I MET MITTA ON AN UNSEASONABLY STEAMY OCTOBER AFTERNOON, AT A CERTAIN CAFE ON BEAUMONT ST WITH GOOD COFFEE. I WAS LATE. IF YOU'RE READING THIS, I'M SORRY I WAS LATE MITTA. ANYWAY, MR. NORATH IS AN ACCOMPLISHED DRUMMER, RECORD PRODUCER, AND NOW THE VERY PROUD OWNER OF A BROKEN HAND. "TOMFOOLERY" HE SAYS, AS HE REJECTS MY MOTION FOR A HI-FIVE.
MOVING ON QUICKLY, I PULL OUT MY CHAIR AND SIT DOWN.
So this year has been massive for you Mitta with your work with Staunch, Eat Your Heart Out and Fingers Crossed. You’ve become Newcastle’s go-to heavy music guy. Are you stoked with how it’s all going?
Yeah I’m fucking stoked all the time, every day. The other band that should have been in that list was “Those Things” from Sydney. They’re a rock n’ roll punk band, like The Bronx. Party rock. I did a 10-inch for them last year, and then a 7-inch this year.
Another band I’ve recorded recently that I’m really happy with is a band called “Under Grey Skies” that were around a year or two ago. They’ve just finished up some songs up recently and are about the release those. Really heavy, full on shit.
It’s been cool this year because I’ve had so many different projects. Like “Those Things” are like a Fender Deluxe Telecaster sound, while the stuff I was working on last week was 7-strings tuned to drop A.
Heavy music is my passion obviously. I’ll always play that and always love it, but it’s good having a few different things on your plate to keep things interesting.
Another good thing about it is when you learn something from a certain genre, it’s going to cross over into others. A lot of metal production these days has heaps of pop elements in it. So that kind of massive sound metal sound, a lot of it is derived from pop techniques. For example the dude that mixes My Chemical Romance is traditionally a pop mixer who moved over into that heavy stuff so now you’ve got this super clean, massive Fall Out Boy kind of sound. So bands like Bring Me The Horizon are going for this type of production now.
It’s cool in the respect that I get to do everything, like this year I got to engineer two country pop albums for solo female artists. Lauren Wheatley from Newcastle and Innocent Eve, a female duo from Queensland. I got to mic all these instruments that I hadn’t even seen before, let alone played. Just getting to do new stuff all the time and not getting bored, because being bored sucks. Doing the same album over and over again sucks too.
So how is Lauren Wheatley Doing?
She’s doing really well! She’s getting a lot of airtime on CMC these days, which I find crazy to be honest. Also some people like fucking country music for some reason. [Laughs]
Should I put that in?
If you want to [Laughs] Her's is more of a country pop crossover.
There’s a lot of that floating around these days.
Dude it’s huge now, and it’s the mainstream. You know like Keith Urban, Taylor Swift and Morgan Evans. These are all like country artists, who are now considered pop.
Dude I have a really funny story actually, about a week or two ago I filmed Marsha Heins in Sydney. She was doing one of her shows on her tour and I went and filmed it for her DVD or some shit. It was really cool, and I totally didn’t expect it though. I was like Marsha Heins, Australian Idol, 70s, and now man, I just listen to her stuff all the time! I was just on YouTube and I had one of her ballads on, and it’s about being faithful, and being in love with people, and I seriously almost cried. It’s gotten to me. It’s that old 70s stuff that makes you feel good.
What was influencing you when you were a young lad?
How far back?
You can go back as far as you like.
Like out of the womb?
If you want.
I don’t know if I did the standard thing that everyone did, but my dad bought me up on Michael Jackson, Queen and things like that. Kind of classic rock and roll as well as crossover pop rock stuff. So a lot of that stuff is still my favourite. I went through that heavy stage that everyone goes through, Frenzal Rhomb, Blink 182 (Enema of the State), which led into Slipknot, which led into Death Metal, and then got heavier and heavier until the point when, you know, I listen to noise and shit now. To me that’s as heavy as it gets. But that’s debatable obviously.
I think like everyone I’ve had the standard evolution of taste, where it just changes from one thing to another. Because of my job and because of the nature of my surroundings I believe I have a pretty eclectic taste. I like a lot of different, weird things.
I think you’ve got to have your head fairly in the sand to not like a lot of things. When I was about 18-19 I used to be one of those dudes who hated anything not metal. “You listen to something that’s not breakdowns? What’s wrong with you?” So I was just one of those fuckwits. Then I hit 20-21 and realised that the only person I’m hurting with this shit is myself. There’s so much out there to enjoy, why am I worrying about what other people think. So I guess I let go of the ego in that respect, and now I just enjoy whatever, whenever. Fuck I liked that Carly-Rae-Jepsen when it came out, and that’s fucking embarrassing.
You’re all grown up.
I don’t believe that there’s such a thing as a guilty pleasure. I think if you enjoy something you should be able to enjoy it.
How is Regresser going?
Regresser is going good. We’re on a bit of a break now because we’ve got an injury.
Well yeah, what’s going on with that?
Just dumb shit. Drunken tomfoolery. I just fractured a little bone in there, so it’s not a big deal. Everything should be back to normal in a week or two.
So yeah, we’ve had two releases this year, which makes it feel like we’ve been doing it for two or three years so far. We released an EP at the start of the year, and then we’ve released a single for fun. Now we’ve got a whole new release recorded which is ready to go, but we’re just one of those bands that re-does things again and again. When you hear a Regresser song, you’re really hearing the third recording of that. We’re sitting on this release for now until the right time. The dudes in the band are all eccentric and weird, which is what I like. They can be very strange in the decisions they make.
Right now we’re writing and trying for pre production for an album or a long EP or something like that.
How does all this work fit in with you in the producer’s role? How does that slot in with the creative process? Do you think you hold a certain power over the way the recordings come out?
With that band and most bands that I’m creatively involved in the writing process I’d say I’d end up taking a producer’s role most of the time. Because I’m a drummer I end up structuring a lot of things, and the other guys might bring in ideas and I’ll either contribute to that or help rearrange things. I’ll try and look at things not so much from inside the band’s perspective, but from outside the band’s perspective. So because the guys are more intensely involved in the writing of the music, I try and remain objective to what might be working and what might not be.
How do you feel about the music scene in Newcastle at the moment? Do you think this town a hub for heavy music?
I think Newcastle has always had a massive music community. The city has one of the highest bands per capita in the country, if not the world. It was number 1 for a bit in the early 2000’s, I’m not sure if it still is though. So for that reason I believe we have a very rich musical culture. We’re responsible for Silverchair and I don’t know who else.. Marsha Heins? [Laughs]
The Screaming Jets
Exactly. It’s all very work orientated. I’m a little bit jealous of the Sydney scene in that respect because of the diversity of ethnicities, incomes and backgrounds they’ve got down there. There is so much music down there. Having said that, because there are so many fish in that sea, people don’t seem to care as much. So you can be a fantastic band in Sydney and have nobody give a fuck, but be an average band in Newcastle and people really care. So that’s kind of cool.
I like how Newcastle is kind of niche-y. You’ve got to have a groove to get anywhere. I like that you can’t just form a regular-ass band that’s been done a hundred-thousand times and put it out and expect to get noticed, because people won’t care. I like how people are a bit selective and a bit elitist like that, because that breeds out the mediocrity. However at the same time, it does make it hard. You really need to be able to please a certain crowd to get noticed.
For example, noise music has it’s own culture in Newcastle because of bands like Safe Hands, Tired Minds & Coma Lies, there’s a bit of a noise scene. But if you’re in a gent band, it’s really hard these days in Newcastle to pull people. They’re all various forms of heavy music, but the scenes are all divided within. The problem is the guys that go to the metal shows, don’t go to the hardcore shows, and the guys that go to the hardcore shows never go to the noise shows. Instead of having this one big scene where everyone supports each other, it’s pretty divided out there. That hurts the scene. I think if everyone pulled together, did mixed bills and all that sort of shit, and not be bitchy, we’d be better for it.
There are a lot of young, aspiring bands out there, which I find to be really inspirational.
You get bands coming down from Singleton and the Hunter Valley to play down here.
Yeah! Staunch are from Muswellbrook and they’re killing it at the moment.
You’ve got Hombre Records on Hunter St as well, which seems like a good base for hardcore in town.
Now that you say that, it reminds me of a time about ten years ago where the scene was really massive in Newcastle. Mainly older dudes, the likes of The Dead Walk and Dropsaw. Now there are these waves of young people that are coming in like the dudes in Staunch who are eighteen-year-old kids. The scene is just full of young people now, which is what you need.
Having hardcore more in the mainstream because of bands like Parkway Drive, it’s made the idea of having a career in hardcore possible. It’s opened the music up to kids that wouldn’t normally be interested, which is awesome.
These DIY venues are really cool. I think it’s all come out of other venues shutting down left right and center. The Loft is gone. All that sort of shit. I think we’re really in a time of change too because of things like the Internet. You’ve got bands out there that are massive on the Internet that will only get fifty to one hundred payers. They’ve got twenty thousand hits on YouTube, but will only get fifty people through the door because everyone’s in their bedroom watching shit on Facebook. So being big in real life and on the Internet is two different things.
What should Newcastle Mirage readers go out and get right now local music wise?
It’s not super local but I’d definitely say check out Those Things, I have serious faith in that. I reckon it’s a wonderful CD. Endless Heights, Idols (Syd), Jurassic Penguin (Mel) & Totally Unicorn (Syd). But if I had to choose just one... Hmm...
AFTER A FEW MINUTES OF THINKING TIME, I OFFER TO COME BACK TO THE QUESTION. MITTA AGREES.
Do you have any advice for young kids coming out who want to write music and want to maybe open their own studio one day?
Just fucking practice. I know everyone says that, but what I mean is don’t go to Uni, don’t go to fucking JMC academy, don’t go to fucking the Con or whatever, just practice. Just buy your own shit, and sit at home and play with it.
Did you go to uni at all?
M: No. No SAE. No JMC. No fucking private college. No university. None of that shit. They charge so much money (which is cool, I know how much all that equipment costs) but you don’t need it. Just practice.
You think about all the famous producers out there, the Chris Lord-Alge’s the Rick Rubins, nobody’s going to ask what piece of paper they’ve got. They’re going to ask about what was the last CD they did. How does it sound. So that would be my biggest piece of advice.
To young bands, is to do it right and do it right from the start. Don’t go in with shitty attitudes, don’t go in expecting the world, and putting in no effort. Do it professionally. Spend money where you need to. Record a good CD. Have the right artwork. Get a good photo. Look professional, because people won’t take you seriously. Local bands...
AT THIS POINT IN THE INTERVIEW MITTA STOPS AND RACKS HIS BRAIN AGAIN TO THINK OF HIS FAVOURITE NEWCASTLE BAND AT THE MOMENT.
Hang on I’ve got this.. Hold on… Umm.. There’s been so many releases lately.. Staunch have been doing really well. I think their music is fun, and they’re heaps good live. But if I had to put it on one..
This is becoming a loaded question.
It’s getting way too hard.
Your desert island Newcastle band. What is your desert island album by the way?
We’re off the Newcastle band thing now?
For the minute.
For my desert island album it would have to be a Dillenger CD. One of them. They’re my number one favorite, so it would be one of those.
But which one?
Fuck you. Probably the last one. One Of Us Is a Killer.
Newcastle Bands... Hmm... Safe Hands, Tired Minds, King Trio are doing well...
How is everything else at Tommirock going?
Good! I’d like to mention as well that I’d love to introduce some more engineers into the studio. Getting more people to come and hire out the studio space. I don’t care if you don’t want to record with me, I would just love for Tommirock to become a bigger part of the Newcastle music community. The space is useless when there’s not a band in there. It doesn’t sound any good when they’re nobody playing.
What’s next for the future?
More of the same. Bigger and better. I’ll probably be staying where I am for a while, but the client base is getting bigger all the time. As far as what I want to create, I want to engineer and produce really niche, artists and works. Likely always heavy music, but I want to take the left of center, weird, crazy stuff. I don’t want to make the same old shit.
If you're a Newcastle Based engineer and want some time in a studio space, get in contact with Mitta at firstname.lastname@example.org to work out a deal! He's a lovely dude.