INTERVIEW: Mali-I & Natty Wylah - 'This Place' Q&A

After coming across 'This Place' on Bandcamp last week I immediately sent Mali-I and Natty Wylah a message because it is one of the freshest sounds from the reggae scene I have heard in a while. Since then I arranged an interview with them, and put my car speakers to the test. This has instantly become a favourite for us to plug in and just drive.

Mali-I

Hey, first and foremost, I’m interested to hear your introduction to reggae and dub music, if you wouldn’t mind sharing?


Mali-I:

My introduction to reggae was travelling 6 hours and back from London to mid-Wales throughout my childhood holidays listening to almost exclusively roots reggae and dub. When I was a teenager, my older brother’s Godfather introduced us to Rhythm & Sound, which changed the script for me. I was aware of ‘dub techno’ via the echocord and echospace [detroit] labels, but had no idea there was similar aesthetic going on years before! The same brother went to Leeds University to study Iration Steppas, and on the side read some books about philosophy. I ended up visiting when I was 18 and that was my first proper ‘sound system’ experience - good times!


Natty Wylah

Natty:

I think probably as a sperm, pre-fetus, I was exposed to the reggae vibrations - my pops has always had it on obsessively loud, the likes of all things Studio one, Treasure Isle, Randy’s, Matador, King Tubby but most importantly Upsetter sounds. It’s really Lee Scratch that had gained top spot within the household growing up, Perry was a true pioneer. I’m really glad to share the same love for reggae music, which has become a great source of father-son bonding: every now and then we call each other up like, ah man, what’s that tune that goes like this… and sharing new discoveries… It’s just so mad that one island could produce SO MUCH phenomenal music, even if you were to choose just from ‘67-’70 you would struggle in this lifetime to unearth even just a portion of what lays waiting for hungry ear drums.


In Session has a range of reggae style tracks on the album, particularly with Lovers Rock and Dub. Please tell us where you took influences for the album from.


Mali-I:

In Session’ for me has been all about embracing the natural variety within dub reggae. I write a lot of electronic music and in many styles and genres, but ‘In Session’ was about searching for the best reggae ideas within my musical diary, and transforming them with traditional dub techniques. I take much inspiration for this record from lesser known electronic music producers that have a wide variety of genre output: Big Bud, Gaudi, St Germain, Phaeleh, Radiq to name a few alongside dub innovators such as Lee Perry, Wackies, Roots Radics, and UK Roots energy from Alpha & Omega, Manasseh, Prince Fatty and of course hitting up The Channel One Sound System dance whenever possible.


The second single from the album ‘This Place’ has such a fresh approach to dub. Was it your intention to produce a style more unique to the contemporary styles of reggae?


Mali-I:

‘This Place’ emerged from an old sketch I did trying to combine elements of House music and Dub, but with exclusively no skank pattern or ‘Jamaican guy talking’ samples. Experimenting with fusing styles and genres has always been part of my ethos as a producer, and ultimately where I find a lot of my own inspiration. I’m so happy it’s finding a receptive audience!


Natty:

It’s a strange time we’re living through - because of the internet, styles and scenes don’t have the time to incubate to allow them to grow in the same way as before. However I think it means we are exposed to ten fold the amount of influence, so it allows a huge palette in which to draw from which it seems now it’s a case of which genres have been fused multiplied by what are they trying to express so we’re left with sum of a much more complex output of sonics… not to say that any is better or worse. We just have a lot to choose from these days!


Was the project built mainly digitally or did you work with other musicians in a studio.


Mali-I:

I run Biodiversity Studios (formerly known as Rhythm Section Studio), which acted as the primary space for collaboration. We tracked my band there (Monzanto Sound), recorded vocals, and worked the mix and dubbing live on a mixing desk.


I think it’s important to add that a few songs are essentially dub remixes of other tunes I produced from 2019-2021, with the natural songwriting process already had time to gestate and mature. Strangely though, none of these songs have ended up being released first in their original form! Finally, working remotely was vital where vocalists couldn’t come to the studio for distance/health reasons.


Do you intend to tour with the album, and can we expect any sound systems to be playing a song from the album?

Mali-I with the backdrop of London

Mali-I:

Mali-I tour is on my bucket list, let’s see what happens! I’m doing an album launch with a Mad Professor style Live PA on mixing desk and live vocals @ Avalon Cafe, London on 5th May. Otherwise remind your local record store/soundsystem about this upcoming dub producer from London called Mali-I!


Natty:

Inshallah.


Bandcamp - 'This Place' is available for pre-order now on the 'In Session' LP. The limited edition 12" vinyl of Mali-I's In Session LP, is limited to a run of 300 and ships out on or around April 29, 2022.


Photos of Mali-I by Daniel Adhami

Photos of Natty Wylah by Alex Galloway