Having worked with Throne Room Records on their first ever release (‘Birth’ VA), Birmingham-based Alastair Mallin, or then better known as ‘Ali Emm’, is an artist that we as a label have kept a close eye on. A natural talent for music production, his ‘sound’ at the time was closer to the Deep House sub-genres now commonly referred to ‘Bass House’ or ‘Future House’. With his original tracks and remixes receiving play counts beyond 100k across SoundCloud and YouTube, his appeal to a new label looking for exposure was obvious.
Admittedly, this sub-genre was not a route we planned for initially, but we could clearly recognise a musical talent, albeit not fully to our outlined taste. In the interest of ‘talent’ over ‘taste’ we progressed with Ali Emm and were rewarded with what we still believe is fantastic remix (below). 10k plays on a labels first release is something many small labels only dream of, so in this respect we are eternally grateful for Ali Emm in helping us get the real kick we needed.
Following this release, the Future/Bass House genres began to thrive due to their commercial popularity; there was suddenly an influx of ‘house’ remixes finding their way onto commercial radio stations. Ali Emm took advantage of this, producing remixes and bootlegs of commercial songs, and thus reaping the rewards by featuring regularly on large YouTube music channels such as ‘MrDeepSense’ (700k+ Subscribers) and ‘Deeprot’ (150k+ Subscribers).
What happened next really caught Throne Room’s attention. Ali Emm changed. After achieving extremely impressive success for such a young producer, Alastair looked to leave his commercial roots behind and start a new phase of his career.
Many producers at this point would look to slowly transition their style, therefore keeping a hold of all the fans you work so hard to obtain. ‘Mallin’ however, was a fresh start, a clean slate. You could argue it was a clean slate with the added bonuses of a social media presence, but, a large proportion of that following were only there for the commercial remixes, thus useless for this new project. He needed to start again.
Mallin kicked things off with a bang, a statement original track outlining the style this alias would pursue, shortly followed by a remix of the iconic ‘Music Is The Answer’ by Danny Tenaglia (below).
Just like that, it was as if Ali Emm never existed, Mallin was already achieving the same level of play counts as before, but now in the genre he really wanted to be in. To be able to move so smoothly into a complete new genre is evidence to his raw talent, and surely a sign of big things to come. Though humble in his achievements, Mallin is the result of more than simple talent, it is also the result of hard work. No gimmicks, no arrogance, no ‘paid for’ success. Whether it is in the studio or managing his brand, there is no cutting corners, just dedicated effort, and no doubt the sacrifice of any kind of personal life.
It was a pleasure to sit and chat with Mallin, and try de-code his success…
We will start with the big question. What was the decider, what made you look for the total re-brand to Mallin?
I always knew that I preferred the underground house & techno sounds compared to the commercial style I used to associate myself with. At first I started Mallin up alongside my Ali Emm alias to see if I could keep the both of them up, however after I’d started making material for my Mallin page I knew that the commercial sounds weren’t for me anymore. Once my Ali Emm SoundCloud page got banned for copyright (due to the remixes I’d uploaded) I actually felt relieved that I could just carry on with all my focus on Mallin without having to juggle between the two sounds.
Would you ever consider releasing again under Ali Emm?
I could never rule out the idea of releasing under Ali Emm again, but I have no intentions of going back to that style of music. I engineer tracks for quite a few people, and the style of tracks they commission me to do is usually along the same lines as my old stuff, so in a way it keeps me satisfied that I haven’t completely left that style behind.
What was the favourite track you made before the re-brand?
It’s hard to filter down to just one track as I had made so many. I’d say my top 3 favourite tracks have to be the Duke Dumont – Ocean Drive bootleg because of the happy uplifting vibes throughout, the Nathan Jassi – Indian Summer remix because of the techno synth parts and this release also introduced me to the other tracks on the Throne Room VA compilation which would later influence me in my Mallin works. My third favourite would be the Qbeck – Like A Dream remix, this is because it was not anything like my earlier commercial stuff and was my first attempt at delving into the more underground house realm. This last track didn’t do as well as my other tracks as I didn’t really have the correct audience for the style I went for.
Did anyone try to tell you not to proceed with the change?
Nobody tried to tell me not to proceed with the change as people were happy for me for actually going through with a re-brand, however once I’d announced that I would no longer be carrying on with any Ali Emm material quite a few people were disappointed as they loved each track I bought out. Before I’d even considered creating the new Mallin alias my good friend and fellow DJ/Producer (Ryan Nicholls) was actually the one planting the idea in my mind to try and re-brand as he knew I wasn’t feeling the commercial scene anymore and knew I could put my production skills into a genre that I actually enjoyed, so big thanks to him for that little push out the door really.
Does the odd Ali Emm track ever still find its way into your live sets as Mallin?
The only Ali Emm track that I have integrated into my live sets as Mallin is the Qbeck – Like A Dream remix as this was a similar vibe to the material I release as Mallin now. It works as a great set opener as it’s got quite a quirky vibe to it.
How are you finding life now as Mallin?
I am loving life as Mallin now as I’m producing and playing music that I genuinely have a passion for. Nothing can beat the feeling of people loving the music you make for yourself, rather than music you’re making specifically for people to like. I’m finding that I connect with crowds more during my live sets whereas I struggled to create such a big atmosphere when I was performing as Ali Emm. This could be down to the fact that I wasn’t loving the music I was playing in the first place, so how could I expect my crowd to love it if I wasn’t either?
What is next for Mallin? Anything big we can look forward to in the next year?
I have some big plans for the year ahead. Having recently finished up my debut EP I’m currently trying to find it the correct home. The EP will be entitled ‘Downtown EP’ and will feature two tracks. Both tracks feature my unique style and definitely showcase what Mallin is all about. I will also look to have a remixer involved, but that won’t be decided until I find a suitable label for it. The follow up EP is currently in the works and I am aiming to have three tracks on that EP, with maybe two additional remixes.
The gains you have achieved on music platforms and social media is amazing in such a short space of time. What is the trick to your success?
I’ve found that the key to getting yourself out there is to promote yourself all the time. Whether this is by posting up video snippets of the tracks you are working on or just writing statuses/tweets so that people can see you in their timeline all the time. However, you don’t want to come across as annoying or too full on. Another key aspect of my music platform / social media gains was to release my edits of popular underground tracks and use download gates. This is how I managed to build up such a large following under Ali Emm, but without the cheesy/commercial side of things.
Under either name, are there any stand out gigs you can tell us about?
A stand out gig for me as Mallin was without a doubt my most recent gig ‘Colours Warehouse Party’ at The Rainbow Venues on Saturday 19th August. I was a support for Idris Elba & Low Steppa in the main room for this event, and I was given the task of closing the warehouse down. My set time was 5-6am, and as I had the room passed to me at 5am there were around 10 people left in the warehouse. I didn’t let this get to me, and within 10 minutes of my set the warehouse was full with around 500 people. I managed to keep the dance floor full right up until the lights came on. This definitely gave me a lot of confidence in myself and my own music as I managed to fit in around 5 of my own tracks in this set, and really made me realise that I had made the right decision to re-brand. At the end of the set I had loads of people approach me congratulating me and asking me for my social media/SoundCloud handles.
Having produced in different genres, under different names, and succeeded with both… Do you have any advice for the young producers out there looking for direction?
My advice to any young producers out there is to produce what YOU love. Don’t make music to please anyone else or to impress anyone else. Once you start to make music for yourself you will start to discover your own sounds and styles, and the love you put into the music you make will definitely shine through.
Any artists that you still look up to?
I have a lot of artists that I still look up to, but one of the local lads that I am happy to see do so well is Josh Gregg. He has his own completely unique sound and his production techniques are up there with the big players in the scene, he is definitely one to watch over the coming months and has started to receive plays from the likes of Marco Carola, Kerri Chandler & Tommy Vercetti to name a few. One of my first official remixes as Ali Emm was actually one of Josh’s tracks ‘Dark Room Perfume’ over 3 years ago. One day I hope to be able to be included in a remix package for another of his tracks under this new Mallin alias.
A refreshingly humble talent. Keep a close eye on this one.