Mo Magic, pioneering East London Asian Breakbeat Fusion Artist and DJ is widely known for his inclusion on the now classic Outcaste New Breed album. His tracks like " Feelings ", "China Doll" and "Mixed Visions" are very soulful drum and bass tunes and you would think this guy´s really into it - and he is! But, as you dig a little deeper,there´s funky stuff like Emotional Breakdown", "Down Town" or the crazy "Funksta" to be found, all filled with well selected input from the homelands. Obviously he is a very talented young man who works in different musical soundscapes from dubby Downbeat things to Funk to Drum and Bass. His first release was a funky santoor/flute breakbeat track called "Enchanted 94", on an east london comiplation titled Cultural Fusions in 1994 that also incooperated the original mix of Osmani Soundz "Spirtual Masterkey" (not the Anokha version) and a track from an embryonic State of Bengal. From thereon he worked his way up appearing on several other Asian Breaks compilations like Swaraj and DubXoticethnofunkadelia and as DJ in the London club scene before he signed up with Outcaste Records. After listening to Mo's music and spinning it to great success at parties in germany since a few years, I thought it was about time to contact him and find out a bit more of who he is and what he is into, so read the interview I did with Mo Magic.
AV: What Music did you grow up with and consider 2 be your roots?
Mo: I listened to all sorts: Hardcore, House, Acid,Breakbeat, Classical solo Indian instruments (flutes,tablas etc) HipHop and Soul. Anything with a strong groovy beat to it. When I first started djing, I used to play all different styles of music at raves that hosted various tastes in music. Unlike nowadays where you have gigs with one style of music all night.
AV: What do you personally like to listen to at home/for going out ?
Mo: When I'm at home, I like to listen to chilled out stuff like Jolly Mukherjee and Nitin Sawhney. It has to be something I can wind down with. And, when I go out, I like listening to Drum and Bass and other innovative breakbeat stuff. I love checking out what friends like Nitin and Badmarsh are up to.
AV: Talking about Badmarsh, was he really the one that introduced you to Outcaste records or how did the whole story happen ?
Mo: Badmarsh used to play at a club called the Nottinghill Arts Club run by Outcaste. We used to go and see him play there and eventually through him, I got to dj there. I used to play my music within my dj set, and this is where Outcaste was first alerted in my production work.
AV: Since you are about to launch your own label Asian Dawn Records, you must have left Outcaste. Maybe it has to do with Outcaste mainly releasing recooked Bollywood Funk these days. We would like to know if you are going to release just your own music or wish to cooperate with other asian acts, pulling together as an independent force ?
Mo: I tried to have a proper launch of Asian Dawn but feel it isn't ready yet. A lot of things like distribution and marketing need to be sorted out before it can come alive. Once established as a label, I will bring in other artists to contribute to the project. There is a long way to go yet.
AV: Can we dive a little bit into your production skills? How do you approach a new track, where do you get your samples from, do you work with "real" musicians sometimes or do you get your inspiration mainly from, say, old records ?
Mo: It all varies on what I'm working on. Sometimes I let musicians' just play at their hearts content, then spend weeks trying to piece it all together. Othertimes, I might find a great break beat and work a whole track around that. I get my stuff from all sorts of bizarre places, take this one example: Friend buys a car and finds an old indian cassette left in it. Turns out there are some excellent solo flute pieces on there. I also have a lot of records which I also sample. At the moment I'm working with a lot of different musicians, mainly the beats are sampled and manipulated.
AV: Your latest 12" release Voices/T-Minus (listen to it at www.momagic.com) is pure dark, driving D´n´B, no tabla, santoor or bansuri in sight here. Instead, T-Minus has police sirens all over. Were you trying to escape what has become a little stereotype "asian breakbeat" thing, or was it rather a reflection of the happenings in Oldham, Bradford and other northern british towns last summer when asian riots hit the streets?
Mo: Its actually the 'dark side', where the force is weak in me. No seriously, I've always been into D'n'B, Ilove the energy and power it creates as well as being one of my favorite styles to mix and scratch with. There has always been a heavy side to my production work where my hardcore love for breaks always takes over.
AV: From your production work I can feel a lot love for drum n bass rhythms, all laced with beautiful melodic asian elements. Listening to one of your dj sets(from glastonbury festival u.k. 2001, downloadable from www.momagic.com) There is a great portion of general funkyness in there. You are obviously a highly selective and eclectic producer/dj, where do u see your music developing in the future?
Mo: I don't like barriers, you'll find that over time I have produced music ranging from D'n'b through to House, Asian Breakbeat and Funk. All I know is, that I'm working with a lot of different musicians at the moment who are bringing out a lot of flavors. I think there will always be serious versatility in what I do; eventually everything will end up in one huge melting pot.
AV: Have you done Remixes (released or unreleased) for other artists or has your music been remixed by other people?
Mo: Unfortunately, there are no Remixes yet. Stay tuned.
AV: Betelnut Productions was a tag somewhere, Outcaste informs us that it was (or maybe still is?) a network of producers including Badmarsh, Ges-e, State Of Bengal and yourself. The only release I know featuring the "betelnut production" logo is the original State Of Bengal album Visual Audio. Also, another production group is called Nasha, some tracks on the early Swaraj compilation are credited to it. Please, just for the history factor, could you tell us a bit about these collectives ?
Mo: ok here´s how it all goes:
Once upon a time there was this group of musicians based in East London. Turns out wherever there was a gig, the same old faces would appear. These guys became best of friends and many collaborations and groups were formed - one being Beetlenut Produtions, born out of the Woodseer Youth Club. State of Bengal was one of the original key people of Beetlenut Productions. Music Workshops and gigs were the prime motives of the collective. The group kind of dissolved as individual artists and djs lived happily ever after with their own careers. Nasha Experience on the other hand, was originally Badmarsh, Ges-e and me - A nickname for the three of us as a collective of DJs seen playing together as a team. It is still in operation, mainly run by Ges-e and is in the process of setting up its own network of musicians as well as its own record label. More info at www.nasha.co.uk
AV: Is there any musical project in your mind that you've always wished to realize, but never had the opportunity to do ?
Mo: There are a tons of people I'd love to work with. To name a few, it would be nice to work with people like Nitin Sawhney and awesome scratch DJs like Craze and Qbert. Once I get back into the full swing of things, I'll be working with a lot of key friends I know and have met over the years. Who knows, where it will go?
AV: Do you see new asian music as an ongoing creative process or as some of the media put it already as "last years fashion" ?
Mo: We were making Asian Breakbeat (what ever you want to call it, stick your own pigeon hole title here!) long before Talvin made it 'fashionable'. Now that the trend and media hype has disappeared, the same people that were making good music before the boom are still plugging away in their basement studios, making great music.
AV: How, in your personal perception, has it changed to be an asian guy living in London over the last few years, did the coming-out of 2nd gen asian music help reduce prejudices among whites, or did it help create a higher self confidence for Asian kids ?
Mo: Things have a tendency to change very slowly and then certain incidents happen that either leap us forward or set us back years. Life has a way of doing that. I wish I had the time and patience to write a book about the way life has changed over the last 10 years. The coming out of '2nd gen asian music' just put us in the lime light and showed the world how cool Asians making music in london were. The fact of the matter is: We were just as cool ten years before the media came along and had the same musical visions then as we do now. We're not cool because someone tells us we are.
AV: Thanks for taking time, Mo! Is there any final comment for our readers???
Mo: Be true to yourself and believe in what you do. There is no goal unachievable with hard work. Thats about it for now............mo
Please visit Mo´s website www.momagic.com for a detailed discography and biography, you can listen to all his released tracks and some dj sets of his there, find a lot of info and press articles, too.