Mikal is a name that has crept into the drum & bass like a ninja, positioning himself firmly in the Metalheadz camp. With a firm foothold in 170 bpm music Mikal is now diversifying his palette, with an absolutely stinkin' 4 track EP on Skream's Disfigured Dubz imprint. We caught up with the cross tempo shape shifter to find out more...
Most people will know you as a drum & bass producer, most notably rising quickly through the ranks following releases on Metalheadz from late 2010. In a short period of time since the second Genesis EP you have shot to notoriety. How has this period seen you develop as an artist?
I hope that my production skills have got better, I’ve learnt more and my writings improved. Having a new computer helps! It may seem like progression in a short period of time but most of the releases coming out now are tracks I wrote some time ago. I certainly don’t think I’ve got to a point where I can rest on my laurels yet. As you get further forward the goal posts keep shifting because the people you’re working with also raise the bar. Every time you do something new you always discover a whole load more that you need to learn. I won’t let tunes go out as easily anymore so if anything production time has got a little bit longer. By trying out different things I have increased the knowledge I can draw on and through lots of mistakes I know more of what not to do!
Your latest EP on Skream's Disfigured Dubz imprint is your first released foray into Dubstep. Much as with Metalheadz and drum & bass it has earmarked you as an artist to watch in 2012... How does your approach to music at 140 bpm differ to that at 170 bpm? Do your influences change when working at the lower tempo?
I’m still influenced by the same things it’s just the constraints/formula that’s different. I enjoy both! Dubstep gives me more opportunity to elongate the sounds and use samples that wouldn’t necessarily work with drum and bass. In reality one is just a lot faster than the other. It’s great to be able to work in both. I make 135 and 175bpm and everything in between.
The Mikal EP plays cohesively as a series of tracks bound by a common groove, touching on a vibe provoking nostalgia of early dubstep and UK garage, while firmly holding its own from a modern production perspective. Was the EP written with collective release in mind, or are the tunes in fact each one to their own? Can you tell us about the conception of the EP?
They have an old school breakbeat/drum and bass meets early dubstep vibe! I didn’t make the tracks with that idea. I didn’t have any expectations when writing them; it’s just how they came out. You can probably hear a ‘common groove’ as I wrote them at a time when I was messing around with similar sounds. The conception for the EP was Skream’s idea. I didn’t expect it, I sent over two tracks and he wanted those straightaway and a couple of weeks later I sent another two. So he decided to put them together on one EP. It came about quite by surprise.
More and more we are seeing drum & bass producers releasing lower tempo music, notably within the 140 range. Many of whom such as Martyn, Breakage and Kryptic Minds choosing to stay primarily within that range afterwards. How do you perceive tempo as a defining factor with electronic music?
Being defined by tempo is unavoidable but it can be frustrating. Music is an organic, constantly evolving process; you can’t help but be influenced by what’s going on around you. That’s how new styles of music emerge. If I stayed doing the same thing I’d have a limited shelf life as an artist. However, if you make a variety of styles you only have to read the comments on most You Tube videos. People are forever arguing about what genre they think the musician should be sticking to. It’s like a kid growing up trying to learn new languages; it can take longer to come through but when you do, you have a wider scope to draw on.
I don’t want to be defined by bpm. Look at how Photek and Adam F have progressed; I really admire their breadth of work. You may miss opportunities if you say you’re only a techy dnb or deep dubstep producer. Noisia make all sorts of tunes; skream dabbles in everything from techno, dubstep to disco. Lots of people are now making both drum & bass and dubstep. Who said if you start out in one genre or even sub genre that you have to stay in it for life? I think it’s about trying to make people take you seriously as a producer. Just being known as someone who does one type of tune is not for me. I make different music depending on my mood and to be assigned to one style forever would put me off before I even started! Nowadays you need more strings to your bow if you want to make a living out of it.
Can you talk us through the tracks on the Mikal EP?
Argh!!! I struggle with these kinds of questions, music is subjective, I wish I could just say make your own mind up! So I will. Ha ha ha
What can we expect in 2012 from Mikal?
More gigging, more dubstep and drum and bass releases. Working on my Metalheadz album. You might even see something other than dubstep and dnb! More collaborations with actual vocalists rather than samples! After the ‘Nervous/Device’ (Force Recordings) and ‘Lifts me Up/Just A Game‘ (Metalheadz). I’m looking forward to seeing how this ‘What you Know’ EP is received. ‘Headbanger’ and ‘The Chant’ are due out in April/ May on Utopia Music. I’ve been working on something for Break’s Symmetry. Finishing a track with Nico from No U Turn and another with Touch. I have some tunes in early development with Mystro, a couple of Headz singles or an EP, again not sure, before the album drops. Oh and I should probably learn to drive!
MIKAL EP is out on Disfigured Dubz now.