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We Need To Talk About Need For Mirrors

No other artist in drum & bass releases as much music as Need For Mirrors.

This isn’t hyperbole; this is a fact. In the last four months alone he’s released 21 tracks across five EPs on some of the most important labels in the game such as Full Cycle, V, Horizons and Fokuz. In the last year he’s released triple that figure working with the likes of Hospital, Inneractive, Blu Mar Ten Music, Warm Communications. Not to mention his own label Zoltar and a string of Concord Dawn collaborations… And these are only the tracks he actually releases.

Crucially, though, there’s consistency: understated, unconventional and inherently underground, Need For Mirrors productions are the type of tunes you hear deep in your favourite DJs’ mixes and spend ages trying to ID. While many artists continue to strive for the heaviest hitting peak tracks, Need For Mirrors (AKA New Zealand-born/UK-based Joe Moses) is more interested in the tracks for the troughs that create the balance and textured dynamic all D&B DJs want to create.

Flipping common conventions is a consistent theme for Joe. Another method of subversion is how he’s bucked the shared notion that less releases are actually more. He prefers to make much more of a persistent presence and celebrate minimalism in a different way: Within his beats. Stark yet savage, minimal but often laced with just the right levels of mystic atmospheric pressure; recent cuts such as the finger-clicking flabby bassline twanger Maxim on his recent Mutiny EP for Full Cycle or the full-frontal slammer Dimmer on his recent V Recordings EP are examples of his lean and direct aesthetic… An aesthetic that’s rooted in authentic original drum & bass sounds and dynamics.

His and Bailey’s fortnightly midweek London event Soul In Motion is another example of Joe’s underground drum & bass perspective. Building on the hugely influential tradition of London weeklies such as Swerve and Movement, it’s a chance for DJs from every corner to enjoy a night away from the spotlight and go back to their roots. 100% free with an anonymous line-up until the day, Soul In Motion has welcomed guests from Chase & Status and Friction to Overlook and Vromm and every well respected artist in between.

It also references his longstanding relationship with Full Cycle. Taking its name from one of Krust’s many epic foundation odysseys, it’s one of the many strong links between Need For Mirrors and Full Cycle that led to Joe being the label’s first new generation artist to release music with the label since it relaunched last year.

With the Mutiny dust still settling from his latest Full Cycle EP and Soul In Motion’s plans to launch their own label, it’s high time we spoke to one of the most prolific men in the game.

You’re a busy man!

I would say I live a very unhealthy lifestyle of a hermit. Since becoming a father I’ve learnt to exploit my time as wisely as I can and keep super meticulous records of production. This year alone there’s at least a few dozen.

What?

Yeah, I can’t grasp it myself. It’s due to the fact that because I’ve got less time I’ve stripped back my productions a lot. There’s not as many free flowing luxurious escapades into distant eight minute worlds. They’re very stripped back, more direct and punchier. The process has changed somewhat. 

You’ve still got a very broad repertoire but it does feel like you’ve honed a sound – especially the bassline rollers. Maxim on the new EP is a fine example.

Maxim is actually in the lineage of other finger click style tracks I’ve had out like Hurts on Full Cycle and Ethos on Blu Mar Ten’s label. Ethos was the first one that was a lot more house and Detroit techno influenced. Wherever I went people asked about it and it gave me the confidence to dig out the off-shoots and previous projects of that track. The first one was Hurts and I didn’t think it would work but Roni and Krust raved about it and still play it. In fact Maxim came before that and I’d honestly stopped working on it for a long time because I thought it didn’t work.

The Full Cycle connection is strong isn’t it? You were the first new-generation artist to work with them since the relaunch…

Yeah it was a privilege. Krust had mentioned the relaunch to me before they did it and he was already playing a few tunes of mine that were on the first EP – Hurts, Rough Trade.  It’s all stuff that I make just for me to play and give to a small handful of friends. I make things specifically for shows all the time, especially if it’s a particular type of night or I’m on a line-up of a certain vibe.

Do you make special tunes for every Soul In Motion?

It depends on the set times. I try and get down early before the night starts to test tunes or try and finish things off to see a reaction and how it engages with the dancefloor. But that’s not specially for the night; I just like having something new in the bag. Especially if it’s a nice long set like three hours or so.

Do you get many of them? Proper long, drawn out sets are when you hear the real DJ!

I think so too. You’d be surprised how many people would disagree with that though. 60 minutes doesn’t cut it for breaking music because it’s hard to get that many peaks and troughs in there. I love getting that flow through the night and messing with people – working the techno and housier elements into things. As opposed to bashing it out for an hour.

 Amen! Back to Soul In Motion, I know you have Krust’s blessing to use his tune title for the name of the night but I’m thinking you go back even further with him…

Way back further. I came to the UK in 1999 on holiday and made a pilgrimage to Bristol. I was on their mailing lists doing radio shows and parties in New Zealand and getting promos from Krust’s brother. I came to Bristol, went down and knocked on Full Cycle’s door. Krust was playing Coded Language to his manager and told me to have a seat. So I was there, as a kid basically, having my mind blown. We just struck a chord from there and have been great friends ever since, I’ve released on his label Rebel Instinct and we’d been in the studio doing things long before the club night Soul In Motion. When it came to the night, the name just made total sense with the vibe, the sound, the vision we share. Bailey and I had been playing around with ideas for ages but kept coming back to Soul In Motion – it’s perfect.

Now you’re launching Soul In Motion Records

Yes we’ve been planning this for some time as we want it all to be perfect. Firstly the music has to fit the Soul In Motion vibe and stand for the night. We don’t just want to go ‘oh here’s the obligatory label’ – it has to be special and feel right. Each release has to be something we want to play every set in two, three, ten year’s time. We’ve sent out the first release to a few of our friends, but we’re not looking at a launch release until  late  August / September. We want it to build naturally – if people don’t like it, there’s enough time to hear it again and realise it’s different to their first impression… And do so before it’s released.

I’ve lost count of how many DJs have spoken about the currently lack of patience there is these days to build a tune. Is that, in an adverse type of way, why you release so prolifically?

There’s that but there’s also a demand from labels. I work with some amazing labels who get in touch and ask me what I’ve got. I’m not exclusive to anybody so I have to take opportunities when they happen. Even with all the releases on all the labels I’ve had – it’s not even 10% of what I do in the studio.

You strike me as someone who wouldn’t be comfortable on just one label…

I’ve had opportunities and sometimes I wish I’d taken them. I wonder if it was naivety that made me decline the offers and perhaps I could have developed my songwriting more. But I’m in the position I’m in now and I’m happy with that. The labels pick and choose what they want’. They set the tone of what gets signed, you have to take a back seat and let them go with it because that’s what defines their sound and their vision but, especially with my Full Cycle and V releases, they always get the balance of the more direct, bigger tracks and the deeper rollers.

Music for the peaks and troughs!

I think that’s where a lot of my music sits best – the tunes you play between the peaks, Saying that, Roni flipped that for me. He’d been playing Mutiny and made it a big tune in his set. I couldn’t quite get it to work in mine but how he contextualised it made me think about how and where I play it. Now it’s a my favourite opener that really sets the tone and works so well. I’d might not have considered placing the tune in that way if it wasn’t for how Roni worked that tune… That’s the beauty of working with a variety of labels and influential people in the way I do.

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