You may already know Daniel Martin-McCormick from his work as one half of Thrill Jockey duo Mi Ami, or his solo endeavors as Sex Worker.
Lately though, he’s been releasing some of the most vital-sounding house music around, under the name Ital. ‘Ital’s Theme’, released this year on Amanda “L.A. Vampires” Brown’s Not Not Fun sub-label, 100% Silk, was a raw, acid-eroded gem in itself, but nothing could have prepared us for ‘Culture Clubs’, a sunblind epic of rough percussion, luscious chords and elements that work against each other as effectively as they work with each other. He’s also collaborated with Brown on the recent Streetwise release, and most recently, released a sterling edit of Candi Staton.
Ital is at the forefront of something more interesting than just great tracks though – along with D’eon, Laurel Halo and the 100% Silk label in general, he represents a generation of Americans taking outsider aesthetics and unpredictable song structures, and applying these to classic house and techno. This approach doesn’t always hit, but when it does, it’s an irresistible antidote to the precision-tooled Beatport house that modern dance music is so often weighed down by.
” I can’t get with anything too strict.”
I wanted to start off by asking quite a generic question, about how Ital fits in with the rest of what you do, as it’s one of several projects that you have.
“Right, well I’m not exactly sure right now, as it’s just starting to come to life. The first 12” that I did on 100% Silk – I made those tracks in Spring 2010, and I kind of had them sitting around, I’d made them after this New Years Resolution that I was gonna get a 12” out of, you know, tracks. I’d been listening to a lot of techno, just whatever you know, buying 12”s.”
So was it the case that you sat down, like ‘right, this is gonna be a new thing’, as opposed to Sex Worker or whatever?
“It was intentional – I made a track, ‘Ital’s Theme’, and then the Silk thing came about. When I sent those to Amanda, I was like ‘this is cool, we’ll just see [what happens]’, but after ‘Culture Clubs’ came out it was like… Well, it’s not quite crazy, but there’s a lot more interest than I expected.”
As in offers to do records, you mean?
“Yeah, offers to do records, and having just moved… I’m in New York now, I don’t have a practice space; everything’s so expensive. So I don’t have a place to just jam, like with the Sex Worker stuff there’s a lot of jams involved, and you know, volume – the Ital stuff is a lot more private. So I don’t know, in some ways I’m really reluctant to make demarcations and be like ‘this project is a band, and this one’s tracks, and this one’s noise’ or whatever, but I mean… It did start off as an attempt to make tracks that are legit, or something like that, so now I want it to be…”
Its own thing?
“Well more ambitious, and more musically omnivorous: use it as, for lack of a better word, a form of composing… though that sounds a little bit, I dunno, lame.”
Not necessarily. You said you were buying a lot of techno 12”s at the time: what particular music was it that inspired ‘Ital’s Theme’?
“A bunch of stuff. I guess I actively follow Omar-S, and to a lesser degree Theo Parrish. A lot of the stuff from Detroit I guess, but the slightly more left of centre stuff. I’m a big fan of Daniel Wang, UR [Underground Resistance]… Well, only some UR. I can’t really hang with the really hard stuff.”
Yeah, stuff like Omar-S, where it’s a bit rough around the edges, you can really hear that in Ital.
“Right, what I really respond to, especially with Omar, is that he’s really elegant… but it’s interesting, because he has an aggressive feel to the music too. Like it’s beautiful, but not in a Telefon Tel Aviv or a Kompakt way, where it’s like ‘come the fuck on, man’. He’s raw and he’s kinda nasty, but he’s elegant too.”
Well he’s elegant but without being delicate. It’s got some body to it.
“Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So that’s something I aspire to. But not in the sense that… like, I feel like some people are like ‘oh yeah, Chicago, 808s and shit’ – I don’t fucking care. Whatever man. I can’t get with anything too strict.”
So I couldn’t really believe it when I read an interview you gave with Dummy, and you said you made your tracks on Audacity. Is that still the case?
“Yeah. Well, the first 12” was just Audacity. So like I said in that interview, the bassline was all triangular and square waves, and trying to calculate the frequencies. And then applying a couple of different phasers to give it some character.
Lately I’ve been using a combination of Audacity and Logic. Like I’ll do a loop in Logic, spend a little time on one of the soft synths, but I’ll always drag it into Audacity to arrange it. Recently I tried to do a whole thing on Logic, and I know I should really get on that, but oh man I don’t like the way it sounds, and I don’t really like the interface. Audacity’s like using Microsoft Word, it’s easy.”