To the electro fans the name Mike Ash is synonymous with ultra dope beats, phat basslines and acid, acid, more acid vibes! On the threshold of his 40ties this London based electronic producer has a lot to say about a life full of RAVE!
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Mike! Thank you very much for accepting my call to have a little chat with your good self! I really think that this interview will be one of the most interesting for the Chain D.L.K. readers. I mean people know very well your ‘electro’ side but i feel that most of them aren’t familiar with your 20 years background and the fact that you’re a true… ‘rave survivor’, having released music on the legendary Rising High Records! Let us have a little taste of that early 90s ‘magic’…
Mike Ash: Hi Evan! Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me.
Chain D.L.K.: So… I know that you were always into electrofunk, at least since 1983. However you had never produced electro until the fall of 2010. I’m curious to know why and what turned you to the nuskool scene of electro artists.
Mike Ash: Well that’s a long story… I think we should take it from the start, if you don’t mind…
Chain D.L.K.: Be my guest ;))
Mike Ash: Ok, thanks. See i wasn’t really into music until I heard electro in ’83 at the age of 11. I started buying Street Sounds Electro compilation albums with my pocket money and was into the futuristic sounds of artists such as Cybotron, Hashim and Egyptian Lover but as the music progressed into a more rap and hip hop vibe I started to lose interest apart from the more instrumental artists such as Mantronix, MARRS, Bomb The Bass, Paul Hardcastle etc.
Then along came house and especially acid house and I was hooked again. I left school in 1988 at the age of 16 and started working in central London. Influenced by some of my slightly older colleagues I started to go out to acid house parties and got involved in the whole warehouse party scene, partying every weekend (and sometimes during the week) and indulging in all kinds of illicit behaviour!
I bought my first synth in 1989 – a Roland Juno 6 and a TR-707 drum machine, coupled with a sampling package on my Atari ST and a Casio home keyboard, I played a couple of live acid gigs at the London club “Labyrinth” at the “Four Aces” club in Dalston Lane – incidentally the same club Liam Howlett played his first gig prior to The Prodigy making it big.
I sort of followed the trends of the music but on a more techy tip with Detroit techno, Belgian new-beat, European techno etc. All the time I was experimenting with making music at home and expanded my little recording setup with a proper sampler and a couple more synths and drum machines.
In 1991 I wasn’t really into the new breakbeat hardcore sound but a lot of my friends were. I decided to make some hardcore tracks as a bit of a laugh to show my friends how easy it was. I loaded up 5 or 6 samples from a few disks I had around and quickly put something together in about an hour. I didn’t intend to release it but played the track from cassette at a few events and it seemed to go down fairly well. I sent a copy of the tape to Moving Shadow and they decided to release it along with a couple of other tracks that I’d knocked together.
I only ever wanted to release one record just to prove to myself that I could do it but I’d got the bug. I decided to try getting a deal with a label that I felt was moving more in the direction I liked. I’d heard tracks by The Hypnotist on Rising High and was completely blown away by the sound I heard from a UK artist & label when most of the music I’d been into before was American or European. I phoned Rising High relentlessly for weeks trying to get to talk with Caspar Pound (RIP). Eventually he spoke with me and agreed to meet. I went to their offices and played him some demos. He agreed to sign me up and I went on to release 6 EPs under two pseudonyms: Interface and Audio Assault which did fairly well within the rave scene.
In 1993 I got a job with a video games company producing music and sound effects. They bought me a studio which was far better than what I could afford at home and it allowed me all the time in the world to experiment with recording and music whilst getting paid.
Due to work commitments and as I had a musical outlet I didn’t really release much music from 1993 to 2001, just a few tracks on some smaller labels experimenting with different styles such as house, techno, trance and drum & bass.
In 2001 I left the video games industry as I didn’t like the corporate direction it was moving in. I released several hard house tracks under the name Digital Science and also played a few live gigs at clubs.
I needed to make some money and got a deal with Zero-G to produce some sample CD’s. I produced hard house, trance and techno CDs for them. Working full time from home programming sounds and patterns, editing, compiling etc for around 18 months. I was pretty burned out with electronic music by the end of it.
Bearing in mind throughout all these years I was still going clubbing at least a few times a week and had developed a rather nasty drug habit (you name it, I took it! whatever, whenever). The drugs had taken over from the music, I was pretty insane and it was just a matter of time before I went over the edge.
Very long story short – The sample CD deal went south and I ended up financially bankrupt. Coupled with my drug addled brain I completely lost the plot and ended up in rehab & counselling.
A year later and I was pretty much ‘fixed’ and had decided that I needed a ‘normal’ career. I decided to apply my technical skills and move into IT support. I got some qualifications and a job at an IT company. I thought my time with music was over. I sold my studio and thought I’d never look back.
However in 2010 something just clicked in me and pretty much over night I decided I wanted to write music again. I had managed to separate the music from drugs and financial business and thought I’d like to poke around with some music at home just for a hobby, strictly no more music biz and started to buy up some gear again.
Whilst looking around on SoundCloud I came across the 808 Electro group and downloaded some mixes and tracks. In one of the mixes I heard R21’s Minimum and was completely blown away. A totally amazing track (which it was a complete honour to remix last year!) and it prompted further investigation into the new skool electro sound, artists, labels, DJs etc. The more I listened, the more hooked I became. It seemed I had found my true musical calling and hadn’t been as excited about a style of electronic music since my early acid house & techno days.
I decided to have a go at writing some tracks and produced two: KSOD (named after a client’s laptop developing the Black Screen Of Death) and Stop The Machines.
Stop The Machines got noticed by the man R21 himself and he brought it to the attention of Chris Spotta who played it on his Spotta Sounds radio show. I got talking with a few people in the scene around this time, including your good self and this resulted in me releasing the Stop The Machines EP on Binalog Productions which included an extended version of the track and two new tracks.
Since then I have released two more EPs on Binalog Productions and EPs on Devine Disorder, Mars Frequency and was very pleased to have a track included on Diamond Back Recordings – The Tournament.
Chain D.L.K.: Wow man, you took me back, way back! Amazing story, i felt like watching an alternate version of “24hour Party People”! Or re-living my years as a party animal-lol Thank you so much for sharing with us these experiences!
Now let’s see… What more can i ask you? Ah yes, acid! I really feel that your love for acid will never fade away. Most of your tracks produced in 2011 still have ‘that’ acid touch 😉
Mike Ash: Yes, i absolutely love acid house. It was a sound that instantly captured me back in ’87 /’88. It inspired me to find out how it was made and to make my own music having previously had no interest in writing music before. I still listen to a lot of the original acid house and it still has a magical vibe for me.
Chain D.L.K.: How do you see the current electro scene? Dope music released in almost daily basis, do you think this fact leads to an over saturation at least as far as it concerns the fans and their ability to listen (and buy) all this stuff?
Mike Ash: There is some amazing music out there. The producers really know their stuff and the level of musicality and technical ability is completely awesome!
I’m part of the problem though, I released 5 EPs in 2011 but didn’t buy that many. As I don’t DJ I don’t buy much music. There have been some brilliant radio shows from all around the world – these are what I listen to on a daily basis.
Chain D.L.K.: Electro remains underground, away from the media spotlights. In your opinion is there any chance for this genre to ‘break’ into a wider audience?
Mike Ash: I can only speak about the UK scene, which I’m far too old and burned out to be a part of now. For something to be really popular it has to be part of the young adult / youth culture. I see electro as being quite an intricate form of music. Unfortunately I can’t see it becoming part of the UK’s youth culture, which I see as being quite brash and about instant gratification.. but I don’t understand dub step, electro-house or other popular forms of modern electronic music!
Chain D.L.K.: Your favourite electro artists and labels, if you can shortlist some of them 😉
Mike Ash: I’ve been lucky enough to become friends with many of my favourite artists and have released with several of my favourite labels. I’m too scared to list them in case I miss anybody!
Chain D.L.K.: Ok then! Let’s talk about your influences in producing music. And what’s your current equipment?
Mike Ash: Life in general influences me to produce music. It’s something that I just have to get out of my system. If I don’t spend time in the studio I get quite agitated and its something I just need to release.
My studio has changed quite a bit over the past year or so. It started out originally in a fairly oldskool style with hardware synths, drum machines, sampler, mixing desk, effects processors computer etc. Over the past year I have embraced some of the more modern things. I got rid of my mixer and effects processors around 6 months ago and now do all of my mixing in the box. I have recently sold my drum machines and sampler choosing to use software for these instead but I still use hardware synths as I prefer them to software.
Currently I have 15 hardware synths:
Access Virus B
Casio CZ-1000 x2
Clavia Nord Lead 2
Dave Smith Mopho keyboard
Moog Little Phatty
Roland Alpha Juno-1
Roland SH-101 (with MIDI)
Waldorf Blofeld keyboard
x0xb0x (custom built by The Beast)
These are all connected to A/D converters then by ADAT to an audio interface which connects via Firewire to a PC running Cubase and Sound Forge with various plugins. I’ve tried Ableton Live and Logic but Cubase does everything I need. I’ve also invested in Steinberg hardware – 3 Midex MIDI interfaces and a CC121 controller.
I also use my netbook with an Akai LPK USB keyboard and a pair of earphones with software synths to sketch ideas which I then flesh out in my main studio.
Chain D.L.K.: Your plans for 2012 and maybe a message to your (dedicated) fans 😉
Mike Ash: Currently I’m having a bit of a break from producing music and concentrating on family life. I’m getting married in the summer to my very tolerant girlfriend who’s not interested in electronic music at all! I’m writing a couple of tracks for some compilations at the moment and would like to produce my first album by the end of the year.
A message to my fans.. I’m completely flattered to have any fans. I just write music because it’s something I love. All your support is greatly appreciated! 🙂
Chain D.L.K.: Thank you very much Mike!
Mike Ash: You are welcome Evan!
Visit Mike Ash on the web at:
[Interview: Evangelos Zacharopoulos]