iO (Mulen) walks us through his 10 labels: from the first Mulen Records to today’s album

    photo courtesy of iO (Mulen)

    2020. It may be the easiest time in history to start your own label. Even the vinyl-only one (if you want it THAT badly). It will be a little harder to make it successful and maybe if you do it, you’ll start a couple more after that. Probably, most of you gonna be happy with that number, right? But what about ten great and impactful labels in one pair of hands? We’ve got a candidate for the answer.

    Oleksandr Voznichenko (or iO (Mulen) as most of you know him) could easily be called one of the biggest electronic names that came from Ukraine amongst Vakula, Nastia, Closer and Cxema. His legacy is solid already and his productivity is so huge, you could be confused by all his works, labels and sublables. As he is productive, he remains quiet in the media with his rare podcast appearance (and also free track) on our series last year and this interview being his first big talk in a very long time.

    Our first conversation started a few months ago with a phrase “If I’m doing it, like, once in a decade, let’s do it properly”, so if this article seems too long for you – it’s only because it is impossible to stop a person from talking after a phrase like that. You just can’t. Thankfully, he left plenty of Easter eggs inside – a few names of upcoming releases on Mulen Records family, some great stories from the past and lots of respects for all those people, who influenced Oleksandr through all these years. So, fix yourself a snack and prepare for a long journey into the iO (Mulen)’s kingdom.

    Oh! And there’s also his surprising new album coming at the end of this article. A cherry on top.

    Instead of intro

    Let’s make a quick stop before all these labels. iO used to be a project of two persons, right? And it was without the “Mulen” part, as I remember…

    Yes, we started iO with my friend Artem Zhovtobriukh. He called it after his concept of “input from space, output of music” and that whole idea of retranslation of energy. After his departure, I decided to add this “Mulen” part to mark a new (kinda new, actually) project. And it turned to be too many Io’s in the music, actually.

    Oh, understood. Now, I think, we’re ready for the tour.

    You think so? Ok, let’s go…

    Mulen Records (since 2.02.12)

    Mulen Records was started in 2012, with digital releases in a good company of my friends and colleagues – Goshva, Artem Yellow, Tish, Oleksiy Khozyainov. We all understood it was time to start our own label that would represent our sound and the music we like. Of course, we started from our tracks – there was plenty of material in our pockets already.

    Release from iO & Goshva was our first ever – and it got a bunch of great feedback for our future inspiration. After that came Westboy, Tish, Pash&Lips, Kirik, Deep Square – all these tracks can be heard on the dancefloors even now, after all these years, we love all of them. My first album “Barefooter” was finished afterward with 4 vinyl-only tracks (thanks to our friend Mike Spirit for that). It was time for the next wave of positive feedbacks, that took us to another level of this game and gave us an opportunity to release more great names – two parts of “Barefooter” remixes came shortly after that with people like Faster, F.E.X, Kirik, Dubsons, Bronxy, Deep Square, Westboy, Tish & Federico Molinari inside.

    It was the time I met Vaia – one of my closest friends, who also is a hell of a digger. Meeting with him opened a new wave of connections for me. For example – I was listening to one set and found a great track inside (it was “Growth” by Silat Beksi, but I didn’t know that yet). After hearing something very similar to my favorite sounds, some hip-hop sounds in house music, I understood, that this is “our” dude. I asked Vaia if he could help me find that guy. Later that day Vanya (Vaia’s real name) gave me the contact of Tolik (Silat Beksi’s real name). And it turned out that we had already been introduced to each other years before! When I asked Silat Beksi if he had any other tracks, he gave me, like, 15 of them. So, it was the moment, when I realized, this would be the second album by Mulen Records. Silat Beksi – “8th Reality”. And it was great – after that we continued to release not THAT powerful, but still very talented names like Libe, Pluscular, Nice’N’Trick, Yaroslav Lenzyak, Rata and Amped

    MULENV002 (Tish)

    Same 2015, second vinyl by Mulen Records. Our girl Tish with a remix from Slovenia by Valentino Kanzyani. It was time for the new Mulen Records – our vinyl era.

    MULENV003 (iO Mulen & Silat Beksi)

    Without any rush, I and Silat Beksi were working on several projects in our favorite hip-hop/breaks style. We also invited two amazing Italians Verrina & Ventura for a remix – and this is one of my favorite MR releases. I think this one revealed our shared taste and approach to production.

    MULENV004 (Pash’n’Lips) (in loving memory of our friend Lips. R.I.P.)

    The next ones were our good friends from Chicago and Sydney who liked Vlad Caia & Cristi Cons very much. SIT made that warm remix, that was perfect for afterhours. It was no longer about the huge name of the artist – it was about our look.

    MULENV005

    Afterward, we released Mulen People – 2×12” release, mostly filled with Romanian names like Nu Zau, Melodie, Funk E, Nice’n’Trick, Libe, Cally, Gri and a little touch of Ukraine (Silat Beksi again) and Bulgaria (Loopdeville). Huge release that could also be easily heard in the clubs even after all these years.

    MULENV006 (Varhat)

    I didn’t know him at that time as a part of Yoyaku, but he made an appearance on Kirik’s CROCUS001 compilation. We started our chat and it turned out that Vincent (Varhat’s real name) was a very talented and productive young fella. It was a truly mesmerizing connection, so I offered him to become a part of our discography too. This release was very close to my favorite sounds – groovy, atmospheric, with all the housey sounds, that I love.

    MULENV007

    That’s me and my big love for broken rhythms, that I decided not to reveal at that time. Hiding behind “Unknown Artist” here, yes.

    MULENV008 (Suolo)

    It was another great introduction. Gnezdo Bar, afterparty in the morning, only friends and family and my buddy, DJ and producer Timoti Fain decided to connect me with Dinu (Suolo’s real name). Few days later in his studio, Timoti Fain introduced me to Suolo’s music. I fell in love with that music since the first hearing. The landing of the release was just a matter of time. I’m glad that Dinu attended almost all of my performances in Romania.

    MULENV009 (Dakpa)

    Dakpa is a very interesting artist – I found out about him after hearing his “Paradiso” track. Lots of aliases with different sounds (I can’t tell you about them, sorry (laughs). Very glad to have him on MR – he has his own unique approach to production, with a lot of different styles at the same time. It could be that swing groove with pad-background that wouldn’t ruin the whole composition – just underline its main parts. But, he can also ruin the track’s dub structure totally – only under his other alias.

    MULENV010

    Second “Mulen People” compilation with music from all over the world. The main idea was to show that melodic deep-tech sound from which you can choose your own perfect track – for the morning set or for the night. A great company of artists – Jamahr & Riciar Ghir, Dakpa, Steve Marie, Sofist, Alexandar Kyosev, 100 Hz, Iuly.B and Unisson.

    MULENV011 (Livio & Roby)

    For me personally, this is a huge release and very important artists. I always talk about Livio & Roby and George G as my teachers in house music since, like, 2009 and Cecille Records craze. I think, they started the sounds of iO (Mulen) in me. I can only say one thing – huge honor to have them on my Mulen Records. And after that we started to rock together!

    MULENV012 (Fabe)

    The first meeting with Fabe was at the Mulen Night so-called release party. His smile conquered the hearts of all ladies that night (laughs). This is a fact! The way he held the dancefloor that night is just impossible to forget. But, of course, our first contact was through music – through his peppy minimal sounds. He knows how to do it properly and cheerfully.

    MULENV013 (Iuly.B)

    At first – I called him “Luly.B” – me and my wife decided that somehow. But he corrected me after a few awkward online talks. His release was in the making for, like, two years – he constantly showed me interesting tracks, but something was missing there… Finally, “Situation Check” track was THE ONE. All three tracks from that release fit perfectly into the sound of MR. Also, he was my wife’s favorite artist and her main choice for the first party of Mulen Records in Kyiv’s River Port.

    MULENV014 (Premiesku)

    What can I say here – one more release with my teachers and all-time-favs. The full squad of Premiesku. Interesting, how after all these years they still are very kind and friendly guys with good vibes in their music and their lifestyle. Love them!

    MULENV015 (iO Mulen)

    I remember, that these tracks were written on new gear. Alex Pervukhin got me covered on that – that guy knows almost everything about samplers, romplers, synths and great communications between all of this stuff. This all is his devotion to the oldschool. You can hear that my sound here is different. I wanted to try something new, but, I have to be honest – I don’t really like the results…

    MULENV016 (MP)

    MP! Romanian mystery at that time. One of the few producers with totally different sounds (if we make some comparison to other people on the scene). Perfect taste, unique production style (minimum of sounds used for perfect harmony in his tracks) – you can hear it, sometimes (laughs). We brought him for the party in Kyiv, had a great weekend and shortly after that went back to our release talks. He’s a hard to catch bird, but I did it. Like him since the beginning!

    MULENV017 (Michael James)

    I found Michael and his release “10101” on Constant Black once and thought, that he’s very close to me because of his swing and groovy sounds. On some of his tracks, you can do a pitchdown and it will be something very similar to trip-hop. We have a similar approach to production, must say. Also – he’s a man of a smile! First time I saw it in 2018, at DC-10. It was irresistible, like that party at DC-10. In 2019 we knew each other much better, after our sets on “S.A.S.H. Queens Birthday Long” at Sydney, where he assured me that that smile was branded (laughs). We had a great laugh in a good company with Michael James, Silat Beksi, Anja Schneider and Rossko. I would like to give special thanks to Gregory Pepperpot, Kerry Wallace and all the guys who did it for us. Still regret I didn’t take a photo with a kangaroo, damn it!

    MULENV018 (Floog)

    And again “my buddy” George G – under his Floog alias. 2000 people on the dancefloor at night, when he’s playing his live – that could be a perfect description of what he’s doing usually. Everything sounds unbelievably great, just as his “O Roata” track with that rhythmic dark atmosphere.

    MULENLP1.1, MULENLP1.2, MULENLP1.3

    This album concludes three parallel components of emotions. At first – “Heart” (light emotion, keeps calm). Second one is “Head” (a deep emotion, that is asking many questions). The third one is “Legs” (expressive and joyful emotion). All these three parts create a big picture. I know for sure that in this album all I wanted to show can be heard very well and I am pleased because of it.

    MULENV019 (Alexis Cabrera & Jorge Savoretti)

    I love those kinds of collabs when people are known for their musical mood with maximum accuracy. Like in this release. Alexis Cabrera & Jorge Savoretti have A LOT of experience with their solo projects where they repeatedly showed their skills. They could easily transform guitar sound into effect or harpsichord into a guiding melody at the heart of a track. I would like to underline the track “Some” here. Very trippy, with a straight and broken part at once. Bass – I would call it “funky” here, plus acid and flying pads. That’s my shit! (laughs)

    MULENV020 (Diego Krause)

    Once we played together on a medium country-side open-air in France with Diego Krause, Yamen & EDA, Mr. KS… We talked at the backstage, and, of course, we were carried away by Diego’s set. As I remember – he played a lot of progressive stuff, I even asked the guys with surprise “Why? Why isn’t he playing “his” sound”?” The answer was “Chill out, man, this is an open-air!”, I remember it well!

    MULENV021 (Sakro)

    Once I and the love of my life – Anastasia were touring in Brazil and Argentina. We were on our way to the hotel and one guy in our company started to talk about “a friend of his, who was very popular there”, called Sakro. I immediately continued the subject “yes-yes, I know him, played his music” etc… That’s true – Sakro surprised me a couple of times before. I remember him since his, I would call it “jackin/Chicago house” tracks, like “Boulevard EP”, especially “Your Absence”. A little later I saw him under great labels, with very energetic tracks. After some time, I wrote to him “Hi man, nice to meet you, nice sound…” and after two years we released “Jupiter EP”. Time was a great teacher for us and helped us to do what we wanted.

    MULENV022

    Who’s gonna be next? Let me give you just two letters – E S.

    iO (Mulen) during one of his numerous Romanian gigs – photo courtesy of Seara Romaneasca

    MOi (since 1.06.15)

    Once the moment came, when, after all the inspirations (partly because of artists, that were released on Mulen Records before), I decided to start a new label. I remember, when there were only masters, that could be shown to friends, we were sitting with my guys (Vaia, Rata, Svet from Dancetrippin) and I played them the first-ever release of MOi (without naming it). The reaction was, like “wooooow!”.

    We didn’t announce that this was iO (Mulen)’s label, so, because our guy Isaac from Memoria distribution was from Amsterdam, shops were writing that name like “MOi Netherlands” (or something like that). Then there were comments on Discogs, people started recognizing the sound, somebody understood that “MOi” is “iO (Mulen)” backward – finally, they saw through us.

    You can see on Discogs, that our first releases were pressed in some huge numbers, but we didn’t do that for the money, actually – it all was pure emotion. And a lot of represses – because of vinyl sharks with their huge prices. As I recall – the biggest press was on the 5th release (keep in mind, that it was leaked into the web shortly before release date and is still nearly sold-out).

    Fav track: MOi – 002 B

    VOY Records (since 1.11.16)

    Voznichenko Oleksandr Yuriyovych.

    Oh! That simple?

    Yes (laughs). By the way, the name of the label was approved by one of my friends at that time, who also came (like me or Goshva) from Send Records roster. And that friend would soon pop up on the Hoary label with his project, the name for which was approved by me vice versa. That name is Niksu, if you’re curious.

    Ok, what about the other name here? What about Session?

    Oh, that’s just the identity for this label. I just didn’t want to make a release under “Unknown Artist”, you know. It was kinda strange to hide from people, who know your signature sound or, at least, some elements of it already… I thought it would be better to change it all on Discogs to VOY – this label was for VOY only anyway.

    Fav track: VOY – 11 A

    Whiteloops (since 9.12.16)

    This is a showcase place for all kinds of broken beats. I started it with an idea of the label for edits with a hybrid of house, breaks, and hip-hop, but after a few takes it was transformed into full tracks of Disk and DiSKOP projects. It began its history with a nice level of attention from people – it always gives you wings, when people start to dig, writing all those comments “who? who? do you know who it is? wow!”.

    There are a lot of tracks with a history for me, for example, “Acid Rain” was written after one Boiler Room, where this girl (damn, forgot her name, but there was a guy with a red shirt and funny dancing moves all the way, maybe, somebody can help me with that) was finishing her set with some “joshwinky” acid. I wanted to do something like that, but with a broken beat.

    Or there’s a story with… let’s call him “one famous and very important for me producer from Romania” (I still don’t know, if I’m allowed to mention his name here) – our company of DJs had one of our favorite tracks, it was called “Beaton”, we used to call it “Beton” (“concrete” in Ukrainian). I asked him about the possibility of making an edit for it and releasing it under my label (don’t know if the original had its proper release). The answer was “Yes”, hopefully.

    Tracks on 17th release have great stories too, by the way, but let’s keep it for the next interview, in a few years…

    Disk, DiSKOP – you, probably, know, what I’m going to ask you…

    Disk is the Whiteloops’ Session. And after all this story became powerful enough, we went onto digital platforms. There was some Disk already there, so I had to choose some other name – DiSKOP. It was the moment when I started to transform myself from a “vinyl-only” guy, actually. I know, we started from digital – we just didn’t know how to release vinyls at that time. Still, I love that vinyl culture, but you can see, how it’s changing now – there are a lot more digital releases in my sets (unreleased tracks, for example). You can hear a lot of requests to release some digital tracks now, and we do. But there’s always a shelf at, probably, even your home, reserved for some finest vinyls (that still could be pirated and leaked into the web, damn, it pisses me off!)

    Fav track: Disk – Acid Rain

    Slowdy Mowdy (since 3.03.17)

    Swing-minimal. Very electronic and, sometimes, melodic sounds we have here. Strictly vinyl-only label, with a limited pressing of 300 copies at the maximum point.

    It was started with releases by iAN (one more guy from Send Records – I think, it’s time to send some greetings to DJ Sender, founder of Send Records who started all this), you may know iAN because of his other alias – Westboy.

    I can tell you, that there will be two guys on the next record here – I’m finishing the artwork with two ravens right now for them. I make all the designs for this label, actually.

    Really? You?

    Eeehm, I actually studied to be a ceramic artist, man!..

    Wow, what a news! So, you’re a designer just here or for some other labels too?

    No-no, just here. All designs for Mulen Records family were made by Oleksiy Khozyainov, super-skilled artist, and Tish’s husband, actually. Tish manages web part of all this, my wife Anastasia makes bookings, Lyosha designs and I’m in charge of the music part. Our fantastic four.

    Fav track: iAN – Slowdy Mowdy

    Hoarder (since 20.05.17)

    Please, do not associate this sound with minimal – for me, it is a melodic house. Great melody for this label is a must, with all these leading basses and pads (beats could be minimalistic, yes, but still!). Also, this is a label for other people, not me. That differentiation was made on purpose.

    Once, searching through my huge pile of demos, I found tracks by Sun Archive from Australia. My wife liked it, so did my distributor – and we started one more label. After Sun Archive we had Andrea Caioni, Floog… I received a USB with Viktor Udvari’s tracks when I played in Turkey – I WAS SHOKED, MAN!.. Ruven Medici – one more great talent… We have a forthcoming release from Oden & Fatzo here, 4 guys – two as Oden and two as Fatzo, usually playing incredible lives and very nice people also – we had many great talks with them.

    Fav track: Laboratori OTK – My First Spaceship

    Blackloops (since 20.10.17)

    This is my obeisance to UKG, you can hear it from the first release here. You can also find a couple of house moments under this label – only because I didn’t want to make long pauses between releases.

    You know, UKG was that type of music, that could be hard to find in Ukraine in the 00s. dnb, breaks – easily, but not speed garage or UK garage. Still, we managed to find those tracks somehow. Or tracks found us – anyway, it was love at first sight.

    The 5th release here – my homage to UKG music with an edit on “Doom’s Night” by Azzido Da Bass. We have a friend – Jim Pavloff, who made a virtual synth, called “Poison” (it is worth noting, that Jim is a big fan of Prodigy). I started using it and one of the presets was called “Night” (or “Doom Night”, I don’t remember anymore). I clicked, heard the familiar “booouar” sound and immediately thought about Azzido Da Bass.

    UKG is, probably, my favorite style from my late childhood, when we bought some records from DJ Simpson at Podil, went home and were listening to them in the kitchen on some old, soldered vinyl players. I tried to recreate that warm atmosphere in “Heartbreaker” here, for example…

    I would also like to send some respects to Bursnki and his Instinct project, Council Work label guys (Burnski introduced me to them, actually), Jack Michael – love their sound and very happy because of its comeback.

    Fav track: DiSKOP – Crasher (preview could be found here)

    Oldivibes (since 8.06.18)

    As you can see from its name – this label is dedicated to… I would say, kinda old sounds. Melodic old-school sounds.

    We got here Elgo Blanco, for example – 4 guys, totally analog stuff, constantly doing something in their studio. They sent me, like, 20 tracks for this release, it was really hard to choose among their little bit hard sounding with a touch of distortion. The track “707b” from their release reminds me of some Cab Drivers from Cabinet.

    Kylin Tyce made great deep – by the way, he will be the next one here amongst Frankel & Harper and Anania – full roster for this VA. I think we’ll go into compilations here and under Hoary – they are getting much more attention these days. Oldivibes will host more garage-y sounds without my presence. 2020 will be a great year for garage, I think…

    Fav track: Kylin Tyce – Conscience

    Hoary (since 18.01.19)

    Hoarder’s sublabel.

    Oh, I thought that about Blackloops and Whiteloops.

    No-no, those are 2 different stories. But Hoary is a sublabel. This one will be dedicated to young blood from my demo’s folder. Special one for those artists.

    Jake Flory started all this here – great guy, also writes on hardware, enjoying great pleasure working with it. Scott Jaye – when I saw his previews on FB, I wrote to him the next moment, demanding something to release – those previews were THAT great, yes.

    Fav track: Diwag – Drum Base

    Winder (since 21.06.19)

    When Nikizi sent me his pack of tracks for the first time, I showed them to Silat Beksi, saying – look, his sound is very close to yours here. I understood immediately that these tracks were for a special label. I knew that we had one more person to fill the roster here and this person was Ruven Medici. Our fourth release – first compilation here – holds, I could proudly say, like, the best tracks from all guys we had on there.

    The first release came like a breaksy one, but the main orientation here is… I don’t want to say “rominimal”, but it will be dedicated to Romanian sound. Whatever you imagine under this explanation.

    This is the newest label and the last one. So far. I didn’t start them intentionally to collect the “magic” number of 10, you know – every one of them has its own style. But I’m content with all I have now. So far (laughs).

    Fav track: Nikizi – Get Wit Dis

    Instead of outro

    Besides your ten labels – who are you following also? Is there plenty of time for it?

    Sure, at least, I’m trying. But it depends – now, for example, I’m watching Apollonia from less than a few years ago. Still very interesting at Raum…musik – it would be a big pleasure to jump into their roster someday. Who else, hmm, let me think… Berg Audio, yes! They are champions of the world in bringing people together, actually. Huge respect for that! I think these are my main non-Mulen orientations.

    iO (Mulen) during his DC-10 appearance – photo courtesy of One Night Stand

    Album

    It hadn’t been planned when the idea of this material came a few months ago, but during our talks, it became known, that iO (Mulen) was working on his new album. Without any public announcements, he agreed to present it on the day, this article would be ready – so…

    We’re having a digital, self-released album with strong broken beat sounding inside. As Sasha briefly said, introducing this album for the first time – “hip-hop sounds in house music, under the name of iO (Mulen)”. A superb way to finish this long read, right?

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