Balearic Social and .Mw present an AOR Disco mix: An Outlander's Urge To Pave The Way
A STORM BREAKS ON A SUNSHINE HORIZON
.Mw - an interview with the unknown by Andy Pye of Balearic Social
Hello .Mw. What’s the story?
Hey Andy! Without wanting to sound too romantic, It seems very much that we are all part of a musical tale, and like a dusty record, left un-wanted and un-played for years. Who knows what tales reside in the grooves within? It’s certainly a story that led us to hear Balearic Social and the wonderful mixes you host. Also for those that haven’t got it yet…the .Mw stands for Droozed On The Medium Wave…D.O.T. Mw…
You guys mailed me your Vol 3 While You Were Sleeping mix last year which has been listened to over 5,000 times on Soundcloud. I didn’t get much more info except a brief description but I noticed it came with a Spanish postmark. Are you Spanish?
When we were last in Barna (Barcelona) we had a hung-over early morning Saturday near disaster when pouring through the usual mix of Spanish ‘rastro’ (Records/Comics/Books etc) at Mercat Del Encants.
We’d spent the previous night drinking Kalimotxo, which sounds exotic but is really just the cheapest red wine you can lay your hands on mixed with cola, which had the obvious caffeinated effect of messing up our minds, when stupidly we decided to stay up watching the sunrise, whilst ignoring the fact we’d already experienced a beautiful sunset…
On the plus side we also had the fortunate experience of Balearic Social sound-tracking our night since after a bit of websploring, looking for sounds for our never-ending day/night/day. People like Moonboots, AOR Disco, Psychemagik and DJ History seemed to point towards the Balearic Social blog so that’s how we ‘discovered’ you.
Weirdly me and **** were chatting about this the other day, the way you seem to have, in a few short years, got together a lot of interesting, but musically different camps and somehow joined the dots so that they all seem now to be part of something bigger.
So morning came. It was VERY hot. We walked and walked and walked from the apartment where we were staying, tired for sure, but swept along by euphoria-driven vinyl cravings and dreams of finds-to-be, stumbling ever further towards Placa Del Les Glories Catalanes. Maybe it was the lack of sleep and sustenance, or more the thought that we had to cover quite a few spots that day, but I felt the vibes were all wrong.
When, after several missed turns (blamed mainly on our smattering of Spanish/Catalan lingo which blurred ever more hotch-potch due to the hazing, thudding of our feet and pounding of our heads) we finally found the flea market, things ALMOST seemed much righter. Imagine hundreds of sellers, stalls full of everything and anything but most importantly, lots and lots of records.
But then flip that round, HUNDREDS of sellers, stalls full of EVERYTHING and ANYTHING, and PILES of records...Under the stalls, on the floor, under tons of books…EVERYWHERE…And all simmering under the glare of the super-hot sun.
It’s very much a chaotic, edgy environment, and if you ever wanted to get chased out of a Spanish market, by angry shouting stall holders brandishing varnished wooden billy-clubs, spurred on by laughing locals, then do as we did and make the faux pas of taking a picture of what we thought was incredibly exotic, but in retrospect probably stolen, parrot and pineapple combo cigar holder….
Maybe it was our clothes that had us pegged as undercover Policia or perhaps they didn’t like the thought of two guys, arms full of dusty 7’s, and 3-5 euro tacky yet sooo cool pictures of Arabic folk art going from stall to stall, prodding and poking around…
But anyway, there was a chase involved, a few records were dropped and they tried to steal ****’s camera and we were left with the familiar feeling that we didn’t quite belong. And although out of this mishap we now have a somewhat wild tale to tell, at the time I can honestly say it was very hairy indeed…
Oh man the look on your face when they tried to steal your camera from you!!!
I’m still actually a little confused by what really happened, one minute I’m taking a picture and the next I’m running hell for leather!!!
Hahah!! So in a rather long convoluted way, I can confirm that we’re definitely not Spanish. Later on that day though, we did hit a sweet spot near Tallers at the University end called Casa Usher which turned up a ton of Spanish language beat/soul and some sweet funky rock.
That guy was SUPER friendly! Really great shop…
It was later on back at the apartment we decided to send you a mix we did a few years previously. And the rest is history I suppose. Finding your address, now that was the hard bit! Haha
You sent me another mix Vol 5 BlowingAway The Xerox Clouds earlier this year in a Cuban cigar box with a Canadian post mark. So it’s starting to get a bit confusing. Do you travel a bit? After that came Backyard Boogie Droozing which blew everyone away with 10,000 listens over the last three months yet that one was posted from Alabama. And now the new mix is mailed from Hong Kong. What gives?
The thing about Canada is, it has embraced many different cultures. Obviously French (there are some Canada only French language dreamy 70’s albums that no-one and I mean NO-ONE seems to have picked up on yet) , lots and lots and LOTS of cheap Bollywood records due to the large Indian communities and of course all those re-licenced American records…
Also there’s a great spread of record shops and thrift shops that haven’t been dug over too much yet (although a friend of ours who’s lived there for a few years is totally rinsing the place for modern soul and boogie). As for Alabama, well it sits like this.
In the UK would you go digging only in London, Bristol or Manchester? It’s true they genuinely have great shops with some big ticket grooves and certainly people like Gerald (Jazzman) will turn you on to some incredible records, but they also have many, many dealers, and DJ’s and diggers of ALL persuasions. It’s much the same as America, a lot of the places famous for records like Detroit and New York has meant a steady gravitation of vinyl fiends, drawn drooling to the dream yet picking over the scraps left behind by some serious, methodical maniacs.
Yet in the Southern states, famous more for live music, there are record shops with hundreds of thousands of records. Man, there are thrift shops with thousands of records in them, imagine that. Church records from the 70’s and 80’s, Disco that bit the dust when the book-burning deluded thugs declared ‘Disco Sucks’, singer songwriter private presses and, of course, all that funky country….
And the kind of stuff that we like tends to be things we’ve never seen or heard before….
A friend of ours called Fuz hit the states on a road trip and boy did he bring back some incredible funky country finds (and a great pictorial thread on the VG+ Forum). In fact he pretty much single-handedly influenced the Light In The Attic series when he went into a record shop asking if they had any ‘Country Funk’ and the person behind the counter said ‘Country Funk? What’s that?’ and the rest is history. Someone should certainly let him do an official compilation for sure!
What would you say the influences behind the mixes were and how are they put together? I’ve noticed a lot of spoken word in them too that I haven’t heard before. Is that from vinyl too? And have you re-edited some of the tracks? It’s hard to tell if you’re not familiar with the originals.
Personally I feel that the influences for me is that .Mw is part experiment, part challenge, part dream and all fun…..hahaha
(At this point his partner in .Mw chips in...)
…Yeah, like the guy at the end of Backyard says, music is supposed to be fun. We’ve definitely had lots of that. All the spoken word is off ****’s vinyl (as indeed are all the tracks) but sometimes we get through a lot of digital Sellotape.
We like using spoken word to join tracks that don’t naturally gel and also for adding colour to a great instrumental that is just a bit monochrome in places, but mostly to add to the narrative. As for how we put mixes together, that bit is relatively straightforward.
You gotta get the vinyl as clean as possible to start with. (Let’s face it, the stuff can have 50 years of dirt on it!) Then I use a simple set up: turntable to 2 track mixer to soundcard to DAW to record the tracks to a reasonable standard at home. (After all, you don’t need to do much for a mix that is mostly gonna be streamed at a compressed rate.)
Anyway, **** has given me a new batch of 40-50 tracks to record every month for the last 2 years and the “well” is very, very, VERY deep!
As for the mixing part, I usually sketch out ideas on a simple DJ program as a live mix. Rather than beat-matching, mixing harmonically is essential. Using the key signature of a track is crucial for getting any level of coherency out of different genres and decades of music style. (I got Mixed In Key back in 2006 which has saved me years of pain staking key identification, I’ll be forever in debt to those gents!)
There’s usually three or so sketch mixes on the go at any one time, each of which has a central theme/story and any of which could end up never getting finished. I listen to these sketches all the time in the car. They percolate for weeks until they’re ready to filter.
The inspiration to take a sketch further always comes randomly but usually follows a chat with ****. In the end, some tracks get manipulated more than others. I have been brutal in some places with extreme changes from the original BPM, or chopping out a big chunk of a track that doesn’t need including on the mix, but generally, bar a bit of volume limiting and light EQ to highlight elements within a track, I don’t stray too far from the original recording.
At some point we wanna do .Mw live, using the original records, so it’s important for me not to rely on intricate FX and mastering as it’s not always easy to recreate stuff like that on the fly.
On mix-sites you get plenty of DJ’s mixing traditionally in lo-fi, looking down their noses at kids with computers, me though, I’m not a puritan. I’ll use whatever kit that helps me realise an idea. It’s ABSOLUTELY about the music content. PERIOD.
There’s an element of QC before we post the mix though. I listen to it on several formats of varying quality (On the hi-fi, on headphones, on my laptop speakers, on my mobile, in the car… you get the picture….) to check it mostly stands up wherever/however it might get heard.
I also imagine how it sounds to other people/DJs/artists… this usually ends up with a heap of corrections I need to make. In the end though, there comes a point where I say “enough” and let it go warts and all!
As far as influence goes though… that all comes from being involved in process/experiment. Once you step onto this merry-go-round, the momentum of the ride itself is self-sustaining. I’m just a big kid in very large fairground, hanging out with my mates, looking for some mischief.
Hahaha. Well said. I’d always been a fan of ****’s work, and since I had been having drunken discussions and pushing records on him for years, it made absolute sense to hook-up. So I just told him about a little experiment I fancied doing and he agreed straight away. ****’s a perfectionist when it comes to recording too but he’s also incredibly easy to work with.
Absolutely no ego and massively open to new ideas but he’s always influencing my thoughts on what’s possible and where we are taking this experiment. If an idea or track pops up we’ll ring each other or meet up over a few drinks and wax lyrical. And the too’ing and fro’ing of ideas means it’s always fluid, so it’s only done when we’re both happy.
People like Bill Brewster obviously liked the mixes from the Twitter messages I saw. Plus a quite varied bunch of people from well known diggers like DJ Format too. Yet because you didn’t send me track-listings the majority of tracks didn’t get any ID’s. Is this all part of the mystery and experiment?
Yes, we are MASSIVE fans of Bill. He has managed to articulate what a lot of music lovers think and feel through years of writing and musings, not only by archiving the history of the music and scenes that many of us fell in love with, but also by ‘breaking’ tons of records that are now integral classics.
He is a massive part of music (and dance music’s) future. His ability to shine a light on forgotten-about’s, unheard-of gems and modern classics, not just from a certain time but also from right now is incredible and truly inspiring, I mean, just check out his podcast, his writing and most of all…his PASSION and that’s what spurs us on too.
The same goes with being picked up on by Matt (DJ Format). Here’s a guy who would spend his last dollar and final minute on earth to uncover music, The guy has some INCREDIBLE records and uses his own releases and DJ’ing to fund digging trips around the world.
He’s a beast with an uncanny ability to turn up gold in far flung places and boy has he got some incredible stories to tell! We’re just stoked that you’ve let us loose on Balearic Social since I think a lot of your listeners really ‘get’ us.
As for the no ID’s and track-listings. Well, it’s sort of part of the experiment, but we’d love to do things officially and may just have the chance to do some track-listed compilations soon enough….
Plus we’ve been approached to do some re-edits as well. As far as ID’s go, I think those that know…well I guess they just know, because they too bare the bruised knees and blooded hang nails of traded sunny days and have never been put off by all the lost moolah from all those misses and throw-away finds.
But you gotta sift through a lot of dirt before you strike gold and that’s what makes it all worthwhile. And as the mixes gain more and more exposure you can guarantee that, like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces will reveal the bigger picture. And you betcha we’ll be up for track-listing if it all goes the way things seem to be going.
The depth of music you seem to include in your cross-genre mixes means, I presume, you must have a record collection and a half?
If it was measured in time then mine started when I was 7 and has continued so far for the last 34 years, And when traversing the twists and turns and chanced finds, well…you hear some pretty strange music that’s for sure. Eventually, like most music-heads, the music you love tends not even to be pushed into good or bad or even into genres, it’s all just songs you like and songs you don’t. Taste, like philosophy, is very much fluid….haha
Hahaha, ****’s house is something of a hoarder’s paradise. It’s got to be seen to be believed!
Where do you go digging? What are your favourite places to find those hidden gems?
Mainly record shops, and off the grid one’s are my personal favourite type of places to dig. And although we’ve lost a lot, good and bad, there are still more than enough replenished temples to worship in. Plus the good ones will always turn up great stuff because they’re run by like-minds who are in-tune with your needs and they’ll make you a nice cup of coffee (or let you hang out after for beers).
The amount of times I’ve heard the ‘You know that bag of 70’s rock you bought last time. Well I’ve got a bunch more in the back for you.' Thrift stores still turn some interesting stuff up, table-top sales too….
The internet I find hard to dig because it’s stuff that you often already know and yes, you could very well score that ultra-obscure UK Library cut but boy will you have to pay.
Also when doing the mixes it’s not just in the monetary sense either. You’ll pay for getting that superb break-laden nugget…because you’ll have that feeling that you can’t shake, the shudder of ‘someone has been here before’. I’d rather get hip to new stuff, new to me that is, because there will always be someone out there who’s wise to a lot of those tracks you think you’ve discovered.
Personally I need to see the cover, the list of musicians, the instruments, the liner notes, even the thickness of the faded cover for my spider sense to tingle and get all excited. Although over the years I’ve explored different methods of buying a bunch of cheap stuff blind online with varying degrees of success it’s never the same as chancing all those hunches.
That’s the way I get the best stuff. I’ve never understood the desire of some people to just fill up their precious space with big money-spins, or that kind of one-up-manship of rare, but usually played-out finds within certain circles like the soul or psych scenes.
That’s why my favourite DJ’s, clubnights and even record labels are often the ones that have that uncanny ability of not only finding new songs but also changing the way people look at certain types of music. Re-introducing long lost styles and productions, unearthing connections hidden away that even the artists themselves weren’t even aware of.
But of course I also understand the desire of having to track down a record you’ve heard a DJ spin that just blew you away, we’ve all been there eh? I also love the social aspect of hunting for records. Especially getting to know people who inhabit your particular ‘patch’. They’ll always tip you off to other great places.
Any plans to introduce who is behind .Mw?
I’ve heard a few rumours lately about who or whom we are. Some people seem convinced we’re certain well known DJ’s and I’ll neither confirm nor deny that.
The thing is, it’s not important. The MUSIC, that’s the important thing, and the chance that if people dig it enough then a few labels may be interested in working with us to release it. A .Mw Fabric or Another Late Night, maybe even Numero or Light In The Attic that would be nice. How about you ****? What you reckon?
I’m with **** all the way on this. I also love the idea that some forgotten about artist might have to come out of retirement as a result of finding a new audience through what we’ve put out there.
Top 5 records in no particular order?
What?!?! That’s a tough one….
Hahaha! Could YOU tell us your Top 5 Andy?
How about, and be honest now, your Top 100? I’d say it’s an impossible question. I could give you 5 records that you and your listeners might dig. But then the prices would go up and be out of reach for people.
How about our top 5 mixes on Balearic Social? Which is real hard…. I’ll admit! I think that someone should interview you. Maybe we should do?
Here are our CURRENT Top 5 Mixes on Balearic Social
We’ve digging a lot of people you’ve introduced us to like Mushrooms Project, Old Pal, The Starkiller, Joe’s Bakery and David Barbarossa so thank you for that. And again it harks back to my theme that personal taste can make such a difference. 'Find Your Own Way’ as the legendary Keef James once said and more power to them for following through and getting mixes and DJing out there.
10. And the new mix, An Outlander's Urge To Pave The Way?
I’ll let **** introduce this one….
This one could so easily have never been made. **** and I had been so taken aback by the positive response to Backyard, especially from AOR DISCO, that the next mix was gonna be another themed one as far as I could see. Failing that, I was supposed to be continuing working on a fistful of re-edits and DJ tools that may end up on a 12” one day.
But… then **** gave me such a rich batch for the month of April ’14 that I started to do some sketching. The real turning point was when **** suggested the title should be An Outlander’s Urge To Pave The Way, which lit my fuse, full stop.
I’d always felt that some of the recordings were evocative of another world, an out-world if you like, and decided to group them together on a simple playlist.
Before long there were 40 tracks that really shone. What I particularly liked was the way each one had a story of its own to tell, which is kinda why the end result feels in some way like a collection of dreamtime/bedtime stories for grownups.
Meanwhile, We were both working on a mix that suited sunshine hedonism, a female vocal only mix and also I was lining up tracks that could end up in a follow up to Backyard.
I phoned **** to say I had something and would he meet me to review it. So a rainy afternoon and four beers later, he suggested I take out a bunch of tracks and save them for an even more rainy day. What was left, to me had a certain purity of emotion, not necessarily from the Outlands any more, but still evocative of a story, which, I decided to pursue.
Several weeks of listens and one unrelated chronic hangover later I got transfixed by the mix’s last track “The Preacher” by…. well… you’ll find out sooner or later. I got this image in my head of an old Western style preacher wandering the outlands, looking for converts…and those who wouldn’t convert, he’d gun down with his shotgun.
It’s the Preacher who is the Outlander, it’s his urge to pave the way to a better way of living where love and music is the true path. If you can’t be into love and music, then you’re as good as dead. Or at least that’s part of the story.
There’s actually a few tales in there for those that want hear them. Themes of despair, loss, arrogant youth and betrayal…but also themes of hope, love and joy to balance things. Oh, and some clues/breadcrumbs as to our identity. (Just for the fun of it!)
It’s much more down-tempo than Xerox but quite spiritual, melancholy and uplifting… well, that’s the design of it anyway. You should decide for yourself. Just remember the fate of those who don’t agree…hahahaha.
We wanted to also say thanks so much for your support, and the support of your listeners, but most of all, thanks for opening the packages and giving us a chance to try out something new…..