DJ/producers Scuba, Distal and Mite and Bok Bok are young cats on the electronic dance music scene, controlling their own destiny. This week, we applaud their collective resourcefulness running their respective record labels, and being masters of their distribution. Distal and Mite, who run Embassy Recordings are currently celebrating Monday’s release of Mite’s Body Tap EP. These Atlanta, GA reps have a unique approach to converging sounds because they do it to a science. For instance, Distal, born Michael Rathbun, studied synesthesia at Georgia State University. Having an academic background of the images associated with audio, helped him come this far with the patchwork of synthesizers that make Civilization. His partner Ethan Anderson, aka Mite, takes us through his inspiration that crossed genres. MD introduced MA to their world, and here they are for your consumption. No Molly.
Mass Appeal: How did Embassy get started?
Distal: Ethan (Mite) and myself had always wanted to start a label since we were younger kids and into dance music. We just wanted to wait ’til the timing was perfect. And we both wrote some tunes that got a lot of play and recognition from some bigger names and instead of spending time shopping them around we decided to just release our first good tunes on Embassy.
What’s the story behind Embassy’s graphic design?
Mite: We only use one designer in house, Erik Braun, a friend from my college. Somewhere along the lines of its development, it formed a lowercase “E.” It can symbolize a fortified “embassy” as well as an antenna for broadcasting the sound.
What was the first piece of music that changed things for you?
D: Funny I just had this conversation with some people. When I was VERY little, the oldest music I can remember sparking emotion in me was Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is” and Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” That soon morphed into Primus and Frank Zappa. I idolized Les Claypool and Zappa in my childhood. They were doing some stuff that no one else was doing. Their music was fun and went through many different moods and styles.
For dance music I think the first tune that got me into the music was “Eyeopener” by Brisk. Quite a cheesy hardcore tune. I have no idea what the relation between Zappa and happy hardcore is, but it was there somewhere. After that I was hooked.
M: The inspiration to become a DJ and producer happened when I was 14, I think. In middle school I heard the soundtrack to Wipeout XL (Photek, Chemical Brothers, Rob Playford), Prodigy Fat of the Land and Aphex Twin Windowlicker. The sounds were so alien to me. I was always interested in sounds that couldn’t be created with more traditional instruments. When I found out it was made with synths and samplers, I felt I had something to say too since I was already a freak for computers.
What’s the partnership like between you and Mite running Embassy?
D: It’s a funny and fickle partnership. We both offer different things for the label. It’s always an arduous debate on how things need to be ran, but in the end it’s always for the best, and what’s best for the label and our artists.
M: We both take equal shares in every aspect of what’s involved whether it be signing new talent, paperwork or expanding the brand’s reach.
“The dream when we were both fledgling DJs was to run our own label and release our own music alongside like minded peers.” – Mite
Let’s talk about Civilization. The name, the process, the artwork, and how you feel about completing an album?
D: A lot of the tracks on Civilization have made up stories behind them. The album for me personally was very visual. I see certain images when I listen to it. Initially I wanted the album to be something about time travel, because the images in my head spanned a wide array of time. But I grabbed a piece of paper and sketched out all the symbols from each tune and when I looked at it on paper I realized it had less to do with time and more to do with humanity and its interaction with the Earth. It’s about our Civilization.
I feel great about the album, I spent a LONG LONG time going over the track listing. Because the album was very eclectic, I wanted to make sure everything flowed perfectly and certain moods hit you at the right time. When your music is eclectic you are constantly scared. Things like albums might sound just like a COLLECTION of songs instead of a cohesive album. But I felt VERY happy with the way it turned out and everyone I’ve previewed the track listing to has agreed.
The artwork was done by my good bud Ian. I had been stuck on what to do with the artwork and was going back and forth on certain ideas. Then one morning the idea popped in my head while I was waking up. This image just popped up in my head and then, bam! I knew it was done.
Tell me about the Body Tap EP that’s about to be released?
M: My friend Patrick, EWALK, and I wanted to write a tune around 130 BPM with a juke and rap influence. We wrote it with B.YRSLF DIVISION specifically in mind. I knew the French had been supporting juke for a long time but Pat and I wanted something we could play out in our sets. So we kept it below 140 bpm. Once the tune reveled as something sexy with a rap-juke influence we named it in honor of a really grimy west Atlanta strip club that’s now defunct.