Ever since Medasin seriously began pursuing a career in music at the age of 16, his life took a turn for the best, and that path eventually acquainted him with greatness. His journey started when he just wanted to make hip-hop beats resembling the likes of Dilla and Madlib. Although the spotlight on him as an artist became brighter when he decided to venture into the then-popular world of EDM. During this era of Medasin, his versatility and garden-fresh approach to production skyrocketed his brand to the point where he was touring, working with his favorite artists, and doing remixes for massive stars like DJ Khaled, Martin Garrix, Local Natives, Joji, and of course Portugal. The Man for the smash hit "Feel It Still". For a while, it seemed like he was THE GUY in this realm of EDM - until he disappeared for 3 years.
Out of the blue, he returned in the middle of February 2023 by not only announcing new music, but it also was apparent that he was entering a new stage as an artist. On April 28th he released his new album Always In a Hurry, and here we're welcomed to a sonic voyage that depicts Medasin (Grant Nelson) reborn in a variety of ways. The work reflects him absolutely sprinting forward into creativity in a way he had never done before. Throughout this interview, we talked to Medasin about the process of creating Always In a Hurry, why he disappeared, and a lot more.
How would you describe where you were in life before you released your previous album RIPPLS vs now, before you release Always In a Hurry?
I guess in some sense, more or less on the same journey of just exploring myself and exploring sound and finding what inspires me, however, with Always In a Hurry I just had way more time and bandwidth available to me to just simply explore as much creative territory as possible.
This is mainly because of the lack of touring during COVID, which sort of led to a bigger revelation inside of me that I was really spreading myself thin touring too much when it really wasn't an endeavor I believe represented me and my art anymore. So yeah really just reclaiming all of my energy and focus and tunnel visioning only on exploring music and instruments and recording (which is always what I have felt most called to do).
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There was a period when you were sort of hailed as the next EDM superstar, playing massive shows, and your music was reaching mainstream consciousness, especially with the release of the Portugal. The Man remix. What impact did the commercialization of your work and your brand have on your personal life?
Great question, it's been very interesting. Firstly I would say I honestly never saw myself as an EDM producer. To make a quick recap, I think the phases of my creativity went something like this:
Age 12 - 14 I was making hard-ass hip-hop beats and wanted to be like Lex Luger and Southside and Cardo.
Age 14 - 16 I got good enough to start exploring how to express my own individualism and started making more experimental kind of hip-hop learning beats and was really inspired by guys like Clams Casino, Flying Lotus, Apollo Brown, Madlib, etc.
Then age 16 - 18 was really when the electronic scene started to become a very very big market. At this point, I had managers and booking agents and there was so much opportunity within this new EDM space for me to grow a bigger audience and make enough money to live on my own, etc. So I think I would look for ways to sort of format my creativity to loosely fit in that world cause of how big and exciting the scene was. At this time it was kind of like Soulection shit, hard-hitting trap beats and hard-hitting vibey beats that sort of fused what I was familiar with EDM in a way.
From 18 - 20ish, the way I reflect on it now is that I sort of launch myself too far towards the growing world of EDM and I started to feel it. Something was not right and something within me was being neglected and I was maybe choosing was seemed safer over what felt truer to me. And I guess there's where I find myself now is sort of finally having the courage to step more into the unknown and trust that myself and my art will take me where I need to go.
So with all the mumbo jumbo above, really what I'm saying is I think I accidentally wound up in a place where the way the world was seeing and defining me was different than the way I was defining myself, and that disconnect was really uncomfortable for me. I think this was all kind of a result of how mainstream certain moments of my creativity had become. And as far as personal life, they're very intertwined for me. I love to make music and express myself so I kind of AM the brand. If my brand feels misunderstood then I personally feel misunderstood by the world and that can have very real effects.
On the flip side though, obviously with that big numerical success has come a lot of broader opportunities to do things how I want to do them which is awesome and I'm super blessed to have been in those positions.
Sorry, I didn't expect that rant to be so long. There's just so much to unpack there - I could talk all day about this.
I'm sure this is the burning question on everyone's mind; what led you to take a 3-year hiatus from releasing music? And what were a few of the lessons that stuck with you?
I think the 3-year hiatus was a few things. I think I felt this massive urge to just create and expand nonstop and see how far I could explore without getting lost. I think I got bored with how I had been approaching music. It felt too repetitive and with music becoming more and more democratized with tools like Splice, Youtube, etc.
I think it's almost like sailing out to sea with no idea of where you are headed or if you'll know your way back, but having faith that you will find an island somewhere if you sail long enough. It might be in 1 day or it might be in 1 year. And there's no expectation of how long it's "supposed" to take. And if u do this long enough, eventually you'll find more and more islands, and you will have made a whole map of all of this new territory you have explored and you'll know your way around. I think I really just aspired to broaden my experience and expand my map. This brings me to 1 big lesson which is that sailing is the most fun and fulfilling part for me. Sometimes it feels like finding the island is the ultimate goal and I might be too eager to have a finished thing, or I'm looking for some end-game scenario. But really that just doesn't exist. Sailing is by far the most fun part of creativity for me. Feeling totally engulfed in uncertainty, but embracing it instead of fearing it. And overcoming the fear of that uncertainty and running towards it instead of away from it causes a kind of high for me that is better than any drug or any feeling I've felt. Just being excited that you have the chance to be alive and to explore and be inspired and to feel such a deep love for creating at all far outweighs any potential monetary gains to me personally (as long as my financial needs are met).
In that time frame, how and where were you finding inspiration?
It's hard to say cause I feel like I'm inspired by everything that happens in my life. Relationships, conversations with friends, family, and then of course listening to music. That's another thing, I feel my ear for music evolved a lot over the past few years, and I've been inspired by alooooot of different music (I have a Spotify playlist if you're interested).
The latest singles "I Feel Strange" and "Star Song" doesn't really sound like 'Medasin'. What was it about those two tracks that made them the ideal singles for the new album?
I mean it's an interesting way of asking the question. I think that what "Medasin" sounds like is subjective. I've had so many different eras. I produced a whole album with Masego that is almost like jazztronic infused with hip hop. I've made a lot of wacky undefinable instrumentals on Soundcloud over the years. I've made hard-hitting trap shit, I've made straight-up ambient drumless soundscapes.
My work has always been very free and always all over the place, so this too me feels no different I guess. It just feels like I kept exploring and kept following what inspires me. If there's one consistency that I could guarantee to a Medasin fan, it's that I will always do my best to follow my heart and make something new and exciting, and unexpected. I despise the idea and doing exactly what someone would expect me to do. So based on that, I think this work actually perfectly represents what I stand for and how I've always created it. So whether or not it sounds like "Medasin" I guess is up to interpretation. A lot of people who have followed me very closely and heard all of my work through the years view my new work as an understandable evolution of my taste.
Others who only know me from a couple of my popular remixes might think it doesn't "sound like Medasin" but I don't think those people ever knew what "Medasin" sounded like in the first place.
As far as the singles, I knew that "I Feel Strange" was the most single-y track and I definitely want it to have its own shine. I chose "Star Song" to go first cause it feels more familiar with sonic textures and synths that I've used in the past so I viewed it as kind of a bridge into the new world of mine.
What does the title Always In A Hurry mean to you, and how is this reflected through the music?
It means a lot of things to me. It mainly speaks to how I've moved. At one point in my career at the peak of touring and trying to juggle being creative and making my own music, doing sessions with people, etc. There's this kind of frantic feeling of trying to keep up with everything and making sure that it's fulfilling in the way that you want it to be.
I knew I had a deep hunger to focus just on music and go deeper than I had ever gotten to with creating music. So I kind of reclaimed all of the frantic hurrying running around energy and completely channeled and tunnel-visioned it towards making music and getting better at playing instruments, learning to play and record drums, listening to and studying my favorite music more closely, etc.
So in this sense, it felt like I was in a hurry to make back up for what I felt was lost time. For the past 3 years, I bought an upright piano, went through 2 drum sets, multiple snares, and cymbals, bought and tried countless microphones, new synths, a djembe and 2 congas, 2 basses, a nylon string, and a new electric guitar, and I just played and recorded ideas pretty much all day for a very very long time.
It felt like I had completely fallen in love with making music again in a deeper way than I ever had the time to in the past. And it was also the element of feeling completely free to just get lost. No expectations of what I had to make or how it had to sound, I just allowed myself to explore freely.
In conclusion, Always In a Hurry is just an album of me accepting this frantic unfulfilled rushing-around feeling within myself, capturing it, and making that energy do what I wanted it to do, which was making music.
You mentioned in an Insta post that this is your first "real" album. Why do you feel this way about this project? And doesn't that statement somewhat undervalue your previous work on Irene and RIPPLS?
I think all I really meant by that was that I just knew the journey and the effort and the level of exploration that went into this album was way more vast and covered way more ground than my previous work had. It feels like I am expressing myself in a higher resolution than I had in previous bodies of work. Whether or not it undervalues my past work I'm not sure, again I think that is entirely subjective.
Some old song of mine that I hate and think the mix sounds like dog shit could be a life-changing and favorite song ever of someone else out there. And me feeling that way doesn't take that away from them. If you think of an album as a thesis statement on music, I studied way more literature and sifted through way more data when making Always In a Hurry than I had RIPPLS or Irene if that makes sense.
To be clear I don't dislike my past work, it's just as much a part of me and my story as anything is. They just felt more like EPs or collections of songs I made over time that didn't really tie together and convey a theme of my life in the same way Always In a Hurry does.
What was the hardest part about letting go of the old era of Medasin?
The hardest part I think is the initial moment where you accept that that's what needs to happen, and you overcome the fear and uncertainty of what comes next. That's a painful window of time. It's a lot like ending a relationship with someone that you know needs to end. Further on the other side are way better days, but the hard part is that initially accepting and acting on the breakup.
How have your studio habits and creative process changed to suit the new era you're in?
I touched on it above, but my process now focuses way more on the roots of the music I'd say. Writing what feels like a timeless well-thought-out chord progression & melody just on the piano or guitar, then building up from there. Finding a groove that goes well with it, and just keeping everything very minimal at first and making sure the timeless elements are there.
Once it has a strong foundation, then I'll start exploring interesting textures and synths or whatever it may be and making sure they only complement the foundation and don't interfere or distract from it. But ultimately I don't think my approach overall has changed much. I still just go into my studio, and start exploring whatever tf interests me.
It could be absolutely anything. So I guess the heart of the process feels the same, but the tools I'm using and the way I'm thinking about the overall song have just evolved over time.
For some artists, it’s getting lots of streams, for some, it’s getting that specific idea out, and for some, it’s seeing the joy their music brings… For you, at which moments do you feel a sense of accomplishment when you’re making music?
I'd say when I'm making it. When I catch a wave of inspiration and am currently surfing on it and ideas are fluidly coming out looking back at me, it feels so cathartic and healing. The moment of just making your new favorite music you've ever made is by very far the best most fulfilling most accomplishing part to me. That's really all I aim to do. However popular it gets from there, however many streams, and what other people think of it, I can't control any of those things. It certainly is nice and preferable for people to enjoy it and say nice things and for it to reach a wide audience, but to me, they don't compare to the feeling of inspired creation.
Okay so, 1) An artist/band you’d love to have a D.M.C (deep meaningful conversation) with, 2) An artist you think would be rad to party with, 3) An artist you would love to spend a week with in the studio.
hmmmm, I'm always bad at answering these things hahaha. To be honest I love the deep meaningful conversations I already have with my closest friends all the time. But if I had to choose maybe Rick Rubin? I would love to spend a week at Shangri La going off the grid and just working on an amazing album (whether it's my album or I'm producing for someone else I love).
Also Theo Von. Comedy is an art to me and Theo Von is an incredible artist. I'm a giant Theo von fanboy (specifically his podcast and off-the-cuff shit, not so much his standup specials) as far as partying god I have no idea man I can't say I party a whole lot hahaha. The only thing that comes to mind is my group of close friends, I wouldn't prefer to be having a blast with anyone else.