- Thu, 2008-05-01 15:03
In 2007 Merka released his debut album ‘Beserka’. The first album release for Fat! Records went down a treat with it’s chunky blend of breaks, beats and bass. Since then Merka has continued to establish himself on the breaks scene, playing across the UK, Europe and Australia.
With the up and coming release of his much anticipated second album on its way, I Like Music caught up with Merka the afternoon before his set at Chew the Fat – Troublestock at The End in London. We chat about why the breakbeat crowds have the most fun, finding samples in charity shops and what makes for a magical festival experience in the eyes of Mister Merka.
"I Like Music because… life wouldn’t be the same without it.” Merka
ILM: You are playing Chew The Fat, the charity event. It’s Kid Blue vs Merka. What have you got in store?
Merka: Yup, it’s me and Rory. I can’t wait to play in the main room. I’ve played in there before, about 4 times and I launched my album there. I haven’t got a single bad memory from the place. It’s always brilliant. For me it’s the speakers, you can stare at them in awe, they are like rocket machines! It’s great to play on them and be behind the faders knowing that you can make them as loud as you want! I’m releasing a hip hop album at the end of the month, if all goes to plan! I’ve done a breaks remix of one of the hip hop tracks as a single. It’s called Mind’s Eye. I’m really keen to play that. I played it for the first time on Saturday in Birmingham and I was really chuffed with how it sounded, really really pleased with it, so I can’t wait to hear it in there. There’s no better day for me than when I get a track back from mastering and get to listen to it as it’s finished when you can’t touch it again.
Um...I’m going to play some bits and bobs from my album, for the memories for Paul, I know he really liked it. I’m going to try and squeeze in some new stuff as well. We have about 45minutes between the pair of us, so we will be trying to cram in as much as we can. Mine and Rory’s styles are quite different, so it will be interesting to see what happens. We have played at the same night before but we’ve never played together so I don’t know what is going to happen. I don’t usually plan my sets but you are always in control if you are playing on your own and you know your mind and what you are trying to do. It makes it a lot more fun when someone else is in the mix as well because you have to either keep up with them or push them on, so it should be fun!
With The End’s sound system you might even hear it from home...haha! We are playing first, so that’s nice because we get to open up the night and set up for everyone. Then we have the whole night to run around and try not to miss any of the guys that we want to see. I really want to see Elite Force vs. Evil Nine which should be quite a tag team. Plus it is a good cause. Paul Arnold is a legend, I would be nothing without him I can tell you! All round general dude, nice guy, always positive, knows his music inside out and the amount of encouragement and direction that he has given me, I can’t imagine anyone else doing the same. It has done that much for me and I can only imagine the other people that he has done that for too. It is quite incredible really.
ILM: Chew The Fat is the longest running breaks night in the world. What do you think makes a top breaks night and a top breaks tune?
Merka: A top breaks night is usually the people, usually the crowd. That’s the thing I like about breaks parties, that you always get a really nice crowd and they are always willing to dance. There is no chin scratching or hovering in the corner until there is the one track they like. People are eager to enjoy themselves and that is really important, I think the DJ’s feed off that a lot. I think it also feeds into the tunes as well. You definitely get that ‘have a good time’ feel with breaks. That is what it is all about. My friend says that it is a vibe not a sound and I don’t think that could be more true. It doesn’t really matter what it is. It doesn’t have to have a certain eighties synth or certain people will only like a track with vocals, it doesn’t really matter as long as people like it, it sounds good and they can have fun. It is kind of a social thing. It is not as introverted as some of the styles. It is about sharing music with people, sharing a good time and remembering the night and looking out for the next one. It’s really good. It’s always like that. Always rolling on to the next time.
ILM: Your long awaited debut artist album Beserka did really well. Which track did you enjoy the most?
Merka: Um...for me the most fun was a track called ‘Champion Selection’. I had a lot of fun putting it together. I had this idea in my head and it turned out better than I expected. I’m trying my best to have as much fun as I can. I am writing my new one at the moment. My “difficult” second album! I’ve managed to get a demo together. I went and had a listen to it with Paul earlier today. So I have a really good basis for that, I’m hoping to bring that out later this year so I’m focusing on that at the moment. I’ve been living in the country which has been a beautiful inspiration for me. I have had plenty of time and space around me, a nice break from London but I’m coming back now! I’m moving in a couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to spending the summer with my friends and with breaks! It should be good. Little bit of this, little bit of that. You know the saying ‘the grass is greener’ well I couldn’t wait to get away and now I can’t wait to get back!
ILM: Can you describe the Merka process of making music? Is it a sample first or beats or a vocal....?
Merka: You are dead right to start with. Usually it is a sample that I will hear somewhere for some reason and it will sound like it is in the wrong place. More often than not a sample gives me an idea or reminds me of something and I feel like I should build something around it. It is often the little things that get me excited, they just pop out and I’m like ‘I can’t let that be the last time I hear that!’ or ‘I wonder what would happen if I did this to it...’ and then I just build beats around it. It usually turns into something completely different. I never really have an idea of where I want to finish. I have spoken to other DJ’s and mates and some have a picture in their mind and they try and paint that picture as accurately as they can. In some ways I’m kind of jealous, I would like to do that! But I find that it works better for me to just go with an idea and see what happens. It feels more natural.
I find it hard to write a track from scratch. I don’t enjoy it as much as jumping on something. I enjoy the fact that you only hear that sample because you were there at that time, in that place. It only could have been you that heard it and thought about using it. Even though it may be taking from someone else, a film or a sound outdoors, it is you that is taking it somewhere else. I enjoy that process. I get a lot of my samples from charity shops, so it’s like I give them a new lease of life! It is that interest that gives you the idea for the whole track.
ILM: What would have been your second career choice?
Merka: My original plan, when I was younger, was to be a cartoonist. An animator. That turned into a graphic designer and then that sort of faded away as music slowly consumed me! I always like to create. I always like to make and do!
ILM: What are your plans for the summer? Are you doing any festivals?
Merka: Plans for the summer? Um...I haven’t had any other plans apart from my album. I have just been concentrating on that. I haven’t been working on it that long, it’s only been a couple of months and I have just been locking myself away! As soon as I have done that I want to try and see as many people as I can! I will be hoping to get some festival bookings and some gigs abroad but to be honest with you I haven’t even thought about it yet. I’m caught up in the album!
I’m trying to find myself as well with the album. It’s a typical sort of artistic thing to say with a second album! I have heard stories and it is all true. You really have to dig deep and kind of find out what you want to do. It is pressure you put on yourself. But it is all for the better. I’m excited about it. I want to move on from there and go into doing some more remixes and hopefully producing some other artists. I really want to try and get involved with other people. I have done a lot on my own. Especially with my first album and now this one, it has all been on my own, locked away. I am keen to finish that and try and take on board some ideas from other people. Take on some collaborations and working with groups and trying to hone my production skills to someone else’s ideas. Producing someone’s ideas and taking their vision and putting my production behind it and seeing what happens! It would be quite exciting!
ILM: What do you think makes a good festival? Do you have a favourite festival moment?
Merka: My favourite festival moment was definitely at Bloom. Not last year but the year before. It was in a place called the Llama Tree Gardens and it was basically the perfect festival. I couldn’t fault it in any way. Every single person I met was friendly, lovely, funny, excited. Everything you should be at a festival. I really enjoyed my set, it went down really well. It was amazing in a beautiful tent and the setting was amazing. There were peacocks running around and a little Victorian disco and it was perfect in every way! They are really lovely promoters. There is a great mix between bands and DJ’s which works really well. Playing at Bloom is probably my favourite moment.
I don’t know what makes the perfect festival. I think it is the clientele really. It’s meeting people that you feel like you should have known for ages. You bump into people that you haven’t seen for ages or you least expect to see there. All of a sudden, in crowds of people you bump into an old school friend. It brings all walks of life together without them even knowing it! Who knows how many people you walk past that you could have bumped into. It depends. Hearing things that you never expected but always wanted to hear, I think that is one of the best things. Musical experiences that you won’t forget and will talk about for years. No-one forgets festivals. Well, depending on how much fun you had...! haha!
The best thing in life is to be free. That’s what music gives you. That freedom.