Dan Mitchell / Island Of The Gods / Interview
Where are you from?
Originally I’m from Newcastle, which is a lovely cold city in the North East of England for those that don’t know of it.
Where are you based?
At the moment I`m based in Bali, Indonesia, and its surrounding islands.
What made you start?
I started the label (Island Of The Gods) as a natural progression from what I was doing before at LN-CC, London. I cofounded LN-CC in 2010, doing the art direction, men’s buying, product design and the music direction amongst many other things. At the start of 2014 I decided to jump ship. I hadn’t really been getting much fulfillment from what I was doing at LN-CC anymore and my heart just wasn’t in it. The rapid growth that we had experienced had brought about too many complications and problems within the business. For me personally the whole thing didn’t feel like an organic expression towards the end, and it was eventually sold. So along with my wife and my newly born son, we decided to pack up and move to Bali. We had been talking about the move for the past 5 years, and breaking away from LN-CC facilitated the move. The simple lifestyle of sunshine, ocean, surf, great food, and general good clean simple living, living in a rice field, is definitely the way I need to live my life at the moment. I’m feeling super inspired and excited at what the future holds.
Bali is a super magical and spiritual place. The Islands of Indonesia are rich in culture, and heavily based around music, which is deeply embedded in every day life. Even though some areas in Bali are now swamped with tourists, it`s really kept up its ancient traditions, rituals and tribe like qualities, which in this day and age is very rare and beautiful to see and be apart of.
I’ve been very fascinated for a long time with Gamelan and Gong. The first time I visited Indonesia 8 years ago I remember listening to gamelan players, many of whom were 80 years old plus, and I was fascinated. There are elements of it that can put you into a trance-like state with the hypnotic rhythms, and the magical sounds. It is the sound and soul of exotic Bali life. The sound is beautiful and moves around through intensity but also subtly to chaotically and everything in between. They play in groups with several variations of the gong instrument. Listening to the individual players it gave me lots of ideas of using sections of what they were doing and fusing it into our style of making music. Also the attraction of working with these amazing unknown, unrecognized musicians who had been playing in their village gamelan group for 60 years, and putting them on a record to be sold all over the world seemed like a great thing to do. This essentially is what made me want to start the label, to fuse the old world with the new and see what comes out of it. Many of the musician’s I’m recording at the moment have been playing for 60 odd years and tell me stories of their great grandfather and how they used to play. They play for the gods.
I`m also very interested in Gong for its deep healing properties. Its super powerful, and its ancient history is very interesting. It is such an immense force of powerful deep sound. The Gong is one of man’s most powerful and oldest transformational and therapeutic instruments. The Magic happens when there is no separation between the gong, the player and the listener. Playing and listening to gongs is about spiritual, physical and emotional resolution, this opens doors to the Universe, moving around energies to enter a spiritual dimension. The Gong is a psycho-acoustic gateway to heightened states of awareness and consciousness. I highly recommend submersing yourself in Gongs that have been tuned to the frequencies of the planets. It raises your vibrations and can re-balance any distortion within the body. Distortions and vibrational imbalance brought on by the stresses of modern life open the gateway to disease and un-wellness in the body. There’s a great Gong Master in London named Mark Swan. I`ve been to his sessions over the past couple of years in London, and I highly recommend it. It’s such a beautiful experience.
What was your background before LN-CC?
Before LN-CC I was working for a retailer named Oki-Ni. I worked there as a menswear buyer and I launched their music section. I have also been hosting underground parties in London since around 2006, one of which was Bad Passion. I took a back seat from Bad Passion a couple of years back as LN-CC kind of took over my life, and promoting parties was impossible for me. Bad Passion is still going strong, run by brothers Chris Stoker and Andy Bainbridge.
What were you doing before OK-Ni? How did you get interested in fashion, and music?
I have always been into music and wearing clothes since I was a kid. I pretty much spent my youth skateboarding, and I used to roll with other skaters who were 10 – 15 years older than me. So I`d find out about stuff way ahead of my time through these older guys. Then around 11 years ago when I was 17 I started playing records in some bars and clubs around Newcastle, and at the same time I was also heavily into clothing and working in a fashion store. I really got into the Belgium designers known as the Antwerp Six ( Maison Martin Margiela, Raf Simons, Dries Van Noten, Ann Demuelemeester, etc.) and some of the Japanese brands like Comme Des Garcons and Junya. Although I have always considered myself more a lover of ‘good product’ than a lover of ‘fashion’. I`ve never been into the fashion industry at all.
I eventually moved down to London when I was around 21, working in the London branch of the store, and within six months I had worked my way up from the shop floor into a buying role. That international buying experience at such a young age led to me being offered a job at Oki-Ni. At Oki-Ni I was given the creative freedom to do what I wanted, hence I brought in the music angle and brought in and backed a lot of unknown young brands, that have since gone on to do very well on a global scale.
How did LN-CC get started?
LN-CC was the brainchild of John Skelton and myself. We launched in 2010 after we left Oki-Ni. We were becoming increasing bored of retail on a worldwide scale. It didn’t feel like anyone was doing anything interesting and the whole store experience was so formulaic. We set out to create a unique experience and move retail forward, housing all our passions in a unique space covering, clothing, music, books as well as a private bar and a club. The store design was approached more as an exhibition space than a traditional shop fit. We got our hands on an unused boxing gym in Dalston, East London and built the store within it, transforming one large open space into a series of spaces all with completely different feelings. And of course we had a bar, and a private club space with very nice sound, courtesy of Mickey Boyle who worked tirelessly on the LN-CC system.
What makes you continue?
The constant need to create. I can`t rest unless I`m working on a project that really means something to me, that hopefully has a positive impact on others. And also connecting with interesting people along the way in whatever I`m doing.
How would you describe your sound?
The sound of the label as mentioned is fusing the old world sounds and players of Bali and Indonesia with our modern output. It’s the sound of living on the island for me. I have invited some of the music making family in London, and Europe to the island on a recording trip. Recording gamelan, gong, bamboo instruments, chants, shamans, animals, jungles, volcano’s and general sounds from all over the island. Those recordings are then taken back to that particular artists studio in Europe, the states or wherever, and act as the base for an LP or a piece of music to be released on Island of The Gods. I`m doing a series of these LPs which I`m super exited about, people making music from the experience of being on the island, their interpretation of Bali through a beautiful LP.
Where is your favourite place to play / party / other?
At the moment it`s a spot in a place called Canggu in Bali. There’s a small private hut-like unit in a rice field and there’s been a couple of amazing parties thrown there. Playing records in a rice field while the sun rises is pretty spectacular. Other than that I`d say the live improvised jam sessions that we started doing at LN-CC. We sit around in a circle on the floor and jam, and the audience who stand around the circle are all given percussion or instruments and they get are encouraged to get involved. Usually these nights were fuelled by the magic of the agave plant, Mezcal. So these sessions would go to interesting places. Spirt Bear Mezcal ensemble. These were all recorded, one of which got released on LN-CC recordings. There are still a couple of recordings in the archive, which may one day see the light of day.
What are you most proud of?
My son, Isa, and my family first and foremost. My wife is Indonesian, so that is the connection to Bali for me. From a work perspective I`d say what we achieved at LN-CC. Housing all our passions in an exhibition style store space, covering clothing, records, books, a bar.. and a club with a fantastic sound system. It was our little thing and the world really picked up on it. The shop was voted number one store in the world twice, nominated for the Design Museums ‘Design of the Year’ award among other things. It was a great time and I leaned a lot through that experience.
Who are you working with?
For the first release I’m working with ZSOU, the single ‘Admiral Byrd’, features beautiful vocals from spiritual Javanese Sinden singer Endah Laras, recorded in the jungles of Java. I also have a number of other artists, which I shall reveal closer to the time. Some of whom I have worked with at LN-CC recordings, which is a bit of a clue.
What are your plans for 2014?
To enjoy life as much as possible with my family, learn to speak Indonesian, drink a lot of fresh coconuts, and grow as much fruit and veg as possible in my garden…. and release some nice music on Island Of The Gods! The IOTG imprint will morph into a space / venue very soon, which I can only describe as a refined version of LN-CC, based more around the sunshine and island life. More on that later in the year!