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DJ Mayhem Interview

DJ Mayhem aka Martin Ikin is, without a doubt, one of my favorite “unsung heroes” of hardcore / jungle. First releasing through Basement, his tunes there were some of the most memorable on a label already chock full of top notch tracks. His later tunes through Face and Precious Materials are no slouches either… still catchy and easily identifiable, which is why you’re so likely to find Ray Keith’s remix of his track “Inesse” on quite a number of random oldskool compilations around 94-95 Since that time, Martin has been producing some very successful soulful garage house as well, under the name Soul Purpose. Definitely check those out, and be sure to check out as many old DJ Mayhem tunes as you can get your hands on, as they’re ALL must-haves!!!

When & how did you first meet up with the Basement crew? (Basement Phil,Ron Wells, etc)? Were you a regular at their record shop?
Well back in 1990 I hired a local studio for a couple of days and produced my first demo track (don’t even think I have a copy anymore). I took this into Basement Records one day when record shopping and played it to Phil Wells and the guys who I’d got to know quite well from spending all my money in there, LOL…. They liked what they heard and signed me up to become a Basement Records Artist.
A little while later they booked me in at the “14B” studio (Ron’s House) with the genius Ron Wells. I had all the ideas and samples ready, so that first “Damage” EP was done pretty quickly… Just a couple of days i think.

What was the process like working with Ron Wells initially engineering the tunes? Did you bring samples to the session, already have parts recorded in some format, or how did you go about working on tunes with him?
Back then when I used to go to Ron’s studio, I was a complete engineering novice. So Ron took care of all the engineering, while I would come in with the ideas already set: bring all the samples and take care of playing all the parts. It was always a kind of mixdown as we go vibe, so when the track was finished it was pretty much mixed too. But any level tweaks would be done at the end.
It wasn’t too long after this i started buying and collecting my own studio gear, bit by bit…. Think the first thing i bought was an AKAI S950 Sampler… Loved that thing, even with its 8 seconds sample time fully loaded ! 🙂

Of those early tunes you did, is there any one you still like the best? Any funny memories or interesting stories about working on any of those early tunes?
They’ve all got a special place in my mind those tunes, that era was just so exciting and new, it was a great time. Being 20 years ago now, I cant remember any specific funny things.. But i can remember that Ron, Myself & Alex Reece Always had pure jokes when we worked together, very fun times!

Did all your tunes from the 92-95 era see the light of day, or are there any unreleased 92-95 DJ Mayhem tracks kicking around on DAT somewhere? Any pre-Basement recs demo tunes?
Errrrm, yeah I think there are probably a few DAT’s lurking somewhere, don’t ask me where though LOL. There might even be an unreleased dubplate or two tucked away in my collection.

Along with the records under your DJ Mayhem alias, you also released a blinder of a tune in the form of Two Dark Troopers’ “I want to be your lover” / Darkcore”. That EP said it was by you and “Chemical Reaction” – who was Chemical Reaction? did you two work on any other tunes together?
Wow.. I’d almost forgotten about that one! Yes that was my good pal David (DJ Madup) Sarson. We used to dj together at loads of early raves, mainly the MadUp parties as Mayhem & Chemical Reaction. But that was the only track we did together.

Which tunes or producers from that era do you rate the most? Any lesser known favorites which you really liked, found influential or just think didn’t got the recognition they deserved?
Ooh thats a tough one…. But I would have to say Mark Bell (LFO) was a massive inspiration for me at that time, his sounds and productions were absolutely sublime, genius of that time.

In addition to the singles on Basement/Precious Materials, you also did two EPs on Pascal’s label FACE records. Why the switch for those 2 records?

No special reason really. Pascal and I were good friends at the time, so he invited me to do a tune for his label, and that was that.

On the Face Records EP, one track was produced at Sound Entity (the Basement Records studio) by Alex Reece, one by Pascal at a different studio. Listening to these, it almost sounds like the tune produced at Sound Entity has a bit more of a “Basement Records”-ish sound to it. It could just be coincidence, but it makes me wonder: how did those studios and engineers vary? were they pretty similar setup wise?
Yes the Sound Entity studio was the new Basement Records studio, as it had recently moved from Ron’s house “14B”. The gear in each studio was completely different, the Basement set up used keyboards, sound modules and most notably still used a Roland hardware sequencer, MC50 i think (No Computer)! Whereas Pascal’s studio was basically an Akai S1000 Sampler, an Atari ST running Cubase and an Alesis Quadraverb (think that was it!)
So you can see just by the gear list that each studio would have a completely different sound and different production methods, i.e arranging without a computer… seems unbelievable now.

At what point did you start producing on a home studio setup?

Cant remember the year now,they have all blended into one, But I had started building up my gear list quite early on. I might be wrong but i think the first release done on my own setup was the Precious Material release. For me its always been a massive plus being self sufficient in the studio.

Following the 91-95 records you seemed to take a break from releasing music for a number of years – is that accurate? If so, care to tell us why? If not, what releases were you working on during this time?
Yeah it wasn’t really a conscious break but I had started studying Jazz Piano pretty full on, I had my own little Jazz Funk band and I was really concentrating on that side of things for a while, and enjoying it actually. Playing has always been one of my first loves.
As well as that, the scene had begun to change and I was definitely moving in a different direction (musically).
I did actually produce quite a few undercover bits in that time though, including some UK Garage stuff, some of which was on Basement’s Allstars Label. I produced some bits with another good friend Dave Jones (Zed Bias) which came out under various names too.
I think it was 97/98 when i made my last visit to the D&B scene with my “Blue Notez/Nasty Funk” EP. That came out on my own label “Nu-Note” through Basement which by then was called Vinyl Distribution. Even though it was a D&B EP I really wanted to do this record, as it featured all the guys from my band, live drums, bass, guitar and of course keys, so it was a nice project to get my teeth into.

Did jungle/hardcore’s constant push to faster tempos and more extreme sounds help nudge you in a more soulful house direction, or was that already where your heart was?
I was always into House from day one, so it was just a natural progression for me to move “Back to House” where i started. ’95-’99 was all about the bumpy US Garage/House for me… So many monster classics from that era that I still play out now.

Back in 2002, you did several dnb release with two other massive dnb/jungle notables (DJ Phantasy & Steve Gurley). Was meeting up with those two / producing those DNB records one of the things which got you back into producing tunes on your own, or had you been producing that whole time?
No not really, I was still putting stuff out, just under different names. Though mainly engineering for people at that point. Steve “Phantasy” was and still is a really good friend from back in the early Basement days so we always spoke or saw each other from time to time anyway. It was his idea for us all to do a tune together as i had been engineering some other projects for him too.

You mention on your site that those aforementioned DNB tracks show you’ve still got love for jungle/dnb – does that extend to oldskool jungle/hardcore as well? With you crossing paths with Grant Nelson (aka Wishdokta), any chance of you two collabing on some hardcore/jungle influenced tunes in the future? Or are the days of that crazy fast choppy ‘ardcore done for good for you guys?
Haha… That would be a laugh. I know Grant and I would have an absolute blast doing some old “ardcore bangers! But Im afraid it aint gonna happen, not at the moment anyway. The pair of us are so busy, we cant even get it together to get the next MI:grant release done. Would be fun though 🙂

Since then, you’ve been putting out quite a number of really big tunes through your artist/label SOUL PURPOSE – a project which, while not oldskool hardcore, seems to give a heavy nod to oldskool of a different kind (classic soulful garage/house). What releases do you have in the works for SOUL PURPOSE? Any touring plans?
Yes that bumpy beats vibe has always been a favourite of mine and its nice to see its coming back on the scene, with the beats stinging like they used too!!
Lots and lots to come from SP. Next up I think will be Key Issues Volume 4 coming very very soon…

Anything else I missed which you’d like to mention?
Errm, just keep your eyes and ears out for the new SP releases comin’ v soon On Soul Purpose Records! 😉

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