If you want to be featured in my Electronic Republika interview series or Spotify techno playlist and you are a techno DJ/Producer please contact me!
Alex Deusan: Hi and welcome to Electronic Republika interview series! First of all please tell us a bit about yourself.
Mentat: I’m Oliver, and I make electronic music as Mentat. I’m from the UK and I live in London.
Alex Deusan: How do you start your musical journey and what do you think was the most important moment until now? When did you decide to be a DJ?
Mentat: I got a taste for electronic music early when my uncle would send acid house records he made over from Germany. As a child I got into recording ‘radio shows’ on cassettes, which led me to messing around with music technology and eventually making music with it. I was originally into production and writing my own music first, but got into DJing when a friend bought some decks and this progressed to playing in clubs and on student radio when I was studying in Sheffield.
Alex Deusan: What are your big influences as a DJ as well as a music producer? Name five artists.
Alex Deusan: How do you describe your style?
Mentat: Mentat tracks are dark, but emotive, with twisted sounds but always a melodic edge. Tunes for the dancefloor, and the head.
Alex Deusan: What are the things that inspire you for your music and mixes?
Mentat: I get inspired a lot by the energy of music, getting to live shows, and finding new tracks. I try to start my studio days with a run with some music to get a clear head and tune into the kind of atmosphere I want to create. I started getting into music by messing around with technology, so I also get inspired by creating sounds. I’ll often start a patch with my modular synth, or another hardware synth, and the sound will inspire me to develop things in a certain direction.
Alex Deusan: How is your searching for new tracks process and from where you take your tracks?
Mentat: I’m always listening out for new music, and I listen to lots of podcasts as well as browsing Soundcloud for DJs sets and new tracks. I have a big list of artists and labels I follow on SoundCloud and Beatport and I make time to go through and listening to what people I like are putting out.
Alex Deusan: The perfect day for you is…
Mentat: A productive day in the studio, starting out inspired with a new idea, arranging it quickly into a full track, and nailing the mix. Doesn’t always happen in such a quick flow but it’s amazing when it does!
Alex Deusan: How do you like your music? Vinyl or digital?
Mentat: I learned to mix using vinyl, and a previous project was really sample based so I’ve got quite a big collection of both electronic music and weird records from charity shops to get samples from. I was always into exploring new technologies though and started playing with CD players for DJing back before the CDJ 1000s came out. Vinyl does have a wonderful sound, and you feel very close to the music and hands on mixing with it. Digital allows a lot more possibilities though with looping, effects, and tons of tracks on demand, so I’ve really embraced that as a medium.
Alex Deusan: What is your DJ setup? How about your studio setup?
Mentat: For DJing I’m happy to play with most setups and work with the standard Pioneer gear. The only thing I don’t like is the filters on the DJM mixers, way too much resonance on them and I prefer to use them more subtly. I much prefer the Allen & Heath mixers for the filters. They are more like studio mixers so suit my production mindset. I also use Ableton Live for putting together studio mixes. I used to use it live back in about 2005, and it was amazing to be able to remix tracks live but it took a huge amount of prep, more like a live set, and it was easy to mess with good records too much and ruin them.
My studio is based around Ableton Live, with Maschine for drums and percussion. I like to mix things up with hardware and software, I find hardware more playable and inspiring for some things, but software is good for its flexibility. Many plugins sound amazing now. My Elektron Digitone is my current go to for generating new sounds and ideas. The Access Virus I use for more chords and polyphonic sounds, and my Eurorack modular for weirder sounds and generating ideas. Uhe Diva is my go-to software synth.
Alex Deusan: What are the best and worst things about being a DJ/Producer in 2019? What do you consider to be the easiest and hardest things?
Mentat: The best thing is things are so accessible. There is so much music out there now and so many new sounds to discover. Production wise you can do so much with computers and software. New sounds and production equipment are much more accessible than when I started out.
The hard thing is that with so much music out there it can be difficult to get your music heard. However, there are lots of avenues to put music out and reach people who like your sound.
Alex Deusan: Your favorite food and drink?
Mentat: Food is probably Italian food. Drink would be coffee but I’m trying to cut out the caffeine at the moment.
Alex Deusan: How about films and books?
Mentat: My favourite books of all time are Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘Rama’ series. I love science fiction and these books use looking into the future to explore what it means to be human. Film wise, Blade Runner 2049 completely blew me away. The visual and musical aesthetic, the atmosphere and the story telling were amazing.
Alex Deusan: Samples or originals for your music production?
Mentat: I used to be in a hip hop group and we used samples all the time. We could never get anything released because there were so many samples. These days I make all my sounds myself, apart from sometimes drum hits. I do like to sample myself and use the sampler as an instrument in itself though.
Alex Deusan: Last track that blew your mind?
Mentat: Emerald Rush by Jon Hopkins. It’s such an atmospheric, cohesive sound world, and so emotional. I first heard it along with the video and it’s so otherworldly. I got into electronic music in the late 90s because it sounded like the future. This track sounds like the future in 2019.
Alex Deusan: What do you want to happen with your music career in the future?
Mentat: I’ve been focusing on writing and production for a while, and there’s a lot more of that I’d like to explore. I’ve so far had individual tracks released and I’m working on an EP so I’d like to get that out. My regular ‘Mentat Mix’ podcast has been going down well, and in future I will do more live DJing. I’d like to explore playing live too.
Alex Deusan: What is next for you?
Mentat: My track Entropy just came out on Traum Schallplatten (https://mentataudio.com/entropy) so I’ve promoting that and next I’m working on finishing off my EP.
Alex Deusan: Any last thoughts?
Mentat: Just that the best advice I’ve had in music is to make as much of it as possible. You don’t have to share all of it, but the more you make the more likely you are to make something amazing. That’s what I try to aim for, writing and producing as much as possible.
Alex Deusan: Thanks and take care!