Mefjus: “If it’s nice, play it twice!” (UnCut version)

Categories Interview, Music

Mefjus, the Austrian techy destroyer performed at Bladerunnaz Welcomes: Noisia Invites in April 2016 in Budapest. Prior to his set, he was movingly honest about himself and his views. Big up, Martin! 🙂

What’s the first thing you can recall connected to Hungary?

I obviously, instantly imagine Budapest, just because of the Danube. I’m from Linz, so we’ve got the same. I’ve been here a couple of times already and I love the architecture, it looks a lot like Vienna, so it’s like home.

Did you have the opportunity to pay a visit to Hungary before your gigs as well?

Yes. I think it was in Sopron, with my uncle. He still drives dirtbikes, and we came for a competition. I was about 10 years old, so around the late 90s. This was the first time when I realised that it was Hungary and had actually taken part in the experience. Maybe my parents took me when I was younger but I don’t really have a memory about that.

Where does your alias come from?

Well, my first name is Martin, and my family calls me “Mat”, which makes sense in German. My brother was a skateboarder when he was younger and had his friends from the Czech Republic and one guy from Russia, too. They heard him calling me Mat, they thought it was Matthew, so it went to Mefjus. At that time, I was 15-16, I started making beats and had to put a name on my cd and I stuck with Mefjus.  

I see, so it was a sort of misinterpretation. And how is Mephisto linked then? 

Well, two electronic but not drum and bass releases under that name, since I didn’t mean to confuse people. I don’t think a lot of people know that, actually, so thanks! I didn’t want to use the same name but the spelling is similar. It’s dark enough. (laughs)

Is there anything you haven’t shared about Emulation?

There is one thing I haven’t told anybody. I was in England with Paul InsideInfo during the time when I started to write the concept and so on. I had a couple of tracks already finished and I already had an idea about which direction it should go in terms of making a transition from where I come from musically to what I do now and so on. But I didn’t have a name for that, yet. I was at Paul’s place at that time and his agent back in the time, a lovely girl called Shakira, was there as well. We were just generally talking about how you come up with track titles and inspiration and topics like that. I think she was the first one to mention the word “emulation”, which describes exactly what I want to do. So that was the first spark of the emulation topic, about 3 years ago.

You mentioned that working on this album was a really tough experience: you went to your physical and psychological limits.

Indeed… Well, physically: I had a couple of shows where I almost fell off from the stage or had panic attacks before the show, which were clearly caused by stress. And also, not living healthy: smoking cigarettes like a motherfucker, not eating well, not sleeping long enough, not giving myself a rest. This was when my body told me to stop. There was this episode in New Zealand, which is a long journey – just finished the album, had 2 days off, then I played the first night in Wellington, which was great, couple of drinks and flew to Christchurch. And I couldn’t physically stand up from my bed. I was fucked. All I knew is that I couldn’t play that night. I couldn’t do it! That was my first physical limit. So I had to take off 5 days of the tour, it helped. And then I had Fabric, where I almost passed… I knew I had to change my life.

Psychologically, making an album is a major deal, especially if it’s your first one. You don’t know how things work, how much time you need, how the process goes. Should I write track by track? Or all of them at the same time? A lot of new stuff you haven’t done before. I like to pressure myself a lot — always aim at the best possible outcome. You hear the tracks all over again and you start doubting yourself: “is it good enough?”.   For a long time, I had worries that I get panic attacks on stage again. You don’t want to let promoters down, you don’t want to let fans down, and yourself, of course. It’s a vicious circle.

Catch 22. Did you have “only” one panic attack?

No, a couple of times. You learn how to deal with it and talking to other people also helps. You’d be surprised how many DJs face the same problem in the scene. So you just talk, share your stories and everybody deals with them differently but just talking about it makes it better. You hear pieces of good advice, too, about relaxing and living a healthier life – this is partially the reason for my quitting smoking.

So in your case, it’s basically about being a perfectionist. 

Yes. At least, for the psychological side, yes. I just want to make the best possible product, as having mentioned, within my possibilities. I just put too much pressure on myself… well, I still do that. I just need someone to tell me: “yes, Martin, it’s fine, just chill the fuck out, do something else!” (laughs)

How can you train yourself to give this feedback for yourself, so you’d wind down easier?

That’s the thing! If you have a nasty habit, let’s say you don’t want to do the laundry – at some point, you’ll stand there, without a washed bit, your wardrobe empty: then you’ll see that you have to wash. It’s the same with music. If you sit on a track and not being able to finish it, and keep on sitting on it for months and months, you should just back up and admit that there’s nothing more you can add to that song. It is finished! Take it or leave it!

How about the worst enemy of creative minds, the writer’s block?

As for me and electronic music, even though if you’re not inspired to write a song, you can always do work: make a snare drum, make a kick drum, some other work done. Clean up the studio, arrange workspace in Cubase, for instance. I like making sounds even when I suffer from it, then I put them into a folder and I can go for them later. For making beats: snares are not really creative, I mean, it’s fundamental to create them, so you have to do it every time. Maybe after having them done, you get a great idea; it has happened to me many times.

Apart from hip hop beats, which you are also known for, you’ve always been a fan of rock music and heavy metal. You seem to have had a thing for fast grooves. 🙂

I’m not a sophisticated listener anymore. I grew up with an older brother, so I listened to his music. He started out with Korn, that was my first experience with rock. Then I got a bit deeper, to see where they come from, so I met Metallica, then a bit more sophisticated with The Doors.  But I think Metallica is the hardest, there is my limit. One of my former roommates was into melodic death metal, (laughs) I could appreciate it, really cool melodies but as soon as they started shouting, I thought this was a bit far from me. Also, I love old RHCP stuff. I still need lyrics within my music, that’s why I’m a big fan of hip hop, too.

If lyrics plays such an important role for you, how come that you hardly ever produce vocal songs yourself? 

Yes, I know it’s strange. (laughs) When I’m home, I listen to hip hop all the time, so when I make d’n’b beats, it is refreshing for me not to have vocals around. Strange but it makes sense. There is a weird simbiosis of me not listening to drum and bass at home (hip hop instead), just in the studio and vice versa. I can still appreciate a good vocalist but to be honest, drum and bass is so much information already: so loud, so fast, so many elements. If there is vocal on top of it, it’s way too much, isn’t it?

You’ve also tried that. 🙂

Yes, and I’m proud of them and I love working with vocalists, especially with Zoe (Klinck). But it’s also like a phase, it’s like growing up musically. Sometimes you feel down, then you’re up – it’s the same with music. Sometimes you want to produce vocal tracks, sometimes not really.

The majority for you is non-vocal, not being famous for your melodies.

No, not at all. But I still like them! In terms of my d’n’b picture, I love techy a lot more than soulful music. Maybe due to its energy, maybe because of my technical background: I used to be a programmer, so I love technical, complex stuff.

Is that true that if you weren’t involved in music, you’d still be doing your programming job and/or picked up a language to study? If so, which language?

Absolutely! I’d pick Russian, I think. My parents used to live in the USSR in the 80s. My father worked not too far away from Chernobyl. He started there in ’83, then my brother was born in ’84, so he lived there as well, then came the catastrophe in 1986, after which my parents went back to Austria. So they still speak it a little bit and I think it’s a really cool language! If you’re able to speak Russian, then you sort of understand of the Slavic languages.

And it also has a lovely melody, like Italian.

True, true! I used to work in Spain for a couple of months with my old job. It’s crazy how fast you pick up a language if you actually try to speak. Learning a language is great in general.

So are you planning to start it soon?

Well, it’s a great commitment, you know. As far as I’m concerned, you need to speak to natives to be able to learn it properly (not at all — Evi) – to get the vibe of the language. (laughs) If I ever move to Russia… maybe if I have some free time, I don’t know.

Aha, so are you planning to have free time?

(laughs) Hopefully not! A DJ/producer having free time means not being in the studio and not doing the best you can, I guess. If you finish an EP, a single or an album, it’s fair enough to take some time off. But now I’m working on a lot of music and I want to be in the studio because it’s exciting. So I don’t hope to be unemployed, as I’m really enjoying it right now. (laughs) But you never know!  

So what are you currently working on?

Well, it’s a little bit early to talk about them… I can’t say too much. But I’ve finished two tracks with Phace, probably to be released at Neosignal and me and Emperor are about to finish “Hello World, Part 2”. It contains collabs and two remixes. I’m also working on a lot of music which I can’t really say anything about right now.

As for living in Linz, is that true? “I have zero friends anymore, zero relationships. It’s just get up, get breakfast and go to the studio. Monday through Thursday is studio and Friday through Sunday I’m on the road.” It sounds quite depressive.

(laughs) No, not really! It was pure sarcasm from me but I think the interviewer just didn’t get it. But there is a portion of truth in it. The friends I grew up with just run their lives, which is fine, but with my schedule, it’s not really compatible. Every Thursday, about 10-12 of us try all of us to meet. There are some fathers, with jobs from all walks of life: lawyers, engineers but most of them can make time for this! From 7 pm, they have two hours to gather, to have a drink and laugh. It’s every week and I’m lucky if I can make it 3 times a year!

Thursday is exactly the day before I start off for touring, so I try to get as much work done in the studio as possible. I usually work till 10 pm, so starting at 7 is early for me, I miss our little meeting in most cases, which is very sad. It’s the same with my childhood friends. That’s what I meant: I do have friends but it’s very hard for me to make time for them.   I also have a lot of friends in the scene: Paul InsideInfo is one of my best friends now. It’s important because when I say I’m depressed because of music, he exactly knows what I’m talking about.

You seem to be a very strict boss of yourself; you don’t even stop for your friends.

Yeah… I do try but at the same time, I’ve got a deep passion and love for making beats. And if I don’t finish or I don’t make a track playable before the weekend, then I’ll get back to the studio on Monday only. I may forget what I was trying to do. I could catch up with my friends but only after 10 pm, which is already late for them. My mom also says I need to make some time for friends, which is completely right, but if you do something you love, it’s virtually impossible to see it objectively.

But your mom is right.

I know. She always is! I also take a break in the studio. Half an hour, just going outside, a quick run sometimes.

Wow, so are you also a runner?

I quit smoking half a year ago and literally the day after, I immediately caught a cold. I think it’s the first time since then that my nose isn’t running. So before that, I was trying to go running more intensively, every day or every second day. But I haven’t had the chance yet as I was always having a cold. So it’s an item on my to-do-list for next week. (laughs) Not getting ill and start running again.

As you once said, you were meant to show your roots by Contemporary EP. How important are roots for you in any sense?

Musically, I think it was the first time I’d released a half-time track as Mefjus, so that’s what I meant. With this track title, I was trying to introduce the audience of the thought of trying things differently, to make a modern approach about drum and bass. Even if it sounds douchy, “I make new drum and bass”, you know, but it’s not meant the way. It’s rather about technology generally. But that’s one of the EPs I’d make a bit differently now, both productionwise and contentwise. But the thing is with EPs is that it is a picture or capture of period of your life. In that sense, it makes sense to build it that way.

Because it was you then.

Exactly. Absolutely correct, yes.  

Your first record that really stuck was Block Control by Noisia, back in 2005, which you found amazing. What is it like to perform with them tonight?

Every time I have the chance to hang out with them, it’s a fucking pleasure, and I do tell them every time I see them. (laughs) It is still weird but it’s also great being able to talk to such skilled and wonderful people. They know everything in terms of production, obviously, they’ve been around for so many years. They started their own label, they know what’s up, they built basically their own company, having employees. They are the role models what you can achieve within techy drum and bass, and that’s why I look up to them. They’ve made everything right on the road so far. In addition, they’re superinspiring people! Just talking to Nick, Thijs or Martijn about music for ten minutes, and you immediately feel you want to go home and make beats right away.  

Apart from them, who are the people you look up to in the music industry?

There are a lot of them. Obviously Phace and Emperor, we became really good friends as well. Not only lovely people but strangely good producers! It’s great to have someone around, to talk to them, in a way they’d understand you – I don’t mean the common language but the musical taste and approach. Ivy Lab as well, great guys, amazingly skilled producers, great vibes; I love the whole bunch!   I remember talking to

I remember talking to Sabre, who is one third of Ivy Lab, I think 3 and a half years ago. We were just casually talking about hip hop music generally over a beer in the backstage in Amsterdam. I think he didn’t know I was into that, too, so I shared my idea of a side project with him: hip hop instrumentals, just for fun. He said they were planning to do the same as Ivy Lab. I think that was the first time when I heard him talking about it and now it’s out there! It’s successful, I love it, really cool! It’s awesome to know these people, see their ways, motivation, movements.

Since then, what has happened to this side project of yours?

Well, I don’t want to come out with it, not anymore. (laughs) Now it’s dead. Also, I still make those hip hop beats but if I put it out now, it’d be like copying and it’s not my intention. I have loads of beats, they are not meant to be commercially successful. All funk samples, some Mefjus drums on top, one a half minute long and done! Just little, short pieces. So I don’t know! Right now, I’m putting all my energy into making new drum and bass songs. Maybe some day I’ll release them as free download  

Do you do any other side projects apart from this?

Not really. I do a little bit of advertising jobs and mastering as well, which is all my free time I can give away. I’m kept busy with a bit more of the latter, which is great. But may day also consists of 24 hours, too! (laughs)

You played jazz trumpet for about six years – are there any other instruments you’re familiar with, or any plans to acquire?

No, not really. I was trying to teach myself the guitar, I know 3 chords now which I can play. But I can’t really switch between them because I got too few fingers – terrible! (laughs) I play 1% of piano, probably, I know where the keys are which I need and I know a bit of chord progression. But for the album, I bought another trumpet and I used it for one track but I haven’t touched it since. So perhaps, I don’t know.

The problem with trumpet is that it’s monophonic, so it’s just one sound, which easily gets boring. You have to record a couple of times and then you emulate an orchestra out of your recordings, and it’s really loud. I have to put in my earplugs to be able to record and I don’t want to annoy my neighbours, either. Sometimes I look around in the studio and realise that there are many tools I haven’t used for a while. Maybe I need at least a day in every year to just go fucking around with all those gadgets, I don’t know.

According to Paul InsideInfo: “Martin’s body is composed of 80% schnitzel, 10% beer and 10% coffee.” Is that right?

Yes, pretty much. (laughs) I eat a schnitzel every Friday, I go to the same restaurant. I send a picture to Paul every time I have dinner there because he wrote this shit, so I feel authorised! (laughs) Beforehand, it was 70% of meat and 10% of cigarettes and then the others. But I’ve managed to change.

What is your current state of mind?

Generally, I’m a bit tired. I have to play tomorrow as well, which is a bit meeh because there are so many cool people around I want to hang out and have a couple of drinks, but it’s going to be like playing the set and go to bed. But other than that, my mind isn’t overdriven by “this track needs to be done by that time”. I’ve got a Dropbox folder with 35 ideas and I know couple of things to all of them I want to change. So I’m all right but I’ve got plenty of stuff to do.

I can’t even see the vague opportunity of your relaxing.

No, you see me, I’m always on the edge. It’s just how it goes. I’ve bought a Playstation, play games a bit again at night, when I get home from the studio I play an hour and it calms me down.

And running, perhaps.

Yes, definitely. Getting some fresh air and cardio, absolutely. I did it last year and I had this point actually where I was going for about a 10k run, about an hour before I went off for a show! I loved it, feeling great and alive, having a shower, eating some good food. But then with the cold… and the ridiculous summer we had last year, it was way too hot. I didn’t feel like running at all. Then I didn’t pick it up anymore, which is sad. You’re a half marathonist, you know the runner’s high yourself. It’s the best possible feeling, I miss that a lot!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I’ve asked myself that a couple if times; I don’t really know. It really depends on where you get your motivation and appreciation from… It’d be lovely to get all this religious war bullshit out of the way, that’d be my dream come true, in every sense. My mom studied theology, so she really knows what’s up. She isn’t a fundamentalist with her opinion, I respect that but I’m an atheist, so we discuss a lot. It’s always pain and suffering, although that’s exactly the opposite what people claim – they say they find peace. But too many attacks are related to it.  

Well, it is more complex, I think. It’s rather the churches, not the religions, I think.

Of course, it is more complex. But bypassing this, everything else would go away as well.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d choose stopping smoking earlier. Or starting living a healthier life sooner. Probably your parents are the same: “You have to look after yourself! When you get older, you’ll regret not starting it earlier.” And for a year, I totally feel that. I pay more attention to what they say now.

What is your motto?

“If it’s nice, play it twice!” I stole it from Phace, actually. (laughs) We gave some shows together and I was always a bit annoyed that I had to remove a lot of tracks from my set, which he had played before. And so he encouraged me not to!

What is your greatest achievement?

Also depends on the point of view. I think I’m the wrong person to judge that. I’m really proud of being able to deliver an album when I was 25.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I think I can be really enthusiastic about things I have passion for. I’m also quite good at motivating others. I used to do it at school with sports, I always to managed at least one kid to be my partner.

When are you the happiest?

In the studio, the best moment is when you just sit back and listen to the whole track and there’s nothing you’d do differently. It’s just the flow… you can also nod your head to the music. It’s great, you’ve spent so many hours on creating it.   In personal life, just to give joy to other people in terms of surprising them and also being a good friend.

Is there anything which is not commonly known about you? Maybe you’re left-handed? 🙂

(laughs) I am left-handed… well, just partly. I play tennis and football with my left. I was a lefty between the age of 3 and 5 as my mom but she got trained to be right-handed. But when I started writing, it was my right hand somehow, without any training.   But yet another thing. When it comes down to my studio, everything has to be set up in a certain way, being clean and tidy as much as possible. But for instance, my car? I don’t give a shit! I’ve got empty bottles all over.

😀 I see. Thank you, Martin!

Thanks for having me.

A vágatlan magyar verzió itt található.

If you liked the article, you can follow me here. 🙂

Thanks, Pozsonyi Photo!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *