Unexpexual: An interview with Total Freedom
Ashland Mines is one of LA’s leading voices in club music reconceptualization.
The parties he’s helped organize (including the legendary WILDNESS, which last year became the subject of an award-winning documentary) and the artists he’s worked with (including Fade To Mind‘s Kingdom and Nguzunguzu, GHE20 G0th1k‘s Venus X, and artists Ryan Trecartin and Thunder Horse Video) have spawned audio oddities and multimedia dance extravaganzas that are as warped as they are eye-and-ear ensnaring. It’s been a few years since I’ve treated myself to one of Mines’ performances as Total Freedom, a pleasure indeed as his chaotically brilliant delving through various genres is right up my ADDance mentality. His recent Berlin appearance at the Janus BETTER OFF ALONE party prompted me to seek him out and touch on a few questions, specifically: why hasn’t he released any of his own work?
Ashland: In terms of club music, I haven’t ever released anything besides remixes. As far as my own work or collaborations goes, it’s nothing like what most people think of Total Freedom sounding like. It’s more like noise music.
So why haven’t you released that? Non-interest, or more like you’re over that side of yourself?
It’s not hidden anywhere, really… there’s some stuff on my Soundclick account. I have some stuff I made with a guy in Chicago around 2003 or so. On my Soundcloud it’s more noise mixed with clubby, dance music-based stuff.
Do you feel like it’s something you might explore again?
I don’t think that far ahead, really. There’s not a goal in front of me about what I’m making. Things just happen.
So, what’s happening now?
I just played a show the other night with my friend Why Be. We’ve done some stuff before, and we were talking about doing a remix for the first Night Slugs/Fade To Mind joint release. That’s planned for later this year. I really enjoy collaborating. Last year I put out a compilation with this punk label Teenage Teardrops. They wanted to do something outside of their normal game, and came to me because they thought I was some kind of voice in the dance music world—or the aspect of that world that they’re interested in anyway. We ended up releasing a double-LP called Blasting Voice. I took tracks from friends like Jaws, Massacoormaan, Diamond Black Hearted Boy… some old but a lot of new stuff too. As far as a dance record goes it’s a minor failure because there’s only like three songs that are danceable on it. A lot of it is more on the experimental side. It’s still a beautiful record, and it’s sold out anyway so don’t try to get it.
Why did you decide not to release a digital edition once the vinyl sold out?
I made a big point not to. It was a labor of love and very expensive to produce, and even though it did sell out, it was only a run of 300. But I wanted people to know that it was this finite thing that wouldn’t be available forever. I don’t even have a copy, actually.
Was it difficult curating something like that? Did you feel like you had to present a certain ‘picture’?
I did feel like I had to make the right choices. That’s why it took me almost a year! Most of the music I was familiar with because it was from people in my life, but it was still hard to make those decisions. You’re really limited to what you can put on a vinyl record, so you have to chose carefully. Now that I’ve done it, though, I’m excited about working on the next one. That’s what I’m doing now, working on Blasting Voice II. I don’t know if it will be a double LP again, though, because that was intense in terms of cost and production.
Are you going to do a similar format—this combination of dance and experimental?
The idea in my head is that it will all be based around solid club-worthy dance tracks, or at least club-adjacent, with a few shorter experimental vignettes built around them. I’ve been getting some really cool submissions from friends for it. I feel like it’s a bit early to talk about; there’s no due date yet but I’m really excited about what we’ve put together so far. I think it won’t be what people expect.
You like surprising people.
I’m all about doing the unexpected. ~
Published February 20, 2013. Words by Daniel Jones.