Fancy Mike

(Image by Lawrence Sumulong:

Working as a contemporary electronic producer there are a number of restrictions that are implicitly placed upon you. The pressure to make the next banger or to provide a coherent successor to your last output can force people to look at the music in quite a clinical way. Formulas are worked out and the next batch of tunes are made in that way. However, without doubt it is the people that do their own thing regardless, the people for whom making music is a compulsion, a race against time to get the sounds out of their head, that make the impact that lasts beyond the next big dub. Fancy Mike is a member of the latter group, a self-confessed obsessive who painstakingly extracts the music from his head. Over two mini-albums for the King Deluxe record label – ‘Madison Square Gardner’ and ‘Sigma Chi Primavera’ – he has seemingly only touched the surface of his capabilities and his ambitions.

NB. I highly recommend checking out the King Deluxe Label if you get a chance, they are pushing some great music and have some really interesting ideas up their sleeve. Their ‘Year One’ compilation has just dropped so make sure you check that out.

For 22 year old producer Fancy Mike, music is an exploratory process. Constantly working against his theoretical and technical limitations, he feels his way through his compositions getting them out of his head and onto record however he can. This auto-didactic approach perhaps explains the creative freedom with which his music is imbued. Built upon the work of 25 years of beat experimenters, his music soaks up elements of hip hop, house, dub and even some skewed pop sensibilities and filters them through the nuances of tv and film soundtracks. With an array of influences that ranges from Brian Eno and Philip Glass to Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin, this broad and fluent musical context informs the depth and vision of his music.

Approach his back catalogue with a similarly open mind and visceral understanding and you will reap the benefits. Refusing to lay down any sonic strategies, his releases are a chaotic patchwork of ideas that are steeped in the rapidfire process of a restless creative, and that is precisely what makes them so enveloping. From the jarring thump and tightly wound, spiralling synths of ‘Ramachandran’ to the grandiose groundswell of ‘Lazer Opera’, the hyperspeed RnB of ‘Adult Swim’ ft. Stephen Farris to the skittering and cinematic electronica of ‘Swan Swan’ ft. Starfawn, each track details a different moment in time and all the momentary intensity that it encompasses. And what is most exciting is that you get the feeling this is only the beginning as he continues to master his craft and hone his ideas better with each new movement.

Currently in the process of working on his debut vinyl EP for King Deluxe as well as several other projects, it seemed like the perfect time to get in touch and get behind the music. Read the interview below and gain a further insight into the processes behind Fancy Mike’s music from the collage of influences that he has put together for us underneath.

First up, for those who don’t know can you please introduce yourself?

I’m Fancy Mike, 22 years old, from the great Midwest and right now, I’m writing a book about a thirtysomething serial killer from the future. I’m also teaching high school-level English in the south of France.

When did you first pick up production and what impelled you to do so? Was there any particular catalyst?

I first began making electronic music during the summer of 2008. I remember, I bought an M-Audio Axiom 25 and rushed to create as many tracks as possible. At the time, I was using a trial version of Reason. There was music I needed to make.

Is there anything that you feel is inherent to everything that you make? Any fundamental underlying principle?

I make music that I want to hear, and I’m pretty obsessive about that kind of stuff. Like, I’ll listen to a nearly-finished track at least 50 times before I’ll even consider it to be “finished.” This might sound crazy but I can hear music in my head and I absolutely want other people to hear that music. There’s really no other way of putting it. I started making electronic music because I wanted to share the music I hear in my head. Every time I start a new track, I’m rushing to record the sounds I hear inside my head. I’m always working against time.

Ramachandran by fancymike

I was first introduced to your music through the ‘Madison Square Gardner’ and ‘Sigma Chi Primavera’ releases on King Deluxe, a label I have been really impressed with. How did you hook up with those guys?

Peter, who is in charge of King Deluxe actually runs another label, Peppermill Records, and it was there that I sent an email with a link to some tracks I had been working on. I was looking for a place that wasn’t necessarily geared toward electronic music or just beats, but I also wanted to find a place that wasn’t just interested in releasing music. I wanted a place that was interested in discussing the creative process of preparing a release: music, artwork, videos, etc. That’s exactly what King Deluxe is, and come to think of it, Peter happens to be that crazy guy who happens to also run a music label. Like, he lives in this cabin, in the middle of the woods somewhere in Canada and for four months each year, he goes out treeplanting. He’s always busy doing something, but he’s also sending me emails, working with other King Deluxe artists on their releases and promoting everyone’s music. I don’t know how he manages to do all of this but I feel that it’s been a real blessing to work with King Deluxe.

Going back over your music I hear a real progression in style and composition. Is this something of which you are consciously aware?

I don’t actually know how to play the piano. Like, I was given a few lessons as a kid but never took any of it too seriously. I teach myself everyday how to make music but at the same time, I just do whatever feels natural, really. For instance, I still don’t think I have gotten to a point where I am comfortable with my drum programming so every time I am working on a track, it’s the drum programming that takes the longest time to finish. If I were to record myself on film making a track, you might probably think, “what the hell is he doing,” or “that’s not how you do that at all,” and part of me is scared that one day, someone will actually walk in on me call me out on my shit, but at the same time, I also feel like it’s that sort of experimentation and trial-and-error approach that makes the music that much more interesting to hear. I’m sort of glad I’m not a classically-trained musician in that sense.

To take that point further, is music a conscious process for you? That is to say, do you have a specific vision of what you are trying to do when you start a track?

When I start a track, I know what I want the track to sound like because I can hear it my head, but due to technological limitations and a lack of skill, what I make may end up sounding nothing like what I was hearing in my head. It’s always a challenge actually, but I like that a lot. I’ll have two, sometimes three different versions of the same track and if I ever let you listen to those versions, you will quickly realize that my music is full of nothing but happy accidents.

James Bond by fancymike

You have a vinyl EP forthcoming on the King Deluxe label. When will that be seeing the light of day? Is this your first vinyl release?

The vinyl will be releasing in 2012 and yes, it will be my first. I am actually quite excited about the whole affair.

Does knowing that the music created will be part of a larger physical whole alter your approach to it at all? Are you a vinyl enthusiast?

To be honest, I think it’s the actual idea that “this is going to be something I can hold in my hands” that actually intrigues me the most, especially at this stage. I mean, it’s great to release music digitally and I have some great tracks for this vinyl release, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time, a digital release becomes nothing more than a few megabytes on somebody’s hard drive after a while. A vinyl record takes up physical space. If it falls on the ground, in the middle of the room, you either have to pick it up or walk around it, you can’t ignore it. It’s for this reason that I have always had a penchant for vinyl products in general.

Do you take an active interest in the artwork for your releases? Do you see the connection between the two as an important one?

I can never call an album cover bad or terrible but I can certainly detect if it is something lazy and there is nothing more appalling, as far as album artwork is concerned, than a lazy album cover. I have always been interested in art and even applied to several art schools right after graduating high school (eventually, I decided to attend a private liberal arts school) but if you’ve noticed, all of my album covers feature work done by other artists. This is something I do deliberately. I would have no problem creating my own covers but right now, I feel like it is important to have an alternate [visual] take on the music I create. Whenever I am working with an artist, I will usually send some tracks with a rather loose set of instructions so the artist can create something that truly reflects my music, in a manner that also reflects that artist’s style. The artwork tells just as much of a story as the tracks, and in a way, the artwork also gives me something to look forward to whenever I am preparing a release. I’m fascinated by the things somebody else can see while listening to my music. It’s amazing!

Elliot – Thundering Plants (Fancy Mike Remix) by fancymike

There are a lot of references to film and TV in your song titles as well as in the music itself. Do you see visual reference points as directly influencing the music? Is there any particular element of this that inspires you?

I love film scores. As a matter of fact, there are a couple of tracks I have never played for anyone, tracks that sound more like film accompaniments or science fiction scores. Since I’m a terrible musician, I take great pride in naming my tracks. I’ll spend a great deal of time on just the title for one track. I’ll treat it like a film and imagine, “what story could this song tell?” It’s simply a case of extreme thoroughness on my part and the fact that I want to always be proud of all of my tracks, no matter what. Any references to film and television are incidentally brazen in nature.

What projects are you working on at the moment? Can we expect new music to surface soon?

I am constantly working on new music. Always, every day, even if I am not sitting at my computer, I am composing something new in my head. It’s pure torture, especially when I forget a particular tune, but every time I sit down, I’ll have another new tune ready for composition, it really never ends. I recently noticed that I hardly ever do any remixes either so, these last few months, I have worked on a couple of remixes, namely Alphabets Heaven’s “Woman” and Elliot’s “Thundering Plants.” It’s quite a challenge (for me at least) to create something new using somebody else’s vision. I feel like it gets in the way of what I want to do, and I love that! Currently, I am working on a remix for the band Lotus and Russian beat maker, Pixelord. A new tune of mine will also be featured in the future Mad Hop compilation and the Kingston Jazz Trio has released a jazz rendition of my track Cartoon Pornography for the King Deluxe: Year One compilation. I am also working on a collaborative project with Yojimbo Billions, then, of course, that vinyl album of mine. There’s also a Fancy Mike mini-European tour happening in Q1/Q2 of 2012.


*Below we get a deeper insight into the mindset that fuels Fancy Mike’s music as he takes it through some of his key influences and inspirations…

Dell Latitude D600
Some quick specs: Microsoft Windows XP Professional, Intel® Pentium® M Processor 1.60 GHz, 512 MB of RAM. This is the laptop I use for all my live performances. It used to be my father’s work laptop; he gave it to me as a sort of going-away present my first year of college, so it’s definitely got history. It takes, on average, 7 whole minutes to start up.

PortaPro Koss Headphones
I have a thing about headphones, and I’m not talking about the sonic values or anything. I just usually don’t like headphones that fuck with my my hair. Like, after I’ve usually worn some over-the-ear headphones, I’ll have to redo my hair since it’ll not only feel out of place but also look like I’ve been wearing over-the-ear headphones, funny; right? The PortaPro Koss headphones look like they were made in the 90s and feel somewhat flimsy but mark my words: these have some of the best bass and all-around sound I have ever heard on a pair of <$50 headphones. They also offer a lifetime warranty.

I want to be the greatest musician of the 21st century, and to do that, I need to follow in Zomby’s footsteps. But seriously, he’s got some great tunes.

Sweeping Electronic Atmospherics
Key artists: Rustie, Hyetal, Damu, Sully, Kuedo, Nosaj Thing and Oneohtrix Point Never

I certainly have a thing for all of these artists.

Size doesn’t matter. This little “professional performance keyboard” is just as capable as my M-Audio Axiom 25 and imagine sitting on a train for five hours with nothing to do…. It’s saved my life at least 3 times.

Hype Williams – One Nation
Key track: Break4love (Reversed)
I can only ever handle about three or four Hype Williams tracks on any given day and I don’t know why. But really, I’ve always had a soft spot for lo-fi/tek recordings and deceptively simple-sounding music. Though I could certainly list a handful of excellent Hype Williams tracks, I only want to highlight Break4love (reversed.)

I fell in love with this track one night while lying in bed. I was still feeling a little loopy after having read some Murakami so hearing this track absolutely added to my, then, dreamlike state of mind. All in all, it’s an instrumental composition that brings to mind Stephen King texts. Like, not the films, but the texts themselves. I know it sounds weird but I believe I’m the first to have discovered Break4love’s secret subliminal qualities.

Boy Meets World
Key tracks: Intro / Life as a Shorty / Samsonite Man / Bo Jackson
The rapping’s good, sure, but this record stands out for me because it is completely produced by Exile. Google his name and watch some of his live performances on Youtube. I personally think he’s one of the few legitimate MPC wizards currently making music. Some of the catchiest beats I have ever heard.

Haruki Murakami
Key texts: Kafka on the Shore / The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle / Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
I first began reading Murakami on a flight to Madrid. One of my friends, who spent some time in India, gave me Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and told me it would, not only enrich my living abroad experience but, he also said something about the text “changing” his life. At the time, I didn’t really understand any of that, but since I’ve moved to France, Murakami has quickly become my drug of choice.

Adobe Audition 3.0’s crazy Equalizer/Compressor/Mixer
Influenced and shaped much of the Madison Square Gardner sound.

Danny Elfman/Christopher Young
Spiderman Main Title
The film was great but skip forward to 2:48 and close your eyes.

Rivers Cuomo
Alone I & II: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo
Key tracks: Ooh / The World We Love So Much / Oh Jonas / Please Remember / Come to My Pod / Blast Off! / Superfriend / Longtime Sunshine / Lemonade
This is what I like to call: some rough-as- fuck music. When he’s playing with Weezer, Rivers is lauded for his pop sensibilities and knack for creating catchy-as-fuck songs, but with these two solo records, we hear this awkward kid recording demo tracks in his room, all alone, and it feels really weird, in a really good way…

Key collaborations: Burial & Four Tet, DOOM & Thom Yorke & Jonny Greenwood, Lorn & Samiyam, Om Unit & Kromestar, Benjamin Damage & Doc Daneeka, Pinch & Shackleton, Sepalcure, Carl Craig & Moritz von Oswald, Clams Casino & Lil B, Gorillaz, Clutchy Hopkins & DOOM, Deltron 3030, Dangermouse et al., Desert Sessions, the Good, the Bad & The Queen and Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross.

Listen to some of the music that has been created as a result of these collaborations. It’s fantastic. Now I’m obsessed. I almost never turn down an offer to collaborate.