Freddie Joachim + Yusai [Mellow Orange] Talk Upcoming South Africa Tour
Freddie Joachim and Yusai spoke to Okayafrica in the lead-up to their upcoming November South Africa tour.
WeHeartBeat's inaugural meet and great session with Chief & Dehab
OKA: That’s right, you also have workshops and meet ‘n greets lined up with the guys too…
Dom: As far as our formula goes we try our best to give the audience a really dope party that celebrates the music and also a chance to engage with the artist in an intimate space where they can ask questions and interact with past experiences and inspirations.
OKA: Clearly we need more of such things. It’s sad the way artists come and go and don’t stop to engage. Speaking of Mellow Orange, Yusai, lots of people would say that record labels are becoming more and more obsolete, or at least their jobs are a lot different these days. What made you want to go for something like Mellow Orange, what makes it different to the general idea of a record label?
Y: When I started Mellow Orange, my intention was never to put together a record label. It was just a platform where I was able to release/introduce artists that I was following at the time. MO also gave me a place where I was able to distribute music that I liked to a like-minded audience. I still don’t like to think of MO as a full-blown record label. The identity of the brand kind of took off on its own but we really like to think of ourselves as a lifestyle brand, hence the phrase “Stay Mellow.”
I don’t fully agree with the thought of record labels being obsolete. There are still specific things that record labels can assist artists with, such as providing physical merchandise, distribution, marketing, etc. I just think the music scene has evolved, along with the roles that record labels used to have. The big difference I see between, what was then and now, is that we now have many resources available to help operate and manage your own music content. That’s why you’re seeing the birth of many independent labels, music collectives, or even single individuals releasing their own catalogue, without the help of established record labels.
Technology has drastically changed the music GAME. If you want to get hip to new music, all you need to do is to get on a computer and surf the internet. You also have many great music resources like Pandora, Spodify, Soundcloud and websites/blogs (like Okayafrica) to help you find what you’re looking for. If we we're still in the early 90’s, we’d still be trying to get our source from FM radio, MTV, before heading out to your local record store to buy CD/Cassette. Ha…
OKA: Truth! I remember the days when working in a CD shop meant I actually had something to do during shift! Anyway, you, Freddie, started DJing when you were 15 or so, and that’s sort of when you got your first turntables and wanted to go into scratch, correct? Can you tell us a bit more about getting to that stage where you had to make music and what it was like going from having a dream become a reality and then a profession?
FJ: When I first got into djing, I just wanted to dj parties, but once I got introduced to the Skratch Piklz, I really wanted to learn to scratch, become a turntablist, and enter battles. But when it came to battling, I was always a step behind other competitors. So toward the end of my short lived battle career, I was already experimenting with recording and looping beats, and that slowly got me into producing my own music. And after about a couple years of just learning and experimenting with making music, I decided to persue producing music on a bigger level.
OKA: And if you guys weren't working under Mellow Orange today, what would you be doing? Who are you outside of the music?
Y: I still have a full time job outside of music. MO is something that keeps me tied up because of my passion for music but my full time job keeps the financial motor of MO going. Ha.
FJ: Honestly, I'd probably be working some I.T. job or something. ha. But even if I wasn't involved in music creatively, I'd definitely still be an avid listener. Luckily I went to school for sound, so that's a part of my day to day grind. Outside of music, I stay physically active (so I can eat), and I'm really into movies, technology, and design.
OKA:What are some of your musical memories growing up that have stayed with you til this day?
FJ: Honestly, I don't have any one specific memory of music growing up that has greatly impacted me. But I was a very big listener at a very young age, especially hip-hop. I gravitated more toward more jazz and soul sample driven hip hop, like ATCQ, De La Soul, The Pharcyde, Main Source, etc. So all that music I listened to growing up was a big influence on the music I create today.
OKA: How has the landscape of the beats game evolved for you since the beginning of your journey?
FJ: Today producers are at the forefront of music. With artists releasing strictly instrumental albums, events dedicated to producers, and listeners being fans of just producers themselves. Even your average 'Joe Schmoe' can purchase equipment and start making beats in his bedroom, calling himself a producer. Back then, producers were background players, and rarely got the shine, compared to today. And at that time, there were only a handful of well respected ones. Today, the 'beat game' has become so saturated, it's kinda ridiculous. The good side of that, is there are some people producing really dope music, from all around the world.
OKA: Down here the beats scene, specifically of the electronic variety and dare I say hip-hop, can be very incestuous — meaning everyone knows everyone in the game and they work together very often, almost creating a scene that can't be opened up to new things too easily. Would you say that is a good thing in terms of a solid scene, or not so much? Is it like that in San Diego?
FJ: The majority of people in San Diego just want to party. And they're only really exposed to what's on the radio, or played on TV. A lot of that music is party music or the regular top 40 songs at the moment, so the independent music is pretty small, especially the the beat scene, so everyone pretty much knows each other. Most artists will build a foundation in SD, but then move to LA to expand their network and broaden their musical endeavours. Well, that's what I did anyway. It helped me build a network of emcees, singers, producers, and djs outside of the SD bubble, and a lot of those people were from other parts of the U.S. as well.