Interview: MCDE & Ben Westbeech

The recent Trouble Vision weekender at their delightfully grimey South London home, Corsica Studios, represented all that is good in electronic music right now, particularly Saturday nights proceedings. Alongside the Detroit legend that is Theo Parrish and the ever-familiar members of the Aus roster – Ramadanman, Midland and label founder Will Saul, was Stuttgart’s finest, Motor City Drum Ensemble.

Known for his signature raw sound combining his affinity for classic Detroit techno with Chicago house, Danilo Plessow brings a certain edge away from the same-old monotonous techno. As one of the guest producers besides Soul Clap, Henrik Schwarz, Midland and MJ Cole on Ben Westbeech’s forthcoming album for Strictly Rhythm, Danilo spent his final minutes before show time to chew the fat with Juno Plus contributor Flora Wong and Westbeech about their work together, the Ableton generation and what’s to come from his label Raw Cuts.

What was the working relationship together like for the new album?

Ben Westbeech: Me and Danilo got on straight away and that’s the beauty of music – being able to meet people and the way it connects you. It’s universal, obviously he’s German and lives over there, and I’ve not spent a lot of time there so it’s often been over the internet…

MCDE: I’ve been in London a lot, I enjoy playing here anyway and I’ve been getting a lot of requests… though don’t want to perform all the time, this was a big party…

So which producers do you really respect at the moment?

MCDE: …There’s a lot happening, there’s so much new stuff these days. Every month there’s so many new artists – some of it is really good which really sticks out because there’s so much crap around – you get sent so much music.

BW: It’s almost like this Ableton generation, it’s become so quick and easy to make music – which is a wonderful thing but it means you do get a lot of crap – but if sticks out then it’s like wow, this is really special.

Despite there being an abundance of overused Ableton presets that anyone might be able to get a hold of – what about those who can’t afford to use analogue synths and equipment that you might use?

MCDE: I have a very distinct opinion on this, it doesn’t really matter what equipment you use, but there’s certain borders I wouldn’t cross. Like there’s this studio next to me teaching Ableton to a class, and they learn to sample like Kerri Chandler and some more recent stuff. They literally take the chords, and breakdowns, and re-sample it, and this is when I say – no. This is too much.

BW: That’s just plagiarism, and not being original. In music it’s so important to make your own sound. And say you shouldn’t sample a really big, old tune.

But where do you draw the line?

BW: Yeah exactly, it’s personal opinion, so I can’t really answer that. If you want to sample one of those tracks then cool, but that’s not what I would do personally.

MCDE: Yeah I guess I grew up in a different era, like the hip hop, sample era… You can sample things but there’s a code. You don’t sample other producers’ snares or kicks, and I think that’s a part of the reason why my music sounds like the way it does – not like all the same Ableton sample packs.

BW: Music needs to sound original otherwise anyone could make it, it’ll be like music by numbers you know, and it’s not going to be special anymore.

So how do you stand on all the big edits out there right now?

BW: Edits are like a different ballgame… but taking something, stealing it and say it’s your own…

MCDE: Yeah that’s when it gets shit.

Ben, you once said, ideally, you’d wanted to work with the likes of Neptunes or Pharrell… how important do you think the vocal elements are in electronic music in terms of production quality?

BW: Yeah totally and well being a singer, vocals are pretty important – production quality is really important to me but it depends, like I might take the loop of a simple but then say lets take the vibe off the sample and make a band play it live – and change it slightly but not use it for the final product…

And Danilo, for your label – was Raw Cuts mostly for yourself to release music?

MCDE: The first Raw Cuts was around like 2004/5 but no one would release it, and everyone was raving about broken beat – while house was a little passé. People liked this more technical, abstract minimal sound so no one would play out this music and someone how I couldn’t find a label… but I believed in it and convinced my label partner to do it and three years later it hit the spot so we were like let’s do it.

So what’s planned for the label next this year?

MCDE: We’ve just released a double 12” this week, but the project is now a little bigger than just stuff on the label and we’re using a different formula to try to do different things from Raw Cuts and we’ll be getting more creative…