Mella Dee Interview: Keeping up the quality

Mella Dee spoke to Martin Guttridge-Hewitt about things getting too serious in clubland, Doncaster's early rave scene and his Warehouse label.

Skiddle Staff

Last updated: 27th Mar 2018.
Originally published: 26th Mar 2018

When the Techno Disco Tool EP dropped towards the end of last year it was impossible to ignore. Three-tracks of upfront dancefloor business, between the propellant tribal juggernaut of World Dance and the Sister Sledge-sampling party anthem of the same title name, there was plenty to get involved with.  

A weapon in the truest sense, and another bold statement by producer Mella Dee, that it sold out within a week or so is testament to just how much the man responsible understands what makes for a quality club soundtrack. Not too serious, nor remotely throwaway, in many ways the record invokes his sets. 

Accessibly specialist— calling on rave, techno, house and oddities— this penchant for playfully ignoring expectations has seen the man in question, AKA Ryan Aitchison, rise through the ranks of in-demand UK players.

Based in London, but born and raised in South Yorkshire, we gave him a call ahead of Edinburgh’s huge Terminal V April Fool’s Day session to discuss having fun, clinical venues, and how cheap it is where he’s from. 

Hi Ryan. Hope you’re good. How has 2018 been so far, apart from crazy cold? 

Yeah good, really good. Everything is busy, which is good.

Any particular standout events? 

Playing longer sets in general has been good, everywhere has been a good vibe. I did all night in Stealth, which was great, and another at Night Kitchen in Sheffield, which was definitely one of the highlights of the year so far. 

It’s a great spot, Night Kitchen.

Yeah, it’s decent. The last time I’d played there was the closing party, but then the venue ended up not closing.

Sheffield is down the road from Doncaster, where you grew up. Do you miss the North after living in London for a few years? 

Scene-wise I’m about anyway, when you’re DJing you see every scene anyway. I definitely miss the North, I mean it’s cheap isn’t it? You can get about, pop to another city in half an hour. And I miss the space and that, but London is just where I’m at in life at the moment, so that’s where I’m at.

Your label, Warehouse Music, just turned one year old… 

It’s just over a year old. I can’t remember the exact date but it was last March or maybe February when it launched. 

The name and artwork are nods to Doncaster’s Warehouse nightclub. How influential was the venue for you? 

Err, it was just an infamous building from being a kid. And I grew up listening to hardcore and stuff, tape packs— I hadn’t a clue what it was all about really back then. 

There wasn’t that much to go out to in Donny… ….Warehouse would have been for harder events. There’s not that much to it these days but it’s still an important place, what it pushed onto Donny and it’s effect on me.

Do you see that as the kind of venue you don’t really get much anymore? 

Yeah you wouldn’t really get somewhere like that, Warehouse was a weird little place. You do see a few of them popping up in cities nowadays, the same sort of space. But they tend to be quite clinical. 

That was very rough and ready, Doncaster Warehouse. I mean the whole thing of calling the label Warehouse, it’s not just a reference to Donny Warehouse, it references anywhere that is a place where warehouse music would be.

There’s a lot being said about the re-emergence of England’s illegal warehouse party scene at the moment, particularly in London. How much have you seen? 

Yeah, I mean not personally, I’m working a lot, but there’s definitely plenty going on. And I love a warehouse, the space. Anywhere with a bit of an edge to it.

If illegal events are becoming more common, why do you think it is? 

I think it’s more just the crowd. There’s a crowd that just goes to free parties and raves. They’re not advertised like normal stuff, its’ aimed at a different crowd. I don’t see it as a reaction to anything, club closures or whatever.

Back to your Warehouse, what’s next for the label? 

Basically I’ve got the next release, number five, I think I’ve literally just had the test pressings today or that’s what I’ve been told. So that’s coming, it’s just three tracks from me again.

Then I’ve got another EP I’ve written that I’ll probably put out. There’s other projects that I’ve been working on that I’m interested to put out, it’s just an outlet to put out what I want and experiment. I’m just focussing on everything being good quality.

The influences in the label are quite varied, but the output definitely has a sense of fun about it. 

Yeah. I’m not that interested in being too serious. I like it to be fun in clubs, play for it to be a good party. That’s what the vibe is. I’ll experiment and do different stuff but it will always be club music. That’s just how it is.

Do you think the prominent sounds in clubs have got too serious? 

Yeah, you know, you’ve got the side of it where it’s really serious, kind of a guy making weird beats for two hours. Then you’ve got the other, bag-of-shit-tech where it’s just paint by numbers crap. There’s a middle ground between all that. It’s just music, I don’t worry too much about what’s going on and what’s in the clubs. What I want to do is go and play music I like, the good stuff I’ve got.

Are people too easily led by what is deemed fashionable? 

Definitely happens a lot— everyone just focusing on what this person is doing that’s cool, and what they could do. You’ve just got to be doing, whatever music you’re listening to and what you’re really into that’s what you should represent. When people follow fashions the quality just drops right off, people making stuff that sounds like what they are trying to make it sound like.

Which then gets reflected in club bookings. 

Yeah. Then you get paint by numbers again on the bookings, where every act is basically the same thing playing the same shit. And that’s just pointless.

You’re in Scotland for Easter— Terminal V. It’s quite a big event, you tend to play more intimate rooms.

A lot of the solo shows have been smaller clubs definitely. You just play what you play is relevant to the space. It’s not such an adjustment. You need to fill the room, basically. But not just going in there and playing obvious big bangers. There’s still space to play stuff that’s a bit different and keep it interesting.

How healthy do you think the UK scene is right now overall then? 

Yeah, I mean I know people that are playing Monday, Tuesday, most days of the week. so there has to be a decent scene out there, and people are going out to see lots of different types of artists. So it’s hard to complain. Obviously we could always do more and there can always be better, but I definitely think it’s going in the right direction.

Finally, with the size of electronic music in the UK right now, is there a risk the bottom fall out? 

Well, I mean, you focus on quality. At the end of the day, no matter what is happening there are still going to be club scenes, underground dance music. If you really love that sort of thing there will always be somewhere. That’s pretty much how I feel about it.

The superclubs and shit like that, the bottom always falls out because it gets a bit much. Keeping up the quality is not that easy. I think the way things are, though, it could always change but I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

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