It’s a few weeks before Manni Dee’s new album drops on Perc Trax, when DJ Mag speaks to the London-based producer and DJ. Following his debut album ‘The Residue’ on Tresor in 2018, ‘A Low Level Love’ on Perc’s imprint is the 11-track product of a year-long lockdown.
“It’s been quite a revelatory time for me because the pandemic coincided with writing the album, and being the more authentic version of myself, rather than just playing techno,” says Manni. “I don’t listen to techno on a day-to-day basis; mainly hip-hop and R&B, like the music I grew up on. I’ve been listening to a lot of UK stuff as well recently; some drill, but not too much, because it’s a bit like techno: it just starts to sound the same.”
Perc Trax describes two tunes on the album — ‘No More Heroes’ and ‘You Don’t Always Get What You Want’ — as “Manni at his most melodic and introspective”. This may seem unusual for those who associate him with hammering out techno at Corsica Studios and Warehouse Elementenstraat. However, Manni’s musical roots in the genre do not trace back to “taking my first pill at a rave or anything like that”, but at home in Wolverhampton.
“I was making hip-hop from when I was about 14. I got Making Waves, a really weird and obscure programme, and then I got into Fruity Loops,” he recalls. Manni convinced his mum to buy turntables and a mixer, before recording a 20-minute mix onto a cassette. “I sent it to my friend at school who knew some people at pirate radio. My mate used to play grime and I played hip-hop, so we had a show together.”
It wasn’t until Manni went to Dudley College to study Music Practice that he was pushed to explore sounds beyond hip-hop — if only out of necessity. “I was the only hip-hop kid on the course, so I had to force myself to broaden my musical horizons in order to survive the environment.”
The Smiths acted as Manni’s method of survival and introduction to indie. “My mate played ‘This Charming Man’ one time and I was like, ‘Oh, this is alright actually’,” he says. “Then I started a band and went to uni in Brighton to study music, and the band broke up. I used to play guitar and keys and do a bit of singing. I wasn’t great but it was cool. We were really influenced by Pharrell’s band N.E.R.D, and Outkast too.”
Through a tutor at Brighton University, Manni tentatively began to explore electronic music. “It started with wonky hip-hop. Then through Flying Lotus, I got into Hudson Mohawke, which led to old dubstep stuff through to UK influences, and that led to techno.”