This month we have the pleasure of a mix from Stratus, who’s upcoming Axis EP on the very wonderful Aficionado Recordings hits the shops real soon. We asked Mat (aka Stratus) to answer some questions that we had on the tip of our tongue, so here we go..
– First of all, give us some background to the mix you put together for us..
Well – Susumu Yokota was a huge influence on me and after hearing of his passing recently I wanted to include a track of his. Tobiume has been part of the soundtrack to many key moments in my life so it was fitting that it opens the mix – the rest just flowed from there. There’s a few new bits, a couple of oddities and re-edits, all things I imagine he would have liked so there you have it – Songs For Susumu.
– I’m always curious how producers get to this point of what music they make; what’s your musical background – inspirations/influences?
My Dad had a superb record collection and used to make compilation tapes for me and my brother. That sowed the seed and from about the age of 14 onwards I was spending all my money on records. I went to school with Pete Herbert and we’d record tracks from pirate radio shows or come into London to do the Soho record shops – places like Groove and Daddy Kool. I ended up buying a pair of Technics from a local drug dealer and that was it. I DJed at various nights in Bournemouth while I studied there in the early 90s and then got a job in Milo Studios in Hoxton Square in ’95. I helped run Howie B’s Pussyfoot label, set up my own one Fragments and start tinkering about in the studio – the first Stratus 12″ ‘Uplink’ came out in 2000.
– Moving over to your production, what’s the starting point when you make a track; is there a method to how you go about it?
It used to be about the drums, always starting with a break or loop of some description but now I might start with a chord progression or a melody. The frustrating and beautiful thing about making music is that you can sit there for hours working at it and come up with nothing but when inspiration hits you can write a track in 20 minutes (and then sometimes spend the next 8 hours ruining what you’d started). Some tracks come together in no time and don’t need much tinkering with – they are what they are. Axis was not one of those tracks.
– What’s the last few records you purchased?
The Retiree record on Rhythm Section International, the Suzanne Kraft on Melody as Truth, the Giorgio Tuma / Laetitia Sadler single that the Aficionado boys turned me on to (though they in turn credit Ryan and Patrick at Piccadilly Records).
– So what was the last record that truly inspired you?
Steve Cobby kindly sent me a copy of his latest record ‘Everliving’ and that’s been a source of inspiration – so much invention and craft distilled on that one album. The sort of record that makes you want to try harder. Which is a good thing. Sometimes you need to listen to other people’s music in order to up your game. Plus it’s a reminder to keep going – I bought a copy of Fila Brazillia’s Mermaids in Flying Records in Bournemouth in ’91. I like that idea that he was knocking out brilliant records back then and is still doing it now – that’s definitely something to aspire to.
– Tell us how you reconnected with Aficionado Recordings for your latest Axis EP.
Aficionado released the Spring Tide EP in 2013 and it was high time I did another release with them. Last year I self-released the Mirrors EP but that was a darker, colder, synth-heavy affair and not really suited to the Aficionado sound. Axis had been floating around in one shape or another for about three years – admittedly I could have probably nailed it a bit quicker but sometimes it’s good to leave something and come back to it later. Glad I did because this mix is way better than any of the earlier incarnations. Oxwich begins with a field recording of the birds in the woods on the way down to the beach in Gower. EKO ComputeRhythm drums set the pace (samples unfortunately, a real one is a mere pipe dream). Solstice began with a Rhodes loop, Mellotron flute and the notion of a big orchestral lift in the chorus. I did a bunch of versions but settled on this one which still seems to work for me. Tisno closes the EP and was written as an ode to the town on the Adriatic coast where the Garden and Electric Elephant festivals take place. I went to EE in 2013 to celebrate my 40th and needless to say had a rather good time – seemed fitting to write something about all those hazy days down at the Beach Bar.
The Axis EP (Aficionado Recordings / Fragments) is available to download on August 3. Pre-order at: