Wednesday, 4 May 2011

TEA with Mic Newman

When LCD Soundsystem front man James Murphy so eloquently put in Losing My Edge I hear that you and your band have sold your guitars and bought turntables it may well have been producers like Mic Newman he was talking about.

Mic Newman has long added company to Melbourne’s increasingly impressive and influential deep house sound. Over the past two years Mic Newman's evolved shift to the deeper end of house music has ensued a slew of impressive cuts on labels Freerange, mumur, Tsuba, 2020 Vision sub label FINA and Kolour Recordings as the Melbournites nome de plome Fantastic Man.

TEA caught up with Mic Newman at a local cafe down the Windsor end of Melbourne's bohemian Chapel st, where over a caffeine injection we talked of days before MIDI, late nights in Hackney, Fantastic Man V Tornado Wallace and Lemongrass tea.

Come the end of May you will have released 5 EP’s on 4 different labels. Is this a backlog of music or a case of when it rains it pours?

Yes and no. A lot of those EP’s were signed 6 months prior to their release. The FINA EP was signed in May of last year so that took somewhere close to 8 or 9 months for a release. You are subject to a labels release schedule which is always a bit of a thing when you sign multiple EP’s to different labels, you cross your fingers and hope that they don’t all come out at the same time, which they always seem to do when it comes to me. That’s the nature of the beast when you don’t have your own label as you can't control your own output, you just have to take it as it comes.

How has 2011 been so far? Juno Pus pointed you out as a One to Watch and it looks to be your most prolific year to date.

I have been releasing music since 2007 in various styles and found that I have evolved quite a bit since then. I think in 2009 with my EP's on Mumur and Tsuba, as well as moving to London made it possible for me to experience, meet and deal with a lot of new people. For me when I first started writing music it was always a struggle to get my music heard by the labels I really wanted. I subsequently released on some smaller labels without much happening, it wasn't until a couple of key releases in 2009 that things really started moving. I've built good relationships over the past couple of years which has made it easier for me to get in touch with the right people. A lot of those tracks that came out the beginning of this year I would have liked to come out at and the end of 2010, so it's the last 2 years where things have started to flow. I have another two releases coming out again in May on Freerange and another one in June for murmur.

Did you have a plan of what you wanted to achieve this year or are you just going with it?

Perhaps a goal of mine might be to limit my output, although that hasn't been the case so far. Spending 3 months in Europe over summer will no doubt have a impact on this. I'll be writing very few, if any new tracks in that time, I'm not good with working on the road with headphones.

So how did things at FINA Records start?

Simon who started the label, I knew from London. He was really supportive of my track Sizzled Sally on mumur. He told me he was starting a new label with 2020 Vision behind it. At the time I had a whole bunch of tunes and was like, cool lets do it.

So your Live East, Die Young theme? Is this a whimsical nod to east London?

It’s a nod to the east of everywhere really, east Berlin, east London, east Melbourne. I wrote those tracks when I was in London so I was still in that headspace. If you look at most of my track titles they're often a bit silly and random.

In an interview from 2007 you state artists like Stimming, Johnny D, Guido Schnieder and labels like Liebe Detail, 8 Bit, Cocoon and Poker Flat influencing you. You mentioned that you have evolved since 2007, for a small cross examine can I ask what labels and artists you are enjoying at the moment?

At the time I really liked those artists and labels as that sound was really fresh. Before that the whole scene was quite minimal and those artists and labels I mentioned pushed my taste back toward the more classic and organic House sound. It still had the really cool driving and hypnotic elements and I still enjoy it. At the moment though I am loving labels that are doing really cool and strange things. Rush Hour of course is doing this, Delusions Of Grandeur has been one of those labels that has revived or brought the mid tempo movement to the masses. There are also many vinyl only labels popping up that are cool and the whole vinyl market in general seems to be much better as the people who are pressing vinyl are obviously only pressing really good music. For me it's easier to find good records on Juno than it is on Beatport. There's less crap to filter through, and that's reflected by the sales. Vinyl sales actually increased in 2010.

So does this make you a vinyl DJ?

When I started DJing in 2003 vinyl was still the medium, so I started out as vinyl DJ. Going back to europe last year and realising that vinyl is not completely dead fueled a bit of a revival for me, so I’ve kind of gone back to it and like I said a lot of cool music is coming out as vinyl only. I went back into my collection recently and found some great old records that I'd overlooked or forgotten about, like old Trax, Moodymann and Strictly Records stuff. I pulled them out and am playing them now, so its been good. I still play CD’s more but I do like vinyl and I do buy vinyl. If it didn't take so long to get to Australia I would definitely play more, my last shipment took close to 4 weeks and by that point I’d forgotten what I had bought, not to mention the shipping rates we have to pay.

You were right in the thick of it when house music really hit the Australian clubs in a commercial sense. How was it being a part of that?

2003 was when I first started clubbing and I think that was the time when it boomed in a commercial sense. I think it was better then to be honest. The music that was being played in the major clubs and radio was that west coast and funky house sound, which for me was a lot better then all the electro house and fidget they are playing now. Can't really say I'm associated much with the commercially driven side of the Melbourne scene though. It is what it is.

Tell us about how you have evolved into your current deep sound?

I think it comes down to growing up and your musical 'pallet' maturing, like most other things. I never really listened to house music before I started going out, apart from the stuff that was being played on the T.V or radio. If your a kid and not into clubs why would you be exposed to underground house music or dub techno? I listened to a lot of hip hop and rock but it's one of those things, when you start going clubbing and getting caught up in a scene that's when it becomes something. Going to the less commercial clubs was what inspired me to start DJing and delving deeper.

So what came first DJing or production?

I grew up playing guitar and drums at school and played in bands that listened to Nirvana and Silverchair. All that stopped when I finished school and bought some decks. At the time I wasn't really thinking of producing and was just into playing records. A year or two after getting my head around DJing I started getting some gigs around town. My old man had a Pro Tools set up with a Korg Triton synthesizer and interface which was the first taste I had of making music with computers. From there it became a bit more serious until it eventually took over.

So from that first set up how much have things changed in your production methods and techniques?

One hundred percent (laughs). For the first year I was using Pro Tools with a Korg Triton synth and I didn't know what MIDI was because Pro Tools isn’t a very MIDI friendly program. Then someone put me onto Cubase which completely changed everything because it was a MIDI program with plugins. I used to program everything from a synth, I programmed drums manually and arranged it all in audio, it was really tedious so MIDI changed everything. Before I went to London I bought a Mac Book Pro to use on the road. From there I started using Logic and have been until about last year where I jumped on board with Ableton Live. I remember Apple's flagship store on Regent street in London held free seminars in the front room. I used to go to the Logic ones and sit there with my laptop taking notes and watching what they were doing.

From what I can see Melbourne’s house scene is almost at a saturation point. Multiple internationals playing on a single weekend is a regular occurrence. How strong is the support towards the locals and can Melbourne's population keep up?

For me I think Melbourne has always been slightly over saturated in terms of party's. There have always been a lot of things on which creates a bit of a shit fight. But lately the “#dancecommunity” is in a way flourishing with parties like C Grade leading the way. Melbourne definitely has amazing touring acts and great support from people who know and who are interested. In terms of the local scene you just have to break through the shit and find the good stuff. People don't think a lot is going on but if you dig a little deeper there is definitely something. I don't think it ever will be as good as Europe but it has its moments and there are some good parties happening. With the number of local and Australian producers putting out good music at the moment it has seen a bit of a revival. There is always talk of the old days and raves at the Docklands, I cant compare it to today because I wasn't there but definitely the last five years have been a standout for me.

You also spent some time in London. How come you left, how come you came back and how did you find it?

I left for the UK because I wanted to give it a shot. Living in London is always something I wanted to do since I first went there, backpacking my through Europe like everyone does. I spent a bit of time in London and really loved the vast cultural diversity and still do. I went back two years ago to live, I had a couple of releases lined up with European labels and had just recently broken up with my girlfriend, so it was the perfect time to do it. It was great, I hooked up with Geddes who runs the label murmur and we managed to do a some good collaborations. I was taken on by the Air London agency and managed to score a few nice gigs along the way too.

Tell us about your first gig in London.

My first gig in London was with Wolf & Lamb and Geddes at a No Fit State party in Hackney. It was probably one of the best parties I went too. It was a classic east London warehouse thing. I hadn't been to many at that time and it was cool, really grimey, dirty and ketamine fueled (laughs).

You also have plans for another EU tour, tell us about that.

I have a few dates planned already so I'm hoping between now and July their will be a few more and it's looking good so far. I’m going there for three months which I’d prefer to do. Living there was cool but there are a lot of things about Australia that I miss, like the sunshine and the beach, all those cliché things.

So Melbourne is home?

Yeah Melbourne is home for now. I'd like to make a regular thing of touring Europe from Australia and if I can I will, but at this stage I haven't ruled out moving back to Europe.

So Fantastic Man. Lets talk about him, is he here to stay?

That guy, yeah he’s here to stay. I have an EP coming out on Kolour Recordings which is due to drop anytime now. It's going to be a limited vinyl only pressing with Andy Ash on the remix. Fantastic man is just a guy that likes to sample big commercial artists, so at this point I think I’m going to keep him like that for a while. Their is also a Fantastic Man track coming out on the Melbourne Deepcast EP which is a four track EP featuring Lewie Day, Andy Hart, Weekend Express and myself as Fantastic Man. That is a really good showcase of what Melbourne producers are doing right now.

So Mic Newman and Lewie Day are friends. Are Fantastic Man and Tornado Wallace mates?

We’re all mates in the “#dancecommunity"

So no fights between Fantastic Man and Tornado Wallace?

Fantastic Man is a lover, not a fighter and you can’t stop a Tornado can you.

What’s on the remix front at the moment for Mic Newman

I just finished a remix for Huxley which is due out soon. I have done another remix for Shades Of Grey on Reckless Republic, a new Sydney label. I also finished a Fantastic Man remix for Francis Inferno Orchestra’s new EP on Join the Dots. I'm also currently working on something for Paper Recordings.

You are still young and have been involved with making music for sometime now. Is an LP something you have ever thought about doing?

I have definitely thought about it and it is something I would love to delve into in the future, but for now I am just focusing on EP’s. No real big plans for an LP just yet, but you never know.

Is starting a label something you have given thought too?

That's another thing that has been bubbling away in the back of my mind. I think it would be of good benefit if you were an artist wanting to control your own output. If I was to do an LP I would want to release it on my own terms unless I was working with a label that really backed the idea.

And finally what is your favourite tea?

Lemongrass and Ginger.

Mic Newman will be playing at Adelaide's Cuckoo Bar for TEA May 7th with support from The Carter Bros and James Manning.


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