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vol 7 - issue 03 (nov 2004) :: interviews
MIX MASTER MIKE
Interview by Wayne Chinsang

YOU KNOW HIS NAME: MIX MASTER MIKE. YOU KNOW HIS GIG: WORLDWIDE SCRATCH ENTHUSIAST AND BEAT DOCTOR FOR THE BEASTIE BOYS. AND NOW YOU WILL KNOW ABOUT HIS NEW ALBUM, BANGZILLA, HIS UPCOMING TOUR, AND WHY HE DOESN'T LISTEN TO DJ MUSIC. SO COME ALONG WITH WAYNE CHINSANG AS HE WALKS YOU THROUGH THE WORLD OF MIKE.

Wayne Chinsang: So, your new album, Bangzilla, comes out October 19th.

Mix Master Mike: Right.

WC: Start off by telling me a little bit about this album, and how you feel it differs from your previous work.

MMM: Well, this albumís more strategically thought out. It took me more time to think about it before I proceeded to create it. The beats and scratches have been more worked out. The first half took about three years in the making, but then the second half of the album took about two months. So there was a spurt involved. I had about 50% of the album completed, but the rest took me a very short amount of time to create.

WC: How do you usually work? Are you more methodical about things, or do you just create something and then put it out there to see if it works?

MMM: I was really methodical about this record.

WC: Was that different for you? I mean, how did you create Anti-Theft Device? Was that also methodical?

MMM: It wasnít as methodical as this record, for sure. Anti-Theft Device came in different parts. That was stuff I had made over years and years and years. It was mixtapes and drum machines all mashed together.

WC: Right.

MMM: It was a mix of all the shit I had created over a six year span.

WC: So, basically, Anti-Theft Device was more of a retrospective album, and Bangzilla is an album created almost entirely just for that specific project.

MMM: Yeah. Itís all brand-new.

WC: It seems like there is a definite overall theme with Bangzilla. Itís thematic in a way that a movie would be, because itís very cohesive from beginning to end, everything included. Even the album artwork goes along with a theme. I donít want to say itís a concept album, but it feels like it has concept album undertones. Is that something you went for with this disc?

MMM: You know, I just let it flow that way. I didnít mean for it to be a concept album, but it came out that way. For the listener, I wanted to create an audio experience, but I wanted them to get a visual experience, too.

WC: I know youíre starting the Beastie Boys tour here in a little bit, but how is that going to translate on your personal tour for Bangzilla? I donít know if you saw DJ Shadow on his last tour or not, but he had these screens set up on stage with him--

MMM: Yeah, I heard about that.

WC: Okay. So is something similar to that planned for your visuals?

MMM: Yeah. Iíve got plans to do a Bangzilla tour, and I want it to be an experience where Iím creating the tracks live. So there are plans in the making.

WC: Obviously, there are things that go along with releasing a new album, like touring and music videos. Do you think about the visuals for videos or your tour during the process of creating the music?

MMM: Not at all. I just let it pour out. Once I create it, I can figure out how to go about all the other things.

WC: It seems that the production on the new disc is very thick and put together very well. Like, if you were to shoot it, nothing could get through it. Itís strong and... (pauses) I donít know... meaty. (laughs)

MMM: Yeah, well, thatís the thing. Thatís what I aimed for. I aimed for every song to be as fully composed as possible. I wanted it to be really, really heavy. Basically, I wanted to blow woofers out.

WC: Right. Was the production harder or easier than stuff youíve put together in the past?

MMM: I think the tricky part of creating this album was thinking about what route to take. I built this album around the beats. The beats were manifested, and they were the first thing I dealt with.

WC: So the beats were the skeleton of the album.

MMM: Definitely. I did the beats first, and then built the scratching around it.

WC: So the scratching serves more as an accent on this album?

MMM: Well, the scratching is the accent and the drive.

WC: The force.

MMM: Right.

WC: So, the disc isn't out yet, but I know the press has it, and youíve probably handed copies over to a couple friends to listen to.

MMM: You know what? I havenít.

WC: No kidding?

MMM: Yeah. Iím gonna let it come at them as a surprise.

WC: Thatís cool. Well, I was gonna ask you if the feedback has been good, but--

Both: (laugh)

WC: Well, I really like it. (laughs)

MMM: Yeah, the people that have heard it have been really happy with it.

WC: So, do you consider yourself to be a control freak, in that you like to control every aspect of your album?

MMM: Definitely.

Both: (laugh)

MMM: Definitely. I mean, weíre talking about a strand of music that has never, ever been created. So I figure itís up to me to take that into my own hands and feed the public.

WC: Do you think your level of control ever impedes you instead of helping you?

MMM: No, not at all.

WC: So youíre a complete control freak.

Both: (laugh)

MMM: Yeah. Iíve gotta be.

WC: Donít sweat it. So am I. So, 1998 was a big year for you, because you had Anti-Theft Device and Hello Nasty. And now you have the same exact thing. Itís 2004 and you have To The 5 Boroughs and Bangzilla. Things seem to go in hectic waves for you. Is that thought out? Do you enjoy the crazy pace?

MMM: Well, I was born around insanity, so--

Both: (laugh)

MMM: --Iíve learned to adapt to the insanity, and I use the insanity to my advantage.

WC: Does the work that you do with the Beasties and your own personal work, especially since itís all within the same year, do those two things ever conflict?

MMM: Not at all. Theyíre two totally different entities. Itís kind of like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde deal. I have two sides to me.

WC: Do you see the Beastie Mix Master Mike as being different from the solo Mix Master Mike?

MMM: The Mix Master Mike Bangzilla project is definitely out of control.

Both: (laugh)

WC: I read that youíre really inspired by Fela Kuti.

MMM: Most definitely.

WC: I donít know if youíve heard the Chief Xcel project, The Underground Spiritual Game--

MMM: I heard about that, yeah. I heard itís really dope.

WC: Yeah, itís awesome.

MMM: I heard itís like a Fela mega-mix.

WC: Yeah. Xcel overdubs interview clips with Fela. Itís great.

MMM: Thatís dope. Fela is a hero of mine. His compositions are a huge inspiration.

WC: Would a project of that stature be intimidating to you, because you do have so much respect for him?

MMM: Well, I did a project on this tribute to Fela called Red Hot + Riot. I did stuff with Blackalicious on the interludes.

WC: Right.

MMM: But I know what you mean. I just did a remix for "Pusherman" by Curtis Mayfield. But there are ways to go about it to not disrespect the mode.

WC: Right. I was just wondering if there has ever been a project where, once you got it, you were just like, "Oh, fuck."

MMM: Yeah. Some people have come to me with a project and Iíll think, "Okay... Iíll take it on." But Iím just putting my own take on it.

WC: Have you ever turned something down because you just didnít know what to do with it?

MMM: (laughs) Not this year. I did a remix for a Quincy Jones/Bill Cosby project.

WC: Yeah, the "Hikky-Burr" remix.

MMM: Yeah, yeah.

WC: That kicks ass.

MMM: Thanks. But Iím just putting my own twist to it, you know?

WC: Right. So, I know that you were asked to stop competing in DJ competitions almost ten years ago now.

MMM: Wow. Yeah. It has been that long.

WC: And I know itís an honor to be asked to stop because youíre so good, but do you ever miss it?

MMM: No, because making music is a battle. (laughs)

WC: Would you say making albums is more of a competition than competing?

MMM: Itís way more of a competition.

Both: (laugh)

MMM: I mean, today youíll get kids that are battling, and youíll just wonder, "What are they battling for?" You know? I mean, they just win and they win. And thatís it. But with me, Iíve been able to spin out of that and become an artist. And Iíve been very fortunate to hook up with the Beastie Boys, and they provide a big, big stage for me. So, big respect to the Boys.

WC: Hell yeah.

MMM: Iím just very blessed.

WC: So, there are always new waves of DJs coming through. I donít know if youíve heard, like, Rjd2ís stuff--

MMM: Yeah.

WC: Okay. Well, with the generation of DJs that are coming out now, who is someone youíre seeing right now that is impressive to you?

MMM: Well, Iíve got to be very, very honest with you. I donít even listen to anybody.

Both: (laugh)

MMM: I donít.

WC: Thatís awesome, though. I run a magazine and I donít read other magazines.

Both: (laugh)

MMM: I donít know what people are doing. Iím just riding my own board right now.

WC: Do you stay away from that stuff on purpose, because you donít want to be influenced?

MMM: Well, Iíve never really been influenced by other DJs. Iíve been influenced by people like Fela, Jimmy Smith, and Coltrane. Those are people Iím listening to constantly. Old, old music. Iím even listening to old soul music, too: The Stylistics, The Delfonics. And this may sound weird, but I get inspiration from that music for some reason.

WC: Yeah, but thatís great. I think if you surround yourself with what you do--

MMM: Itís kind of overkill.

WC: Yeah. Itís hard to grow.

MMM: Yeah, it is.

WC: Since everything goes in waves, since fads come and go, what do you think needs to be done with the world of DJing to keep it from becoming a fad?

MMM: We need more DJs that move on to be full musicians. If they can separate themselves from being only a DJ, then thatís when theyíre making their first step to evolution.

WC: So being a DJ is just the first step to being a full musician?

MMM: Yeah. In my eyes.

WC: Well, this is the last question I have for you, and it has nothing to do with anything we just talked about.

MMM: Okay.

WC: The question is, do dogs have lips?

MMM: (pauses) My father-in-lawís dog has lips. His name is Cody and heís a Shih-Tzu. So, dogs do have lips.

WC: (laughs) Right on.

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