Dance to the Mella Dee
Fresh off the back of his recent Australia tour, we catch up with London-based producer, DJ, label boss and artist to find out about all things Mella Dee
For over a decade now, South Yorkshire raised, London-based artist Ryan Aitchison has been honing his skills both in the studio and behind the decks, delighting underground dance music fans and dancefloors all around the world with his bass-heavy, exploratory cuts as Mella Dee. With initial releases focused on the broader dubstep and grime styles, it didn’t take long for Aitchison to star releasing house, techno, breaks and a combination of all of the above, cementing himself as a versatile and exciting producer.
One of his breakthroughs came in 2017 with the release of Techno Disco Tool (a track that while very far from defining Mella Dee and his sound) blew up online and when coupled with his relentless touring schedule, helped find new audiences and recognition and (bar that little old pandemic) things haven’t slowed down since.
Alongside his own productions and blistering DJ sets, Aitchison also runs the respected Warehouse Music imprint, that’s seen not only his own releases but 12”s from the likes of Spencer Parker, Dance System (who we featured as Album of the Week earlier this year) and even some Basement Jaxx remixes, and somehow finds time to make paintings as well.
After his recent cross-coastal Australian tour, we caught up with Aitchison to find out all about his musical journey so far, creative process, Warehouse Music, visual art, touring Australia and new music!
Mella Dee plays Lost Sundays in Sydney, Oct 30 2022. Image Credit: Jordan Munns
Let’s take it back to the start - when and how did you first get interested in dance music?
It’s been around me from as far back as I can remember, just in various forms, whether it’s being around 7/8 years old stealing my older sister’s hardcore takes she would fetch back from school. Or influenced by my Dad’s general love of dance music, he used to go to the Northern Soul all nighters at Wigan Casino and even now still goes to the weekenders, he also stays up to date on what’s happening listening to dance shows on radio so it’s consistently been there for me.
When did you make the leap to start DJing and producing?
Probably when I was around 18/19 I got my first set of cheap decks as a Christmas present, after first getting my hands on some at a friend's house who owned a set. It was a buzz to start figuring them out. Then it was just a steady curve towards learning to play out and then some friends got a cracked copy of ‘Reason’ and we took it from there basically, learnt on the job and got stuck in.
How has your creative process when it comes to making music changed over the years?
It was much more second guessing before in terms of production, less of being able to translate what my thoughts are into the audio. Whereas these days I just try to stay as free as possible to keep things interesting and so I can communicate my thinking through the studio.
What’s the ethos for your label Warehouse Music?
There isn’t an ethos behind it, there’s good music, good people and that’s the key to it all! It started for me to self-release music and that was the sole purpose so anything after that is essentially a bonus. I hope to draw some attention to others through the label when releasing their records so they can go off and thrive.
As a fan of your music for a while, it seems like your profile blew up a bit after dropping Techno Disco Tool, what was it like dropping that track?
It was just a fun DJ edit essentially, there wasn’t any huge thought process behind it, it all snowballed pretty naturally so it was exciting to see the reception grow and really it continues to do so. It’s taken on its own thing for me now, it opened up some doors but it’s far from a definition of anything I do.
Tell us about your latest releases Love It Or Not and the brilliantly titled Whistle Posse Spangled In The Corner?
‘Whistle Posse Spangled in the Corner’ was just a bit of a homage to raving in a time when we weren’t able to. Studio experiments during 2022 that gave me an escape from the situation we were living in, and ‘Love it or Not’ was written in the same period. Then Infinite wrote to two of the tracks and it all made sense. It was all part of me feeling a sense of freedom in the studio being given time to explore and push myself more musically due to forced time away from touring.
Tell us about your visual art? How does it relate to your music?
Hi it's Pete - original painting by Mella Dee, 19.5 x 18.5 cm
It’s just another output, it’s separate from music 100% in my mind. All my creative outlets inform each other in ways but none of them are intrinsically linked. The painting is more of a general relief for me as it fits into my free time and isn’t linked to paying the bills so it’s easier to do it all for myself and not have to answer to anyone else’s opinions of it!
You just finished an Australian tour, what were some of the highlights? Do Australian shows/crowds differ from other places in the world?
Great fun, I’d say this time round the Halloween party with Lost Sundays and the crew after party were the highlight, great crowd just really up for it. It’s hectic and can be a bit of a blur when you’re touring like that, but the Australian crowds are great fun in general and there’s a lot of energy!
What’s on the cards for Mella Dee in 2023?
Finally releasing music after what feels like quite a hiatus since ‘Love it or Not’, a series of singles that I can’t wait to get out and multiple remixes. I am generally just trying to push the envelope in terms of what I’m doing going forward! Trying to excite myself when it comes to music and what I’m writing, collaboration is definitely a big thing, and more mixing and engineering with others etc. I think there’s space for new energy out there, and figuring out exactly where I want to be in terms of that, I have to keep pushing myself and make sure I’m involved in records that will still hit home in decades to come.