Daniel Schey is a Berlin based producer who goes by the name of Mculo (soundcloud). The blossoming talent was raised in London and later relocated to the German capital. Taking his name from the Zulu word for music, it is clear that he has a passion for musical elements rooted in African traditions. This can be heard in both his productions and DJ mixes, although his own work tends to delve deeper into analog house and techno territory.
Last year, Daniel started his own record label called Roots By The Oder, which he runs alongside one of his best friends and talented visual artist, Alexander James. The concept behind the label is a physical representation of the two artists’ relationship as friends. James is behind the artwork and Schey produces the music. Each release goes back and forth between either the artwork being a visual interpretation of the music or vice versa. In order to clarify this concept a little further and also ask the up-and-coming producer some further questions, we’re happy to have him feature on this installment of our MIXED BY/ series.
You describe your label as a product of the artistic synergy you have with your friend Alexander, who’s a visual artist. Can you explain your process for creating music inspired by his visuals? Do you take things that sketched out and form them appropriately, or are you creating wholly new tracks based on what your friend paints?
I’m not a big fan of this word as its plastered throughout every interview ever, but it is a really organic process. Fresh, free range… I always start with a blank canvas, so to speak, and then try and interpret what he’s drawn or painted. Ill sit down with a cup of tea and have a stare at it for a while, turn on a drum machine and get going. Obviously the track will change as I go, I rarely end up with the track I had in mind at the start. Thats also a interesting part for me though. As the track progresses and changes, so will my view of the artwork, and i’ll take new interpretations i get from it and try to work them back into the track.
The releases go back and forth between you creating music to visuals and Alexander creating visuals to your music. Have you found that the visuals and music differ greatly from each other in both cases or are you both riding on a similar wavelength?
I think for us it’s pretty spot on. The artwork for the first release was this amazing portrait of an old man’s face that Alex drew using Charcoal, and it came to him when he was just listening to the first track ‘Left Down Louis Botha’ in his studio. He said he saw himself in a jungle and this image just appeared to him. When i listen to the track i can totally see it. Maybe it’s all the peyote…
There’s something special about holding a record with custom artwork on it, is this part of the reason you decided to be a vinyl only imprint?
For sure. One of the things i love about records is that sense of having a real physical piece of art in your hands. We decided to keep the pressings limited to 300 and really take our time so that it feels like we’ve created something real, something more at least than just me awkwardly mashing keys and watching youtube tutorials on waveforms, its a whole package.
Roots By The Oder seems to be the only avenue for your music to reach the world, do you plan on branching out to other labels or are you keeping your releases exclusive to your label for the time being?
I wouldn’t say that I’m keeping myself exclusive to Roots but i’m definitely not actively searching to release on other labels. However, if a label that i really liked and respected hit me up and wanted to do something then yea, thats a different story. Funnily enough though, today, I’ve just seen i’ve actually got another record coming out around the 16th of December. Its on a label from two good Scottish blokes in Glasgow which i made maybe 4 years ago. I actually just thought it wasn’t happening anymore but it popped up online when i was searching through pre-order stuff.
Mculo translates to “music” in Zulu. What made you decide to release your productions under that name?
I was sitting under this tree in Johannesburg one day, just contemplating what it would be like if David Attenborough was my grandpa, and this old man came up to me and proclaimed that hence forth i should share my melodic vibrations with the world under a name that would let people know where my family was from. Or, alternatively, i was just sat in London struggling to think of a name to make tracks under and asked google what music was in Zulu.
Have you found your move to Berlin to have stirred up any change in direction in your musical taste or approach to production?
Of course, i think that’s bound to happen wherever you go. When i first moved here i definitely got sucked into the whole party scene and spent far too much of my time in Panorama Bar, which obviously made me try and make more music suited for that environment. To be honest though, i struggle making pure dance floor stuff, it doesn’t quite work, and so i spent a lot of time making music that wasn’t really true to myself. Now, two and half years later, I’m a little less nocturnally active so my output has changed and I’ve been able to take elements from all these experiences I’ve had out here and fuse it all together into what works for me. My musical taste has also changed since I’ve been here, but thats inevitable. Everyone always goes through phases, but right now I’m pretty dead set on the kind of music i like, so it’s really about Sherlock Holmes’ing the shit out of it.
While we’re on the topic of your approach to production, can you tell us what you’re working with in the studio?
I have 5 bits of gear that will pretty much feature in every track i make. The Roland JD800 is my baby, my big bastard of a keyboard that makes me feel like I’m controlling a spaceship. I’ve been using the Jomox Xbase 09 for the last year or so, thats on loan from a friend. I use it on every track, i love that thing. Then theres the ol trusty MicroKorg which was the first thing i bought, the Volca Bass and Beats and a Dave Smith Evolver, which once again, is on loan from the same pal (cheers mate).
Finally, can you tell us a little bit about the mix you’ve recorded for us? Any particular inspiration for it?
The only real idea i had in mind for this mix was to make it more four to the god damn floor than i usually do, “doof” it out for you kind souls. I never really plan mixes though, i just have a starting track in mind and go from there, like i would if i was playing out.