Words: Hannah Doody
It’s a balmy November evening in Brisbane, when Iti Memon parks on the street outside my house in the city’s east.
It’s 6.30pm, and with camping gear in tow, we’re about to make our way to Yonder Music and Arts Festival, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
Iti (otherwise known as Black Mannequin) is about to play a back-to-back DJ set at the festival with good friend Zach Degnan. The pair had planned to play mostly vinyl, and we laugh, realising there would be no turntables at the last minute. This doesn’t phase Iti in the slightest – the two know each other like the back of their hand. Not only have they lived together for years, they have been playing music together for even longer – as part of progressive alt-rock outfit Twin Haus, and more recently starting their independent record label, Pocketmoth.
Before we set off on our drive, Iti digs around in the car’s passenger seat and hands me a Korg Electribe sampler.
“Just so you can have a play with it – no stress, just take your time,” he says.
This isn’t the first time Iti has willingly offered his hardware or instruments – it’s something that he gains great enjoyment from. Iti loves nothing more than discussing music, and it makes sense that he is completely immersed in it – playing in bands, DJing and producing. He is incredibly generous, especially when it comes to music – and this stems purely from his love of sharing it with others.
After exchanging stories about recent clubbing times, Dublin’s electronic music scene, and reminiscing about how we met exactly a year ago, we discuss Iti’s life-long journey with music, and particularly when he started creating compositions of his own at about age 12.
“I dabbled with a demo of Fruity Loops after discovering Skream on the internet. I tried to emulate those huge, wubbing basslines… unsuccessfully,” he laughs.
After receiving a bass guitar for his 14th birthday, Iti left computer production behind for a while.
“I formed a band with some friends, and while still at high school, we released an original track. That was the first piece of legitimate content I had to my name.”
Iti’s upbringing played a big part in what is his current mindset towards music generally, and also his personal music creation.
“My parents’ cultures differ significantly, yet both share the same ethos towards music; community, participation, enjoyment. Dance music also embodies these cultural values, so gravitating towards this scene has seemed natural.”
“Growing up in a mixed race family, however, presented identity issues for me as a young adolescent, particularly after moving from the UK to a much less multicultural Brisbane. Neither of my parents are actually from the UK, and I was born in the US, so I found it difficult to adopt any sort of cultural identity,” Iti says.
A few months ago, Iti released his debut EP, Zero/Sum on his Pocketmoth label as Black Mannequin. He explains that this alias serves as a creative apparatus for him to explore these ideas of personal identity and nostalgia.
“A series of musical conversations that I struggle to have verbally, as many people can’t relate.”
Upon listening to Zero/Sum, you can hear elements of Iti’s greatest sources of inspiration. Textural percussion and immersive soundscapes of the likes of Burial and MJ Cole are palpable while articulating something that is distinctly “him”.
This “something” is perhaps Iti’s headspace at a particular point in time. The EP explores feelings of nostalgia, and in particular, it reflects on his first visit back to the UK and Ireland after a number of years away.
“My inspiration came so organically from my surroundings; music, urban architecture, community, fashion, hustle. I went to my first proper rave at XOYO in London, and from there knew that I needed to make electronic music.”
Upon returning to Australia, Iti found finishing the EP to be a lot harder.
“As time went on, tapping into that nostalgia was more difficult. I lost inspiration, and shifted more focus into DJing. I barely opened the sessions for a year, although I did continue to develop my sensibility as a musician, DJ and producer. I reopened the project when I was better placed to contribute meaningfully, and from there, finished the EP relatively quickly.”
For his Rotations Round mix, Iti has delivered a sonic mood board for his pre and post-EP sentiment. It’s a diverse selection of tracks, and is characterised by Iti’s always flawless mixing, and seamless tempo changes.
“I’ve woven together a lot of styles that inspire me; old, new and unreleased. There’s yet-to-be-heard Pocketmoth material, raw cuts from tracks I’ve been working on, and some field recordings layered with ambient textures I plucked from unfinished sessions on my hard drive.”
We couldn’t be more grateful for this mix.
Stream or purchase the Zero/Sum EP by Black Mannequin here, and listen to the mix below.
You can also grab tickets to Pocketmoth’s upcoming Giegling showcase at the Outpost with DJ Dustin and Leafar Legov here.