It’s 11pm on a Monday in NYC and the Meatpacking District’s mainstay club, Cielo on Little West 12th has a line wrapped around the block. Inside, a lucky crowd of early attendees are already awaiting the arrival of the Digital Mystikz. The South London legends who many hold responsible as the mastermind innovators behind the 140 BPM sound known as dubstep. When one-half of the duo, Mala, steps up to take the decks around 12:30am, with Coki to soon join later, everyone goes into a chaotic, excited frenzy, aka, apeshit.
Vibe sits down with DJ and DEEP MEDi label head, Mala after the show to get to know the man who mastered the craft of meditative, audio stimulation over the years. He isn’t attached to the VIP treatment, and his ego is nonexistent in the conversation. Being completely deaf in the left ear hasn’t slowed Mala down from putting out some of the most experimental bass releases. Now he’s got a new album from A/T/O/S on his label and just finished a whirlwind tour. Check our head-to-head with Mala now after the jump.
VIBE: Coki and yourself have been massive within the underground bass scene. How has been it knowing the effect you’ve had on others lives and what’s the effect been on yours?
Mala: I can only speak for myself since Coki’s not here, but I make music because it’s something that I need to do for myself. You can see at some extent how your contribution has affected the scene as a whole and on a personal level, but can one really understand how their perceived in the world? There’s all these different factors that go into making music and that spreads on, so I just give thanks to something that I’m doing and that I’ve done in my life, which gives some sort of positivity to someone else. I don’t take that on as like, “yeah look at me, I’m great, like look what I’m doing”, I just give thanks.
Does this gratitude help you stay humble?
Just because you have more money than someone else doesn’t make you any better, actually it could make you better depending on what you do with your money. A lot of the people that have money in the entertainment industry all they really seem to do is just flash it around. You don’t really hear anything of promotion of charities and orphanages or all these things which probably could be be set up with the amount of millions that people earn. You don’t see them pushing that type of energy out, so I just think it’s what you do with yourself.
How do you define your sound? Is it annoying to be classified by genre?
It’s more of a personal thing where music is one of the only freedoms to express ourselves and we have try to respect it, and not limit it. For me in my mind to call myself a particular something is just another limitation. I just want to be open, and liberal from those thoughts as much as possible. Rather than saying I’m a dubstep producer or DJ, I don’t. When we started making this music that term wasn’t around like it is now.
What were you calling this sort of music back when you started?
Music. There used to be a dance called FWD, which was the place you could only hear this music in London for the first couple of years. It was forward thinking music. It definitely had its own vibe, and energy about it. No one cared what it was called, a handful of people were only making it. Then for everyone things grew, collectively, and simultaneously. A huge growth came about because none of us wanted to be restricted or limited by anything. It was just about music and people, and connecting those two with some sort of harmony.
You’ve stayed true to playing vinyl, what’s been the motive for that commitment?
I still cut dubplates, that’s where I come from. With my music, personally the optimum experience sonically is playing on vinyl. I just think when you transfer the information onto that format, there’s a certain grain, bottom end feels warmer, feels a bit heavier, a bit broader. But it’s always all down to taste, I think more important than the format it’s what is contained in the music, the message, the story, the energy. If that still translates, that’s more important than the format.
Where's your favorite place to party?
I love coming to New York to the Deep Space party at Cielo. Francois K and those people genuinely love music. You need people like Francois K, Gilles Peterson and Mary Anne Hobbs, people who put their shit on the line and take a risk. I feel really grateful to be able to play, it's been my fifth time at Deep Space. I really have a lot of respect for these type of people.
Anything you’re looking forward to this year?
I’m working on a project that I’m hoping to release at the end of the year. DEEP MEDi has loads of music coming out and there’s an album that is coming [today, March 3] from A/T/O/S. I’m very excited for them, I think they’ve been very patient and waiting a long time for this moment.