Mason Chats About New Album ‘Frisky Biscuits’ And More…
Dutch DJ and producer Mason has spent over two decades working in electronic music. During this time he has enjoyed crossover success with the seminal ‘Exceeder’, he has built his own Animal Language into a respected label and events brand, and he has released on eminent labels including Defected, Island Records and Club Sweat. Most of the past 20 years he has focused on ignoring the inherent trendiness of the dance music scene, which has led him to his third artist album ‘Frisky Biscuits’, a glorious, genre-hopping collection released on renowned electronic music label, Toolroom. We caught up with Mason to find out more…
Firstly congratulations on ‘Frisky Biscuits’! Can you give us some background on the album? How did it come about? Did you have a concept for it or was it an organic process?
Well thanks you! I already had a few singles planned to release on Toolroom, but when Corona hit we decided to turn it into a full album. An ideal chunk of work to focus on during lockdown really! And doing albums suits me, as I find it a bit limiting to only make 122 bpm club tools, while there are a lot more sounds to explore on an album. I’ve spent the last six months working on this album non-stop, so for me it will always be in my memory as ‘the corona album’.
You are covering a fair few genres within the album. Was that deliberate? Did you have a particular type of listener in mind (and who do you think a typical Mason listener is)?
Haha I don’t think about any of these things when writing music at all! I just create shitloads of demos, in all sorts of styles. I have close to 10.000 of them and I probably release only 1% of it. I really believe you can make anything sound phat these days, but it’s better to wait till the right idea comes along. I try to just make what comes natural, so that can vary quite a bit in sound. A lot of that I could never release as singles, but with albums there’s a lot more wiggle room.
I just create shitloads of demos, in all sorts of styles. I have close to 10.000 of them and I probably release only 1% of it.
Which was the hardest track on the album to make and which was the easiest? Why was there such a difference?
‘Game Time’ was the last addition to the album and finished quickly, as that was just a simple beat and some recorded vocals that just worked for me. I also didn’t spend ages on the mixdown nitty-gritty, unlike what I usually do. For instance ‘Watch What You Say’ was quite a puzzle to solve production wise. With around 200 channels of audio and about 500 plugins. Don’t ask.
It’s safe to say that you don’t follow trends but have you ever been tempted? Was there pressure to do so in the wake of your first big commercial success with ‘Perfect Exceeder’ back in 2007?
I’ve been so many times on that cross-road where you have to choose whether to make compromises or do your own stubborn thing, and I always chose the last. It’s not even a conscious decision, every time that just feels like the right thing to do. Sure, it would’ve been easier to make 5 more Exceeder like-sounding records, but I just find that super boring. I always like to do new things. As I DJ a lot, I do follow all the new music and maybe listen to 1.000 tracks a week. But I never like to jump on trends and that is a conscious decision. More the other way around: if I see a lot of people doing a certain thing, I avoid it and do something else.
‘Frisky Biscuits’ is quite a journey through different sounds and genres. Is it also a reflection of what you’re like as a DJ (or what you would like to be if you were given a long enough set)?
This album is also written to listen to at home, in your car or at your mistress…. so not necessarily all made to dance to with your hands in the air. However, when I DJ I do focus on getting people to dance, so to a certain extent that is different. However also while playing I like to cover different genres around house. It’s also the kind of DJ I’d like to see myself the most when on the dancefloor: the ones that surprise you, where you never know what’s coming up next around the corner and who don’t ‘just play techno’ all night long.
You’ve run the label Animal Language for many years and have grown this into a club night too. Why do you run the label and where do you see it heading in the future?
Initially the label was created to have an outlet to release whatever I want, whenever I want, without compromises. As I’ve had a few commercially successful records over the years, labels tend to be most interested in that side of me, compared to my weirder stuff, which I also like to release from time to time. To have your own label gives a lot of freedom for that sort of thing. It’s also great to be able to release the fresh stuff from other artists all around the globe I stumble onto. On the events side we rarely do club nights, maybe once or twice per year or so. But with Animal Language we do throw our infamous ‘Kafe Rave’. During these nights we go to 4 hole-in-the-wall bars on one night, the depressing kind with only 2 alcoholics at the bar. We take 300 ravers and a sound system on wheels. So it’s a bit of a guerilla stage dive trash event. Nothing beats it….
How has the pandemic affected you, both as an artist and personally?
I’m missing DJ-ing A LOT. Not the money or the shine, but just the sheer fun of creating a vibe in a room, and maybe also the adrenaline rush. I’ve been playing for 25 years most weekends. It took a pandemic to realize how much I’m used to having those weekends in my personal life balance. Stuff is pretty calm here these days…. loads of studio work…. raising toddlers…… gardening…. cooking…. My lifestyle has been a bit more irregular than that in the past 😉
…just focus on your own signature sound and don’t focus on what’s considered ‘hot’ these days. That stuff is all temporary and changes every heartbeat.
You have managed to maintain a successful career for over two decades in a notoriously difficult business. What lessons have you learned which would be useful for someone just starting out as a DJ / producer?
The main lesson would be to just focus on your own signature sound and don’t focus on what’s considered ‘hot’ these days. That stuff is all temporary and changes every heartbeat. If you have to adapt your sound accordingly all the time there’s nothing left of what YOU are about as an artist. You’ll have more longevity in your career by just sticking to what feels right for you to make. And did I mention it’s also more fun that way??
Mason ‘Frisky Biscuits’ is out now on Toolroom Records.
Stream / download here: https://toolroom.lnk.to/FriskyBiscuitsAS