Get to know the 19-year-old underground producer with his explosive new ‘A True Story’ mix
Though aged just 19, Munich-raised, Berlin-based producer/DJ Mechatok’s music has already taken him across the world. Over the past year he’s played shows all across Europe and in South America, but there are two places that he holds particularly strong ties to: Sweden and the UK, the respective homes of the Staycore and Bala Club collectives.
Staycore and Bala Club have made waves for their open-bordered and future-facing sound, whether that’s crafting explosive club tracks or gut-wrenching electronic pop, as well as their young, diverse, and talented roster of musicians. Artists like Dinamarca, Toxe, Ghazal, and mobilegirl (from Staycore) and Kamixlo, Uli K, Sami Baha, and Endgame (from Bala Club) have become vital names to watch in the underground, with Mechatok holding close ties to both crews. Last year he released his stellar See Thru EP with Staycore, while tracks like the sublime “Schemin” with Yung Lean and Uli K litter Bala Club compilations.
The producer’s latest project arrives before his performance at Panorama Bar for Berlin’s CTM Festival next week (February 2). Titled A True Story, it’s an unconventional take on a DJ mix, made up almost entirely of short loops from club bangers to chart hits. It constantly threatens to pop off but never quite resolves, creating a constant sense of tension and momentum, as well as the “melancholic euphoria” (as Mechatok himself puts it) that he’s always striving to achieve in his work.
We spoke to the producer about the mix, his upbringing, and his musical obsessions.
What are your earliest musical memories?
Mechatok: I remember humming along to ‘One More Time’ by Daft Punk when it came on on the radio in my dad’s car. I was like four or five years old. I really loved that song but couldn’t tell who made it or what the lyrics meant.
How’d you get into making music?
Mechatok: I started playing instruments pretty early on, maybe when I was like six. After a while of playing guitar and a bit of piano, i just started getting more and more ambitious. I tried to be active in bands and tried to go for a semi-professional career as classical guitarist. None of these things ever felt fully right though. I especially never really felt comfortable in that academic environment – for me, initially making music on my computer at home was an escape from the pressured fields of music I’d been active in before. Funnily, it took over my life quicker than all those things.
How did you get involved with crews like Staycore and Bala Club?
Mechatok: My friend Mobilegirl got in touch with Staycore online, back when her and me still lived in Munich. Through her, I started talking to Ghazal (who runs Staycore) and got more and more involved. I’d also been making music with Toxe before we found ourselves in the same collective. I met Uli K online as well – he messaged me about making a song together. We found a vibe together relatively quickly and I started going to London to hang out with him and Kami and everyone there.
“I generally have a hard time precisely defining my identity, which is something every second generation immigrant and person with parents of different nationalities has to deal with” – Mechatok
When did you feel you discovered your identity as an artist?
Mechatok: I was really trying out a lot of different things for a while – I experimented with all types of electronic and acoustic music. At some point I started making little MIDI harp compositions on my computer and used them as base for the songs I made. That was the first time I felt like I found a way of expressing myself musically that’s fully honest and that’s in line with all my influences. That doesn’t really pin down my artistic identity though.
I generally have a hard time precisely defining my identity, which is something every second generation immigrant and person with parents of different nationalities has to deal with. Whenever I would be categorized, as human being and also as a musician, it immediately felt wrong, even if I came up with the category myself. The music I make and its development reflects that. That search for identity itself is probably one of the biggest inspirations and keeps me ambitious.
Over the past year or so you’ve been able to take your music outside of Germany and around the world. How has travelling – especially at a relatively young age – impacted your approach to music?
Mechatok: I’m grateful that I got to travel this much at my age already. Seeing how music and any kind of art and culture is being made and consumed in different places – especially outside of the western part of the world – really made me rethink all the aesthetic ideals I had. I would always be questioning them, since there’s already access to content from everywhere online. Actually going somewhere else and fully experiencing the alternatives really takes the awareness and respect to another level though. I think it’s especially good if you’re young, so you get to learn before you slowly start solidifying dusty aesthetic ideals.
You operate within a pretty tight-knit community alongside members of crews like Staycore and Bala Club. Does that closeness affect the way you make or play music?
Mechatok: Not necessarily. We play each other our music all the time, collaborate, and keep track of how everyone’s developing in life and music, but I feel like everyone still chooses to go their own path. I’m sure there’s a lot of subconscious mutual influencing, but especially with a structure like that it’s really important to give each other the respect and space that’s necessary to evolve freely.
“I’m always looking for that weird feeling of happiness and sadness at the same time, something like melancholic euphoria. It’s the most intense and rare feeling to me” – Mechatok
Can you tell us more about the A True Story mix?
Mechatok: I wanted to make something that you could call a ‘mix’, but that has a way more immediate effect than a long series of songs that are blended into each other. The idea was to extract a specific part out of every song, present it really quickly as loop, and then move on to the next one. I liked the way it leaves you unsatisfied and keeps a constant tension up.
What’s inspiring you most right now?
Mechatok: I’m always looking for that weird feeling of happiness and sadness at the same time, something like melancholic euphoria. It’s the most intense and rare feeling to me and whenever I find something that triggers it, I need to analyze it and try to understand why it has that effect on me. I’m obsessed with DJ Mustard, for instance – he always manages to hit that sweet spot inside my brain.
What have you got coming up in future?
Mechatok: There’s going to be a couple of more shows to play and I got to work with some of my favorite artists, so there’s probably going to be a couple of collaborations coming out. I also just started working on new music for the follow up to my last EP, which I’d love to release at some point this year.
Photography and art direction by Curtly Thomas