Not many dance music artists had such an unusual career path, stretching from being a kid TV star to Tiesto’s touring violinist to pop chart hitmaker to guerrilla party organiser to one of the most productive and collaborative producers of the lowlands. Mason does it all, becoming one of the true gems of the European electronic music scene. His latest album, ‘Chroma Panorama’, is available now: https://snd.click/MEOW016.
This guy has created chart-topping records, music for Dior and Hugo Boss and countless underground bangers. Whether laying down sweaty club DJ sets around the world or touring his live ‘Mason & The Masonettes’ show, this musical polymath is always shifting colours and blurring boundaries. In short, Mason is always keeping things interesting for himself and his audience.
Now, on the release of his long-awaited fourth studio album, we catch up with Animal Language frontman Mason for an immersive chat about his latest work, the role of fans vs streams, harnessing creativity and much more…
Hey Mason, thanks for joining us. Please tell us about your musical journey and what led you to this point.
Ooophh, that’s been a really random chain of events. I started off as a kid singer on TV at about six years old. So, in those years, I hung out in recording studios a lot and loved staring at those giant SSL mixing consoles and tape reels. Kinda knew from that day on I wanted to work in music studios. I also studied violin till my mid-twenties. At some point, I joined Tiësto on his world tour and became his regular warm-up DJ. Then there was a phase around the release of Exceeder, a record of mine that really took off and sent me on world tours on my own for many years. And now I feel I’m in a phase where I’m very productive in the studio, writing for my own Mason project as well as some pop artists and whatnot. My focus is on just being able to create whatever I wanna make in the studio and have fun in the process – as long as I can do that full-time, I don’t need to be the biggest DJ in the world or own a private jet with my logo on it…
You’ve just released your fourth album on your Animal Language label. What can you tell us about “Chroma Panorama”?
I know releasing albums in dance music is against the sign of the times with playlists and a very single-driven market. But it gives me a platform to express myself in all sorts of styles and tempos, which I really enjoy. It’s been a massive labour of love working on this, and I had the pleasure of collaborating on the album with Dragonette, Jack Garratt, House Gospel Choir, Sophie Barker (Zero7), Sweetie Irie (Gorillaz), and so many others. Also, about a dozen musicians I dragged into the studio. It’s out now on my Animal Language label.
How does this LP differ from previous ones, and what does it say about your future musical direction?
I’ve released so much dance floor-focused music over the years, and at the moment, it feels good to focus on writing songs in the indie dance / electronic music realm. I’m writing more and more music for pop artists, so this feels like a logical progression, and an album is a great outlet for that. However, I’ve been a DJ for almost three decades now, so my heart is always on dance floors, too. But hey, you don’t wanna go to the same restaurant each day, right? I have done this every single day for decades, so I like a bit of variety.
Were all the tracks made with an album in mind, or did it come together naturally?
Rather naturally. I tend to travel a lot and do studio sessions with all sorts of people over the years. So you organically end up with so much music. Much more than you can release, really. People hear the 13 tracks that make it onto an album, but there are maybe 50 tracks and collaborations that don’t make it onto the shortlist. After I’m dead, my kids can decide what they do with all those hundreds of hours of dance music 😉
Talk us through your creative process.
I make a lot. I think it’s important to keep creating and train creativity like a muscle. So there are always shitloads of ideas flying around in all sorts of genres, driving my manager nuts. The good thing is when I do recording sessions with vocalists; there are always plenty of demos to start writing on and get going.
How do you maintain and nurture your creativity?
The key is not to get stuck in one way of working so you don’t repeat yourself. It’s easy to get into a loop and become lazy in your creative choices or play safe, making what people expect of you. One way is to start working on tracks from different entry points. A synth. A Song. Sampling something. A trigger pad. A Guitar. When I start on a track, I just see where it takes me without a plan in advance. So I also end up with a wide variety of music and just release what I feel is good or fresh sounding, not the smartest move to release in my career path. The stubborn bastard I am. I suppose at the end of the day, you stay inspired if you don’t try to copy others, making the ‘sound of today’, but create what feels good for you.
Streams vs fans, what one is more important and why?
In the end, there’s nothing more than the connection between an artist and his/her fan community. The rest (industry partners, shows, streams, money, blue M&M’s) will all come if that connection is good.
Amsterdam is one of the world’s most beloved electronic music hubs. What makes it so unique?
I think The Netherlands was quite early internationally to fully embrace dance music and set up a pretty good ecosystem of agents, managers, labels, promoters and whatnot. It was easier to make a healthy infrastructure here than in some other countries. As everything is around the corner in such a small size country (I ran from Amsterdam to the German border last summer – it’s that small)
Lastly, what can we expect from you for the rest of 2023 and into 2024?
I’m working on all sorts of new music bits for the next year – a few very dancefloor-focused things after this album. There will also be a bundle of plugins I made. More shows and tours. More fun. More, more – and then sum.
Mason’s ‘Chroma Panorama’ is available to download/stream now via Animal Language: https://snd.click/MEOW016.
You can catch Mason at his album launch party at Ministry of Sound London on November 17th. Tickets are available here: www.ministryofsound.com.