Ital, AKA Daniel Martin-McCormick, is arguably one of the finest, most inventive electronica explorers around today. Always forward thinking and creatively diligent, McCormick, under his Ital alias has been making waves with his heady brand of underground, often experimental techno and ahead of his show this Friday in The Menagerie, Belfast, we chatted to him about the natural progression of his music, the underground, and of course, Vladislav Delay.
Daniel, you’ve been somewhat of a chameleon throughout your music career, going from hardcore punk/electro to a more focused electronica sound. Is change something that comes naturally to you or do you feel the need to explore as many avenues as possible?
Nah man, fuck that. It’s all pretty natural. It’s like, about every 12 months or so I kind of do some sort of unintentional hard reset on the process and change something, you know like switch up something with the way I’m working that’ll force it in a new direction but not so much a new stylistic direction, or not like “now I have to change the sound to be more like somebody or something else or whatever.” It’s just a natural flow. It’s all about clarifying and taking out and reducing everything as much as possible and getting rid of as much of the extraneous stuff. I always feel like you kind of start off exploring some ideas and you’ll get a pile-on of sounds because you’re still getting your footing and so you reduce and reduce some more and get the idea focused and then move a little bit somewhere else and then repeat the process again. I mean, when I started working as Ital I was like, okay, this is going to be electronic music and I’ll make a space to explore that, and that was basically the only time I made any sort of conscious decision about a genre…other than that it’s just been flowing.
So would you say you might get bored with an idea, scrap it and then switch things up to explore it from a different angle?
Yeah, I mean, that’s like an everyday thing, but I don’t like the word boredom because I rarely ever feel bored. I do feel that over time I come into the studio or try to work and it always feels like I’m beginning all over again in a way, even if I’m using the same materials or something like that. It’s like a feeling that I’ve finally figured out just enough to start and it’s been that way since I started playing music. It’s like I’ve finally figured out what I want to make but if I start jamming today there’ll still be that feeling of constant newness. It’s nice but also anxiety provoking because I never really feel like I know exactly where I am but at the same time I don’t think I want to know exactly where I am. Whenever I hear music that’s really well produced, of course, the big complaint about it (big-room, tech-house or poppy EDM comes to mind) is that it sounds so formulaic and you only acquire a formula like that when you know exactly what you’re doing, all the time. It’s a thing that’s been done a million times before so I don’t really want that formula, but obviously, I’m drawing on the basic tenets of house,techno and electronica, although I don’t really try to think about sticking generically to that. They’re the ideas I use so I can keep exploring.
Is this exploration reflected in the labels that you work with? Endgame on Planet Mu and material on you’re own label, Lover’s Rock – are they channels that allow you to explore your ideas differently?
I think it’s in the back of my mind and I don’t feel like I tailor-make music for different labels but they definitely bring out certain sides of my tastes. With Endgame, that was pretty much pure or something like that, but when I was sending tracks to Mike Paradinas (Planet MU) and he was giving me feedback, that was more fair. I mean, the label thing in general, the thing that’s really important is that they are open minded and I feel like when some people work with labels and they’re told “oh, we need a better mix of this” or “we need an anthem now, and we want you to do two deep cuts and two big cuts” and all that shit, it would just make me freeze in my tracks, like if someone said “make me some kind of deep yet funky whatever-the-fuck”, you what I mean? It’s just, that’s not how it works at all for me, I can’t operate that way so the labels I work with are ones that are up for as much exploring and following your muse or whatever as I am.
With that ethos in mind, then, do you look for that quality in the artists that you’re signing or the music you’re taking on board for your own label?
Well the music on Lover’s Rock is just basically friends of mine and it’s like a crew of people I feel are pretty inspiring and are exploring music in interesting ways. The music that my friends make is the music I’m most obsessed with and it isn’t being put out on other labels. Earthen Sea, we’ve been jamming together since 1999 and his music continues to amaze me and I’m really happy to put it out. I don’t go out looking for artists, I mean there are so many labels, everybody can get a 12” out now and it’s at a point where it’s saturated. People send me demos every once and a while, maybe once a month and it’ll be good music – there’s no problem with the music, but it’s like I don’t fee like my job is to be an EP factory for the creative processes of innumerable producers around the world. It’s like, you should try and do it yourself or try and a find a label, even a label your friend is running that will really, really make sense because for a thousand bucks you can make like 300 records. The ones I want to put out are the ones that I have personal/philosohpical/spiritual relationships with. Maybe in a year I’ll have a signee I’ve never met before but who the fuck knows, ha.
What’s next for Lover’s rock? Any exciting projects coming up?
Yeah, that Earthen Sea we have coming out in the spring – that one’s going to be awesome, it’s seven songs and it’s really, really nice. It’s called Ink and then we’re working on a few that are two thirds, if not three-quarters of the way done. We’re working on a remix EP fr the Earthen Sea one too and just a few other things, you know.
In regard to your own music, Endgame felt different from your earlier work on Planet Mu or even 100 % Silk – was there anybody you were listening to at the time that you would say had an impact?
Yeah, basically every time I make a record, part of me goes through a Vladislav meltdown were I’m like, fuck, I really want to make the first Vladslav album and then I can never do it and I always have to talk myself down like “dude, you’re not going to make the first Vladislav Delay album so don’t even worry about it, but I always spend a little bit of time trying to. And failing. Then I go back to my own stuff and forget about trying, because I can’t make the first Vladislav album.
Ha! It’s just too crazy, like he doesn’t even know how he made them. He says in interviews he forgets and it just wouldn’t be worth it because he did the whole thing, like five perfect albums so I don’t even want to go there, but I’m just so obsessed with his early work and to me it’s like the North Star or whatever, you know, like the guiding light in terms of it being so unique and crazy sounding and really interesting. I know it’s not really club-orientated and it’s more ambient so it’s weird to say that was the biggest influence for me, but yeah, he’s the big one. The white whale.
Who are you digging or what are you listening to at the minute?
Let me check my iTunes…ha, I’ve just been listening to British Murder Boys a lot and some Coil.
Ha, yeah, you alway go back to Coil. I was a big Love’s Secret Domain fan back in high school and then a while back I was jamming some stuff and doing some talking on it and was like, what does this remind me of…and I was like, shit, I was so obsessed with that song ‘Things Happen’ where it’s the woman talking about some ambiguously fucked-up scenario, and I hadn’t even thought about them in so long and pulled out the jams and was like these are so good. It’s interesting realising that these are part of my sub-conscious influences even though I hadn’t really thought about it in like 15 years and I never thought about it as being something I’d be influenced by stylistically, but it was just sitting there waiting to come out. But, yeah, I’m out there man, listening to stuff. I hear the new Aphex, Soundcloud stuff. I hear things.
YES, amazing, right?
You’re set for Belfast at the end of March, in The Menagerie where you’ve played before. Given that The Menagerie is one of our more underground venues that showcases underground music, do you feel you’re more suited to that sort of environment? Would you call that kind of venue home?
Yeah, definitely, I mean I’ve played some bigger venues and festivals and it can be a nice experience, but I feel like there’s an expectation you run into in these bigger places from time to time, where it’s more about just keeping people shuffling, having a nice time and selling drinks and it’s more business like. So the audience are often distracted or disengaged. They become less willing to go on a musical journey that’s nuanced and complex, they just want entertainment for the sake of entertainment; nice kickdrums, “sexy grooves”, so with me and my friends and the respect we have for music and the experience, I have no patience for, like, vaguely mysterious, tech-housey, grooving generic club fodder. I just think that life is too short. If the place has a good soundsystem and the people are listening, and experiencing and enjoying the music then that’s great.
Ital will headline Kindred #1 this coming Friday, March 20th, in The Menagerie, Belfast. Tickets are £8 and it kicks off at 9.30pm, with support from Twitch Belfast’s Matt Burns. All the information for the event can be found here.