Daniel Martin-McCormick has found a number of ways to musically express himself. Growing up in Washington DC, Daniel was involved in the city’s hardcore scene, most prominently as a member of Dischord Records-signed Black Eyes. As Ital, he started spending his spare time fooling around with dance music inspired tracks that clearly came from different angles than your average laptop performer, eventually leading to two albums with Planet Mu. His diverse musical preferences gave birth to side projects such as Sex Worker and Thrill Jockey-signed duo Mi Ami, which, for him, all represent the same approach to music in different guises. We asked the man of many guises which cherished wax he’d risk the flames for...
It was the first record I learned to DJ on.
Your house is on fire, you only have time to rescue one record. Which one would that be?
Man, that’s a tough one. But I figure since everything is digital now, the best records to save are either really weird old ones or records that you DJ a lot. Probably Armando Gallop’s “Don’t Take It”, which I have on vinyl – even though my copy is all scratched up and has skips in it. I still want to have that record, it’s my favourite lyrics ever written. The lyrics are by this woman, Sharvette – she starts off like, a little acid track, she’s like, “I’m here to bring a message to the ladies.” And it’s all about how in the 80s, women are taking over the world. And she says, “We’re taking over elected offices,” or something like that, taking over all the men’s jobs, getting education. She’s naming all these things and it goes down in flames at the end; the acid is like going out of control, like prew pam pam pam, going crazy, and she’s like, “Just remember, a strong mind will get you anywhere, you are born alone and you can die alone.” It’s insane. And as the house is going down in flames, I think I would save the acid going down in flames, Armando and Sharvette, “Don’t Take It.”
Do you remember where you bought it?
I heard about it from a friend, and whenever he was DJing, I was always like, “This is truly insane.” I think it’s on that label Let’s Pet Puppies, which I think is Marcus Mixx’s. So, I just picked it up at this old drum’n’bass shop in San Francisco that was called Tweekin’ Records, and it’s funny because it’s on the street where these people would do speed and be all fucked up. But it was this shitty little basement, they mostly had progressive house and all tons of stuff I did not care to browse through, but they had a new copy of that sitting right there on the shelf. I was broke as shit, it was 2008 and I was 24 and I was like working at a data entry job two days a week and occasionally doing sound at this one shitty club. I had no money and I was really not sure if I should spend ten bucks on that record, and I was like, “You know, I’m going to save up ten dollars and buy it. I’m going to own it!” I remember I would go to clubs and I wouldn’t even drink because I was like, “I can only afford the price of entry.” But I had to have this one.
It’s really dark, but she’s just like chilling on top.
It was the first record I learned to DJ on. Because it starts off with a 707 kick and it’s just super thwappy, you can not miss it in any mix, it doesn’t matter what’s going on. So, I remember I just bought two record players a couple of years later and I was like, it’s time to DJ, I need to learn. So, I had the MP3 of “Goodbye Horses” [Q Lazzarus] and that. And I was like, “These really seem they have the same tempo, and I think they are both like 120,” or something like that. So, I just played the MP3, and for an hour it was like, “Hang on, I’m going to get there,” and I did a mix, and then, “Okay, I can do it.” I’ve got a lot of special memories associated with that one.
That one is really pure, it’s just like a bassline, vocals and drums. There’s no pads, there’s no strings, there’s no lead, no melody. It’s just like a 303 pattern and heavy jacking drums and her performance remains very blasé. The lyrics are dual, like feminist empowerment slash nihilistic. Instead of the world, she’s outlining a severe dog eat dog, woman eat man, person against person, everybody for themselves world, and you get to the top and what is it going to be like when you get there – it’s going to be like shit. It’s really dark, but she’s just like chilling on top. I heard she was in the next room in a shower, not with the water on, but to use it as a fake vocal booth, that’s one story I heard, and [she] couldn’t even hear the music, maybe. I don’t know, there’s a lot of legends that surround it. But I just thought this was a really pure jam, like super catchy but really harsh conceptually, and then like, it’s a lot of acid.
I was in Berghain the other night and you hear this same kind of thing, and it can be very formulaic, and this one, it’s like hearing the Rolling Stones for the first time or Zeppelin for the first time. It’s a very pure, clear vision of this one style and I haven’t heard any other acid track that’s better. There’s other great ones too, but this one is my favourite.
What other music were you listening at the time you discovered that record?
Some house, some disco, some techno and I was going to noise shows too. And punk shows, I was working at the bar. Like I said, doing sound, so I was all sorts of bullshit like that. But I think my favourite stuff from that era was like disco, Omar S and then, there’s this band, Blue Sabbath Black Cheer. I remember seeing them, that totally blew my mind. It was like black noise, kind of harsh ambient, black metal sound noise – they were pretty insane because it was a couple of noise dudes and one girl who looked like she was a party girl hanging out on keys, and I was like, “What is going on with this crew?” A lot of world music too, free jazz.
Did the Armando record have an impact on your music?
It’s easy to see divisions between genres and see how dance music is different from rock music which is different from blah blah blah. It’s easy to draw lines, but it’s really exciting when you hear something that sort of achieves things that you look for in any genre, across genres.
I feel like a lot of what I want to do in music has to do with a sort of nauseated feeling.
I felt like it’s a shitty cliche to say that something is like jazz, because usually people then they say, “It’s like jazz,” they mean it’s good, it’s smart, it’s not stupid. And I feel that’s a really condescending attitude, but if you think about a free jazz blow out… My favourite free jazz stuff is stuff like Roscoe Mitchell where it’s in a groove and going and going, and you’re like, “What the fuck is going on?” Or where it’s holding this crazy pattern and you’re like, “Oh my god, we’re in this tunnel,” and then Armando on that track, and Marcus Mixx’s tracks too, you’re in this tunnel and you just want to grab your head and be like, “Holy shit!”
You want to dance, you want to headbang, and that kind of makes me throw up, you know. I feel like a lot of what I want to do in music has to do with a sort of nauseated feeling, like cultural revulsion or something like that. Both, we want to live our life and want to be free, but also like there’s so much revulsion and bitterness and anger in the world and in your own self, you feel these forces and stuff. So, I feel Armando’s track, it’s such a jamming track, you want to lose your mind, but at the same time it feels like it’s melting and throwing up. The lyrics are so dark, it’s perfect. It was awesome to see, I felt like maybe this music could exist but hearing that, he already beat me to the punch 20 years before, it’s great, yeah.