It's been less than two years since Mefjus burst onto the continental drum & bass scene with his "Far Too Close/Distantia" release on Neodigital. Immediately, the surgical precision and relentless energy of his music elevated him to a prominent role in the fast emerging neurofunk sound. In 2013, he signed to one of bass music's most finely curated rosters: UK's Critical Music. Alongside the likes of Soviet scene champion Enei, label heard Kasra, and precocious talent Emperor, Mefjus and the Critical family have put forth sounds ranging from the soulful to the bone-crushing, all while pushing drum and bass conceptually forward.
Since signing, Mefjus quit his job designing systems for industrial robotics as a programmer and began whittling away on his just-released debut album Emulation. The record is the statement we've all been waiting for – 14 tracks of the breakneck headfuckery we've come to demand from him, interspersed with classily arranged forays into hip hop and elsewhere. It shot to #1 on the Beatport charts.
"I was really overwhelmed with the positive response," Mefjus tells THUMP. "I got messages from Teebee, Dom and Roland, Metrik. They're guys I don't speak to at all. They're those UK dudes, y'know, I respect them and everything, but I never got a chance to actually talk to them. Getting respect from them has been really good to hear. I'm really glad how things are working out."
Barely into the prime of his career, though, Mefjus is already fighting conventions placed upon him. "I wanted to get rid of the labels people put on my sounds," he explains. "It's weird. When you start with your certain sound, like I did three years ago, people loved it. You try to do it more because it's your sound, and then people start like 'he does the same thing every time'. This is the point at which I get really, really mad. I spend shitloads of time sound designing, and then some dick on YouTube or wherever says I only use the same drum sounds or whatever. I grew up in those two and half years and I don't give a shit anymore, but I just wanted to show people what I could do."
Perhaps best known for sound design, Mefjus put some real time into concept design before even approaching the tunes. He explains. "I sat down and was thinking about what kind of message I wanted to deliver…I started with hip hop and now I'm doing this drum & bass thing. I went from making beats with Akai samplers, everything was outboard analog stuff. Now i'm doing everything inside the box on Cubase. It was some kind of transformation for me and I just wanted to deliver this message. The first word that popped into my head was 'Emulation'.
That process wasn't necessarily an easy road, though. "It almost killed, me man! It was horrible!" Mefjus laughs. "When I said I started the album in August of last year (2013), I didn't start writing tunes last year. I started making sounds for over three months, making bass sounds, making drums, engineering effects, whatever. Sometimes I spend four or five weeks making sounds. I'm in the studio, on average, 12-14 hours every day. During the precious time finishing the album, I was in the studio 16 hours a day."
A common problem with the dance music album, especially for perpetually developing soundscapers like Mefjus, is that tunes become obsolete as fast as a new production technique is learned. Mefjus approached this issue by re-addressing tracks on a monthly basis with his new tools. The title track "took nine months to pull it off," Mef admits. "Everything was synthesized from Native Instruments' FM8. Every sound you hear is synthetic. There was shitloads of pre-production. It was like making your own synth pack from one tune, but every sound was coming from one synth. There was a lot of work involved. The tune that came together most quickly was the collaboration with Phase, "Impulse," he just flew over, we went into the studio for five days and wrote two tunes together. It was just click, click, click, rinsing it out. Good vibes."
Even though the record just came out, Mefjus was already in the studio again when I called. His passion for technique and production is the only thing more relentless than his tunes. With a first foray into the US finally in the works and the attention of the entire bass music community, the Austrian producer has delivered on early promise and announced himself to the world at large. It's not perfect, especially in his own estimation, but Emulation is the benchmark for neurofunk in a year that's seen some excellent drum & bass music released.
Jemayel Khawaja is THUMP's Managing Editor - @JemayelK