On Cue: Mr. Mitch
On Cue is our newly relaunched flagship mix series, celebrating the pivotal DJs and producers whose influence has shaped the world of electronic music, both in their local scenes and beyond. Next up is Boxed founder and Gobstopper label don, Mr.Mitch. Ahead of the release of his 'Need More Fashion Friends/Shirley Temple' EP, the London underground stalwart dishes up an superb hour of techno dancehall...
Mr. Mitch is enjoying making people dance.
A move away from the delicate aesthetics of his last EP, October 2018’s ‘Primary Progressive’, Mr. Mitch’s latest single, ‘Need More Fashion Friends/Shirley Temple’, is purpose-built for the loud, dark confines of Corsica Studios’ Room 2. “I’ve been testing it in the club over the last six months,” he says when we speak over the phone late one evening, “literally, six months to make two tracks, but it’s worth it.”
On Cue celebrates producers who have proven themselves influential and innovative in their local scene and beyond, and nowhere does this criteria apply more than to lifelong south Londoner Miles Mitchell aka Mr. Mitch. Since Butterz label heads Elijah & Skilliam started playing his music on Rinse FM in 2009, Mr. Mitch has been stretching, bending and softening the boundaries of grime.
In 2010 Mitchell put out his first release via Butterz, produced the title track on Skepta’s record ‘Doin’ It Again’, and launched his own label — experimental imprint Gobstopper Records, which has since put out music by the likes of Loom, Tarquin and Strict Face. Three years later, after a slew of remixes and production credits, Mr. Mitch launched Boxed, a night of instrumental grime at Peckham Palais alongside Slackk, Oil Gang and recent On Cue selector Logos. Now, six years later, Mitchell has released two albums via Planet Mu and Boxed has a permanent home at Corsica Studios, evolving into a beloved hotbed for some of London’s most exciting underground club sounds.
Mr. Mitch grew up surrounded by music. His father was a musician too, though attempts to coerce a young Miles into mastering the guitar were unsuccessful. With an interest in electronic music from the age of 10, specifically garage, Mr. Mitch got his first basic music production software, complete with looping functionality, courtesy of a cereal box when he was 11. Once the act of playing loops on loops became tiresome, his cousin gave him Fruity Loops, and from there he began producing material of his own.
Like many producers, in past interviews Mr. Mitch has nodded to Timbaland and The Neptunes as major influences, but as he’s grown into his sound and looked back upon his formative years of music making, he’s recognised other key influences too. For instance, UK garage stalwarts Wookie and Sticky, particularly Sticky’s use of melody. Or slick electro-pop bands like Hot Chip, who Mitchell admires for the fact that their music feels fun, less serious than the swagger and machismo that surrounds much of grime.
Mitchell admits, with a laugh, that his first clubbing experiences were in the “bait West End clubs”, and that “I hated them.” It was only when he started venturing deeper into the music he enjoyed at home — spending hours on Limewire and streaming radio sets — outside of the house, that he began to see the clubbing world in a different light. He started going to Butterz events, experiencing the community that was home to a new wave of grime producers as well as established artists like Skepta and JME who came down to the parties too. Later, Mr. Mitch played a Butterz party at Cable. “That was the first time I really felt I was part of something”, he says, gratefully.
When it comes to defining his sound, Mr. Mitch is hesitant. “I’m always changing,” he says, “it’s not that I’m indecisive, but I’m quite impulsive. I just go with whatever feels right at the time, but there’s a piece of me in everything I make.”
Mitchell’s last two projects have centred around monumental moments in his own life; 2017 album ‘Devout’ is consumed by fatherhood, and last year’s ‘Primary Progressive’ is named after a form of multiple sclerosis, from which his father suffers. Both releases are profound in their declaration, but tender and introspective, a window into the most vulnerable parts of himself. In contrast, perhaps in respite, Mitchell’s current focus is music for the club, specifically moody techno with dancehall rhythms.
With its thumping bass, crisp percussion, and the sound of smoking area chatter that lingers in the background, ‘Need More Fashion Friends’ is Mr. Mitch diving deeper into the dancefloor, making weighty music that hits your chest rather than tugging at your heart strings. B-side ‘Shirley Temple’ is, despite its no-nonsense low-end, softer, brighter in its chords and melody, one for the end of the night, perhaps.
Mr. Mitch is finding inspiration on the Boxed dancefloor, just like all the producers and DJs that have stepped up to play over the years. In March, Boxed celebrated its sixth birthday with a line-up that featured old friends (Scratcha DVA, Spooky) alongside some of London’s most promising up-and-comers (Jossy Mitsu, India Jordan). As he talks about Boxed and its evolution, as well as the trajectory of Gobstopper, Mitchell repeatedly refers back to his key motive — pushing sound in new directions. “That’s what it’s always been about for me,” he says, “we wanted to push these weird sounds sent from producers that were in and around grime.” In recent years, says Mitchell, there’s been less experimentation in the grime world, and thus the sonic remit of Boxed has broadened. “Just keep pushing forward,” he reiterates, “whatever it is, that’s where we’re going."
"DJs need to cut their teeth and learn how to work a small club, otherwise you’ll get one big tune and end up in Printworks, not knowing what to do”
“It’s the perfect place to let go and lose yourself for a moment,” Mr. Mitch says affectionately of Room 2 at Corsica Studios. A beloved South London space with a banging soundsystem, Corsica is the perfect home for Boxed. “We’re lucky,” Mitchell muses, “it’s really hard, as a promoter, to find a venue that’s small, has a good soundsystem, and won’t get noise complaints.” Boxed had a stint at Dalston venue Birthdays, now permanently closed, and while the club wasn’t renowned necessarily for its sound, it was in a good location, and was instrumental in the party’s establishing a loyal following. Speaking of Birthdays, Mitchell says, “it’s sad to see venues like that go. DJs need to cut their teeth and learn how to work a small club, otherwise you’ll get one big tune and end up in Printworks, not knowing what to do.”
Despite sounding cynical about London’s current propensity for opening large-scale venues without paying attention to the grassroots establishments that are responsible for nurturing the underground, Mr. Mitch is enthusiastic about the collectives in the capital right now that are doing what he does best, pushing interesting music in different directions. “It’s cool to see, and it’s cool to be a part of,” he says, making particular reference to Tash LC’s CLUB YEKE parties at The Yard, Ahadadream’s label More Time, and High Class Filter and Ian DPM’s imprint Scuffed Recordings.
After a decade in the game, Mr. Mitch has realised that appreciating each moment as it happens is imperative to embracing one’s success. “You have this notion in your head that you’re going to blow up at some point, that you’ll reach a level and suddenly everyone will know who you are,” he says. Producing for an artist like Skepta, or releasing music on a label as prolific as Planet Mu, could both have been one of those moments. Earlier in our conversation, when Mitchell talks about the years between his first Butterz release and launching Boxed (2010 to 2013), he explains that back then you were unlikely to be properly credited as a producer within the grime scene. So while he was putting out a lot of music, looking back over his career those years seem less significant. “Enjoy the moment you’re in,” he emphasises, “instead of trying to think each step is going to get you to the next step, just enjoy each step for what it is.”
Our conversation leaves us wondering if, at times, Mr. Mitch feels as though he hasn’t caught a break. Yet he’s fostered and nurtured an entire scene, created a space for a genre-defying league of up-and-coming artists, established one of London’s most forward thinking parties, done the same with a label, and put out music via one of underground music’s most revered platforms. And as if that wasn’t enough, Mitchell has been a father since he was 22 years old. How does he manage it all?
“Finding time,” he says matter-of-factly when we ask which aspect of his career he finds most challenging. “It’s finding a balance between family life, music life, social life'” he explains, before correcting himself, laughing, “well actually, social life is right at the back.” Mr. Mitch has two sons, Milo who’s eight, and Oscar, who’s about to turn three. He thinks that the family/music balance might be harder to juggle for an artist that’s established prior to starting a family, but for Mitchell, he’s never known any different. “You come home and there’s somebody that demands, needs and deserves your attention,” he says, “you have to stay focused and disciplined, it’s a lot of late nights.” Talking about that all-too-familiar feeling of coming home from work and just wanting to decompress, he admits that “if you’re tired one day, and you decide not to make music, you have to know that you’re probably not going to make another song for the next six months. You’ll keep not doing it, it’s so easy to fall into that pattern.”
Occasionally, family life and music life can mix. Enter: Big Fish Little Fish. ‘2-4 hour party people’, Big Fish Little Fish put on family-friendly afternoon raves at venues like fabric and Proud Embankment in London. You wouldn’t expect kiddy raves to host line-ups like The Orb, London Elektricity, or 2 Bad Mice. Mr. Mitch himself has even played a Big Fish Little Fish party at Fire in Vauxhall. The artists are encouraged to play their usual repertoire, with their levels turned right down. Mitchell says the concept of holding the attention of the dancefloor goes out the window, as the attention span of the young crowd is severely lacking. “My eldest felt special standing in the DJ booth,” he laughs, “but Oscar, I hardly saw him, he was just running around constantly, they had all three rooms open!”
Away from the chaos of kids at home and kids on the dancefloor, how does Mr. Mitch unwind? ‘Devout’ and ‘Primary Progressive’ are both restorative records in their own right, and there’s no doubt that creating a contemplative piece of music is therapeutic in itself, but elsewhere Mitchell finds respite in Ryuichi Sakamoto, particularly his 2017 album ‘Async’. “That record is a modern masterpiece for me,” he says, “when I was on tour in the US, I would listen to ‘Async’ on every flight and it would just reset my brain.” Mitchell can also turn to Portishead when he needs to regroup, and he laughs when he talks about working with friend and Gobstopper affiliate Social State. “Whenever we make songs together, we listen to it at the end of the session and we realise we’ve basically made a Portishead tune. It’s unintentional, but I guess Portishead have had a big influence on me too.”
The title of ‘Need More Fashion Friends’ is a lighthearted, tongue in cheek reference to Instagram culture. “Being part of the scene you know,” he says, “it all looks so cool from the outside.” The antithesis of the Instagram DJ, Mr. Mitch is a respected figurehead, a mentor, and as hardworking as they come. For the rest of 2019 he plans to put out a bunch of club-leaning singles in line with his DJing, and this On Cue mix shines a light on that aim. “It could be a Techno Dancehall Volume 2,” he says, “that’s what making sense for me right now.”
Pre-order 'Need More Fashion Friends/Shirley Temple' here.
Marie Davidson 'La chambre intérieure (Instrumental)'
DJ BeBeDeRa 'Tarraxo Reboleixon Au Rubro'
Mr. Mitch 'Not Modular (The Bug Remix)'
Dervisis 'Yelde' (BFTT’s Gliding Slug Remix)'
Cristophe 'Rok The Hall'
Nikki Nair 'David'
G3 'Réalité Riddim VIP (feat. Flirta D)'
Omar S 'Mid 90’s'
Stanley Schmidt 'Shifting Mode'
Tashi Wada With Yoshi Wada And Friends 'Niagara (Laurel Halo "Lilith" Mix)'
Mr. Mitch 'Need More Fashion Friends'
Joe Goddard 'Broken'
Joey G ii 'Working Aspirations (feat. Klein Zage)'
Copyright Thrust Publishing Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.djmag.com as the source.