Space Tours' Mitch Wellings announces new album

Mitch Wellings turned heads when launching his vinyl label, Space Tours, back in 2019. His debut release sold-out worldwide in less than 24 hours, prompting an instant repress. Space Tours now boasts four sought after solo EP’s from Mitch, with remixes from Harry Wills, Nemo Vachez, Youandewan and most recently, Jhobei.

Since its inception, Space Tours records have been heavily recognised by the who’s who of the underground digging scene, with support from Hamish & Toby, Voigtmann and Truly Madly to name a few, as well as industry heavyweights such as Sasha, Enzo Siragusa and Gerd Janson. 

Space Tours: The Legacy of Phoenix is his extraordinary new concept album. Based on the fictional backstory that his label Space Tours is the worlds first intergalactic travel agent, the album positions itself as a company propaganda piece, telling the transformational journey of one passenger on the first ever Space Tours flight. Encompassing elements of house, electro, garage, disco, funk, breaks and ambient, the album is a trip in every sense of the word. 

Thanks for talking with us Mitch - where are you talking to us from today? 

A nature reserve in my hometown, Stoke, in the UK.

Can you give us an overview of the concept behind your new album and what inspired you to explore this particular theme?

Short answer: It tells the story of the first ever Space Tours flight through the eyes of one passenger.

Longer answer: Space Tours has always had the concept of being ‘the first intergalactic travel agent, open to all lifeforms wishing to take a trip’. The album is effectively a company propaganda piece, in the guise of a first-person historical document. It is Space Tours pretty much taking credit for changing the life of one of their passengers for the better, as he undergoes a complete spiritual reawakening during his experience in space.

How did the concept of the album influence the overall sound and musical direction of the songs?

I literally had a flow chart to help me piece together the steps of the narrative and the feel of the tracks was dictated by what/where/when/why of what was happening at the time. Everything in it is completely over thought to be honest, from the sounds used down to the voices chosen. I worked with six voice actors in total from around the world, so it meant writing scripts as well as music.  

To give an example of getting the feel right, the first track on the album after the introduction is called ‘The Human Race’ and indicates the birth of the lead character. It has a playful innocence to it, with some deep FM chords, drenched in nostalgia. The track also returns later on in the album when they land back on Earth, but this time as an instrumental with a full talk show over the top of it. It is used again to symbolise not only being back to earth, after plenty of spacey music in-between, but also to indicate the rebirth of the lead character. This kind of technique is more commonly found in film I guess. 

Did you face any challenges while translating these themes into music? If so, how did you overcome them?

There were lots of challenges when getting everything to translate into a listenable story I guess. Sometimes I had to just be more general with the concepts so that it didn’t end up being a 50 track, 3 month long album. An example would be a track called A Career For The Future which symbolises the idea that capitalism pushes us into what it wants us to do, not necessarily what is best for us. It’s meant to sound like a cheesy 80s/90s recruitment advert and uses an intentionally grating American voice, with things like keyboard typing, microwave bleeps and camera flashes as the sound design. It represents the lead character getting a job in IT and having a nuclear family, because that’s what is expected of him, without actually saying “Phoenix gets a job”.

How does the album relate to your personal experiences or outlook as an artist?

There are certainly parallels to be had from my own personal life experiences. Much of the message behind the album and beliefs expressed by Phoenix after his awakening come from my own beliefs. They are rooted in philosophy. Stoicism, Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism mainly. Generally just trying to be a good person and live a happy life on your own terms are at the heart of it all though.

Were there any particular artists or albums that influenced you while creating Space Tours? How did they inspire you?

I didn’t have anything in mind at the time of writing. It was important for me for it to be completely unique.

Did you collaborate with any other artists or musicians? How did their contributions enhance the conceptual elements?

I wrote/played everything myself, apart from a guitar solo on ‘The Human Race’. I got a local session guitar player called Dan Machin to do the solo for me, as I’m not a good enough player to do the kind of thing I wanted to achieve. Originally, I had an electric guitar solo in mind, but in the end we ended up using my classical nylon string acoustic, which has a really nice sound to it and felt more special. You can actually hear his voice too as he kind of hums/sings/scats while he solos. That’s his way of translating what’s in his head into what he ends up playing, which picked up on the mic and I intentionally kept bits in.

How do you envision the album's concept translating to a live performance? Are there any visual or thematic elements you plan to incorporate into your shows?

I see it evolving. A full performance piece with bespoke visuals would be the dream. Unfortunately, at present I’m a small artist just scraping by each month. My EP’s always do quite well, but even if all the copies of this album sell out it will actually still be at a loss for me due to all the costs. It’s been a labour of love. 

I’m all about a full audio-visual experience and I’d wish for nothing more than to be able to bring everything I have in my head to life visually. There would need to be some investment from somewhere before that could happen.

For now I've done what I can. I’ve already got special versions of certain tracks from the album, that kind of makes them more club friendly. I’ve repurposed a few of the vocals into new things that can deliver stand out moments in DJ sets. I’ve got some basic animation done of the album artwork. The dream would absolutely be progressing it into the full visual experience though. A complete trip. Who knows, we shall see.

Did you utilise any specific vintage or rare equipment during the recording process? How did it contribute to the overall sound?

Vintage-wise there was some of the classic stuff, you know 909/303/Junos etc, some of it was the OG hardware, some bootleg versions, some software versions.

The main hub of all the drums is usually my Analog Rytm Mk2 which can either do really modern, or vintage, if you so wish. It’s great for the more wonky sounding drum patterns and probability based/randomised stuff. I’ve used some cheaper hardware synths too in the form of a Novation Bass Station and Korg Minilogue on some key parts.

Rarity wise, probably my Korg DW-6000 from around 1984, which is an analog/digital hybrid. It features crazy shaped digital waveforms with an analog filter. It can either sound terrible, or amazing, never anything in-between.

As an artist in the electronic music scene, how do you navigate the balance between staying true to your own unique style while also keeping up with the ever-changing trends and demands of the genre?

For me, club music is in a beautiful place. You can literally play anything you want on a dancefloor now within reason and if it works, it works. As a music fan first and foremost, this is extremely exciting for me. I dig for all genres and am confident enough as a DJ to navigate through those genres while keeping a flow on a dancefloor. It is very liberating. Especially having started DJing over a decade ago as part of the minimal scene, which was so set on certain sounds. I could never allow myself to feel this restricted again by one specific sub-genre of sound. Genre fluid for life.

Most of what I dig for is decades old, that I’m just discovering for the first time, so it allows me to create a unique style from my favourite bits, instead of just digging through new releases.

I’m at a stage of my life where I don’t care so much for trends and if anything, try my best to avoid them as before you know it, they’re old news. The most important thing for me is being in tune with the dancefloor.

What role do you think technology and advancements in music production have played in shaping the electronic music scene? How has it impacted your own creative process?

I’m a big believer in equality, so it’s nice to see music production becoming more accessible for people from all backgrounds. The sheer accessibility of computers these days, means people can make high level tracks without needing rooms full of equipment. As much as I love my hardware, the computer is still key. The tracks I make today wouldn’t be possible without large amounts of computer power. I have 64GB of ram that is still heavily strained when running some projects at over 100 channels, especially with all of the mixdown processing I do. That is where I geek out.

Something that is both exciting and concerning is the development of AI. What it’s doing to the design world already shows that it won’t be long before the music world is literally full of AI. I’m hoping the plugin developers integrate it into their apps as a tool to help producers, as the possibilities for that are very cool. Ultimately it will of course be abused by people without any skills, with some using it to make things for them entirely and we risk losing a human touch. I’m yet to hear any fully AI produced, mixed and mastered electronic music that I’d play, however I’m sure the time will come.

Mitch Wellings’ Space Tours: The Legacy of Phoenix is out now. Buy/listen to the release here

Keep up with Space Tours on Instagram here