Mix Master Mike - The DJ Made My Day
Monday, 26 May 2008
I must admit, he really did make my day once or twice. Pick up a CD that Mix Master Mike has put his name to – be it something he’s mixed or appeared on (yes, I’m talking about that Beastie Boys connection) – and a smile of heavenly splendour appears on your face.
It’s no secret, then, that Mike Schwartz was a curious, even rebellious kid who more than once impressed his intentions upon his uncle’s record collection. Musically it was a pioneering era; “I was actually around a whole bunch of different music growing up – I listened to everything from Parliament and Jimi Hendrix, to Isaac Hayes – it was a great vibe,” Mike waxes. Things have shifted somewhat in 2008; he’s moved from San Francisco to Hollywood, and is into breaks now. “But hey, I still love my instrumental,” Mix Master chimes. You can almost hear Herbie Hancock breathe a sigh of relief.
“It was really when I was watching D.ST on the stage – that was like the first time I had experienced anyone scratching and that’s when I decided I wanted to play this kind of futuristic instrument,” Schwartz continues. Today of course, turntablism is considered an established art form, but it’s been a long road. “The time, the effort, it takes years and years. You can jam for hours and then get this moment of creativity where something new comes.” Indeed, it’s not uncommon for this grandmaster and visionary to still practice for hours a day, for the better part of each week.
Clearly, his age is irrelevant. It’s his demeanour that speaks loudest. He’s still as possessed by the music as he was the first time he placed the needle on the vinyl. Over time, Mike has brushed shoulders with all manner of gifted people, building upon his legacy as he goes. Reflecting upon his already successful career, he doesn’t see this as the peak; merely a stop on a much longer journey. “You know, it makes me want to work harder. It’s an honour that people look at things that way, but I never planned to be up high on a pedestal. I play music differently, and I listen to it differently – that’s that. I have, and always will consider myself someone who is just another somebody.”
None of which precludes him from being, well, Mix Master Mike – a consistently amazing producer, musician and DJ; a man who has exchanged ideas with producers like Mario Caldato Junior and DJ extraordinaire Q-Bert. “When you do something you love, it becomes apparent and people feed off of you. I don’t consider myself an ambassador or any of those lofty things that people say. I’m just a guy getting older. As you get older, you get more destructible. As someone getting older, I feel like I need to get myself ready – that means being able to deliver something that’s different and fresh every time.”
Of course, from digging through crates to find everything from the elusive to the obscure, he will produce and produce until he finds a bunch of tracks he can utilise in a mix, performance or on a 12 Inch. “Software has of course made this a lot easier over the years – mainly because you can change things quickly. I can make a track on a plane nowadays. I can take a studio in my backpack if you know what I mean!”
Which is interesting given he has not only remixed artists as diverse as Curtis Mayfield and Pusherman, but can also reconcile the vibe between any era, old or new. “I have done Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones… whenever I do something I want to take it to the next level. Give me a video game and I’ll make a soundtrack. Give me a movie and I’ll make a soundtrack. I’ve done all of those things, man. It makes you a much better artist and performer.”
Yet don’t make the mistake of confusing this confidence with conceit. Mike’s more about the music; the “bangin’ beats.” And with a new record in the pipeline, it’s safe to assume they’ll be every bit as potent as you’ve come to expect from the Mix Master himself. “All I have to say to the kids out there is get your stereo systems ready,” sounds his advisory warning. “Upgrade the power. There will be a lot of low-end; start polishing those woofers!”
WHO: Mix Master Mike
WHAT: Plays the Metro Theatre / We Love Sounds
WHEN: Saturday 31 May / Sunday 8 June