Michael Diamond: The ‘Wednesday Alternative’ Mix
One to watch – Michael Diamond weaves a delicate tapestry of ambient textures, jazz and UK inspired electronics across this mixtape.
Having recently been acclaimed by Gilles Peterson as one of his ‘future bubblers’ Michael Diamond has now announced the release of a debut LP. The UK based musician draws upon an array of enigmatic influences – channeling inspiration from the underground electronic music circuit as well as from jazz, hip hop and the spaces in between.
When we asked him to record this mixtape, we weren’t sure which way he might choose to go. This could have been an all out club affair but what we received is remarkably more abstract and conceptual offering a unique perspective into the workings of a promising young musician.
His debut LP is titled “Third Culture” and draws upon influences from both the UK and South Asia. He reflects on the crossover and discusses his place in wider society.
“My parents immigrated to the UK when I was young and although I’ve loved and soaked up the culture of the UK growing up, I am still viewed by many as a foreigner”, he says. “On the other hand, when I return to India I am seen and treated as a Westerner. Over time, this has left me feeling that whilst I possess aspects of both cultures, I don’t truly belong to either one, leaving me with a fractured sense of cultural identity.
These feelings would manifest themselves in different ways around different people. Growing up, I really noticed myself hiding my authentically Indian parts, whilst trying my best to imitate the western traits of those around me. My album and Áine’s short story is one big allegory depicting both of our experiences as third culture kids through a tale of sleep paralysis demons and anxiety spirals. Whilst it’s not easy to brush away these feelings, I think that the world is becoming a more open place. People and cultures are becoming more and more intertwined. South Asian movements like Daytimers, No ID, Dialled In etc have been instrumental in this shift. I think that through everything that’s been happening this year I have achieved a greater understanding of my own cultural roots and this album project is a big reason why. I urge anyone who reads the short story or listens to the music to contemplate similar questions for themselves.”
Listen to the mixtape and read the interview below:
Please introduce yourself…
I’m Michael Diamond. I’m 23, currently based in Oxford and I like making jazz-influenced electronic music.
Who are you, where are you and what are you?
Musically speaking I’d say I’m a producer, DJ, musician and amateur guitarist. I’m a resident at Simple, Oxford’s (and one of the UK’s) longest-running nights. I also just started a new lil label with my mates called Vasuki Sound. Outside of music; I’m still at medical school here in Oxford. It’s a really cosy place. The music scene is small but lively – there’s a few crews throwing really good nights and plenty of musical talent around. Oxford has been a huge influence on me musically over the years and it’ll always be special.
What does your music sound like? Can you draw what you think it sounds like for us (an image from the old internet is acceptable)?
It’s changed quite a bit over the years and will likely continue to do so. I love jazz and my first productions were very jazzy house vibes. As time progressed, tastes evolved and having been exposed to more influences I’ve ended up with where I’m at now sonically; somewhere between UK-inspired underground music and jazz – electronic sounds with a focus on harmony and melody. I’m really into music which takes you far away, which allows you to get completely submerged in a new auditory world. I try to recreate that feeling in my works. I guess some descriptors could be; thoughtful, detailed, story-telling, melancholic but colourful at the same time.
Whenever I’m producing I always turn on these wavy blue lights In my home ‘studio’ (a grandiose term for what is essentially just my student bedroom with some speakers in it). I guess those lights have become a cued association over the years such that my music now feels very ‘blue’ to me (although some people disagree!). Here’s a gif I made.
Vasuki Sound visual artist and good mate Abi Hodges drew from the blue theme to create the artworks for my upcoming LP:
Where was the mix recorded?
It was planned and recorded in my bedroom (sorry I meant ‘studio’). I spent way more time preparing the mix than I did actually recording it – I knew I wanted it to be composed of tunes which influenced my album. The challenge for me was to tie songs from different genres together in a fluent and continuous fashion, without any abrupt changes in vibe. I found that quite tricky to be honest. As with everything you put out you will never be 100% satisfied, but I find some comfort in the fact that at the end of the day – blends aside – it’s just an hour of some really beautiful pieces of music which mean a lot to me and hopefully will make you guys feel something too.
What would be the ideal setting to listen to the mix?
I personally would listen to this kind of thing just before bed on some good headphones or speakers. For me it’s the best time to listen to music – you just experience it in a way more intimate way. After all, this mix is supposed to be quite an introspective one…. At the same time I don’t wanna be too prescriptive, so I’d say just listen to it whenever you’re in the mood for some harmonically-driven electronic music : )
What should we be wearing?
Really doesn’t matter. Just be comfy. Hopefully this mix will make you forget about your clothes and make you think about existence instead 👽.
What would be your dream setting to record a mix: Location/system/format?
Thinking about the things that are most important to me, good sound is my number one. So anywhere with a nicely balanced frequency response and people who are up for the tunes. Gimme a couple CDJs, a couple turntables, a good crowd and an extended set at somewhere like Corsica and I’ll be a happy boy.
Which track in the mix is your current favourite?
Hmm. hard to say cos a lot of them held the position of ‘favourite’ at some point in time. One of the things I love about listening to mixes as opposed to separate tracks is those moments where a blend of two tracks creates a third – you’ll only be able to hear this new piece of music in the mix and nowhere else. In this Ransom Note mix I really enjoy the bit around 30:00 where Vangelis’ Bladerunner Blues merges with Transparent Creatures by Polygonia. They merge so beautifully together to make a completely new (and completely sick) third track. I always find myself revisiting this set to listen to it : )
What’s your favourite recorded mix of all time?
If I’m honest I don’t really have one. Much like I don’t have a favourite song. It changes depending on whatever phase I’m going through. I did however really enjoy the rhythms and textures in SPEKTRALSOUND’s Zarabat mix. It’s criminally underplayed so check it here.
If you could go back to back with any DJ from throughout history, who would it be and why?
I mean one of those people who I have a lot of respect for is Floating Points – If I could b2b with him that’d be mad. It’d be so interesting to see how he uses all that gear in first person. I’d learn so much!
What was your first DJ set up at home and what is it now?
Like most people starting out nowadays I began with a cheap controller and it stuck that way until fairly recently. I could never really justify a full setup on a student budget. By saving up over the years I’ve invested in some stuff and managed to borrow some more – right now I have a couple of turntables, a basic mixer and a couple of CDJs which Nick Gladwin from Simple kindly lends me whenever I need. I often plug my guitar into the mixer and have a little jam over the records I mix as well.
What’s more important, the track you start on or the track you end on?
For me this depends on so many factors that I can’t really give you an objective answer. I guess broadly speaking, I’d say for the club the track you end on and for a recorded mix the track you start on. People are more likely to remember the last track in a set – it’s what you would’ve spent the last hour or two building towards and your first track is often dictated by the person playing before you (unless you start from silence).
In contrast, in a recorded mix where the aim is to set a mood and build a world over the course of a set then the first track becomes way more important as it’s the beginning of your story.
What were the first and last records you bought?
First record ever was some jazzy house – that’s the stuff I was into in 2018/19 when I first started getting into this whole music thing. I think it was the Westcoast Goddess EP on Omena. The last record I got is the recent Delay Grounds EP on Tropopause – really cool, rhythmic, playful UK techno. I play it a lot.
If this mix was an edible thing, what would it taste like?
Any food that gives you intimate and introspective vibes. The fried prawns at Cafe Orient on Cowley Road make me cry so probably them.
If it was an animal what would it be?
Something warm-hearted, chill af and interesting – a Koala I reckon.
One record in your collection that is impossible to mix into anything?
Whilst I’d like to think nothing is truly impossible, there are definitely some tracks which I find (much) harder than others. I guess some of my jazz records which don’t have a constant tempo can be tricky at times.
Upcoming in the world of…
Mentioned it before, but I’ll mention it again cos I am genuinely quite gassed about my first album coming out on Vasuki Sound this June. It’s a continuously-flowing concept album, incorporating saxophone, jazz, 2-step, techno, electronica and everything in between. The record also comes with a short-story by Áine Kim Kennedy which Oscar McNab and Co. have adapted into a short film, both exploring third culture. I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time and energy working on it. Needless to say, it means the world to me and I’m very excited to finally share it with you guys.
Aside from that I’m carefully working away on new material which takes the electronic-jazz sound even further. Maybe another EP or album in the works… who knows yet….. I’m also starting to get into more live jazz stuff – more on that front later… And of course massively looking forward to the future Simple nights – up next is Anz and Jensen Interceptor at The Bullingdon on Mayday (30th April). Gonna be loads of fun!
Anything else we need to discuss?
Not much more to discuss (for now) – just a lot of people to thank cos I owe them a lot and they deserve a lot of praise. I’d thank absolutely everyone if I could but In the interest of brevity, I will try to keep this as short as I can manage.
To Christophe and Daria from Salin Records, Luke Bestrom, Adrien Marc (Sable Blanc), Hâws head-boy Eben Rees, Alex Hinkson (Skins), David from Ad Hoc, Georgina Lloyd-Owen, Sherwyn (King Monday) and Daytimers, Nick Gladwin from Simple, Elijah from Butterz, Jasmine at Wired4Music, Max from Earful of Wax, everyone at Youth Music and Selassie and Claudia from Brownswood – very grateful for all the advice, help, criticism these guys have given me over the years. I’ve got a lot of love for them all.
All my mates and those involved with Vasuki Sound and its creative projects: Jules (sea elegans), Quentin, Knev, Will, Remi, Winston who help me run the label, sick saxophonist and musician Alex Wilson for working with me yet again on this album project, writer of the album’s accompanying short story Áine Kim Kennedy, our resident artist Abigail Hodges, Oscar McNab, Ceili McGeever, Henry Hooper, Angus Steele, Tatyana Rutherston and Gabriel Roberto Greer who all made the accompanying short film, Louis Waloschek for his VFX skills, Andy and Pete at Harbour Music Society who spread our message far and wide, Mike Hillier at Metropolis studios who masters our records beautifully and our distributors Rubadub and Cargo who get our music out there.
I bet I’ve missed someone….I apologise in advance…