We are proud to present another artist spotlight, this time making way to San Francisco where we meet deep house DJ/producer Disco Mike. His signature sound is truly marked in his prolonged buildups, excessive use of reverberation and white noise techniques, and a focus on music as a texture rather than a sequence of sounds. His tracks often feature ethereal vocal lines and blues influenced guitar samples. Today, Daily Beat is proud to bring to you the latest EP from Disco Mike entitled "Fire Is Out," (via Sounds of Juan) featuring three tunes with extended vocal mixes and remixes from production greats.
DB: First off, I want to thank you for joining us this evening here on Daily Beat. I wanted to begin by going into your artist name, Disco Mike. Talk to us a little bit about how that name and brand got started and how you've tried to identify your sound through your artistry?
Thanks for taking interest, I’m beyond excited to be chatting with Daily Beat. The Disco Mike name was actually an off the cuff suggestion from a peer of mine who also produces dance music under the title Tyler Pixels (part of the SF duo “Sex Pixels”). Like a lot of artists early on in producing I had made some crap music under a handful of crap aliases while trying to figure out the ropes and he just announced that name as a suggestion out of the blue so I figured I'd use it. I've really come to like that alias though, because I think disco music is the sort of origin of the modern dance scene; if there was a dance music bible, “disco” would be the story of Genesis.
DB: Talk to us a little bit about the San Francisco nightlife scene. With many prominent venues such as Ruby Skye and Vessel entertaining the top DJs and producers in electro, big-room and progressive house holding it down, how have you found the scene to help you gain market share?
The scene in San Francisco is interesting because SF has this vaguely counter culture attitude toward mainstream stuff of all kinds. You’ve got people riding around on fixed gear bikes listening to black flag on cassette and that ethos has probably protected San Francisco from some of the sellout forces at work in today’s event promotion. It’s funny that you mention Ruby Skye and Vessel (don’t forget the Mezzanine!) because clubs with the kind of pull to get acts like Fedde Le Grand, Tiesto, and other huge artists is definitely a big part of the entertainment business, but I’m more often finding great vibes at clubs like Public Works, Harlot, and Monarch where the space is a bit more confined and returning or resident acts get more playing time. A Vin Sol performance I saw late last year at Monarch really solidified my feelings about that style of venue and even Kaskade came to play one of his deeper house sets at that club during the Redux tour so there’s definitely magic in small places around San Francisco.
DB: Do you feel you have developed a personal sound? With so many producers in the big-room, progressive segments of electronic music, artists these days are searching for that signature sound.
My strategy for making music is really centered around atmosphere. I have a lot of tracks with these prolonged breakdowns, which is something I guess I borrowed from the big-room fad, but I just really enjoy the energy you get when spending some time without the kick drum pounding. There are also a few synths that I would say comprise my signature style, one that keeps coming back to me is this heavily compressed saw tooth number with a lot of pitch bend. I first discovered that sound when working on a track called “Holding Hands” which was a remix released in January last year. The breakdown in the song is awash with pitch changes and has a really visceral impact that I’ve never quite matched in other releases, but I've definitely reused the sound over and over.
DB: Classical music has always been a foundation for many artists’ success. How have you found your experiences with classical music throughout the Disco Mike career?
I recently was reading about Chopin’s composition style and how he always tried to make music look good on the page when it was written as sheet music. I’m very visual like that as well and I always try and design a piece of music visually first. Before I start I usually have an idea of where the action should be, and where the calm areas are going to fall and I try and get that drawn out pretty well before working on sound design. My other influences are drawn from more modern music and I absolutely love indie music, even the cheesy stuff. Whenever I take a break from dance music I’m listening to bands like Bright Eyes, Wilco, or Jets to Brazil or something. Those groups got me playing guitar aggressively which really led to my interest in music production.
DB: We all know the live scene is the true breakout in the industry. What has been the biggest crowd you have played for? Any festivals or openings you enjoyed?
I did a show last year with Nick Parkers, who I produce and DJ with on a regular basis under the collaborative pseudonym “Tim Vance”. That was probably one of the largest crowds I've played to in an indoor setting, maybe 400 people. My time is overwhelmingly spent in the studio perfecting music and I probably do at most about 15 shows per year. I've done some cool stuff that’s a little more off the grid also — which I think is pretty common for California based dance artists given the climate and the plethora of public and private spaces all over the state — including parties in the woods with a smaller group of people (not to mention less supervision). I've played alongside some great outdoor activities at Burning Man as well, where audiences are often exceptionally receptive to experimentation, and those are probably some of my most memorable experiences. I think my favorite experience as a DJ so far is standing on the top of a mutant vehicle in the middle of the desert with no pants on, both hands on the mixer; my own personal Walter White moment.