Beyond the club: In conversation with Cleveland and Nathan Melja

The Kalahari Oyster Cult producers talk artist residencies, inspirations and their passion for creating music beyond the confines of the dance floor.

Beyond the club: In conversation with Cleveland and Nathan Melja

The Kalahari Oyster Cult producers talk artist residencies, inspirations and their passion for creating music beyond the confines of the dance floor.

Amsterdam’s Kalahari Oyster Cult, the imprint run by Rey Colino, has been one of the most reliable sources for stellar dance floor excursions over the past few years. When a new release pops up in your notifications, you can be assured it’s getting played immediately. 

Alongside contemporary releases and reissues from artists like B’Zircon, Junes, Roza Terenzi and Luke Warmwater, two producers who’ve captured our attention with their intricately crafted sonics are Hivern Discs and ESP Institute affiliate Cleveland and Antinote label mate and Parodia boss Nathan Melja. 

Aside from taking care of releases just after one another last year - Cleveland with his hypnotic ‘Gamma’ EP and Nathan with the euphoric ‘Synthesia’ - the pair have much synergy between them, by way of tastes, approach and location, with both now based in the French capital.

Off the back of Cleveland’s second release on the label ‘Golem’, he and Nathan talk about the latter's new imprint, how their relationships with Kalahari Oyster Cult came to be, and their passion for creating music beyond the confines of the dance floor.

Cleveland: Yo Nathan, how's everything? You have recently launched your own label, how is it going for you? 

Nathan Mela: Hello hello. Everything is going well, I recently launched the label with a release from Flørist and I called Wonderland EP. It's been a lot of fun working on it and I don't want to rush anything, I'd rather take my time and work on the next releases the best I can. Besides that, I'm working on a big project with my father, who's a musician, that might see the light next year.

Nathan Mela: You recently moved to Paris, welcome dude! Why's that? 

Cleveland: Yes, regarding Paris, I just moved here to Cite Internationale des Arts Paris for a three month period, where I will be doing some sort of art residency but mainly focussed on music this time.

I took my first steps in this art residency field in February with the Center of Contemporary Art Casino in Lux, where I've done more multimedia installations  — here the focus will be more on composition.

It's nice to be here :)

Cleveland: With the label, is there a predefined motif or is it just to create a platform on which you would have loved to release on?

Nathan Melja: The label is a platform to release my own music and put out music from people I really like. I've been releasing music on labels since 2014 and now I want to take care of everything myself, it makes more sense to me. Except the distribution, which is handled by One Eye Witness, I decide everything. It's way more work, but it's a lot of fun!

Nathan Melja: The art residency sounds amazing! So you have three months to finalise a composition or you can just do whatever you want there? Do they have instruments there or did you have to bring yours?

Cleveland: Like my first residency, I presented some ideas and references in my application but no final project to produce during these periods, so I'm quite free to do whatever I like, as long as I'm artistically productive. I will work on two levels - Cleveland and Andrea Mancini work - which will be a bit more pluridisciplinary. I personally have some ideas that I've only started here and now from scratch. They do have a classical piano and a sound room but I do everything with stuff I bought from Brussels to Paris, speakers and screen included. But I'm open to trying some more acoustic instruments, we will see! 

Cleveland: Cool, so talking about your music, we both released one after another on Kalahari Oyster Cult a bit more than a year ago. You've released this big hit 'Synesthesia', weren't you frustrated about the timing? It would have been played at every festival and club. Do you think these 'lost lock-down EPs' will have a second or even just a first breath? I heard yours in some raves...

Nathan Melja: Ok got it! Curious to hear what you will manage to work on then!

I have to admit that it was a bit frustrating at first but honestly we've waited a long time to release it with Colin so I was super happy to finally put it out. Also this record had some sort of buzz before it was released, which helped a lot. I heard it recently in a rave in Paris also haha. I don't really think it will have a second breath, the music is here, people play good music no matter when it's released, but that's my opinion!

Nathan Melja: How did you meet Colin? Also you have this new record on Kalahari, I'm listening to it right now at the airport haha

Cleveland: That record will age well like a good wine. I met Colin at ADE, I think something like three or four years ago where I was invited to play instore at Bordello A Parigi, which was his workplace before he decided to start One Eye Witness. I didn't really know him at that time so I guess the fact that he spoke French and was from Brussels connected us pretty easily and now we've become pretty good friends.

The release with Kalahari came up quite naturally, I got interested in his work after getting to know him and since then we were talking a lot and I was showing him new music — that's how the first record came out last year and now I'm super happy to release a second EP with him. I'm also very grateful with the remixers we chose for the two records, Beta Librae, Piezo and Junes (on this one, and his very first remix), people I've been looking up to.

Cleveland: I've actually been following you since your Antinote release, are you influenced by this leftfield scene? Do you have some major inspirations at the moment?

Nathan Melja: I take your words for granted haha! 'Synesthesia' is a track that I'm very proud of and that happens not often with me :) Very cool, Colin is someone great to work with and a friend also.

Well yeah the more leftfield scene has always been my kind of stuff and I've always been inspired by artists from this scene, even if "leftfield" can mean multiple things. But yeah Antinote is definitely a label that had an influence on me as a French producer over the past five or six years. I've been very inspired by Actress for a long time and I guess my sound became more "clear sounding" than before, the Antinote release was the bridge between my older music and the club music I make today.

I've been digging 70s psych rock music a lot lately so I'd say yeah I'm inspired by this band called Sensations fix.

Cleveland: 70s psych rock! Hot! I've always been listening to many various genres of music, right now I mainly listen to spoken word podcasts or radio which is really relaxing; in our scene I'm very attracted to artists based in New York and its surroundings (DJs and producers).

Yes you're right, I'm also quite influenced by the 90s Techno scene because I just LOVE hypnotic and vibe-orientated music. It's always been a big subject with my project to find a balance between effective club-orientated production and more listening music; also in my sets there has always been a big question of if I am going to be booked if I take more risks and play not only banging or straight forward music but more dynamic sets.

But in the end I think I don't really try to adapt my production to a success-scheme, I love accessible and simple compositions mixed with exciting colorful sound textures, so yeah trying to find a balance between both is part of my continuous research.

Cleveland: What about you? Is it important for you to make mixes or tracks that are 100% club-orientated?

Nathan Melja: For me it's changed a lot during the past two years honestly. I didn't really make a lot of club music except the tracks I released on my Synesthesia and Wonderland EPs. I've been focused on other stuff that makes me more excited. I'm working on album with my father these days and it's a blend of hip hop, psych rock and electronic music.

When I produce without the club in mind, I'm focused on other elements and trying to improve other skills.

Follow Cleveland and Nathan Melja. Buy Golem on Kalahari Oyster Cult.

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