[This weeks' blog sees the start of semi-regular interviews with some of the International MixTrain Collective's DJs, in a bid to spread the word and recruit new and talented DJs. This interview is with the IMTC's founder, Fatter Agnus.]
Hi Fatter. As you know I have been championing the MixTrain Collective for weeks, if not months, now, and the wider world and I would like to know more about you and the Collective. For starters, how did the formation of the MixTrain come about?
I used to play back in the 90’s but was away from the whole scene for more than a decade. I had been mulling over doing something again but didn’t want to go back to a pure-play vinyl/turntable setup. When the Native Instruments Kontrol S4 was released last Autumn I was instantly sold and decided that this was what I wanted to use for mixing. The Kontrol S4 was in short supply all over the US so I spent a lot of time on web site learning about the kit as I waited for mine to arrive. During that time I came across the DJTechTools site which is pretty much the number one DJ technology site out there. I quickly became involved on their user forum and saw guys doing these mix trains – guys from all over agreeing to do, day a psy-trance mix train and each guy recording 10-15 minutes of a mix and sharing that file with the next guy to add on to. I thought about just getting involved on the trains happening there but what I really wanted was to do some stuff with my own circle of friends. I got a lot of good advice from the lads on the DJTechTools boards about putting mix trains together so II shot out a message to some friends with on Facebook to see if they would be up for something similar. The response was pretty quick and very positive. Within a couple of hours we had a dozen people spread across a bunch of time zones – all up for putting a drum and bass mix. The first mix took about 6 weeks to complete as it went Cleveland, Ohio, USA – Isle of Wight -London – Isle of Wight – Raleigh, North Carolina, USA – Kuwait City, although I might not have that exactly right!
I love the whole concept of different DJs from all over the world getting together and creating a mix with their own styles. Would you say that starting the mix as the first DJ is hardest, or has the guy at the end got a lot to contend with as an hour mix drops through his email and he has to create something to compliment it? And is it usually in your hands to kick things off?
The DJ that kicks off the train does have a responsibility to ensure that their slot is appropriate and representative of the agreed theme. You certainly don’t want to be working on a Mix Train where the first DJ has decided to drop Balls-to-the-Wall Scandinavian Death Squad Loop Rape Techno – especially when you were expecting some dubstep action. Luckily, we haven’t run into anything like that yet. We don’t ask DJs to audition as most are referred by existing members but if we have someone who finds us through Twitter, Facebook or WordPress, we will ask them for a Soundcloud link or something similar so the existing members of the group can check them out. We actually met DJC-Kay on Twitter and everyone loved what he did on The Drop Train.
As for the being the last DJ, it’s always fun to be able to really go to town on the last slot and really build on the other DJ’s work. Depending on the DJ’s setup, there are more technical considerations the further into the mix you go. For instance, some people play “Suicide Style” where they play and record the incoming mix and start their mix at the end. This is the quickest and most effective way to do it but if you make a mistake you have to start the whole thing again. We have guys using Ableton, Traktor, Serato and a number of other DJ and audio platforms and they all have their own way of doing it.
There are no hard and fast rules about who kicks off a train. I started the very first one and have probably kicked off a couple on top of that but it’s generally the DJ who comes up with an idea for a new train that gets things going. In other cases we just list all the available slots and let people sign up on a first come, first served basis.
I’m a big fan of DJC-Kay as I, too, found him through Twitter. How important are social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to the MixTrain? And do you interact with any other sites?
There are two sides to the Mix Train. There’s the public side where we post mixes, let people know what’s going on and loom to attract new talent. Then you have the internal side where the mix trains are created and managed and the place where the DJs get together. Most of this could have been done before social networking erupted as internet forums have been around forever. In fact the DJTT guys do everything on their boards . Having said all that, social networking allows you cast your net much farther in terms of working with a broader variety of DJs and attracting a more diverse group of listeners. It’s also amazing how much a seemingly insignificant feature like the ‘add document’ in Facebook Groups has helped. The docs feature enables us to set out mix trains and let users in the group sign up, make edits and swap places with other DJs without everything having to go through Jay Innit , Erick Bruce or myself. Of all the technology we currently use,Dropbox is hands-down my favorite. Dropbox is a service that allows folders to be shared and synchronized across multiple computers via the web. This is what we use to share mix train mixes as they go from one DJ to another.
In terms of what sites we use it’s mostly Facebook, Twitter and WordPress. The Facebook
fan page is a good place if you just want to be notified of new mix trains and get the odd
update as we really don’t go crazy on the page with updates as to what we had for dinner. Twitter is becoming more and more important and Mix Train tweets vary from information on new and upcoming mixes to relevant music/technology retweets and often it’s just what happens to be on my mind, which is clearly of interest to everyone on the planet! The WordPress site is my favorite as everything is there, all the mixes, the DJ profile pages and any articles that I decide to write. I am trying to get the Mix Train boys to write too as some of them have some great expertise to share. Recently myself and our in-house Alchemist FutureKing were talking about him doing a series of articles about creating mashups. He is doing some really amazing stuff with seemingly not much more than a Commodore 64 and a myopic crow .
Ah, Futureking… I remember him and Jay Innit being the resident DJs in one of the smallest, grimiest clubs ever to have (dis)graced the face of the earth. They were characters now as they were then, if only with a few more grey hairs. Maybe you should get Future King to tell everyone about some of the (mis)adventures they got up to back ‘in the day’. Did you ever used to play clubs, bars, etc?
I played a few different clubs over the years but never reached the level of infamy attained by Messers King and Innit. In fact, I had a few messy nights myself at the particular club in question. What these two guys brought to the crowd was quality music that, like them, didn’t take themselves too seriously. “Serious Ravers” could go and have it next to kids who’d previously only been exposed to top 40 dance fodder. Back then there was also a lot of competition between DJs but these guys never had to play that game – they had a style, a home and a following to beat all followings.A lot of people got their music education at that venue.
Today I continue to be blown away by both of them. I bow to Jay’s ability to take a set in any direction he pleases and Andy’s productions consistently give me the shivers. It was only this afternoon that I realized that I had one of his sets on repeat for 3 hours. So, yes, I played, but not like these two.
Climbing back aboard the MixTrain, I’ll be playing your latest mix on my radio show to tie in with this blog – as well as posting it on the bottom of this page. Tell me a bit more about this mix and also about the DJs involved in it.
IMTC 018 – ‘The Drop’ was originally called “Darker or Harder than the last’. The idea was to start the mix off with more accessible dinner drum and bass and take it downward from there. Oz White kicks things off with BCee & S.P.Y.’s “Is Anybody Out There?”- a liquid pleaser that I fell in love with the second I heard it. The baton gets handed over at the 10 minute mark to North London’s DJC-Kay who stamps his trademark smooth D&B vibe on the mix before an eight time zone jump to the West Coast and into the hands of my beat gridding tutor, Professor Ben (yes, he’s really a professor). The scholar swiftly brings the horror with some fierce jungle that sets the tone for the rest of the mix. Things change
direction again with a stop in Cleveland, Ohio again as yours truly flips the whole thing on
Professor Ben on the left#
its head with “Diary Tribe Volume 1” (Flump Pumper Dub) which has as much place in a drum and bass set as a bucket of minced eels in a KitKat factory. If my slot is the darker, techier part of the mix, NoHero’s is by far the fattest, dropping monsters like Figure and Whiskey Pete’s “Cut Throat” on Heavy Artillery Recordings. As for the last ten minutes? Well, it does exactly what it says on the tin. Jay Innit hits the red button and proceeds to stroll through the carriages, grinning at the punters as the train separates from the the rails, plows across the motorway and sets course for the nearest ravine. Does that sum it up?
Eloquently. The IMTC has only been around briefly, but what are your long term plans and goals for you and your crew?
I started this whole project as a way for like-minded DJs to connect, and that will always be our ethos. Moving forward, I would like to see our little community expand with new players from different parts of the world, bringing different viewpoints and styles. I don’t care if you are fourteen or four hundred and forty four, if you have a sound and can bring it, we want you. We have also seen more chatter in the group around production and I think there are some opportunities for collaboration there.
Future King of the World...?
I also think there is an opportunity here to create a (dare I say it) brand that’s capable of really changing the way electronic music artists rock a crowd. We have lots of solo DJ’s and producers, a few double acts and a handful of awesome outfits but we don’t have a dynamic where the sound comes before everything. Wouldn’t it be incredible if you could be in Sydney, San Diego or Shanklin and be able to go to a Mix Train gig where you didn’t know exactly who was playing but knew your night was going to be utterly explosive? Given the right growth the IMTC has the ability to do this.
A global brand? A banging night? Or both? Here on the island we already have one of the IMTC DJs – Oz White – hosting his briliant drum and bass nights here in Ryde, but I do believe that our local area needs an IMTC night, as does Sydney, San Diego, et al. And I expect tickets. Will you be pressing the IMTC to pursue this kind of venture? Or will the Train remain on the tracks it already steams along for now?
Initially I would like to see an uptake in membership from more diverse parts of the World and that’s something I think we can achieve with the right people involved in the project. To that end, we are actively looking for a few non-DJ’s who can seriously help promote the IMTC and attract more listeners and more players (well networked music bloggers – please get in touch). As for the Global Brand – there’s definitely an opportunity there but like everything else, it comes down to time and money. What is certain is that we will continue to put out solid mixes that people want to listen and dance to. It would be very cool to see an IMTC night on the Island though!
Click to listen to the IMTC mix – The Drop
And to see the MixTrain site, discover the full track listing for The Drop (as well as downloading it for FREE), and to play their other mixes or to help promote the Mix Train brand and get involved at the ground floor… click on this link!