If there’s someone who knows how to throw a good party then it’s Michael Muska. He came to Melbourne when he was 21 with one main goal – to do music events and to DJ. Years later he is well-known in the music scene for just that. Whono’s got the chance to pick his brain on what’s going on right now in his music career, and we also get an exclusive pre-listen to his track ‘Kymatica’ that will be released on Lo-Fi-45 later this year.
When did you start to produce music and for what reason?
“I started when I was 18, because I just wanted to do it. I told a friend in Perth who was an MC, DJ and a producer that I wanted to write techno. He said he’ll come around and install Reason onto my Mac. So he came around and sat down with me and showed me in about a day. The good thing then was that I sat the program for like 4 days straight after that, which is probably the best thing you can do. So I learned the program within 4 days. After that I could just keep writing, and I wrote lots of tracks but I didn’t understand a thing about audio engineering. Everything I wrote was really cool but the sound quality was pretty shit. I’ve gone back and listen to some of these tracks today and there were som really great ideas. “
You grew up in Perth, when did you come to Melbourne?
“I came here at 18 for about nearly a year, and then I went back to Perth. I checked out the music scene and everything but I wasn’t really ready to locate here yet. So I went back to Perth and got grounded again and planned to go back when I turned 21. “
So you knew that you wanted to go back and work with music in Melbourne?
“Yeah, I knew I wanted to come here to DJ and put on parties and festivals. In Perth I was hanging out with a lot of people who were throwing parties and I was like a fly on the wall. I got to come backstage a lot and rock up during set-ups to just see how it all works. It was something I knew I wanted to do from a young age.”
Have you always been into electronic music?
“Not always, I was really into Prodigy and Infusion when I was younger. They were quite rocky and I came out of punk, metal and hip-hop. After that I got into drum and bass, then trance when I got to Melbourne and breaks when I got back to Perth again. After a while I got sick of drum and bass and breaks and went into minimal techno because I was going back to after parties and they were rinsing drum and bass until 8am in the morning. I love it but you can’t listen to it for that long. I started buying techno records to play at the house parties in the morning to chill everyone out. Some people hated me and some liked it, and I kind of thrive of being hated so I just kept doing it! “
What are your inspirations within music? Do you have any artists that you really look up to?
“My favourite is Extrawelt, everyone knows that. I really like their blend of minimal techno and sound design, and they’re also very musical with outdoor vibes. I really liked, and still do like, Boris Brejcha although he has changed a lot. But I do like the idea behind his music and the sounds. I think I’m more into sound design than different styles of music though.
Some of my favourite producers are locals, like MindBuffer. They’ve got this crazy Aphex Twins sounding style, and they’re a massive inspiration of mine. I really think Australian producers are some of the best in the world. They’ve got great sound design, talent and have the ability to create their own genres, and I like people who can do that. “
Something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot myself is how to get into “creativity mode” when you want to produce music. Do you have some kind of routine to get creative when you make a track or does it just come to you naturally?
“My cousin reckons I’m a natural, but I wish I had a routine. I wish I knew how I write music, and that I could just sit down to write a tune and have a structure. Most of the time I’m out or I’m doing something and I just get a feeling so I drop what I’m doing and next thing I’m in front of my computer for 14 hours to 4 days. I don’t move until it’s done, and it usually does get done. So everything I do is usually in one sitting, sometimes two. A lot of the times I can anticipate a track coming and I’m just waiting for something to tell me to go do it. Then afterwards I have no recollection of how I did it, but I can tell a story from it and remember where it came from and what I was feeling. “
How long have you been DJing for?
“I got my car at 17 and only had 6 months registration so I told my dad I wanted $1000 to register it for another couple of years. I bought a second turntable instead because I only had money for one at the time, so the car just stayed on the side for months. I didn’t tell anyone that I was a DJ, but people found out anyway and asked me to play. When I moved to Melbourne I got a job at Revolver and I didn’t tell anyone there either, but I gave a friend a mix that I’ve made and got booked to play at Escobar. Spacy Space saw me playing so the next thing I was DJing at Revolver too. “
What’s your best ever DJ gig you’ve done?
“I don’t think anything will beat Subsonic 2011 versus Nick Tahl. We played for 4 hours on the Riverside stage and it was just next level. I still have people coming up to me talking about that set. He was booked to play 2 hours before me and I was booked to play straight after him. I was like ‘fuck that, let’s just play together’. It started with a few 100 people, by the time we hit half way the whole area up the bank and down to the river there were people everywhere and everyone was losing it. I just think every track we played and mix we did was just so good. I had my laptop there with my hard drive so I was just burning music on the spot and so did Tahl. “
What tracks have you released so far and on what labels?
“My first release was on Loophole Recordings, which is Flip’s (Phil Martin) and Jim’s (Jimmy Le Mac) label. Then last year my EP ‘Bush Techno’ was released on Addictech Records. I had a few other labels that were interested in that EP too but they were all a bit too unsure and had no real structure to them; they just evolve and change. Addictech is a big glitch-hop label and they’ve got some really good artists on there, so I thought it was more suitable to go with them. I don’t see myself fit in with the techno guys as a producer, even though I do as a DJ. Signing with these guys got me to tap into a totally different demographic as well. “
Do you still use Reason?
“I sometimes re-wire it, but not so much. Although I wish I stuck with it but Ableton’s work flow is so fast and I’m also starting to build instrument racks with other producers and they all use Ableton. “
You’ve been running a lot of parties and events in Melbourne. Do you have any events going on at the moment?
“I have approached artists and I’m going to do events for them and local parties like Organic Audio, instead of running events with international acts and do it just for the sake of it. I’ve never done parties for the money; I do it because I love it. But to do it now would just be a competitive thing, because there are so many good parties right now. When I did them no one was booking the acts I was and I did around 350 events with acts like Sven Väth, Noisia, Chase & Status and Moodyman before they blew up. Now it’s so hard and competitive to do those types of shows.
I knew I was going to give up running events eventually and so when I did my last year at Brown Alley I worked on building up the concept for the festival Let Them Eat Cake. That was why I came to Melbourne; to do big parties and festivals and it’s done, so it’s time to focus more on production now.”
What was your inspiration to your track ‘Kymatica’?
“‘Kymatica’ has the sort of sound I really want to write; the drum and bass sounds of an LFO wobble bassline but still outdoor techno feel that fits into the genre bush techno. I started listening to a Dirtybird track and I thought ‘I want to make a track like that’, that’s what triggered me to go into the studio. I had also just finished watching the documentary ‘Kymatica’ for like the 20th time which really represents how I feel and believe. This track is more about a feeling than a story actually where I’m implementing these two inspirations I had at that moment. “
Do you have a special sound production trick in how to make that cool, dark bass?
“You’d be really surprised; I just use the Operator which is the standard plugin from Ableton. My biggest tip is to not get lost in shit loads of VST’s. I was not writing as many tracks as when I was messing around with lots of VST’s. I had heaps of producers who told me ‘pick a VST and stick with it’, and I was hanging out with Wasabi when we used to have studios at Rubix’s and he uses Operator. He pulls the most sickest, filthies basslines ever. I asked him how he did it and he showed me. So just concentrate on one synth, set it up so you know how it works, master it and just have fun with that. “
What other instruments did you use for this track? Hardware or software?
“When I wrote this one I didn’t have a studio so I just did it with my laptop and a pair of headphones, which I’m actually very proud of to be honest. I was in between houses and was forced to use my Sennheiser studio headphones nearly a year and I got used to them, and was able to get some good results anyway. It’s great too for when you’re traveling if you can make music with just your laptop and headphones. “
What are your future music plans?
“To continue with music production and learn more about how to get even better results. I’m all self-thought so now it’s time to actually ask questions to the people who know it well. I also have like 14 tracks that are ready to go, I just keep forgetting! So I need to get into the habit of releasing more music when I’m done with it. My friend and housemate Kasey Taylor is really inspiring me, and I think a lot of other people too, to release more music. So I will probably release something on his label Lo-Fi-45 pretty soon. I have more plans that I’m really excited about but I can’t talk about it yet. It’s going to be good though.”
Have a listen to Muska’s track ‘Kymatica’ which is a pre-mix and will be released on Lo-Fi-45 later this year. Remember where you heard it first!
UNRELEASED SERIES will feature music producers who will share an unsigned track exclusively at Whono’s Music. This first round will be a Melbourne edition with 6 local producers, 2 each month from January to March. Each blog post will contain an interview with the producer to get an insight into their musical world and who they are.