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NewTracks NewArtist: Mac Summer

NewTracks NewArtist: Mac Summer

Malcolm Welsford is somewhat of a legend in NZ music. His career goes back over 30 years and he has quite simply done it all, from producing records by the likes of Shihad and the Headless Chickens, establishing and co-owning York Street Recording Studio to working as a producer in LA. Not so much known as an artist himself, he has turned his attention to a new solo dnb project under the name Mac Summer, with a track called Hands In Our Tills featuring in NZ On Air Music’s May NewTracks compilation.

What’s your full name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

Stage name: Mac Summer. I’m okay on drums and keyboards.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

I have no formal musical training. Most of my musical experience comes from working around talented musicians.

Any other projects that we might know you from?

Many of the artists I’ve worked with over the years have been featured in NZ Musician. E.g. Shihad, Supergroove, the Feelers, Tadpole, Headless Chickens, Christina Perri, etc. 

I built, designed and owned York Street Studios (sold Dec 1999).

What’s the background to how Mac Summer as a project came to be?

Mac Summer emerged from my love with reggae. While living in LA, I took a break from music production to focus on my own, although at the time I didn’t think I’d be concentrating on drum & bass. Originally, I worked up all the live drum parts I recorded with Brian Frasier-Moore (drummer for Madonna). Since then I’ve delved into the whole drum & bass genre and have only kept a small portion of the live drum tracking. I wanted to create something a little left of centre, and not DJ-orientated but from a more live perspective. The journey had taken many turns, but I now feel I have captured the essence I was always looking for.

The band is: Mac Summer (keyboards), Elise Amato (vocals), Eli Guttenbeil (vocals), Riley Al-Johary (guitar) and MC Wasp.

How has your writing, or music, evolved from your earlier songwriting to now?

Both writing and music have come into their own over the past 18 months. This is mainly because I felt comfortable with how electronic dance music is created and the feedback from fans and radio as to what grabs them. I can’t stress how much honest feedback has helped my writing style and direction.

How did you come up with the name for the project?

That’s a long story and not an easy feat! I wanted something bright with a feel-good quality to it. I always loved the summer and Mac is similar to Mal (my nickname) so I decided Mac and Summer was right for me.

Aside from this release, what’s been the highlight to date?

Within a few weeks of the Hands In Our Tills track being on Soundcloud, a big commercial radio station called CFM in Romania playlisted the song. Since then, I’ve had an incredible response from people all over. Performing at Earth Beat festival was also an awesome experience and well received.

What made Hands In Our Tills stand out for you as a single release?

I enjoy how different and weird the track sounds while remaining melodic. The Europeans class the track as RetroWave – I still don’t know what that is!

What’s the story behind Hands In Our Tills?

That’s a bit of a deep subject, and although the lyrics were written some time ago, they remain current now. The lyrics, especially the verses and bridge, tell a story and confront realities we often choose to ignore. The lyrics will have a different meaning for different people at a time and space in their lives.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

The bridge does it for me. The rap and lyrics from MC Wasp gets me every time!

‘They want us apathetic ‘cos their hand’s in our tills,
Sedate us, medicate us s’why they’re handin’ us pills,
And people gobble ‘em, got ‘em wobblin’ while they’re robbin’ ‘em,
Distracted not watchin’ ‘em proper there’s no stoppin’ ‘em.’

‘Shakes us down it’s systematic we submit to it,
Money make it spin and we in it now commit do it,
Fluid follow the current and don’t be standin’ out,
Every defiant sentence evidence so we stand shout.’

‘Charm ‘n’ disarmin’ ya bring the pain ‘n’ be flamin’ ya,
Take ya to the top just to drop ya in lava,
Like what else could they possibly do they got wealth?
They couldn’t comprehend it made ‘em bleed in their brain.’

What would you like listeners to take away from the song?

I want the audience to be left inspired and to fall in love with the sonic landscapes and meticulously crafted drum & bass. The audience should have a sense that this new music has the power to heal and make you want to groove.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

Being an artist and producer, you get close to the music. You end up with a bunch of tracks that you think could be a good single, but how do you know? The only way to know is through market research and asking fans, ‘What’s the first band that pops into your mind?’ There’s nothing like brutal honesty!

Who else is in your team?

Just me!

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

Many of us over the years have lost friends and family to suicide. To help and offer support, we’re organising a charity event for LifeLine, slated for the end of June at Anthology Lounge on K’ Rd, Auckland.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song?

Was there any NewTracks criteria you struggled with in the application? Got any advice for others out there? 

For a new artist, it’s always thin on the ground when you only have a small fanbase and limited gig exposure. I needed to apply once we had a few gigs under our belt. Even then I was sceptical that it was enough to get me over the line to be accepted. The song is well-produced, sounds great, and has had a lot of traction on the internet. I’m sure that played a big role in getting approved by the panel.

The only advice I have is to keep trying, be patient, and keep a focus on what you do best.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

NZMusician.co.nz!

Acid Stag

Stoney Roads

I always enjoy a Joe Rogan podcast once in a while, especially when Elon is being interviewed.

Any last words?

Thanks for the opportunity to be considered for an article!