Making his name in the 1990s as a melodic avant-garde electronic producer using pseudonyms such as u-Ziq, Jake Slazenger and Tusken Raiders, Mike Paradinas was a peer of experimental artists such as Luke Vibert, Squarepusher and Aphex Twin. In fact, he did an album with Richard D. James (Aphex), 'Expert Knob Twiddlers' as Mike & Rich, in the mid-'90s — the two producers were pictured on the cover playing Connect 4 — before launching his acclaimed Planet Mu label.
A favourite of Mary Anne Hobbs, Planet Mu has released some great electronic sounds in the past 15 years, including work by Solar Bears, Pinch, Venetian Snares, Meat Beat Manifesto, Luke Vibert, Falty DL, Distance and Floating Points, and now it's Paradinas's turn again to put something out. The new Heterotic album — ranging from old skool house and post-dubsteppy stuff to something that sounds like a Terminator 2 soundtrack ('Robocore') — has been made with his wife Lara, and as he explains to DJ Mag, he's got his mojo back again...
You were very prolific in the mid-'90s — as well as your u-Ziq stuff, you put out material under the names Jake Slazenger, Tusken Raiders and Gary Moscheles. Why did you like having so many aliases back then?
“It was down to record labels, really. It was a way of changing your musical output a bit too, your musical personality. But yeah, for different labels — in those days you didn't want to cross-promote other people's stuff, although it doesn't matter nowadays. There's not a lot of money to protect, there's no point doing that now.
“I was signed to Virgin then, they didn't really mind me releasing on other labels — I never had any problems. Did Jake Slazenger have his own personality? Yeah, that was kind of the intention with that one, I wanted him to be a bit cheesier. It was a long time ago, all those releases, they were all recorded nearly 20 years ago. It's like being a different person.”
You were quite prolific back then, but this century you've hardly released any of your own productions — how come?
“Well, let me think. That era probably ends in 1999 with the 'Royal Astronomy' album, and what happened then was that I changed over to Logic, and had quite a lot of difficulty working with Logic. Tunes took so long to do that I couldn't keep up the level of inspiration and speed at which I was used to doing stuff.
I couldn't get my ideas down so quick, so got a bit frustrated, and then my hard-drive failed and I lost a whole album's worth of tracks. That was about 2001, I tried to recover the album, and that was what became the 'Bilious Paths' album which came out in 2003 — but it was all a bit of a mess really. But now working digitally with Logic is a lot easier.
“Relationships and stuff too — things going on in my life — made it a lot more difficult to write, I didn't slam through it as I had in the '90s. I wasn't really in the mood to be writing music.”
But obviously what you did do is put your energies into your acclaimed label Planet Mu — what have you enjoyed about running a label?
“It's quite fun listening to music, talking to musicians, working with sleeve designers — talking about music all day. Listening to what's new keeps you young, and I definitely put my energy into that — that's another reason why I wasn't writing so much. A lot of creative energy was going into the label instead of my own stuff.
“Sales have definitely gone down since Planet Mu started, but we keep a close eye on what we spend. We're still doing OK in terms of keeping afloat, although there's always a danger that you can go bust if a distributor goes down or certain unforeseen things happen, but we try to have certain plans in place if the worst things do happen — so hopefully we will survive.”
Your new Heterotic album was made with your wife Lara, who did what on it?
“The vocals were done by [Warp artist] Nick Talbot, Gravenhurst, but when it comes to individual tracks we kind of took it in turns. I did a lot of the mixdowns on my own, but a lot of the melodies and the parts were Lara. Nick wrote his vocal lines, we just sent him the finished tracks pretty much, and he sent us the tracks back with him singing on them. Lara reinvigorated me into producing, I think. Inspired me again.
“My new u-Ziq album will probably be coming this summer, it's been done for a while. There's quite a queue of releases on the label, it can't just come out straight away. We've written quite a lot of Heterotic stuff too, 60 or so tracks. We'd originally wanted to do a whole album with Nick, but he was getting too busy with his Gravenhurst album and other things, so he did four tracks and then we started working with another vocalist. We tried to have the album with both vocalists, but they kind of clashed, so we released just the ones with Gravenhurst along with a few instrumentals. The second album will be with the second vocalist.”
You're a skilled producer — have you thought of doing a cheesy EDM track?
“No, I haven't. Why would I? I don't think I could if I tried, I think something within me would make me stop myself. I'm probably not a skilled enough producer to do something like that, I think you need quite a lot of production knowledge that I don't have — to write something so appealing to the young American masses. I don't think I possess that sort of knack, I just do what I do. I was brought up in '70s England, I don't possess the melodic sense to write something that a frat-boy would like. Nothing against that type of music though, even though it killed dubstep. It ripped its soul out — all that side-chain compression sort of stuff, I couldn't make it if I tried. I'm quite a bad producer, even though you said I'm a skilled producer. My career's been more about melodies rather than production.”
DJ Mag last saw you playing live supporting Orbital at the Royal Albert Hall in the late '90s — an amazing venue. Any plans to do more live shows?
“I'd love to do a few. I have been playing a bit recently — I played Bangface last year, I play Planet Mu nights every so often, and quite a bit in Europe. Live and DJing. So I have been playing, but not very much. I don't really enjoy it anymore, having done it for so long. I enjoy DJing more than playing live, because I haven't had any new material out for quite a while, but now I've got some new material again I'd like to go out again.
“What would I do live? Oh god, just play on a laptop! That's the thing about electronic music, unless you've got a budget to make it into some sort of show — something for people to look at... I'm not the sort of person who waves their hands in the air and jigs around behind the decks, winking at the crowd. If you play in Vegas, you have to make heart shapes with your fingers? Well, thanks for telling me, in case I'm ever asked.”
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