TFword In Conversation With State Of Mind

We had a chat with the legendary Kiwi drum & bass duo about their journey, the studio albums, and plans for this year!

Hailing from Auckland, New Zealand, and led by Stu Maxwell and Patrick Hawkins, State Of Mind haven’t just made drum & bass music, they have changed lives. Such is the power of the duo’s high-octane music. For over two decades, State Of Mind’s consistently outstanding output has helped their country turn into a global drum & bass powerhouse.

State Of Mind made their debut in 2005 on Doc Scott’s 31 Records, which was quickly followed up by releases on CIA Records, Technique Recordings and Viper Recordings to mark a fantastic debut year. Since then, the duo have released their music on the most revered imprints in drum & bass until starting their own label, SOM Music. Their emblematic catalog that spreads across two decades, features countless EPs and singles along with four studio albums and 1 live album.

After closing New Zealand’s thrilling festival season, State Of Mind are all set to head into another busy year with new music and shows. We got a chance to have a chat with the duo about their legendary stature, their four albums, plans for this year, and here is what they had to say:

TFword: You have not just shaped New Zealand’s drum & bass sound but you have been influential in shaping its stature globally as well. How has the State Of Mind journey been for you guys?
State of Mind: Well, that’s a pretty big compliment. Thank you. It’s been quite a ride. I think we’ve been doing SOM (State Of Mind) now for nearly 20 years.  Five albums and more tours than we can count!

TF: Many of your fans including us would love to know how you guys came together. How did the State Of Mind duo begin?
State of Mind: Basically, we were both making music separately and met through friends of friends. I had some seriously retro Korg Elec-tribes and was using my flatmate’s computer to make drum and bass. Pat was making drum and bass too, so we got to talking and decided we should have a shot at making a track together. 

It turned out really well, so well in fact we got an offer from a pretty decent label to sign it. We turned the offer down (believe it or not), and decided to make more tunes together to improve our skills instead. This was probably about 2001. We spent the next couple of years just building up a catalog of music, then started releasing it all around 2004. This strategy was pretty effective, because once labels started getting excited about us, we had lots of tunes to offer them. 

TF: As your ground-breaking catalog kept growing, how do you think your sound evolved with it as well?
State of Mind: Our music has definitely gotten darker and more technical. That said, we still release stuff that’s melodic or deep. It’s not all neuro bangers you know! I think generally, we are influenced less by drum and bass trends these days, and are more open to just doing our own thing or bringing in ideas from other musical genres.

TF: Four smashing studio albums with such a diverse spread of styles on offer. How would you guys like to describe the experience while working on these releases?
State of Mind: It’s actually 5 albums, but our first album was never released outside of New Zealand and Australia. It was a CD only album. We still get people emailing us asking where they can buy it. Answering your question, working on an album is tough.  It’s a long process, and by the time you get to the end, you are sick of the first tracks you wrote. 

It’s not like we have a producer that comes in and gives us outside perspective either. Still, the satisfaction of finishing an album and getting it out is pretty hard to beat. Coming up with a concept, name, art, the tracks, everything.  Each album is a massive project.

TF: 18 years on and ‘Sunking’ still remains as fresh as ever. What is the secret element of the tune that we don’t know yet?
State of Mind: Hah. I dunno to be honest. Funny thing is, we wrote that track start to finish in about 4 hours. These days we spend longer on a snare.

TF: Can you guys describe your best festival or rave memory?
State of Mind: EDC Las Vegas pre-Covid was pretty epic. The scale of the weekend (and the festival itself) was mind blowing. Another pretty special memory was the first time we played a festival called ‘The Big Day Out’. 

The Big Day Out was a festival that used to take place in Australia and New Zealand, and it had the most incredible line ups. I’m talking acts like Metallica, Foo Fighters, Rammstein, The Ramones, The Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Marilyn Manson, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Soundgarden, Hole, it just goes on and on. Anyway, that was essentially our first ‘big festival’. 

We played in a massive tent called the boiler room to about 8000 people in the middle of the afternoon. We still played vinyl back then, and my hands were shaking so much from excitement that I (Stu Maxwell) wasn’t sure if I’d be able to put the needle into the groove! 

TF: What does State of Mind have planned for us this year?
State of Mind: We have a pretty big list of singles to come out this year. It’s looking like 8 tracks over 4 releases, but we might do a few more if the label has the release slots. Some of the tunes are slammers too. We are thinking of an album next year, but we will see how we go. We still need to come up with a concept to get the ball rolling.

The interview has been edited for clarity.

Explore State Of Mind’s full catalog here:

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