Mike Griego’s forward thinking sound has exploded onto progressive dancefloors and set lists in the past year. We catch up with the Argentinian based producer to hear his no holds barred views on today’s scene.
Under your biography on your fan page, you put down “I don’t think talking about how young I was when I first got into music will make you like my stuff any better.”
To be honest, I think that what should only matter is music and nothing more. I don’t really need to brag about my music skills or how long I’ve been producing. If you think about it, throughout music history, many amazing musicians/performers succeeded without having any classic musical training whatsoever. On the other hand, electronic music right now is in the eye of the storm, it’s the focus of attention so of course there are going to be some random people included. You should be able to differ between those and the ones with real talent, even though the marketing machinery is a tough rival to beat.
With that said, would you be willing to tell us a bit about your history as an artist and how your climb up the ladder has shaped such strong views about the current state of the scene? Do you have any particular stories or encounters with others in the business as well that have really laid a foundation for your viewpoint?
Yes, I have encountered mean colleagues but I don’t really care about them or their nasty attitude towards me or my music. I understand that other’s success is hard to deal with, and people can sometimes feel insecure or threatened. I only care about two things: ‘the tracks I make, and the tracks I select’.
But as far as I know, this “negativity” exists everywhere. I used to play the guitar and sing in a post punk band 10 years ago and there were guys that hated us there too. It used to bother me back then but luckily I’ve grown and I’m just trying to keep the positive energy flowing, good vibes and good karma equals soul harmony and good music.
I have also met great people over these 5 years who are now my friends too like: Yannis Pennas (dpen), Graziano Raffa, Andrea Cassino & Danny Lloyd, Guy Manztur, Henri (Cid Inc) Rich Curtis, and from Argentina: (so many but here the closest to my heart) Simon Vuarambon, Santi Mossman, Cristian Gandini, Criss Deeper, Rodrigo Mateo, Walter Cross and Ivan (Dark Soul Project).
How do you classify yourself in how you stand among all of this? Do you see yourself as part of a generation of new producers who are changing the game?
I just feel like as a producer/musician/performer, I must to do something about this. Right now, I’m not so popular so my opinion won’t mind that much, but someday, if my career allows it, I will try to change this and support only good artists, showing real talent, unique stuff. People should start listening to music and stop following the names. I believe in the future, the word ‘DJ’ won’t matter as much and people will start focusing more in music and less on ‘labels’.
Your musical style, in my mind, is quite different from what else is coming out right now, which is also what makes it so fun. It has a lot of fusion elements from a variety of genres, while at the same time you seem to bend them in such a way that the only word that can come to mind is “unique.” How do you classify the modern Mike Griego sound? Do you consider yourself closer to any particular genre or movement at the moment?
Well thank you very much! I used to fight over music labels and genres but I make and play what I feel like making and playing. There’s one thing that’s always present and it’s the hypnotic quality of the tracks and their deep warmth. Sometimes closer to techno, some other times to progressive and tech house. I believe that being eclectic is the only way to attract more listeners and to stay creative, avoiding becoming boring or repetitive. I prefer dark, emotional or deep than ‘happy’ tracks.
Recently, you mentioned in a comment in regards to Beatport’s claims to “fix” it’s Progressive House section that “Most progressive house is boring and won’t work on a dancefloor.” Why do you feel this is, and what about modern progressive just isn’t working for you dancewise?
I believe that there are only a few ‘progressive’ producers that make tracks that will work on a dancefloor. We could count them with our fingers. I think those producers are underrated and they don’t get as much attention as they should, and by attention I also mean gigs and good money for their unique work. So, if they don’t get gigs, how are they going to get better at djing? (I include myself here). Also, a big problem is that there are some artists that just shouldn’t play so often. Why? Just because they are already there and they know people? In many cases those djs/artists haven’t produced anything good in years and they are comfortably playing the same old stuff over and over. I think this is wrong! It killed the dynamic this scene once had. People pay a ticket to see you and you can’t handle your lazy ass?
It does bother me, but it’s not the dj’s fault only, but the promoters’ too. They should try to book artists who are doing good right now too or that are promising! In my opinion what you did in the past should be supported by what you’re doing right now. Both your past career and your present should be validating each other.
Regarding music labels, there are just so many! releasing music that’s just not as good as it should be. I receive maybe 150 promos a month and I only download maybe 10 or 15 tracks. It’s insane! Owning a music label today is really easy and almost anyone can run one without spending any money. It’s such a shame, no wonder everyone talks about 2002-2008 as the ‘golden era’ for progressive house: ten years ago making music, and what’s more important, releasing it, wasn’t THAT easy. Labels bounced tracks!
Could you argue then, alternatively, that in fact much of the stronger, dancier elements that were originally motifs from progressive house have actually now been re-defined as tech house, deep house, or techno?
For those who say that good progressive does no longer exist, I say to them that it does… but it has morphed (for the good). Music changes and evolves. Sometimes people don’t understand this. I do think that techno and tech house are more ‘playable’ today than classic progressive house. For example, when I go play to the provinces here, sometimes they don’t know me, and they don’t know my music or they are not as ‘educated’ in terms of music taste as other crowds, so maybe they won’t understand progressive groove or any other underground genre and it’s feel. In those cases I just can’t play a pure progressive set, because they will leave, and this tells us something about the real work of a DJ. The industry has taught them to be impatient on the dancefloor, so playing a track with a 2 minute breakdown, full of floaty pads and spacey effects with no beats at all doesn’t make any sense to me. I prefer playing more dynamic stuff and do not forget: as a dj it’s your job to look at the dancefloor and make the people dance!
Can you tell us a bit about your current production setup, and how you achieve the sound that has really set you apart? Any little production tips for producers out there you can pass along?
I only own a pair of krk vxt4 studio monitors which are just amazing! a saffire pro 24 firewire sound card and a computer, nothing else. I don’t own any synthesizers even though I would love to. My advice for other producers, if it’s of any use, would be: work with layers and textures, depth and space are really important to make a track alive. Try using many sounds to create one instrument or atmoshperes by putting them together and equalizing properly. Don’t use presets for the vsts and if you use loops, cut them and change them. Add as much as you can from your part and always look for your own sound. I’m still looking for mine by the way.
Your recent remix of Darin Epsilon’s “The Conclusion” has already received a serious amount of buzz, and it appears many DJs consider it the highlight of the release. Can you tell us a bit about your process behind remixing this track? What inspired you to go in the direction you did sound wise, and what does it represent for you as a production accomplishment?
I always try to improve and not to repeat myself, stay original that’s why I find it so hard to finish new tracks. It’s easy to do what’s expected from you and mediocre, I won’t stand for it.
In this case, when Darin told me about the remixers and I really felt that I should try something different to give the EP more variety, something more ‘technoish’ if you will. And luckily it worked!. I think Hernan and Soundexile did a great job on that remix too. I saw today their remix has been picked as the number one ‘must listen’ progressive house track so kudos to them. I was really lucky to be on the same EP with them. Thanks to Darin for that.
Do you have any other cool projects in the works right now we should know about?
I’m working on my album, it’s really different to what I was doing, downtempo stuff, lo-fi really atmospheric tracks, but It won’t see the light for some time. Also, always working on remixes and new originals. I’m working with my dear friend Stas Drive on a 3 track ep for flow vinyl which should be out this European summer too.
You’re pretty active right now on the performance circuit in Argentina, can you tell us a bit about any of your recent gigs lately, as well as any upcoming shows in the works that have you excited?
Luckily, I’m playing much more than last year. Last weekend I played at a country house called ‘open mind’ and it was full of people, it was amazing really. They were a great audience and I felt really confortable. There are a few more gigs upcoming, I will be visiting Cordoba, Rosario, Mar del Plata and a really nice gig in Buenos Aires at an important venue. I don’t want to talk much because it’s not really confirmed yet.
At this point I would like to thank all independent agencies that have booked me and provided great parties with great music, specially the guys from Freak Me Out, Unnamed and Golden Wings. There are some international gigs pending too but since nothing is confirmed I won’t jinx them.
What’s your current DJ setup like? Why do you choose to use this and what about your live style really conveys your sound?
I play with ableton live right now. It’s amazingly fun and options are just limitless. Every set I play is different and I don’t think that any other set up besides playing live instruments and improvising like Kevin Yost maybe (and I would love to do something like that in the future) would give me more joy and satisfaction.
I find traditional mixing insufficient right now, it does not provide anything new and I don’t mind being judged here. Most Djs warp their tracks and then they mix without using the pitch, so if that’s their idea of Djing, I’d rather play with a computer all the way. People don’t know this though, they see you with a computer and they automatically believe that you don’t know how to mix. I like the challenge and I love what I do. I enjoy the idea of playing a track that people may already know but in a different way, being able to create breakdowns on the fly, adding effects and loops of my own, give my own signature to every song.
What artists have you excited these days? Any newcomers you’re really digging? And if you had the opportunity to work with anyone in the scene right now, who would it be and why?
It’s nothing new that I have been listening to guy J since 2006, his music really influenced mine and introduced me to music production. But right now I’m playing a lot of AFFKT, &me, David Mayer, Loquace, Mihai popoviciu and Chaim, just to name a few. If I could pick anyone to work with, I think it would be either Chaim, Burial, Four Tet or Guy Gerber. These guys really know what they are doing. I saw Chaim here in Buenos Aires a few months ago for the first time and he played music I have never heard before! Really strange vibe, some evil latin percussions, it surprised me in a good way, and that doesn’t happen often.