When people talk about dubstep they often refer to DMZ as one of the scene's pillars. Founded by Mala, Coki, Loefah and Sgt. Pokes the label and night have reached a legendary status. Coki and Mala also make up the group Digital Mystikz and they are on their way to Australia this month. After a massive 2010 that saw them release a triple pack of their tunes on vinyl, Return II Space, and with the DMZ night about to celebrate its sixth birthday the timing couldn't be better. On the phone from London, I catch Mala, aka Mark Lawrence on the way to his studio.
To say that DMZ and Digital Mystikz have had a huge influence is an understatement. News of new releases travels around the world at lightning speed and they sell out quickly - often on pre order at some sites. With a policy of only doing one vinyl pressing it creates a rare situation in today's music world - the music is hard to get and not in digital form. But for Lawrence his place, and the place of DMZ, in music is hard to see. "It's a very abstract thing to understand from my perspective. It wasn't something that was thought out or planned - it was something that was done. In that capacity I understand now that it has had an impact on some people. I remember at early DMZ nights in 2006 that there was a guy and a girl - they were boyfriend and girlfriend - who used to come over from Australia once a year to come to DMZ funnily enough. It's kind of crazy but I don't feel like I get some sort of extra special treatment because of DMZ. It doesn't feel like that. I just feel privileged to go and connect with people the way that you can through sound."
From Australia it can be hard to see just how much DMZ is an integral part of the scene in England: "There are definitely different vibes globally. You know, if you play in the States it feels different to if you play in somewhere like Spain or Germany. So, there are definitely different vibes around the world but I'm not sure I have any understanding of my impact or DMZ's impact on people."
Lawrence still feels that it's beyond his perception though: "It's just too abstract to really understand or to fathom. It's just totally surreal to be honest because you don't set out to start something like this. I'm sure if you do then ninety nine percent of the time it's not going to work out. It's always a surprise, you know. Even now when people turn up to DMZ - I never expect people to turn up and when people do it's a really nice surprise. I guess that's what keeps you going really. I feel as enthusiastic, hungry and energised as ever. I actually probably feel more energised by music and what's going on now than when I started."
Last year the Digital Mystikz suddenly announced the release of Return II Space, a triple pack on vinyl of tunes that had been around for some time. "That was an interesting one," explains Lawrence. "It was funny because I decided at the last minute that I was going to do it. Then I decided to announce it and I did it in my usual way, without making a big thing of it. I think I just put a post up on the forums just suggesting that it would be my first release of the year and that it would come out around the middle of the year, and that was that. And then within a couple of hours a couple of online magazines made a big thing about me doing a full length EP and they put their expectations out there for people to read. Then I had people hack my Photobucket account and they put up some of the artwork. For me it was crazy! It was literally within four hours that these things were happening. Then I got an email from my server saying that people were trying to get into my email. So people were trying to hack into my shit man!" laughs Lawrence. "It was bizarre."
In their usual style DMZ were just putting out great music: "I didn't want to tell anyone the track listing and when I didn't give any previews out there were a lot of people who lost interest in talking to me about it. I was also getting crazy offers from stores wanting to buy bulk stock. But I learnt a lot about producing something other than a 12" record. Obviously I worked on Silkie's album for the Deep Medi label a couple of years ago but this was slightly different being my own thing."
"So I learnt a lot about myself through process. Like regardless what the industry says you should do when you put something like this out - the whole PR campaign and all the rest of it. I didn't do anything on that and I didn't spend a penny on promotion. So to me it was interesting, through all the offers like paying a couple of thousand pounds to have a rack at HMV, that I resisted it because I have amazing distribution for my records. I have been working with them for years - they know what I'm about so they're just happy to put out the music the way that I want to. That's a blessing because it's not so easy if you have a label or a distribution company pushing for things."
For Lawrence, the whole process is slightly mysterious: "People are yet to understand where thoughts and creation come from. To say I understand my music would be lying. I enjoy the doing - that's what it's about for me."
Digital Mystikz [UK] play the City Of Lost Children alongside Bassnectar [USA], State of Mind [NZ], Consequence [NZ], Triage [USA] and more on Saturday March 26 at Brown Alley.