Music for a more conscious world

Whether you are listening to his music or sitting down for a chat, every encounter with David Mackenzie is suffused with deep meaning. He has worked in the industry for over twenty-five years, but the breadth of his knowledge and wisdom stretches far beyond just music; talking with him is like a history lesson, motivational speech and meditation on human consciousness wrapped into a singular experience. When it comes to discussing his interests and artistic process, Mackenzie speaks with passion and conviction and you get the impression he holds nothing back. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that you will come away from the conversation with a completely fresh perspective on life, love and art.

In September, after producing under the moniker Stantz since 2009, Mackenzie launched a new brand under his own name. This fresh body of work reflects his maturation as an artist, infusing classical arrangements with his signature electronic sound and modern instrumentation. In creating these pieces he is exploring the vast spectrum of human emotion and dealing exclusively in the unexpected.

“Of course I want some of my music to be entertaining,” he says, gazing contemplatively through a window in his flat in Bristol, “but I also want it to touch, challenge, enrage people. I want some listeners to hate it. My intention is only to create honest work, and not everyone is going to like that.”

His first release under the new brand, ‘Ponticello’, represents his death and rebirth as a new artistic force. “The old version of me died a natural death, and as a result, my musical language had to change. The death was only the beginning. But it’s painful to experience old parts of you dying. I’ve been reckoning with this pain over the last few years.”

Mackenzie talks candidly about the events leading up to his launch, which include ending dysfunctional relationships and overcoming a decades-long drug addiction. “Smoking weed helped me to be unconscious,” he says, as though having the realisation all over again, “but I used to justify it to myself by saying ‘my music will suffer if I give it up.’ I thought being high enabled my creativity. But the opposite is true. I realise, now, I was just using my addiction to suppress the trauma and pain I experienced in childhood.”

Doing deep self-work is a huge part of Mackenzie’s brand. He credits his mentor, producer and influencer Krust, with helping him work through many of his artistic and personal barriers. “He taught me that ‘how you do one thing is how you do everything’,” Mackenzie says. “I have to continue pushing myself beyond what is comfortable, personally and creatively. I’m only ever going to make music that’s as honest as I am. Being imprisoned in substance abuse – which is abuse of the self – is contributing to keeping the consciousness of the planet down.”

We discuss Mackenzie’s expansive influences, which range from Miles Davis to Dmitri Shostakovich. When he started studying classical music, initially he was looking for ideas. But “it’s become an obsession,” he says. “When your craft has hundreds of years of history, it’s important to learn what has come before. You need to understand where things have been to understand where they are going. There is so much material, and challenging myself to listen to these big, difficult symphonies has become part of my process.”

With his new releases, Mackenzie hopes to influence and inspire his audience to broaden their listening habits. “The electronic crowd sees the classical crowd as being stuffy and out of touch. And the classical crowd sees the electronic crowd as being uneducated. But this is just a conditioned illusion, a prejudice. Bristol has this great diversity of music culture, and personally, what’s interesting to me is when these cultures come together, like when Ragga and Hardcore came together to create Jungle, which later evolved into Drum and Bass. It represents a global blending of different cultures, communicating in the universal language of music.”

Many people may be turned off classical music, he explains, because of its “hierarchical history. It used to be commissioned by Kings and Lords. Right up to the Enlightenment period, music was either secular or written for people in prominent positions in society. Then when we came to the Enlightenment period, Beethoven took inspiration from this music that was written for a select, wealthy group of people and starting a revolution by writing music for everyone. He was the first self-employed, independent composer.”

Perhaps the only thing missing from Mackenzie’s music is superficiality. He is not making tracks to “put on in the background,” he says. “What I am offering is challenging, it’s extreme. But I believe people want to have the experience of being alive. This is missing in modern Western society; people are switched to a dissociated state, repeating the same patterns over and over, and there are so many problems with mental health.” When asked what the future holds, he is resolute in his optimism. “We are on the cusp of a radical change, a global shift in consciousness. Through the experience of art and music, we can recondition the old ways of thinking. And by doing this, we can change the world.”

David Mackenzie – ‘Tendril’ – film by Janet Lees

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