our music. The title track from our LP was hugely influenced by this track.”

Dub Phizix ‘Rainy City Music’

“It’s almost scary to think about, but I think the first time I heard this track was nearly 10 years ago, in an Ingredients Records podcast. It really changed the game for me in terms of what you could do in the 170bpm spectrum. I love the strings in here, the drums have a warm feel and there’s great reverb control in the tonal percussion. This track instantly takes me to a place of solitude, in a room with a cup of coffee, watching the raindrops hit the window in front of me. Vibe aside, I have to give credit to Dub Phizix for the main vocal line in this. It’s a pretty hard task to chop a vocal so it repeats literally every bar, and not have it become boring. He also managed to nail it in his track ‘The Clock Ticks’. Both game changers for me in terms of Drum & Bass music.”

Mike

Murcof ‘Rostra’

“This style of electronica really influences me when writing music. It has a tremendous amount of space that allows itself to flow freely through the changes of instrumentation and weird bleeps. Murcof really blurs the lines between genres and soundtracks, something we really tried to emulate with our LP. When you get to grips with its inner depth you start to care less and less about what category it sits in. I especially love the orchestral elements within this track and how the artist has put them together dynamically. It’s in a minimalist yet interesting manner that keeps on giving, Murcof is also a classically trained musician which really come across in his electronic output.”

Mark Ernestus’ Ndagga Rhythm Force ‘Simb’

“No joke but I’ve listened to this track about five times a day, every day, for the last year, so it’d be a shame not to mention it here. Mark Ernestus is an artist that has influenced me pretty much my whole music-making life, from his work in the 90s as one half of dub techno pioneers Rhythm and Sound and with his more, let’s say… “Berlin influenced” solo ventures. This track ‘Simb’ is just too beautiful, the way the groove swings you in all kinds of directions, putting me mentally into a state of pure awe towards the Ndagga Rhythm Force‘s sound. It’s just one of those tracks that you could naturally listen to over and over again. It’s a state of meditation for sure that really kicks in when the vocals come in around the 5 minute mark and the 808 bassweight comes through, bringing low end pressure to such a relaxing track. The whole album this is taken from is incredible by the way, and really worth checking out”

Synkro ‘Presence’

“This track gives me tingles every time I listen to it with the depth of the pads, the exquisite drums and they way the bass drives through the ambience. I especially felt inspired from the drums on this track, as they have a delay send on the percussion that sets the drive of the groove and puts you into a meditate state every time. The choice of vocal sample as well sets the levels high for me, giving the listener an unexpected narrative that glues the concept together, a method Will and I used throughout our Private Island LP.”

Wayne Snow ‘Under The Moon’

If you hadn’t noticed already I’m constantly influenced by tracks that evolve over and over, giving you a different flavour around every corner. The vocals on this one especially hit home with a perfect simplicity, singing about the little we know about the universe. When it comes to groove, what influenced me in this track is how loose and unforgiving it is, kind of like old school jungle and hip hop that both tell their own story through the drums alone.”

As well as catching up with the lads, we were also lucky enough to be able to premiere the weapons-grade ‘Dangerous Liaison’ featuring MC Fokus. The LP drops on 4th September. Listen below to Mystic State ‘Dangerous Liaison’ and grab Mystic State ‘My Own Private Island’ LP from here

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