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Melody Maker: Mella Dee chats Donny and 90s rave tapes

Mella Dee aka Ryan Aitchinson has had quite the year. After launching his label Warehouse Music and taking home DJ Mag’s Breakthrough label of the year award, the third release “Techno Disco Tool” was snapped up by Annie Mac, making it onto her esteemed “Annie Mac Presents” mixtape series. With support from Hunee, The Black Madonna and many more, it’s still getting plenty of airtime, even on Radio 1’s daytime playlist. We caught up with the Doncaster born and bred producer to hear more about his unique blend of driving techno ahead of his sold-out all-night-long set at the Night Kitchen on March 10th.

We’re buzzing for your return to Sheffield for The Night Kitchen’s Fourth Birthday. You played there last year for what was a very special send off, somehow it never closed and you’re returning for a 3-hour set. Are you excited to be back playing up here in South Yorkshire?
Yeah it’s always great to be back in SoYo and back in the steel city, it’s actually all night so I’m gonna be taking control right from the edge to the end. I’m really excited about it, means I can set the vibe all the way.

You started up a new label, Warehouse music last year and it’s been making big movements. Congratulations on winning DJ Mags Breakthrough Label of the Year! What’s it been like going from being a Producer/DJ to taking the step in starting your own label and what was your motivation behind the project?
It all just came together naturally and felt right. I’d toyed with the idea of releasing my own stuff on white labels and then the concept for more of a label came about. It just means I’m not having to please A&Rs or get things right to suit someone else’s tastes or ideas – I just back my own thing and put out what I believe in. Thankfully it’s all gone amazingly, I can’t big up my manager Sarah enough, she really runs things right alongside the Lobster Theremin guys who handle distribution.

We’ve listened to the previews of your next EP and they already sound like tracks of the year! Following on from ‘Techno Disco Tools’ in November, you’ve said this EP is going to be darker and more experimental. Can you tell us a bit about each of the tracks coming out on the EP?
WM004 is under my own name as it’s all more on the deeper/darker side of things and it felt like having another name for that output made sense. “DN5” – which is the postcode I spent most of my life living in – is just a stripped back percussive tool with big kicks; proper warehouse stuff. “Corruption” is a just little roller really – growling bassline action on that one – but my favourite is probably “B2 Auxiliary”, the most experimental tune on the 12”. It’s a little electro cut that really came together quickly and I didn’t over think it, I just let the rawness of it shine.

What’s made you release it under your real name?
Just to be able to experiment more than anything; it’s always fun to do different things and see what different reactions things get. I’ve always enjoyed people’s use of aliases, you see some of the older producers who have worked under a mental amount of names and I respect that, it just gives you a bit of creative freedom to not worry too much about if it fits.What’s the Doncaster connection? I hear the artwork for the label is a club in Doncaster?
Doncaster Warehouse is the artwork, and it’s done by one of my mates from back home who I’ve known forever – always keeping it Donny. That’s pretty much the connection, it’s just me being from Doncaster and shouting about it. Not much really comes out of there so why not represent the place that made me.

Tell us about your early music experiences growing up in South Yorkshire. How have they influenced your style and what you’re putting out these days?
I’ve just always loved music and I’ve got a family who loves music, but it’s never been like anyone I knew played instruments or made music, it was purely for listening. So you’d have my Dad’s taste that’s quite eclectic but more than anything it’s always been about soul for him – he used to go Northern Soul all-nighters. Then the fact my sister is a few years older than me, so I’d steal the rave tapes she’d bring home when i was like 7 or 8 and listen to them on repeat. Plus Doncaster has a heritage of hardcore and rave events so it’s a mix of that and whatever else I’ve discovered along the way.
What about your creative process when you’re in the studio? Your music has a big rave vibe to it, very inspired by styles like breaks and hard-core from the 90s. How do you take this and put your own 2010s spin on it?
I just make whatever comes to mind really, it’s all been very much trial and error over the years I’ve been making music. Basically with anything that I do, I’m just taking ideas and sounds that I like and making them make sense to me and my personal taste. A huge part of producing for me is the amount of music I listen to, it just means I have a lot of reference points and can get inspiration from them.

What can we expect from the label in the future? Could you give us a scoop on any releases that are in the pipeline?
WM005 is mastered and ready to go soon, that’s a lot more back to the vibes on WM003 again. I’m looking forward to being able to share that, and then there’s other projects I’ve been talking about doing so just going to see what happens really. The key is that I’m in the studio as much as possible making music more than anything for me.You’re returning to Lost Village festival in august, the line-up for that one looks massive. How’s your festival season looking this year?
Busy, I really can’t wait to get going, it should be a interesting summer. Lost Village is a favourite so it’s great to be back there. I’m also hyped about AVA Festival as I’ve heard amazing things and proper love playing in Ireland – the energy is just next level!

Cheers Mella! See you on March 10th.
Cheers Exposed, big up!

Mella Dee plays all night long on March 10th at The Night Kitchen. Tickets are sold out, head to the event page for more details.

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