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Get To Know: Huey Mnemonic

Get acquainted with Huey Mnemonic, the Detroit-based artist producing futuristic, funk-filled techno

O'Shay Mullins, aka Huey Mnemonic, is on a mission — the details of which he’s not quite ready to share. The Detroit-based producer has been at work for well-over a decade, but began making waves with the release of his debut EP in 2019. Published on the now-defunct Vanity Press label, the self-titled four-tracker dabbled in different moods and musical traditions, attracting attention from both sides of the Atlantic. Three EPs, two singles and a handful of collaborations later, Mnemonic’s name is firmly on the map. “I’ve been making music since I was 16,” he tells us, “but I don't think I really felt that this could go somewhere until I was 23, where I was like: ‘Alright I really want to give this a shot and see if it's possible’.”

Raised in Flint, Michigan, Mnemonic arrived in the Motor City by way of Grand Rapids in 2019. He soon began work with Submerge and Underground Resistance and cites conversations with UR founder Mike Banks as inspiration for this renewed phase of sonic exploration. “Mike’s philosophy on music has allowed me to broaden my sense of the purpose of the music and what it can do,” he says. “People will say ‘I don't make music for others, I make music for me, and it just so happens that other people happen to enjoy it’, and I feel that 100%. But now I’ve realised how powerful music is, it's not just for me anymore — it's still my interpretation, but once you put it out there it's no longer just for you.”

Machine-like, futuristic and funk-filled, Mnemonic’s sound lies firmly in the Detroit techno tradition. 2020’s ‘Aquatek Assortments’ EP, a tribute to Drexciya’s ‘Lardossen Funk’, draws on the legendary group’s aqua-funk, world-building approach, ending with the anthem-like ‘Sunken Search Party’, while ‘Technician’, released in December last year, offers a series of polyrhythmic tools. The EP concept came to the artist while at work as an SMT operator. “I would deal with these machines eight to nine hours a day, so I was constantly hearing these different rhythms,” he explains. 

“There’d be times I'm listening to these machines, and they remind me of a modular synth — you hear a loop, but it's not exactly the same every single time. There's always different variances in the sounds. They might start in one place, and get back to the one in the beat, but in between that there’s these different polyrhythms.” The whirring 909 metres and hypnotic time-signatures make for both a familiar and absorbing listen. 

In the two years since his arrival in Detroit, Mnemonic has collaborated with New York’s MoMA Ready and most recently was approached by Tresor for a release on ‘Tresor 30’, a 12-vinyl compilation LP celebrating the club’s 30th anniversary. The result was ‘Transmutation’, a kaleidoscopic, journeying lead single. He also established the Subsonic Ebonics label, inspired in part by the city itself. “I feel like it's just been the spirit of Detroit to fund your dream and have complete control over it, you know?” he says. “At least the parts that you can — its presentation, and the quality. And once I put up my first two projects, and saw how much came back to me, I was like ‘OK, yeah, it might be in my best interest to do a lot of this myself’.” 

Mnemonic’s exacting, introspective approach is gaining him fans in different parts of the world, but interpretations of his work have left him at times less than impressed. “I think it's too early, to allow people to know what the full scope of it is. One hope for me is that, as the music comes out over the next 10, 20 years, there’ll be a sense of cohesion in what it is I'm presenting and what the music is about.” Care to share more, we ask? “I think I'm gonna wait on that,” he replies. “I just want to let the music speak for itself.”

Want more? Revisit DJ Mag's feature on how J Dilla distilled Detroit techno on 'Welcome 2 Detroit' track, 'B.B.E.

Ria Hylton is DJ Mag's staff writer. You can follow them on Twitter @ria_hylton

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