To coincide with the release of his new single Never Fall, we were blessed with the chance to interview rising artist and producer Mike G. We talk about his approach to making music, his roots as a songwriter, what the new track represents, and what the future may hold. Here’s the conversation in full.
Hi Mike, thanks for the interview – and huge congrats for the upcoming single. You have a really unique musical style – how would you describe the way you approach making music?
Thank you! I’d say my approach is very experimental as of late. Having been recording since around 2009, I am sitting on thousands of hours of audio, stems, and unreleased music. Sometimes I start an idea by playing something on guitar, singing a rough vocal and recording a voice memo on my iPhone. Other times I’ll just loop scratch melody ideas on my Strymon Timeline delay pedal with my PRS and see what sticks.
“When it comes to lyrics, I try not to force them out. I’d rather distract myself while listening to the instrumental and let the lyrics and vocal melodies come to me. If the ideas are really good, then I won’t forget them.”
Who or what first inspired you to create, and what was the name of your first ever song?
I grew up in a family that loves music but didn’t have any instruments. I always had the idea since a young age that I wanted to play guitar. I grew up around a few friends that played and it just added to the fire. When I was in high school I saved up and bought my first guitar from Target and it was trash. I saved up a bit more and bought a Lyon electric guitar. It wasn’t much better but it was easier to play and that was good enough to get me started.
When MySpace was thriving I had an artist page. It was just guitar only instrumentals so I wouldn’t consider any of those a full song.
I think the name of my first song was called When You Get Played Like A Guitar String and I wrote it in my dorm room the first year of college using fruity loops, audacity, and a tiny foldable USB microphone. It was a hip-hop track. That audio is lost (thank God) but it was my first attempt at making a song.
Tell me about the single Never Fall – what inspired you to write it, and how does the contrast of delicacy and depth sonically connect with the lyrical story?
The concept behind Never Fall is full of double entendres. I released this song the first week of September as the season is changing to Fall here in Chicago. One meaning could be that when people view you as great or having a higher status, there are people who naturally want to challenge that and take you down. The song is saying, “I will never fall, you could never take me down!”.
Same with the lyric “Put that shit down”. This could be referring to literally asking someone to physically put something down, or putting down some rumour they are carrying around. Or – am I the artist putting this song down – as in putting it out there to illustrate my dominance.
The vocal of this song was also sampled from the track Carry Me Home, from my EP Ojo De Agua.
The final quarter steps back into mellow contemplation – do you play organic instruments here, and do you write in an unplugged setting or head straight to the software to produce?
The ending goes into a mellow trap/drill beat production. The guitars used here were recorded before the Never Fall session. The guitars were chopped up, reversed, down-tuned and mixed with new effects. The synths were also sampled from a previous session – they were tuned to a different key and mellowed out.
This song was started in Ableton as something experimental and was polished up in a few months and mixed in Pro Tools daily for another month. This track was done entirely in software but the pieces that were sampled were recorded using Neve Preamps, Antelope Audio AD/DA converters, Pulgtec EQP, Moog Synths, an MPC-1000, Paul Reed Smith Guitars, and my Rode NT1A with a custom vintage Diaphragm.
Is live performance a big part of your plans, and if so, what can fans expect from that?
No plans just yet!
The artwork is an enchanting visual – how did you capture that one, and how important is imagery and visual representation for you as an artist?
Thank you so much! For the Spotify Canvas – I staged a photo shoot at the Viceroy hotel in Chicago. I’m wearing a very distinct Palm Angels hoodie, black pants, and Dolce Gabbana sneakers. Hundreds of pictures were taken. I grabbed 67 pictures and edited myself out of the background using Photoshop. I then created various animated backgrounds in Blender3D and edited myself in. I then stitched together the different animations with the original unedited 67 shots and cut and looped it. It was a very time consuming process but I am very pleased with the outcome.
As for the album cover. I wanted to choose one good shot from the photo shoot for the cover but I didn’t like how it looked as a square. So I edited out pieces of one of the images to create a kaleidoscope effect for the edges. I then feathered in a couple images of myself into the center of the cover. I wanted the feel of the album cover to be surreal. I also wanted it to give the impression of a house/freestyle artist from the 90’s. Think 2 Kool Kris, Green Velvet, Rockell. Imagine seeing this picture on a cassette tape!
After focusing on building up my audio and design skills for so long, I finally started to put extra focus into the imagery that accompanies my music. There wasn’t one specific turning point that lead me into focusing on my image but it felt like a natural progression as an artist to use say something as fashion as a medium to sell your vision.
“The album cover shoot was grandiose. The outfit has sharp contrasting elements of cherry red and sky blue with black, white, and tan. On the rooftop of a 5-star hotel in Chicago these high-end fashion visuals combine to tell a new tale.”
What separates the new single from the recent EP Ojo De Agua?
For one I think this single is a lot more listenable. It gives upbeat, danceable vibes with a few notes of drum and bass, trap, and drill. Ojo De Agua is an EP that is introverted – it aims to be more of a storytelling and production showcase than a viral one hit wonder.
There’s a lot of poetry in your songwriting – do you read much or take inspiration from other art forms than music?
I take inspiration from many writers, movies, albums, and real life phenomena. Right now I’m reading Cinematic Speculation – a book about the imagery in Quentin Tarantino’s movies. When I was mixing the drums for Never Fall, I tried picturing that video of Timbaland showing Jay-Z the beat for Dirt Off Your Shoulder as he was jumping around the room eating a banana. I try to evoke these kind of images in my music.
What’s next for you?
I think moving more into this sample-based direction. I’ve spent over 10 years shunning what is popular and breaking all the rules when it comes to music. I think it is about time I start to cover the same ground all great artists have covered. D, G, C chord changes, 4/4 Beat It Arctic Monkey stadium anthem guitar licks. Maybe I’ll try the log cabin organic Morning Phase Folklore style. Who knows!