Daniel Martin-McCormick aka Ital talks process, dog walking day jobs and DIY attitude with Ian Maleney.
Daniel Martin-McCormick is a busy man. If he’s not blasting out the most infectious dance-punk with Mi Ami, he’s making hard-edged, red light synth pop with Sex Worker. If he’s not doing that, then maybe you’ll catch him making crunchy, off-beat house as Ital. It’s under this latest nom-de-plume that Martin-McCormick is releasing his newest record, Hive Mind, the first Ital full-length. While his early 12″ singles were released on the achingly cool L.A. imprint 100% Silk, Hive Mind will see release on British powerhouse label Planet Mu.
This step has been been matched with a new found clarity in his productions, moving from dirty lo-fi crackle and crunch to something a little more polished, without losing any of its woozy appeal. Samples are still pulled from sources obvious and obscure and the synths still speak of twisted New Age peyote trips (see: ‘Floridian Void’) but the sound is big enough now to hit a packed club good and hard. You get a feeling on Hive Mind that Martin-McCormick has found a sound between the grit of his noise past and the power of big room house, with the best of both worlds turning out to be entirely captivating in any environment.
When did Ital begin to feel like a different thing from Mi Ami and Sex Worker for you? Was it an intentional break for you?
Well, I had begun making tracks in a proto-Ital style before Mi Ami formed; some of our earliest jams were based on these bootleg experiments. But after a while, the band formed its own identity and the tracks fell by the wayside. As we got deeper and deeper into our chaotic rock setup, I began to hanker for some interaction with the techno and house that was occupying the majority of my listening time, so in January of 2010 I decided to put out a 12″ on the side. The result was ‘Ital’s Theme.’
How important are the distinctions between your projects? How and when do you know that whatever you’re working on at a given time will be for a certain project?
I know pretty much from the start because the key distinction between the projects is process. If I start on something for Mi Ami, I don’t want to develop it too much alone before bringing it to Damon, as the core of the group lies in our collaboration and the spontaneity of live performance. Sex Worker started very much as a side project to Mi Ami in 2009 and right now is dormant. Ital has a heavy, heavy emphasis on the ‘studio’ (aka my laptop) and tracks are made as sound objects/recordings more than live entities/songs. Pretty much I am working on Ital full time right now and when Damon and I can schedule time to meet, I start to put together little bits that might have potential and then we go from there.
You’ve talked a bit about using programs like Audacity to make music with, what do you find to be the advantages of it? It’s something that has cropped up quite a bit, from Burial to Julia Holter, where people are using software that is not designed for the kind of music they make. Do you think it might become equivalent to using vintage hardware at some stage?
It’s well known that creativity needs limitations, the paradox of art being that infinity rests in the finite and vise verse. There’s a reason people covet Fender Twins and not Line 6 amps, with hundreds of mod-ed tone combos to scroll through… Similarly, although Ableton, Logic, Reason and the like have been harnessed by a number of talented producers, personally I end up feeling suffocated by the totality of their options. The infuriating dead ends and blunt layout of Audacity force me to work harder, to push the tracks towards their completion instead of getting swept up in the current of the midi grid. That said I really doubt it’ll become anything classic as it has essentially nothing to offer except its own clunkiness.
How different is it working with a label like Planet Mu, compared to the NNF/100% Silk group?
Honestly, not that different. Planet Mu has (some) more infrastructure but both are very supportive and wonderful to work with. I’d say the main difference lies in the way people hear the final product, what assumptions they bring to the table, rather than any behind-the-scenes stuff.
What’s daily life like for you at this point? Do you have a job?
Of course I work, I live in America. I have a day job dog walking for a company (abroad, this always amazes people for some reason) and I play a ton of shows, tour as much as possible, hang out with friends, blah blah blah. I’ve been on a huge cinema kick recently, going out to as many movies as I can afford.
What’s your preferred type of venue to play? Do you feel at home playing in typical house or techno clubs?
Raw spots with a loud PA and dim lighting. Anywhere where people feel freed up.
It seems like a lot of the noisier, lo-fi techno and house stuff appearing now has its roots in the noise scene of a couple of years back, especially people like Ren Schofield in Container or Pete Swanson from Yellow Swans. Would that kind of stuff be an influence for you?
Not exactly influence because we’re contemporaries. But I love Man With Potential. I think it’s just that the noise scene is a very free space, you can get your hands on some electronics and start jamming without a lot of know how, technical skill or direction, much in the same way as punk. And there’s a huge overlap between noise and techno’s emphasis on non-narrative sonic space and texture, it seems pretty ‘no duh’ that a crew of noise types would grow into something beat heavy and hypnotic, just as other crews of noise types have gone into gloopy pop or neo-kraut.
You’ve got a history in hardcore and punk which is really interesting. How much of an influence does that part of your musical life have on things like Ital and Mi Ami?
I always felt like the main things I took from punk was the DIY, ‘fuck it’ approach and an emphasis on direct, raw engagement over too much frilly refinery. I never learned how to play any genre, least of all punk or HC, in any orthodox way, so I’ve never had a specific muscle memory tradition (other than my own idiosyncrasies) to attempt to branch out from to transcend, and there was always a big emphasis in the scene on being into all types of music. So in that sense, the influence is huge. But I never felt like ‘yea now I’m gonna make house music… but make it PUNK!’