Student Success Story - 1MRN
Student Success Story - 1MRN
LSA alumnus 1MRN is a UK-based Afro House and Melodic Techno DJ and producer hailing from both Kashmir and Tanzania. After taking the LSA music production course he went onto win the Afro House producer competition on Beatport!
With thousands of entries this is a huge achievement worth honouring!
His sound palette reflects a vastness of experience both in life and the music industry. He plays regularly at London's Ministry of Sound and Egg with LSA, where he has supported household names like Hernan Cattaneo, Henry Saiz, Fatima Hajji and Lilly Palmer. His debut release “Missing You” on LA-based Ear Porn Music hit the Beatport Progressive House Hype Top 30 in January 2020 and his track “Lost in Medina” was selected as a winner in the Afro House category in the Beatport Producer Challenge in May 2020. His upcoming releases include a remix on Keep Thinking Music (UK) and an EP on Edinburgh-based Techno label Dead Groovy Music.
We wanted to find out more about 1MRN and his plans to elevate his DJ and Production career!
LSA - Tell us a bit about how you got into music? How did it all start for you?
I’ve been DJing on-and-off since I was 16 (I’m 32 now!), but I’ve had this desire to share music with people for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Tanzania and as a kid, I used to collect cassettes and make “mixtapes” by fading between multiple cassette players and then I’d share these with my friends. It was only when I was 16 that a friend of mine saw what I was doing and said, “Hey you know there’s a thing called a mixer that can do all this stuff for you?”. I was like “Wow – REALLY?” That’s how it all began! I got into House music when a friend of mine lent me a compilation by the South African Deep House label Soul Candi records.
In my 20s I got really into Trance and PsyTrance. I was in the US at the time and played a lot around the East Coast. I taught myself some music production using Youtube tutorials. I moved to London in 2010 and kept going with some music production – I think I made 2-3 pretty terrible tracks! I ended up taking a break from music to focus on the day job around 2013 and one thing led to another and unfortunately, it turned into a five-year break!
In 2018 I decided I wanted to get back to music, but this time I wanted to be taught in a structured way – I didn’t want to wander around the internet aimlessly searching for tutorials! So after some research, comparing different options I ended up going with LSA!
LSA - Tell us about your LSA experience...
I took DJ and production courses at LSA in 2018 and 2019.
I did the Music Production Beginner & Intermediate from March to November 2018, with Harry Clarke as my tutor, who was really great! Frankly, it’s easy to learn how to use a DAW – you don’t need a course to teach you how to create automations in Logic. But what is priceless is the experience and insight of someone who has finished and released music. Harry knew a lot about different genres and so I gained a huge amount from our lessons. For example, I learnt that once you’ve got your initial 8-bar loop done, it’s important you lay out your full track structure so you’re not constantly thinking about where the track is going. Another tip was that basslines work best if they have 1 or 2 notes in them. Honestly, doing a production course at LSA was one of the best decisions I made and I would recommend it to anyone!
I also did the intermediate and advanced DJ courses with Kasey Riot in early 2019. Kasey really pushed me to think beyond the standard “Play song A, mix into song B” approach, towards mixing multiple tracks together and using effects creatively. I’d always just use the flanger because it was the only effect I fully understood, but Kasey explained how each effect works and what it’s good for and that’s given me the confidence to use effects when playing out. Embarrassingly, I’d also completely forgotten how to beat-match, and we did a lot of drills together to get my ear trained up again and within a few weeks I was feeling confident with my mixing again.
LSA - Since joining LSA how has your DJ and Producer career progressed?
I played my first gig post-LSA in April last year, at Egg. Once I’d played the first one, I couldn’t stop – I kept playing every other week and kept improving, learning how to read the crowd, learning how best to prepare my sets in a way that worked for me.
One of the great things about LSA is the connections you build with other alumni. I met LSA alumnus Shazze and through him, Dom James (Architect of Minds) last summer who runs the fantastic Solaris Events brand and was fortunate to play a few times for them. I met another alumnus, Mario Monteiro (Dat Gruvee) who is a resident at Tribal Soul and we collaborated on Afro House productions. Eventually I wanted to start my own night where I could really curate the sound, so I co-founded “Makhe” an Afro-House focussed party series with another LSA alumnus, which we host at Upstairs at the Ritzy in Brixton every few months.
In August last year, I moved to Aberdeen in Scotland for work. I’ve had to make new connections here, but I’m really grateful for some of the opportunities I’ve had, for example being a resident at a Thursday-night party Revive, and playing a headline slot for an awesome night called Bohemia. I’ve kept my own night “Makhe” going in London and I organise that remotely from here and before lockdown I was in London quite often for gigs.
Naturally there are fewer opportunities for gigs here in Aberdeen and so I’ve been able to spend a lot more time writing music. In 2020, I’ve had my debut single “Missing You” released on Ear Porn Music and I’m very grateful to the label boss Lauren Mia for the faith she had in my music (another LSA alumnus Tomi H is also signed there by the way!). I’ve also since then joined Keep Thinking Music – a Progressive House and Techno label run by Four Candles – as Head of A&R, which has been an amazing learning experience. I’ve got a couple more tracks coming out soon – an EP on Dead Groovy Music and a remix on Keep Thinking Music.
It’s honestly been a great journey so far but there is a long way to go and I’m really excited about what’s to come. More than anything though, I’m extremely grateful for all the help I’ve had from so many people along the way.
LSA - You've just won the Beatport producer competition, tell us a little more about that...
Yeah, so I still can’t believe that happened! I saw the competition announced a while back and I’d been working on a few tracks so I finished what I could in the timeframe. I submitted two tracks – one under the Afro House genre and one under Melodic House & Techno – and somehow my track “Lost in Medina” was selected as one of the winners for Afro House! It’s a somewhat soulful track. It’s got what you’d expect in Afro House in terms of drums, but what makes the track for me is the vocals and the piano chords which really help to lift the energy.
The core idea came together in about an hour. I’ve always liked West African folk music and so I was looking around for samples on Splice and came across some nice guitars and vocals and just started chopping them up and arranging things and before I knew it I had 2 minutes of a track lined up. It took me another 3 hours or so to get it fully arranged and the mixdown took about 2 hours, which is unusual for me. A lot of people have said to me before that the best tracks come together super quickly, but it was only when I went through that myself that I realised how true this is.
The track will be released and featured as a Beatport exclusive for 2 weeks and then shortly after will be up on Spotify and all other streaming platforms. I’m super grateful to Beatport and the other sponsors like LANDR for the opportunity. I’ve only been producing for 2 years and I’ve never considered myself very good at it, so I’m really happy that my track was selected. It’s normal as a musician to be very hard on yourself, so I would say this to all producers starting out: you’re not as far from making good music as you might think. Just keep going - something great might be just around the corner!
LSA - What advice would you give to people thinking about taking DJ and production lessons?
There’s a lot of content out there now and many people want to go their own way and self-teach. I’ve been there myself and frankly it was not a pleasant experience. The problem in my view is that there is simply too much information out there and if you’re starting out, it’s impossible to know who to listen to.
There are no right or wrong answers with music. If you want to stick a limiter on your kick drum and it sounds awesome, then do it! But if you start reading Reddit you’ll find bedroom producers with no releases telling you not to do A, B and C with such authority that you’ll end up limiting your creativity or worse, overwhelming yourself.
I think it’s really important to get advice from people who know what they’re doing and are supportive of your journey, and that’s what I’ve loved about a structured learning approach. Pretty much every successful artist has had some kind of formal education – art school, singing classes, piano lessons – and electronic musicians should be no different. Whether you do lessons at LSA or elsewhere, definitely do them, because you’ll learn much faster and you’ll be better able to focus your learning on the important things.
LSA - What are the three key lessons you've learnt about the industry?
Firstly, consistency beats everything else. The industry is super competitive and technology has reduced the barriers to entry – anyone can DJ and produce music nowadays. Anyone can publish music directly on Spotify and it’s relatively easy to self-release music on Soundcloud, Bandcamp or Beatport. The only thing that can really differentiate you from others is the quality of your music, and that’s all down to how hard you work and how much you practice.
Second, relationships make a huge difference and can open doors for you. It’s really important to get to know your local scene – DJs, promoters, producers. Don’t just be there to network – go out, enjoy yourself, and make friends, and opportunities will come naturally. We’re obviously in lockdown right now, so in the meantime, you can meet people online. Join Facebook groups, take part in DJ or producer competitions and use the opportunity to connect with others online. When you get a new follower on Instagram, drop them a message and say hi. It’s a great way to use social media to build relationships as opposed to just broadcasting.
Lastly, I think it’s really important to stand out musically. As I said before, anyone can DJ nowadays, and any track you find on Beatport is Shazam-able, so the novelty behind crate digging no longer exists to the same extent. To stand out you need to be offering people something people can’t get anywhere else. That might be playing unreleased music, playing your own music, or a breadth of genres that no one else combines, or even a particular look or aesthetic you bring.
LSA - Thanks for an enlightening interview! We look forward to seeing how your career progresses!
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