TFword In Conversation With Mako

Following the release of a genre-bending album on Presha’s Samurai Music, we had a chat with the drum & bass maestro about his journey, the progression of his sound, his label, and lots more.

An influential part of Bristol’s supremely rich music infrastructure, Steve Redmore aka Mako is one of the most important names in drum & bass. Championing his deep and atmospheric style of production, Mako has released his music on highly coveted drum & bass labels like Metalheadz, Hospital Records, Soul:R, and CIA Records, to name a few.

Along with releasing music on the best labels in the game, Mako has been successfully running his own label, Utopia Music, since 2009. Pushing cutting-edge music right from the label’s debut output, Mako’s Utopia Music has been instrumental in paving the way for names such as Fields, Villem, and Mikal, while featuring heavyweights in the form of Break and DLR.

Moving away from his intense style of drum & bass, Mako released a stunning album on DJ Presha’s Samurai Music early this year, channeling his deepest creative instincts and delivered a long release that traversed through multiple tempos to achieve maximum efficacy.

We were keen to know his thoughts around the album, his journey so far, plans for label, and more. So, we sat down with Mako for a long chat, and here is what he had to say.

Hey there legend, thanks very much for taking the time to chat with us. How has the year been for you so far?

Mako: Good, thanks. In a nutshell, playing at Sun and Bass was just what I needed. You did the tickets for that right? When I came home I was inspired to finish a lot of music that was so close to the finishing line. You know that expression, ‘art is never finished, just abandoned,’ right? I have a big problem with abandoning any of my music so it becomes almost impossible to finish.

But recently, I handed in my second solo Metalheadz album for mastering, as well as a follow up EP for Goldie. I finished a collaboration with Calyx and Teebee as well and the icing on the cake was finalising and mixing down a 12” with Seba for my own label.

Having been an influential part of drum & bass, and having released music on the most coveted labels in the genre, how would you like to describe your journey?

Mako: Big question, how long do we have? I’ll try and sum it up. Its been life affirming. Making music has been simultaneously the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted and also the most socially destructive. I think it has had a negative impact on my social skills and friendships sometimes, but has equally given my life purpose and meaning, which has got me through some difficult times. I’ve met my wonderful partner and some of my best friends through this music so the journey has been immensely worthwhile.

How do you think your sound has progressed over the years since you started making music?

Mako: Well, I think up until about a year or two ago, it had gotten worse, and is only now getting better again. I’ve always liked the idea of combining elements from the sound of Photek, Jonny L, Source Direct, Dillinja, Break, Teebee, Dbridge, Konflict and Goldie into one tune. I’ve been trying to do it for years, got lost on the way and now am back where I started albeit with a better understanding of the rules.

What was the inspiration behind starting Utopia Music?

Mako: I was hearing my friends’ make a lot of sick music and I wanted to build a platform they could proudly release on. A platform that would help them a bit in terms of exposure, get them a vinyl release and put out music that other labels should have. I liked the idea of doing label nights and taking my friends along with me too.

Your latest album on Samurai Music saw you take phenomenal musical terrains. How would you like to describe the experience while writing the album?

Mako: The experience was a positive and an interesting one for me. Working with Geoff and his label was a good opportunity to try something album-wise different from my commitment to Metalheadz and Utopia.  I think at times I can be a little awkward to work with for label managers.

I have a habit of signing a tune, then realizing afterwards that the mix needs sorting, going back in on the mix and then changing a few things. To me, I change just little things but to the people who sign my music it can be annoying as they may have grown attached to the old version. I find it so hard to finish music, you really have to grind the result out, it rarely comes easy so I’m always going back in.

What are the other genres that you like to explore other than drum and bass?

Mako: I love dub techno and I love atmospheric meditation music, ‘chill out’ I guess you would call it?

What are Mako’s and Utopia Music’s plans for the immediate future?

Mako: Well I want to build a nest with my partner as my future lies with her, whilst in the meantime make as much music as possible and grow myself and Utopia in a positive, beautiful and healthy way. Musically speaking, first up is my tune ‘True Existence’ coming on the Hannya 2 project by Samurai Music. I then have a Mako 12” out on Dispatch as part of their dubplate series at the end of November.

Then I have a collaborative 12” with the legend that is Seba coming out on Utopia early next year, followed by a collaboration with Teebee and Calyx coming on Subtitles. Then there’s  more, for example the Samurai album EP follow up, a remix of Teebee off his masterpiece of an album ‘Black Science Labs’ and my second solo Metalheadz album. Gotta keep pushing!

Explore Mako’s full discography here:

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