We thought waiting four years for Blocks & Escher’s album was long. Turns out DLR & Mako’s OneMind album has been germinating in the Metalheadz greenhouse for even longer. Deep seeds take time to grow…
The partnership between the two Bristol-based kindred spirits began in 2013 during their early collaborations that landed in 2014: Hungry For Atmosphere, A Certain Flavour and, most famously, Your Mind.
One of two Mako co-labs on DLR’s debut Metalheadz EP, Your Mind triggered Goldie and Ant TC1 (who had just joined the label) to will an album into existence. Not that DLR and Mako needed a reason. They’d identified something special in their partnership, too. Something much stronger than the sum of their parts.
Formed during the peak of D&B mainstream radio bait and larger than life neuro, galvanised by their love for the foundations, driven by mutual respect for each other’s craft and a shared attention to detail; OneMind’s roots run deep. This was clear with their earliest outing (a forever legendary DNB60 with Rider Shafique) and the evidence has stacked up ever since. First over two substantial self-titled EPs, now a monolithic self-titled debut album.
An album that was designed for your personal listening pleasure – they’re the first to tell you that any benefits for the dance and DJs are secondary – it’s a 17 track trip that celebrates the raison d’etre Goldie established with his blueprint: Timelessness.
One minute warm, deep and dubby, the next prang-inducing breakbeat shockwaves, the next a glorious chord from the heavens above before hurling you back into the bassline lion’s den… Just like its exponents (who both have hugely active solo careers and their own labels, Utopia and Sofa Sounds) the OneMind album doesn’t sit still. Yet every move it makes, every twist and turn it plots, every surprise it gives you and every question it asks makes sense in a much wider, consistent narrative.
We thought Blocks & Escher’s album was a shoe-in for album of the year. Turns out DLR & Mako’s OneMind album is just as worthy. Here’s everything you need to know about its genus, its development and two deep minds behind it…
Take us back to the first time your minds were in one place….
Mako: The first time J came round to my house! I was working on a woody sort of chilled snare and J was up for writing a tune. I couldn’t say no. When we started writing we realised we were tapping into something deeper than we usually would as individuals. Our dubbier roots. We did a few tracks for J’s Your Mind EP, they did well, and I think it was Ant (TC1) and Goldie who told us to do more music together.
DLR: It was a strange time. I’d split with Octane and decided to move back to Bristol and I was living with my parents again. I was depressed about things ending and making my tunes that I was very unconfident about. Steve had a very social house at the time with various heads always around like Charlie Break. We used to hang out there a lot and it became natural to do stuff together. We did a weekend mission down my parents house once when they were away and made Your Mind. It became obvious we worked well together and we needed to follow this path for as long as it takes us. Whether that’s an album, various albums or just an EP…
That’s crazy to hear about lack of confidence. You’re a very technically astute producer!
DLR: I think we all suffer from this problem which also drives us. Whether that’s me, Steve, Charlie – who’s the best in the game – we all fluctuate between periods of confidence with our music and our art form. It’s difficult. That was part of the issue for Octane. He struggled with being an artist and being out there in the world and being judged. We all know being an artist is fun and people can blow smoke up your arse but artists are real people and he struggled with that. He was the technically astute one and taught me everything. Steve gave me a lot of confidence to follow that path again. It takes peers like Chris or Steve or Goldie to give you that confidence.
Steve do you recongise that?
Make: Massively. When you make music that’s permeated through with the profit motive, it doesn’t sit well with me. For me making music is like a free expression of what I’ve listened to in the past. The self-confidence thing doesn’t come from people judging me but rather questioning myself: why am I doing this? Why am I writing this? Is it just for people to buy? Or is it a cathartic experience where I’m letting go of a past pain or emotion? Music is a cathartic thing. But you look at the bright side and try not to get sucked into the negative. Drum & bass has given me so much in my life. I’ve made wonderful friends and seen wonderful places so you take these thoughts with a pinch of salt.
DLR: Self-criticism drives you harder but if you’re too critical you’ll never get anything done. You’ll be too scared to try new things.
Mako: We’re both incredibly critical of our own productions. We go back in and back in and back in and sometimes the tune doesn’t make it.
DLR: There has to be a line somewhere.
Mako: It’s a point of diminishing returns. Can you make this better? How do you know where you’ve hit that point where after that you’re just wasting time. That’s something we’ve learnt a lot over time.
You help each other though, right? You are each other’s voice of reason
DLR: And we give each other a lot of shit! We know we have to go back to old versions because we’ve been caught in a wave of positivity that’s taken the track in the wrong direction and it’s taken a long period of time to sift through all the projects to find older versions. It was painful sometimes. You think it’s done then you find yourself sifting through endless projects.
When did the idea of the album come about? First I heard was Goldie mentioning it on the radio in December 2015. Around the time of your DNB60
DLR: It was longer ago than that. There was no big album plans at Headz, to my knowledge. We weren’t aware of the Blocks & Escher one, also No Goldie album. No Dom & Roland. Ant had just come in and everything was changing and he was like ‘right let’s get this shit sorted’ Suddenly we realised we had a lot of competition and that really made us focus – we had to make sure we were totally happy with how we created our identity.
Wow. Pre Blocks & Escher! That’s a longness record….
DLR: Yeah we longed it out big time. Even at the point of my EP with Your Mind we knew we’d be doing an album. But we also knew that we would take a lot of time over it.
Your Mind = OneMind
DLR: Very much. Although not in a contrived way. It’s happened a lot when I’ve made a track and retrospectively it’s sculpted the future without there being any intention to do so. It’s really weird. Like with my Dreamland album. Loads of tunes were named randomly but retrospectively it was like ‘wow these are all pointing in the same direction.’
It’s the same with OneMind. It just made sense to us. We were fighting a lot of the EDM attitude that was rife at the time. The whole focus on the DJ and ‘it’s all about me, look at me, I’m the DJ, check my new tune out.’ But it’s like ‘no no no, you’ve got a huge team behind you – this is a collaborative process’ You got management, producers, songwriters. When you’re in a project it becomes this one thing. No one is fighting with each other, everyone is working the same direction and this is our concept. We work in the same direction, we become OneMind.
There’s a timelessness to the album. But if you’re spending upwards of four years making it, it had to be timeless right? It has to live in its musical world for it to make sense for you to come back to it at any point during that time…
Mako: Yeah and also our mission wasn’t for the dance. That was very much secondary. I’m an advocate of not making a tune just for the dance and just for the DJ. A good DJ can get them into their sets if they work a bit harder and that’s cool. Our intention wasn’t for the DJ. It’s much more of a smoker’s album. Put the whole thing on and get taken away by the textures and the breaks. And I think when you approach music in that way it becomes more timeless anyway.
DLR: It’s that thing about track titles again. Did Goldie set us all on this pathway subconsciously to make things timeless? It’s much harder to gauge anything like that now. Did they do well because it’s had 800,000 views? Or did it do well because it’s been played by credible DJs for years? Or did it do well because people buy it then listen to it all the time at home? To make music that lasts for time is the victory. To write music that people won’t go ‘that sounds like it was written in 2018’ but rather go ‘that’s a great tune’
You get that vibe across the album. Give us some of the more perplexing moments
DLR: Oh all the time!
Mako: The most perplexing thing for me was early in the process every single time we made a tune and give it to Goldie he’d say ‘sick I want it!’ He didn’t turn anything down and that made us worry that we might get complacent so we went dark for a long time and didn’t send him anything for a while.
DLR: Maybe a year
Mako: We didn’t want to send them anything. We had to do something even better and not just falling into filler territory. We wanted everything to be very detailed and soundscapey and have that amount of time invested in it.
What a mad position. Headz don’t sign any old guff!
DLR: When someone gets into something they can get biased though, right? What’s great about Goldie is that he’s super excitable. It’s so inspiring and you buzz off that. Especially because he’s still so really into it after all these years and he’s 50. That’s mental and more inspiring than I can tell you. But we were worried he’d be biased about his own opinions so we thought the best way to improve was to take ourselves out this loop and come to him with a much bigger and better body of work and get his advice on that.
Where you gonna be when you’re 50 then? Still writing music I hope? Anyone who’s involved in this and over 30 is here for life now. Too late to retrain and become plumbers.
Mako: Of course. I find writing music very enjoyable. It unifies me with everything around me more than any words can describe. You take in all your experiences and you’re joining with the earth. It sounds very hippified but that’s my connection with the process.
DLR: I get scared. I’m trying to figure out getting the balance. I think holy shit in 18 years time I’ll be needing to think about pensions and all that type of stuff. I need to be in place where I can do enjoy my art with the worry of financial reward – however that is massively important. I’m learning.
Mako: When you don’t have a profit motive you keep it pure. So you have other business interests or other ways of earning money and music just remains purely creative fulfilment. Even though I feel strongly about this I do want my music to be heard by as many people as possible. Not in an ego way but to show people that not all music has to has to have laser snares and super aggressive top end and militant pace and energy. It doesn’t have to be like that – you can have music you can immerse yourself in on your headphones or in your own space.
DLR: Yeah for a while music wasn’t asking enough questions. All it was asking was ‘do you want me to go hectic or not?’ That was your option. But in the 90s you’d be taken from anxiety to elation to anger to stress – it’s amazing how you can represent these. We’re obsessed with anxiety and the juxtaposition between anxiety and elation. The light and dark. You go to bed feeling happy, you wake up in bad mood, there’s a dark cloud. But it doesn’t stay, it changes depending on so many other circumstances. It’s amazing how quickly your mood changes – this is how it feels to us and that’s how the album sounds. Like suddenly you get this feeling of uplift just as quickly as you plummet. We’re going down life’s road which is a really fucked up bendy, twisty road.
You’ve captured the essence of drum & bass right there
DLR: It was raw expression back then. People have got more stuff to express than ever but they’re scared to. They’re scared they’ll alienate themselves from society by speaking their mind. We’ve got more to say now but we’re too scared to say it.
Mako: Musicians are worried about being not loved. Everything is judged so obviously.
DLR: I think people pussied out for a while. But that mindset is back – Blocks and Escher are asking questions, all albums on Headz are asking a lot of questions, but I feel this is coming back in drum & bass. I’ve always done it with album names and titles and deep thought processes. Steve’s been doing the same. We have to understand it will take time.
What next? You probably have a lot of seeds planted.
DLR: We’ve got lots of ideas. Our spreadsheet is full of them! We have to say we’ve signed exclusively to Headz as OneMind but they respect we’ve got to work with other people to explore ideas so we’ve done some things with Kyo who works with Charlie (Break) and done a track with her on her EP on Symmetry. We’ve been thinking about a little Bandcamp vibe or an alias or maybe even more chilled out stuff. What Steve calls heroin music. Deep mongy thought-provoking music. Most importantly, we’ve unpicked how we’ve made the OneMind album and now want to translate that into some type of performance which isn’t just a glorified DJ set. We’re digging deep and trying to learn as much as we can. It’s like we’ve been playing the piano all our life and now we’ve picked up the violin. We just need to find the time to bring a lot of this together.
Ah yes… Time management!
DLR: The struggle is real mate.
Mako: Running a label, doing sample packs, having your own solo things. To give it all the attention it deserves is super hard. With the live stuff it’s almost like we’re starting again. We’ve got this opportunity to really make this live project super fun and enjoyable and as fulfilling as possible. When you organise yourself the creative process becomes so much easier and enjoyable.
DLR: We’ve had to learn a lot about each other – we have to understand that there are moments we’ve double booked or can’t fulfil. Things always take more time or don’t work out how they should. We should have finished this two weeks ago, this remix four weeks ago, but it’s still not done. The way is falling down around me. However that’s one thing as musician you have to learn; patience. I have no patience whatsoever so I’m not sure how I’ve got this far! But in a collaboration you can at least share the pain and support each other and help each other see things for how they are.
And become one mind basically