As a producer and one to watch, Mella Dee has been on my radar for a minute now. As part of Doncaster trio, then duo, ‘Mista Men’, Mella Dee (or Ryan to his friends) would send me early tracks he’d been working on and we’d chat shit about skateboarding and living in Yorkshire. I was always into the sound and it was always a pleasure to receive new music from him, I’m pretty sure I’ve also got a couple of early draft tracks kicking about in my iTunes somewhere. The Mista Men trajectory continued and culminated with releases on Greenmoney Recordings, before Ryan moved to London to concentrate on his solo work.
The pace has been fast ever since, having just released ‘Rhythm Nation’ Volume 1 on Digital Soundboy and with a bunch of new projects in the works, it seems Ryan has found his sound, a satisfying mix of exciting club music while still giving a nod to his roots in Doncaster and Leeds’ Bassline scene.
I’ve been down for this interview for a while, but with recent developments and his gig calendar filling up fast, now seemed like a good time to catch up and see where he’s at and what he has planned.
Before Mella Dee, and largely before you moved to London, there was Mista Men. Can you tell me how that came about and who was involved?
Originally there was 3 of us, me, Joel & John, then after a while it just became myself & John. Basically we’ve all been friends since we were younger skating and that, so then just got into making music together so it made sense basically. It all seems so long ago now as it’s probably a few years since I’ve even made anything even related to the Mista Men project
I think the first release I properly remember from that period was Panther, on Greenmoney right? When was that?
The first release with Greenmoney was ‘What U Do To Me’ that was like 2010 or something, not sure when Pantha was but I’m guessing later in 2010.
How did you link up with Greenmoney?
Just sending out some tracks to emails I managed to collect basically, I think it was Scott Jay, who now runs the Good Years label who picked up on ‘What U Do To Me’ and then it started getting played at YoYo by Leo and that so he got in touch and it just went from there really.
Did you ever feel disconnected from the scene at all? Living in Doncaster? I know you travelled to London a lot.
To an extent yeah but thankfully Sheffield & Leeds are both within like 30 mins drive of Doncaster and both had there own scenes so that helps as it meant there was always something going off that was easy to get to. If I’d been reliant on what was going on in Doncaster it could of been very different.
What prompted the move to London?
Largely it was due to my fiancée getting work down here, and that was just coupled with the fact that we both wanted to come down and give it a try basically. Living in Doncaster and working in the music industry don’t really go hand in hand so it was pretty essential for us.
Do you think the move positivity impacted your music?
Yeah for sure, the biggest impact was probably that it became my full time thing, just having time to sit and try really learn what I was doing better. Before then I’d never got too deep into the engineering side, it was always more about ideas for me, which didn’t always translate into my tracks sounding as good as I’d like. Not that they probably ever will as you’re always learning with production, but I’m a hundred percent happier with the output now.
Did moving away from Doncaster have anything to do with Mista Men splitting, or is it just a temporary thing?
Not really, it just became something that we weren’t really pursuing anymore, different music taste and general interests a bit more. I was always the guy obsessed with the new stuff coming through musically and searching for new music in general so I just kept going on my own path.
How did you link up with Digital Soundboy and can you tell us more about ‘Rhythm Nation Volume One’?
It was a random link up, basically Mele opened a set with ‘GT Turbo’ in Sheffield whilst Shy was there and it went off. Shy got in touch with me like a day or so after and asked about the track then it went from there. ‘Rhythm Nation’ is a beat tape essentially, just tracks I’d been working on at the same time and after ‘GT Turbo’ that I felt all made sense together. The whole Idea of the tape is a bit of a dedication to the record store ‘Rhythm Nation’ I used to buy tape packs from as a kid, so its just exploring the hardcore & jungle influence that’s a large part of what I listened to from a really young age
I love how some of the tracks are a nod to the kind of vehicles Yorkshire boy racers would have had, you ever dabble in that scene yourself?
When some of my friends first got cars we’d go to the Dome [Doncaster Dome, basically a leisure center with an ice rink] and all that normal stuff, never really got fully involved I was also too obsessed with skateboarding whilst I was younger. But I was always into these kinds of cars. I actually had a Golf MK3 GTi for a few years which is why there’s a track called ‘MK3 GTi’. I’ve been around fast cars since being really young as my dads big into cars and that so it was kinda inevitable
By the time this goes out it will have been announced that you’ve done a Mak & Pasteman remix, they’ve had a great few years, was it fun working on one of their tracks?
Yeah it was good to take something they’d done and just try flip it in my way, the original version is speed garage so that’s obviously something I’ve always been a big fan of and made. So to take that vibe and just flip it into what I’ve been doing these days was a good challenge and I enjoyed that.
What else have you got lined up for 2015, and is Digital Soundboy going to be a permanent home for the time being?
Few more remixes and just working on music all the time basically. Yeah Digital Soundboy is a home right now, so expect to see more music coming out with those guys. Just keep on with the progression of my sound and trying to make the best music I can, for me it’s always about pushing myself and seeing where I can take my music.