Updated: Oct 30
After the successful 'Super-Sonic Jazz Family Vol. 1', compilation in 2019 by the Amsterdam-based festival and platform Super-Sonic Jazz - the label is back with a follow-up. More than 150 artists responded to the open call, which resulted in a compilation album with 31 songs. In the coming weeks, small digital batches will be released, building up to the official vinyl release in Rush Hour during the festival in November. In this series of articles, we will highlight multiple tracks and tell you all you need to know about some of the members of the Super-Sonic Family. After introducing Misto Kay and Y.O.P.E., let's focus on Steppin' Into Tomorrow co-founder Mo Wrights!
How would you describe yourself as a musician? And is that a different Mo than your deejay personality? Or maybe the person who works for Steppin’ Into Tomorrow?
To be honest, I didn't like to call myself a musician before this release. That comes from feelings of being inferior. Because I didn’t have formal training, I’m not as much in contact with musicians. I make music on my own, mostly because I enjoy it. What I do is I try to remake music that I like and just add pretty chords, guitar riffs and fast-paced drums. And I try to remake that in any form, different forms, whether that's with people or just by myself. So that’s a difficult question. In my music, you hear me wrestle with this. You see me wrestle with this idea of musicianship, what music should sound like and what I feel. Now, these three things have melted together in a weird concoction, which is my music. I don't think it is different from my other musical endeavours, but rather the same. I think it comes from the same source: music as a universal language that I can express myself through, sometimes even better than I can put into words.
You say you make music on your own. Why did you choose to work with other musicians for this specific song?
I think it was 2019 when I moved to another location. I was making music at home and decided to use an acapella of Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Stand Up Tall’ and build something around it. But then, what I built around it was actually nicer without the vocal. I really like flutes and thought I should ask somebody to add that to the track. From there, it slowly started to build. I realised that I don't have to do everything myself. So that's why I decided to collaborate with Han Litz, the legendary flute player. I also got to work with QUANZA, kotokid, Jamie Peet and my high school mate Thierry Bakker. By collaborating with other people, I wanted to see how far I could go in terms of my musical landscape. It made me realise what happens if I go beyond my limits.
Is collaborating something you are going to do more often? Or will you go back to working alone?
I like both. I still am at that point where I feel hesitant to work together with people because I'm going to share something very personal. I’m still thinking: “Am I good enough? Am I a musician enough?” So these feelings are still there, but I'd like to do it more often.
The next thing I want to know is, what are your influences? And are these influences different for you as a DJ or when you work for Steppin’?
The influence is the same. Some people who have heard the song recognised Jamiroquai, the Acid-Jazz band, as one of my main influences. I don't hear it as much as they do, but I understand. I have a tattoo of the logo from their third album on me, so I guess it rubbed off on the record a little. Seventies jazz-funk is my main source of inspiration. And then, West London. Broken beats. IG-Culture, Afronaut, Kaidi Tatham. These are people who I'm hugely influenced by at the moment and at the time of developing this song. In addition to these influences; the UK jazz scene and how it blends with nightlife culture was a huge inspiration for me as well!
Next to the sound you present, is there an underlying layer of something you want to communicate? What do you want to share?
100%! The song is my debut song. I started working on this song around the third quarter of 2019. I was trying to convey that I could do this. I can produce a cool jazz, jazz-funk song. I can make broken-beat, electronic stuff. It did get shelved a little bit, but when I heard it again, I invited other musicians to collaborate with me, whom I'm very grateful for. So, as I said earlier, in my music, you’ll hear me wrestling with this feeling of proving myself. I want to go all out. I want to prove myself, but to whom am I proving myself? I'm proving myself to peers and musicians, to get their acknowledgement. I want them to realise that this dude can make something. Or is that feeling just a figment of my imagination? Because it is also very personal. It's about proving myself to the internalised voice of my discipline. It’s me proving myself to my father and mother. When I was doing shit with music, my mom was saying I should also be making money. That’s also where the title, ‘things2prove’, comes from. ('thing2prove' was accidentally released with the previous title 'In Motion', but this issue will be fixed)
It seems like 'proving yourself' is a theme throughout your life. Do you often notice this?
Yeah, I deal with feeling inferior a lot actually. That has to do with my upbringing and the social environment that I grew up in. But by doing my thing, I feel like I can present myself. It gives me confidence and teaches me about the feeling of self-worth. ‘Self-worth’ is maybe a big word, but. for the lack of a better word. Confidence, basically.
(Pictures by James Gallagher)
How does that work when you deejay? Because that’s also very personal. You share your taste, and your music, and get a very direct response from the audience.
Yeah. It's funny that you bring this up in relation to deejaying. I don't have it that much. I've been deejaying for quite some time, I think professionally maybe more than seven, eight years or maybe longer. I don't even know. So deejaying is something I know. I’ve always made music, but it’s different because I have never released music, which is also part of the problem, right?
Yeah, I understand. You said that your debut single has been in the making for four years. Now, it is finally being released. How does that feel?
I've listened to the song for years, like, I don't know how many times. I don't want to say that I’m sick of it because I still enjoy the song, but maybe that’s because there has been a gap where I haven't listened for quite some time. The song is very frantic and has a lot of different pockets, elements and vibes within 6 minutes, which is very reflective of this idea of me having things to prove. I have so many things to prove. And this song is the proof that I can do this, I can do this. I can do half-time. I can do broken-beat stuff. And it's all in that song. So I'm excited, but I can’t lie that I’m also a bit nervous. I’m thinking about the reactions as well: are people going to fuck with it? These are the ideas that sometimes pop into my head. But generally, I'm very happy that it's going to be put out. I'm very curious to hear what other people think of it.
So will the Super-Sonic Jazz Festival be some sort of celebration for you, for releasing this song?
Yeah, during the festival there will be a release party at Rush Hour. That's going to be a big moment for sure. And I would love to see everybody who is on the compilation there because there's this whole generation of talented cats. So it's going to be cool.
I want to talk about that generation you bring up later, but first I was wondering the following. Did you specifically wait for an opportunity like this Super-Sonic Jazz compilation to release this song?
I feel like there's a moment now where I have to strike. So I have some other music that's coming out as well. And I'm working on finishing up some other stuff. I feel like there is momentum. But then at the same time, the momentum is something you create yourself, I guess. Also, an EP is coming. It is in the works, but that's all I can share for now.
That is exciting! I also wanted to talk to you about the Dutch music scene. Seeing your work for Steppin’ and now also as a musician, how do you feel about that scene? What are your thoughts on the current state of it?
So, for the past couple of months, I've been a bit out of it, but that doesn't mean I can’t say anything about it. I think it's exciting. I think with Steppin’ we operate between digital culture, music and nightlife culture and live music. You see this movement on the compilation. You see that with the live performances that we do and with bands and artists that are on the Wicked Wax label now. Yeah, I think it's exciting. I think it's cool. I love to see collaborations like Marcel Vogel and LYMA now. I love to see and hear Bnnyhunna and Junior Appiah as well the TNO jazz things that are happening, who are also doing their thing in London.
I’m proud to be on that compilation with Misto Kay and Shamis. And I'm very excited about the song by Trian Kayhatu. Lucas Benjamin has been chatting about him for years and I finally met him earlier this year when we did the Steppin’ event at the Vondelpark. Trian has already worked together with Kaidi Tatham, Daniel Crawford and Jazzy Jeff. He’s working closely with Kofi the Unknown from Rotterdam, who’s also on the compilation. Trian is legendary and he deserves a song on the compilation as a representative of somebody who has been doing it and still does. It is cool to see some different pockets and elements making up Super-Sonic Jazz and the scene.
I reckon there’s great music on the comp, but unfortunately not balanced in terms of diversity. Hope that the next one will be there tho. It’s something I take into account as well going forward since 'things2proof' is a song that is all dudes.
I was wondering if you expected this movement to get to this point. Does it feel like it's all coming together now?
I don’t think this is the “nuclear moment”. We need more of these moments, but it's good that it's happening. Shout out to Jade and Kees from Super-Sonic Jazz for doing this for the sector and the movement. We need more of these moments! A triple album is very special and to be part of that is an honour.
Does it feel like you're a part of a scene? We know, of course, about the scene in London where it feels like everyone knows each other. They're super tight, they collaborate. Do you feel like something like that is happening?
I speak to quite a few friends of mine who are also making music. I do not participate as much myself, although I would love to do so more often. I'm trying to find a better balance between my relationship with music and having a source of income. So I'd love to do that more. I can't speak for people who are more in the midst of this, like artists like RADIOHOP, JELISA, Phantom Wizard, QUANZA, Michael Ekow, and Tallulah Rose for instance. They all have their respective fields. I think more collaborations are happening than I know of. I'm not fully into music like that, because I also have other interests and a source of income that I make outside of this, you know? Yeah. But again, I would love it. Recently, I realised that I would love to collaborate more with people.
Okay, that's interesting. Is there anything you hope or wish for that will happen here, in Amsterdam or in the Netherlands as a whole, to push this movement forward?
Yeah. We need more jam sessions! And not only for the more skilled musicians to play at. I would never play at such a thing because, again, to bring it full circle, I am not a musician. I'm a producer. I think it’s also good to have a space where we get together weekly or biweekly, just to see each other. And even if you can't be there, you feel that others are getting together there. That is powerful. And to be honest, it might already be happening, but maybe I am not aware of this. During this conversation, the things that you brought up made me realise that I'm operating on an isolated field or an ethnographic field from a Steppin’ point of view. I mean, I'm seeing what is happening, but I'm not always in it. I think Lucas Benjamin is more in there. I am observing and making observations based on that. And then I'm doing my own music in my home studio or at the studio I rent.
And it would be cool if there was a place where we could discuss this shit. There could be a benefit to having a place where we get together weekly and where producers and musicians can share their music and just talk about it with other musicians.
I agree! Unfortunately, we are almost out of time for today. Is there something else you want to share with us?
Thanks for the interview, first of all. And shout out to Super-Sonic for setting this up. And to come back to the point you were saying: it is a milestone to have a triple album! And shout out to everybody on there, from new people to renowned names like Trian. I'm happy and I'm curious about what's going to happen because Super-Sonic is rather big. Even some of my friends who are not really into music know of it now, Right? So, yeah, let's see what will happen.
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