In The Company Of... JOEL MULL
Sweden's not only famous for Tomas 'five bellies' Brolin and flat pack furniture. No. Their contribution to music has seen the likes of ABBA, Ace of Base and Alcazar unleash famed masterpieces upon the world. Luckily, not all Swedes feast on a diet of 'cheesey musik' and one such product, Joel Mull, has been preaching the underground gospel in his homeland for well over a decade and a half.
With school pal Adam Beyer, Mull dropped his first tune in the early 90s before scalping his first residency aged 20. Now a close friend to Beyer's Drumcode powerhouse, the Swede's third album 'Sensory' hits shelves next month whilst his record bag hits fabric HQ in February too, on the 12th no less. We caught up with the techno don to discover how he's had a good hand in re-defining Sweden's music persona. Who's the is ABBA, eh?!
Hey Joel, so a new album Sensory next month - what took you so long?! :) Seven years between Imagination (2000) and The Observer (2007), four years between The Observer and Sensory...
Hey! Wow Time flies… I think one main reason is that techno and house and dance music in general is about releasing fresh stuff and being able to play it out as soon as possible. And usually it’s about two or three tracks on a release. With projects like an album it takes longer to feel that you have a complete story. But I’m also slow in the process of doing music and getting a track done. I’m not the kind of person that goes into to the studio and knows what I will do. For me music is a very long process. And it always starts with a blank sheet.
Sensory - does the title say more about you or the type of music of the album?
Well yes the title is a name that reflects me in many ways. DJing and being part of the electronic music movement is very dear to me and through the years it has shaped me to the person I am today. I still feel an incredible urge to play and I always try to tell some sort of story and try to catch the people and hypnotize them for a while - if I manage to do that during a set I’m a very happy man. People need the escape from the normal day life and the first rule of our job as the DJs is to do just that; to make people forget for a little while, to take them to another place or to just “be”.
Sensory is word that encapsulates the whole thing with Electronic music, clubland and the house nation. Our music is made to be felt with your whole body and mind. It’s about being involved with all you senses. The light effects, the people around you dancing, the heat, the sounds, the energy of a track. All this you catch with your body senses your brain, eyes, ears, limbs, everything. I have a theory why we humans need music and are so receptive to sounds and beats. We feel some sort of subliminal calm and pleasure and its all due to that we have been in our mother’s womb and heard the heartbeat and the sounds outside.
Did you approach this album in a different way to the others and does the length of time between the each hint at the amount of blood, sweat and tears you put into each?
I just wanted to make tracks that I would be able to play out myself and try and catch a hypnotic feeling to the music. I probably had about 20-25 tracks to choose from and me and Adam sat down one afternoon and picked out the ones that could fit together. There is not much more to it than that. But off course it was important to me that it had some sort of story and not only just tracks. This album was not as much of a struggle as my previous one. On The Observer album there was definitely more sweat and tears involved. I didn't really have anybody to bounce ideas with. I knew I wanted to do a more cinematic kind of story and it took longer to collect the right tracks.
We read that Adam Beyer taught you how to DJ, how did that first lesson go?! He can't have been a bad teacher looking at your career so far...
Wow, it was so long ago so I don't clearly remember how it went down but what I do remember that it was difficult to beat match in the beginning. Adam had a perfect set up DJ bench that he had built himself in school. It was in perfect height measurements so you stood comfortably mixing. We always blasted his speakers, his mum was very kind to let us do that. Most days after school we hung out in is his room and mixed and listened to music; trying to figure out how the hell do they do it? How do they create the sounds, what machine does that sound etc. One day I borrowed an old Roland Synthesizer from a friend in the band that I was jamming with at the time. Me and Adam did a sort of "Live" set. Me playing the melodies and sounds on the synth and him mixing the beats from vinyl to it. We actually did a performance at a party in a club around 1992 with that setup. Very, very lo-tech but it sounded cool to us. I wonder if Adam still has tapes from that time. Would be fun to listen to!
How has the Techno scene developed since you got into DJing around 1994 and how was the Swedish scene back then?
I began DJing in ‘93 in Stockholm and it was very different from the scene it is today. Actually my first gigs were in the ambient rooms at rave parties. These days those sorts of rooms just don't exist anymore. For me that was really special to be able to blend whatever you liked and experiment with sounds. There was no pressure to making people throw their hands in the air or beat mix.
In Stockholm at this time there was a collective feeling in the rave scene; a very innocent and happy feeling. People were happy for what they had and you got the feeling that people were smiling more and it was not so big of a focus on what style the DJ was playing. It was techno and that’s it. You also had to search to find the parties and for the music and that made it special. Nowadays it’s all over and mainstream. You don’t really have to search long to find a club that plays house or techno. All the genres and styles developed in time and through media and hype some styles got more fashionable than others. But I think techno is in a very good place still and it feels that the scene is moving forward with the new generation adding its touch, the impact of technology and the search for new combinations never ends. It’s amazing to me to have been part of this since the beginning and to know the history and see the recycling of things. It’s a constant process like any art form.
Is there one thing you're looking forward to when coming to London and England - except spending the night with us of course!
I’m very honored I get invited to fabric. I can’t wait to control the sound system in Room 2 again. It’s one of my favorite sound systems around. My brother will join me this time around and he has never been to London and we will stay a couple days extra to absorb the London vibe. It will be a fun ride!
Is the album going to keep you busy for the next few months or have you got anything else coming up?
Yes it’s going to keep me busy for some time for me. There are a lot of cool gigs lined up and you could say this fabric show is the start of the Sensory world tour. Then we will be releasing a remix package from the album with mixes from Martinez and Funk D Void. I’m also working on a project with Cari Lekebusch and we are doing some special back 2 back gigs together. Also Dustin Zahn and I are working on a project together, so I’m keeping it busy and there are many nice things in the pipeline.
Keep on pushing forward. Techno keeps us young!
Photo by James Holm