Flint, MI, born, O'Shay Mullins, aka Huey Mnemonic, has been a long-time student of Midwest techno and electro. Influenced during adolescence by late-night radio mixes and his parents' music collection, it was only a matter of time until he tried his hand at production. For his vinyl debut, a 4 tracker on Vanity Press Records, he explores sounds of aquatic funk, breakbeat-infused house, and emotional techno.
Cosmic Incantations: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, are my googling skills trash or is this the first interview you’ve done?
Huey Mnemonic: It’s my first on this end for sure! Thanks again for speaking with me.
CI: I’ll try and keep the tired ass journalist questions to a minimum, so over the course of a few months you signed the EP to Vanity Press, had a few of your songs featured in some amazing mixes, quit your job, any other highlights? That’s quite a bit.
HM: Don’t get me wrong I’m still an artist with a day job, but I did leave my last job because of stress. I’m not nearly established enough to work on music full time (one day though). I’m thankful for all the amazing feedback I’ve gotten from my music being shared in mixes and played in clubs. As for highlights it's all been great to talk with DJ’s/Producers I respect and people new to me.
CI: How did you have time to do anything after working a 12 hour day? Sounds so damn draining.
HM: Trust me I didn’t. I’d have to use my off days to work on anything. Whether 30 minutes or 5 hours, believe me, every minute counts. You wouldn’t believe some of the circumstances some of the tracks have been made in.
CI: I see you sharing everything from footwork, to brit-funk and 90s deep house, did you have a main source that you used to find music? Or were you like a lot of people our age and just picked it up through a combination of music videos, algorithms, records stores, friends and/or family?
HM: My parents and grandparents had a huge musical influence on me as a kid. Everything from underground hip hop, Detroit techno, funk, mainstream rap, house and more. Being a kid of the internet age helped a lot as well. In high school I was listening to a lot of rinse, nts, bbc 1xtra, and more. Talking with friends online, digital digging, movies, and video games helped a lot too.
CI: You’re not only sharing a lot of music, but stuff related to the history and context surrounding it as well. Was there a specific artist, or maybe just a particular type of sound that first got you interested enough to read up?
HM: I’m sure there was, but I can’t remember now. I’ve always been a curious person and I like knowing the lineage of the music I’m listening to. Putting the pieces together and understanding roots, references, and so forth has always been important to me.
CI: One area you’re very vocal about is of course Detroit Techno, can you talk about your first impressions of Drexciya?
HM: I held them in the same regard as I did all the other Detroit pioneers. Honestly, It wasn’t until much later I really grasped how important and iconic their music is.
CI: Did their political themes have much of an impact on you?
HM: In my initial listening not at all. I thought it was a cool concept (music based on being underwater), but just that. Again the importance of it didn’t come until later.
CI: How frustrating is it for you to see parts of the dance music landscape erase the rich history and context behind the music?
HM: I’m not sure if I’m really qualified to answer this question. I’ll try my best though. I think there's a lot at play. How people first come to interact with certain music and whether people are curious enough to do the research on the beginnings of certain genres. Let’s not get it fucked up though. I can’t act like willful ignorance isn’t a huge factor. There’s people who still think Techno originated in Germany for some reason. Its annoying. You literally can search how “blank” music was created and there’s loads of information out there. In short give black people their dues. And book them.
CI: On the plus side, we’ve seen somewhat of a resurgence in Midwest techno, right? Legends like K-Hand, Deeon, Titonton Duvanté, DJ Heather, Paul Johnson just off top seem like they’re being embraced by the younger generation more and more.
HM: I wouldn’t call it a resurgence. The folks named are legends in their own right. Again it goes back to knowing the history (I’m learning new things on the daily too y’all). I’m not saying you have to know every aspect of this music, but maybe some things just seem like you “should” know. Hope that doesn’t sound elitist or something.
CI: Getting back to your artistry, you do visual and graphic design work too, right?
HM: I do! Shameless plug: If you’re reading this and want some work done holler at me hahaha.
CI: No shame at all haha, I really like the artwork for your releases, some of them have a 90s rave sorta hint to them. Did you go to school for design?
HM: Yeah some of them are just silly. Though, the more experimental work on the Mnemonic Labs instagram is based off a concept. Its involves futurism, sciences, and escapism. It makes more sense in my head since I haven’t been able to fully expand on the vision. Far as teachings I’m self taught. I plan on getting a degree in the field one day though.
CI: Are the different areas of art that you’re involved with intertwined with each other? In the sense of, do you listen to music while you’re creating a Mnemonic Labs piece and create a Huey track after taking some inspiration from some graphic design work you did?
HM: OK so funny enough I don’t listen to music when I’m making a graphic. I’m not sure how, but it breaks my concentration. If I do have music playing its either Slum Village, J DIlla beats, or boom bap. So the intertwining of the two hasn’t happened yet. I’ve made album art for my music if that counts haha.
CI: What was your first radio show experience like?
HM: Alright story time. So in 2013 I was living in Nashville and heard the local college radio station playing some really good music. I reached out to the DJ online and he asked me to come in one night. I did and brought 30 mins worth of music to play. He liked what I played and I just kept coming back. I never worked the boards, but he did show me how he did everything to run the show. I had been listening to online for years so I had the radio bug already. A few years later I got my own show at a station here in Michigan.
CI: How about the setup at the station, was it just turntables and a mixer?
HM: It was 1 turntable, 3 cd decks, and the console. Eventually we got a second turntable and I was able to have guests come in and play music for the hour. Really great times.
CI: The comradery involved with having guests or doing back to backs is a lot of fun, would you wanna share any stories from specific nights?
HM: I had some some guests in one night doing a back to back 2 hour session and we had some wine beforehand. Along with a few others in the studio just hanging out. Nothing over the top, but was just a great night in general. I tried to do a funk flex kinda persona that night and I failed miserably hahahaha.
CI: That sounds so good haha, I remember finding a few dead links to some recordings, do you still have the files?
HM: I still have a few of them, but they’re also spread out on the web. I’ll try to centralize them all for people to listen. I didn’t do much talking though. People say I have a radio voice, but most times I was too nervous to talk!
CI: While you were on the air you’d occasionally sneak in an original production here and there, when did you first get into making music?
HM: Around 2009 I think. I was 14 and really wanted to make music. I had a short stint using LSDJ because I found chiptune very interesting. I was using fruity loops for a while before making the switch to ableton. My music didn’t really start to be of substance until 3 or 4 years ago. 11 years of making music and I finally have something to show for it. It comes faster for others, but without sounding cliche, just keep going if you’re really passionate about something. You’ll get good results eventually.
CI: Quick sidebar, what makes a Mnemonic Deejay track vs. a Huey one? All your stuff seems to be engineered for the dance floor.
HM: I think it’s the place or concept I have in mind while I’m writing the song. All the Mnemonic Deejay stuff has warehouse, dark, and sweaty attributes. Everything else seems like my take on the classic detroit and chicago sounds I love so much.
CI: Was Control Mission inspired by a Modul8 rave?
HM: Yeah! Translate (Myles Sergé) was headlining a party the Modul8 crew had in a huge warehouse. I had the main melody of the ‘massive mix’ written, but couldn’t piece together any drums around it. The following week after it just all came together. Grateful for that experience.
CI: Can you tell us more generally about how you tend to get inspiration to start a track?
HM: Depends on my mood, if I have something to say, or if I’m just messing around and something comes together. A big portion of my techniques are happy accidents. Asking myself “what would happen if I did this?” and experimenting. I can’t stress experimenting with sounds enough.
CI: Can we talk about the Midwest for a minute? There are so many creatives around here that don’t get near enough credit, like D. Strange, he’s got some seriously funky, aquatic type stuff.
HM: It’s buzzing. I still say proudly we make the best music and DJ’s (don’t @ me). Even if you live here for a long time and move elsewhere it sticks with you. There’s something about harsh winters, shitty state governmental decisions, and living check to check that brings something out of you. While that's a facetious statement it’s still sort of true lol.
Also D. Strange is a fantastic producer, DJ, and friend. His music, along with plenty of others in the Midwest, reinforces my earlier statement. Big shoutout everyone in the Midwest doing their thing.
CI: What about Black Noi$e? His stuff is all over the place and all so good, from the releases on Vanity Press to his beats for Zelooperz, Earl, etc.
HM: Right! His music is very detailed and exhilarating. I’ve spoken to David about this as well haha.
CI: Alright last Detroit cat I’ll ask you about, what do you admire about Bale Defoe’s music?
HM: Bale actually got on my radar not too long ago! He makes truly feel good music. Moody, washed out, and beautifully hazy rhythms. People like Kyle Hall, Jay Daniel, Wajeed, Galcher Lustwerk, and Stefan Ringer tap into those feelings as well. They go beyond it too. My description of their music is small in a sense because their sounds are so expansive, diverse, and unique. Not trying to sound like I’m lumping them all into one category.
CI: On to your record on Vanity Press though, how did you link up with David?
HM: I think he popped on my radar after I saw Taylor (Flora FM) announce he had a record coming out on Vanity Press. I had known about the label since Black Noi$e’s release, but now I knew who was behind it. This EP coming out was written with the intention of coming out on vanity. To actually see the tracks get signed was a very high moment for me.
CI: One thing that stuck out to me immediately from the snippets was the variety of sounds you’ve got across four tracks, was that a conscious decision for you?
HM: Originally the first two tracks were supposed to be on an EP dedicated to Drexciya and DJ Stingray. At the time I sent demos to David I just sent everything I had and he chose the four he liked most. We worked out how the order of the tracklisting should go and it was done. He gave me some advice on showcasing my range for my debut release and I agreed fully.
CI: You mentioned that when you first heard stuff like Drexciya, you appreciated the concept but didn’t think too much of it at the time. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of these wildly creative, incredibly influential, Black creatives coming from Detroit during the time?
HM: For me it's extremely important as a Black person living in america. Knowing the history of the transatlantic slave trade, understanding the history of my peoples in this country, my personal identity issues, and using this music as an outlet and a form of escapism from inner city pressures.
CI: You’re tapping into so many important subjects that I feel like are more connected than what some might think, would you ever consider a long form lecture or discussion of some sort, if presented with the opportunity?
HM: While I don’t mind speaking and listening in a conversation with friends about these issues, I’d be apprehensive to do it in a different environment. I wasn’t gifted with good public speaking skills. I’m a big proponent of understanding your place in a dialogue. I think that those who are willing to speak on those issues should be well informed. More times than not we see those who are speaking and honestly shouldn’t be.
CI: Wrapping up here, can we expect anything on the horizon for ya as far as releases, gigs, or art in general go?
HM: I have a remix on a Chicago veteran’s release coming out later this year. Very excited about that because it brought a lot out of me. Limited sounds really does spark the imagination. Far as everything else It's all a working process. More music, more everything.
CI: Thanks again for your time!