We recently caught up with Miles Mortensen, a techno artist that also has a knack for making a mean cup of coffee (that’s actually how we found him – working at C.R.E.A.M. in Shoreditch, our Online Manager’s go-to brunch spot). Originally from Sydney, Miles moved to London in 2013 before starting Ossa di Mare, an experimental duo renowned for creating dark and ethereal sounds. He’s also part of Tales Collective, a group that collaborates across both techno music and art. The collective started out by throwing parties across East London, combining music with art installations to give audiences an interactive, audio-visual experience. Recently, they’ve been focussing their energy on their record label, with the first release set for the end of November.
So, when did you move to London?
I grew up in Sydney and moved in March 2013 to study music – the courses here were more in line with what I wanted and I’d wanted to move to London for a while. I met Frank and we starting writing music together, then later met Ricky and Alessandro. Ricky was actually working at Point Blank after I left, and we ended up starting a label together.
What was studying in London like?
It was great! I got a totally different experience to what I would have in Oz. When I was studying in Australia it pretty much focused on training in a very classical way. A lot of music theory, ear training, recording instruments, which was helpful, but I was more interested in sound design and programming.
Right – what you do is all digital.
Not entirely, I use a combination of hardware synthesizers and software. What I needed to know was how to use these properly, so when a friend told me about Point Blank in London I just thought screw it, I’ll move there. Bye! Saved for six months and then crashed with my best friend who was already living here.
And here we are!
So was that the first time you properly started making music, when you moved to London?
No I started DJing after I saw a friend pick it up because his brother was a DJ when I was about sixteen/seventeen and was super into it. I’d always wanted to make music, but there was never really an instrument that really made me think, “Yeah, I want to play that.” So I started playing around with Ableton [a digital music software] and basically got sucked down the rabbit hole. I’m kind of going in the reverse direction now with production, taking away the computer as much as I can and playing with more hardware gear. Making music with machines or the computer is great because you can do everything – you can do it by yourself or you can do it with ten other people.
Tell me about the others that you make music with.
Well there’s Frank, we write music together as a project is called Ossa di Mare. Then there’s another artist from our collective and label, Tapefeed, we’ll just meet up and have jams. I have various friends, and this doesn’t really happen as often as we like, but when we can we meet up at someone’s house, all bring a piece of gear and just jam for six hours and zone out.
And how did you meet Kit, from working at C.R.E.A.M.?
Kit and I actually met when I used to work at Brick Lane Coffee. She had just moved over and started working there. Brick lane Coffee then shut down and I moved to C.R.E.A.M. and she started working at a cafe called Slate, which was around the corner, before she began work at C.R.E.A.M. She then moved into our house and we brought her into the collective. She was doing a lot of the branding, presenting her art at the parties, and now she does a bit of the artwork for the label. Her stuff is amazing, have never seen anyone really create stuff like it.
So what about the label – what are you releasing? When are you releasing?
We have the first release coming out on the 24th of November. Ossa di Mare has one track on the release, and then Tapefeed has a track, plus remixes by Reggy Van Oers and another duo called I/Y. It’s the first release for our label and it’s been a long time coming! We’re planning another release for January/February 2018.
Wow that’s quite soon, are you going to drop a new release every two months?
That’s the aim. What we eventually want to do is go vinyl-only, but it’s pretty expensive to do and a lot of time! There’s not really money in a record label anymore unless you’re doing the pop charts, and even then they don’t make that much. I remember reading when Pharrell released ‘Happy’ his income from that record was only about $3,000 or something in royalties – all the money comes from live shows and merchandise. No one pays for music anymore, they just illegally download it or stream it. Thing is, with a vinyl record you feel like you’re getting something because it’s tangible, and new records come with digital download codes anyway.
How often do you play shows?
At the moment about once or twice a month, both live performances as well as DJing; it just depends what we get booked for. To make it a full-time job you have to be gigging a lot – even DJs that are pretty big still have a day job as a chef or an architect or whatever. I make sure I only work four days a week so I still have time to focus on the music.
What about producing other artists?
I tried for a while but I can’t write music for other people really! Also in saying that haven’t really worked with too many people because I’ve always been in a more club style focus format. I can mix other artist’s tracks but when it comes to producing a singer, for example, you can often have different visions. Although, I have been working with a singer recently who is amazing – she’s a classically trained opera singer and we improvise with a broken beat, electronic music, and she sings over the top.
So what’s ahead…
The idea is to gig more and build this label really strong. We’re playing a gig on the 8th of December with Apparat and Pantha du Prince at Studio Spaces, which will be a bit different for us. We will be presenting the experimental side to our project with the singer. Then we have another gig for New Years but can’t say much about that at the moment! Think my Mum’s going to come for the first time which will be amazing!
Tales Collective drops their first release on Friday 24th November at https://www.talescollective.co.uk/.