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Mecca:83 Interview: UK Beatmaking Star and Label Head Talks Drums, Dilla and More

Mecca:83 AKA Rise is a name you're going to see on a lot of people's 'best of' lists, including ours.  His  'Sketchbook Pieces, Vol 1', a collection of recent remixes and production work, serves both as a perfect introduction to the beatmaker and as a tasty appetizer for those fans hungry for another full-length.  He is part of the international quartet Alexis Davis, along with fellow producers Spinnerty and DJ Simon S and lyricist Replife.  He's also the man behind the Expansions Collective label, releasing music he describes as 'Future Vintage'.    

An aficionado of A Tribe Called Quest and J Dilla, Mecca:83 has made his own lane by mixing jazz, hip hop and broken beat, creating a sound which is very personal and very beautiful.   

The New Beat Maker had a chance to talk to the popular producer about, amongst other things, his mastery of drums, how Alexis Davis tracks come together, his favourite Dilla tracks and that perennial topic of debate amongst Tribe fans, 'The Low End Theory' vs. 'Midnight Marauders'.

TNBM: Your remix of Booda French x Von Pea’s ‘Full Time’ is one my favourite tracks.  I love the way you’ve made the drums so big, but not at the expense of any of the other sounds.  Is there a secret you can share with us about how you got your drums to sit so well in the mix? EQ? Transient shaping? Compression?

Mecca:83: Thanks - also one of my favourite remixes so far!! In terms of the actual drum sounds, I guess my main piece of advice would be to pick drum samples that work with the track as a whole: if you have to add a ton of EQ and compression to make a sound fit then it's probably the wrong sound! From memory, I think I used the Sonitex STX1260 plug in on my drum group to help it sit together nicely.  It's basically an hardware sampler emulation with a compressor and saturation effects to help with the punch.  A personal favourite for drum mixes :-) 

...Pick drum samples that work with the track as a whole: if you have to add a ton of EQ and compression to make a sound fit then it's probably the wrong sound!

TNBM: You use the MPC2000xl.  What made you choose that specific model? 

Mecca:83: Ease of use more than anything to be honest - I'm not a sonic purist at all! I've always used MPCs in my setup, it's a workflow I'm really comfortable with.  I got the 2000xl (actually my second one!) because the pads feel better than the newer models.

TNBM: Have you tried – or are you tempted to try – the new MPC Renaissance, or Native Instruments Maschine?

Mecca:83: Yeah I'm pretty tempted by the Renaissance at the's just so damn expensive! I might get one eventually, but for now I'm cool with Ableton and my MPC.

TNBM: Alexis Davis has an unusual set up, with three producers and one lyricist from two different countries.  How does an Alexis Davis track normally come together?

Mecca:83: Normally one of the producers will send round a draft instrumental and from there we all get to work.  Sometimes Rep will write to the track first, other times myself, Spinnerty & Simon will pass the instrumental between ourselves and add/modify parts until we're all happy.  It can be confusing at times - especially when there's 5/6 tracks in progress - but it's never dull! 

TNBM: You recently asked your fans whether they would prefer one full length project or a number of shorter projects from you per year.  Why do you think you work better on short projects?

Mecca:83: Personally I think I'm better with short projects than long players.  I've done two full length albums in the past 2 years, but it can be a stretch sometimes, especially when you work a day job!

TNBM: On the back of that question, can we still expect a new solo LP soon?

Mecca:83: As far as LPs - I'm not sure yet, but there will definitely be a few EP releases in the new year.

TNBM: You recently said that ‘Jazz Chronicles – Bologna (Rise Spiritual Edit)’ is your favourite Mecca:83/Rise remix.  It’s a beautiful reworking.  What makes you particularly proud of it? 

Mecca:83: I think it's the closest I've got to the idea I originally had in my mind for the "Rise" alias.  I wanted it to sound like an actual jazz track, rather than a guy chopping samples.  I'm also pretty proud of the fact I used like 30 different records to make that remix.  Personal record!

TNBM: What other productions of yours are you most pleased with, and why?

Mecca:83: Any of the tracks I've collaborated with Buscrates on are always personal favourites! Sometimes you have to spell out exactly where you want to take a track, but with Bus it's never like that.  He just does his thing and sends me back gold.

TNBM: As a fellow A Tribe Called Quest fan I have to ask you, which is your favourite: ‘The Low End Theory’ or ‘Midnight Marauders’? 

Mecca:83: Midnight Marauders!!!! Being a producer, there's so many crazy little chops in that record, some awesome examples of layering, so far ahead of what everyone else was doing at the time.....I think it's genius!

TNBM: You’re also a big J Dilla enthusiast.  What are your three favourite Dilla joints? 

Mecca:83: With pleasure!
  1. Common - Nag Champa.  Just perfect, period.
  2. Slum Village - Fall In Love Remix.....I would've NEVER noticed that Alice Cooper sample in a million years.
  3. Necks Snappin In Africa (New Slave Beat Tape) - the sample layering on that beat is next level.
TNBM: What one piece of advice would you give to new beat makers? 

Mecca:83: Do you.  Ignore what everyone else is doing, don't follow the latest beat trends: they don't matter.  Most importantly though, take your time: just because you've made 12 beats doesn't mean that you should put an album out.  Learn your craft first and release something when you're 100% happy with your sound.

Do you.  Ignore what everyone else is doing, don't follow the latest beat trends: they don't matter.  Most importantly though, take your time ... Learn your craft first and release something when you're 100% happy with your sound.

TNBM: We’re fast approaching 2013.  What are your goals for the new year? More releases on your label FreeForm? More work as part of Alexis Davis? 

Mecca:83: More work! There's a ton of Alexis Davis material that I'd like to get out in 2013.  Couple of new Mecca EPs in the works, plus remixes for Spinnerty, Deborah Jordan & first child is due at the end of April so I'm trying to get as much done as possible now! I might be a little "out of the loop" for the second half of 2013!

TNBM: Many thanks for taking the time out to speak to The New Beatmaker and all the best for 2013.   

Mecca:83: Cheers :-) 

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