Punks success story Mafia Kiss reveals why he’s about to get a little darker...
Sitting somewhere in the murky shadows between house, breaks and garage, Mafia Kiss commands an enviable view of the bass vista. Sitting somewhere the road between his hometown Bournemouth and a gig in London as he talks to iDJ on the phone, it’s clear he commands a pretty rigorous schedule, too.
This month has been particularly busy. He’s three days fresh from a four-day stint in the Balearics, by way of Shipsomnia’s epic-looking three-day rave cruise Tale Of The Kraken and a Punks party at the island’s perennial hotspot Pikes. Straight after the London show he’s heading to Glastonbury where he’ll be DJing each day of the event, then he’s off to America for his first full tour.
His release output is equally busy. 2017 has been steadily and consistently slapped into groove submission by the man formally known as Paul Baron in a number of ways: kicking off the year with another deep, restrained, atmospheric housey workout (Close The Door), he’s since gone on to put a unique twist on the Stanton Warriors’ biggest anthem Still Here, he’s had us jittering and stuttering to the ominous wobbler Bitch Up, he’s given Bromley’s darkstyle Straight Up a subtle fattening and just this week he dropped the jugular-poking romp Raise.
There’s more to come from the Punks-signed artist, too. In August he’ll drop Think. Like Raise it’s a much darker design than you’d expect from the man who’s given us some of breakbeat’s housiest tracks such as the late night Amnesia-style Umy and the aforesaid Close The Door (or his infamous mischievous broken drum bass flips of stone-cold house classics such as Goodfellas' Soul Heaven and Roy Davis Jr's Gabriel) And, as we learn below, it marks an exciting new development in his genre-smelting sound and the level of gigs he’s playing… which is where we caught up with him.
You seem to be in the middle of rather heavy international schedule...
"Yeah, it’s nice and busy at the moment. Ibiza was a big one. Mainly on a personal fulfilment thing. The island has always had this special place in my musical make-up. Going out there on a cruise ship and playing Pikes was a dream come true. That was my first ever time out there."
You’ve never been just as a clubber?
"No! Mad, innit? I was a London clubber, that’s where it all began for me. So I’ve always loved the music inspired by the island, but I just never went. For some reason I went to all the islands with the shit boozy British resorts! So I missed the Ibiza boat as a clubber but that made the trip even more special, to go out for the first time as a DJ."
Let’s go back to those roots for a second...
"I was a clubber, going to all the great clubs which have since shut down. Loads of great house nights, basically, and I got properly stuck into it. I love that I’ve come through in that way. I know the escapism on the dancefloor is like and how it can take you away from everything and make you feel different ways. I was there for years. It just got to the point where I had to start making it and exploring it for myself."
How did the broken beat come into things for you?
"Hearing the Stanton Warriors for the first time. That was a revolution for me. Hearing all the house elements but within a different context was mind-blowing. So I got my head down, did my research and taught myself. I made this my only goal.
"If I’m honest, the fact my first load of tunes just sounded like Stanton Warriors tunes got me a lot of attention. Having them take me under their wing and making me their protégé was a dream come true. One, because I’m a fan, but more importantly because it made me find my own sound very quickly. I couldn’t be in their shadow."
Remixing Still Here must have been a little daunting?
"It was, I won’t lie. How can you top a tune that’s so good? You can’t. So I wanted to take it down a completely different route and do something fresh and exploit that piano hook with a tease. I tried to do everything differently to how I’d usually approach a remix, and the riff actually came about through trying to make drum & bass bass sounds. I was happy with it in the end, but I’ll never completely happy because it’s such a big track. I’m thinking of doing a different version for my sets. A more fluffy Ibiza one. I think I could sleep at night, then."
Your latest track, Raise, certainly isn’t fluffy!
"Yeah, I’m on a bit of a different one lately. Last year I was going down a very melodic deep route but this year I’m going in guns-blazing. I’ve been inspired by the young bassline guys like Taiki Nulight and Inkline. What they’re doing is mad: throwing down 4/4 but suddenly switching in these broken curve balls. And it’s a really heavy sound, too. I’ve been watching them and been inspired to do something like it myself, but with my own broken twist. So yeah, you can expect a slightly different sound from me right now."
A variation/extension of your sound, rather than a different one?
"Yeah. I still love the melodic, deeper stuff - having tracks like that gives you potential for a journey and subtlety in the mix. But what I’ve found is when I’m out mixing with the Stantons and guys like that I need to be pulling out the bigger, heavier tracks. I want to stock up my arsenal of bangers, basically, and get some more ferocious stuff out there. There’s a few coming soon; another track called Think and a remix of Go Shake It by Aggressiveness and a few other fresh bits I’m trying out in my sets. They’re different to what people might expect from me."
So is it a case of, the bigger the gigs, the heavier the tunes?
"The gigs have an influence for sure, but also my production process - I’m starting everything with the drums. They have to have a groove before start adding anything else in. So if the drums dictate a heavier bassline or vibe, then that’s where I go. But I can never get away from the house influences and house roots. My quest is that equilibrium between the two styles and it means I’m experimenting a lot.
"Beats are changing all the time at the moment. There’s no standard; everyone’s just doing what they like and trying every idea. Like that new My Nu Leng and Kry Wolf one. You play that and it’s like, ‘What just happened there? How have they done that?’ Those guys, Taiki, Chris Lorenzo... so many artists, especially in that side of house music, are taking wicked risks and it’s making everyone making breaks sit up and really up their game.
Finally... what's next?
"More tunes, more gigs, more Punks shows, more of everything. There’s a few things bubbling! But right now it’s all about Raise, then Think and another really exciting summer."
Words: Dave Jenkins