Saturday, August 21, 2010

Big M Interview and Exclusive Track

As head of one of the most respected labels in NuFunk and Bootleg Breaks, Mick of Big M is riding high. With a string of huge releases stretching back - stretching waaay back, he is now working with some of the most promising new producers in the scene, including Rory Hoy, Chris Awesome and Ram Skank, making Big M Productions THE place to be seen in 2010. 

How did your relationship with music begin? What music did you listen to growing up?

My first relationship to music was the regular listener’s side. At the age of 14 or so I started listening to Punk Rock and Heavy Metal, as I was pretty much into Skateboarding. This was at the beginning of the 90s. Suddenly there was something called Techno and although it was a bit cheesy sounding at that time, the whole rhythm thing for dancing was interesting.

Remember German Techno in the early 90s? Ha-ha! The first cool electronic music that reached us here at a time before the internet was The Prodigy. This was in the mid-90s, as they got big. With their sound I got the first excitement for Breakbeat music, which soon developed into my favourite genre. From there on, my interests and investigations in music increased because I realized that there was more music out there under the flag of Breakbeat. First, I got pretty much into Chemical Brothers and later on to Fatboy Slim, whose Rockafeller Skank was released at that time.

The whole BigBeat vibe amazed me so much, I wanted to get into DJing. Later on, I found interests in a lot of other music genres, where I collected all my inputs for my love of mashing up and re-rubbing today. I was into 60s Soul, 70s Disco, Funk, House, Jazz, Latin, Hip Hop and a lot, lot more. Thank god for the research power of the internet!

And when did you start DJing? And producing?

With the BigBeat vibe end of the 90s, I first got into DJing just as hobby. I was also always interested in computers. One day around 1998, by coincidence, I discovered at a friend’s house the possibility to arrange music in a simple arranger on the computer.

I got that software and played around a lot, recording DJ-mixed stuff and mixing it together; trying to build something I could call a track. As technology for home production got cheaper and the internet got big, everything speeded up. I got the essential hard and software and dug myself into making music.

A good buddy of mine started the label Twin Town in 2001, where I was pretty much involved and where I released my first track after three years of testing around. It was called 'Power to your Flower' and was a snippet of a Sergio Mendez track on a 140bpm breakbeat.

I remember I sent a demo CD of early tracks to Freddy Fresh, who was absolutely stoked about my stuff that was not yet fully developed, but had extreme potential. He told me the hints of producing a real banger based on sampling. Thanks Freddy!

I also started intense DJing and after a while then professional DJing. I released a lot of tunes through Twin Town. But at that time, I was running under my nickname Mick or, like most of the time, with my buddy Marc as the Mick & Marc combo.

After the great BigBeat vibe, when the genre was declared 'dead' (by Norman Cook himself, who was founder of the genre), there were times where it was unplayable. The audience didn't accept it anymore.  We dug into a lot of house music at that time.  So over 7 years I collected a lot of experiences in DJing and producing and physically collected quite lot of music on vinyl and CD, but also MP3s.

How did your label, Big M, come about?

Big M Productions was not really planned. As I said, I was pretty much into Twin Town Productions a couple of years ago and released vinyl through this label. I helped my buddy out a lot in administration and soon got into the distributional side of things.

I remember I sent out some self-burned promo CDs along with TTP vinyl packets and one reached Chateaudisc Distribution in Japan. They asked if it would be possible to release some of the promo stuff I sent as a vinyl release. It was all about the tune 'California Soul' and the other tracks around this one. They were so stoked about that tune. And until today that tune was the most successful rewind I did. Thank you Marlena Shaw for the absolute murder original!

So I released a first Booty at that time through Twin Town, but it was already called ‘Big M Bootie Vol.1’. The tremendous success led to ‘Big M Bootie Vol.2’. From issue no.3 Big M Productions was its own label. I have to thank Thorsten alias Toni Tress, alias Three Blunts Later and his label Twin Town Productions at this point.

What do you look for in the music you sign? Is there a particular ‘Big M sound’?

Basically I love old vintage styled and cranky hooks on modern breakbeats. I always loved Freddy
Fresh’s Howlin’ label for exactly this kind of output. The more polished side of Breakbeat, like Electro Breaks and so on, are already a bit too electronic for my taste. I do like and love some tunes from that genre - no question. But they have to have something special.

A nice example is that I love Krafty Kuts when he comes along funky, like his work with A-Skillz, but when he does the harder Against The Grain part of things, that's not so much to my taste.

In general, the Big M sound is what Mick likes most. Haha. It already developed so much, that I now have artists with more jazzy breaks like D.END or more chilled or BigBeat like Ram Skank. And with my buddy Impulsionic, whose new EP 'Bust a Groove' just came out digitally through Big M, Electro Breaks has found a place in the catalogue.

But what you can definitely say about Big M sound is: It's all about broken beats and feel-good vibes.

Who are your latest signings?

Hmmm. there's a lot! The latest from this year are J Roc/Sould Out DJs, The Breakbeat Junkie
Vs. DJP, DJ Kid Stretch, Stickybuds, Niko, Funkanomics, Prosper, Rory Hoy, Hayz, CMC & Silenta,
Ewan Hoozami, Chris Awesome, Timothy Wisdom & The Outlier, Jayl Funk, Impulsonic, The Funky Spanking and a lot more if I included the remixers and co-operational producers.

Any new releases coming up on Big M that we should be keeping an eye out for?

Of course. On vinyl we'll have a 12" next with J-Roc (Sould Out DJs) called Motown Mashdown EP, which will be a murder mashup and Breakbeat show on wax. It will be 'Big M presents... Vol7'.

Directly after that or parallel, a various artist breakbeat mashup 12" record is in the pipeline with The Breakbeat Junkie Vs. DJP, DJ Kid Stretch, Stickybuds and Niko. That will be ‘Big M presents...Vol.8’.
After that, I'm aiming for my own ‘Big M Bootie Vol.10’, some more from Prosper & Rory Hoy stuff and so on!

On the digital side of things, Ram Skank will finally have his first album which will contain murder Chemical Breakbeat and BigBeat madness, mixed with some nice psychedelic vibes; some big emotions, laid back moments and a lot of FX action. A great album for any situation.

Which bands/DJs/producers, outside of the Big M family, do you enjoy the most?

I love a lot of stuff. Some names out of the genre and related ones that come into my mind at the moment are A-Skillz, Featurecast, Ursula1000, Freddy Fresh, Skeewiff, Fort Knox Five, QDup Foundation, BadboE and of course some grandmasters like Krafty Kuts, Fatboy Slim or Chemical Brothers. But there are also a lot, lot more in a lot of genres - not only electronic!

Some people talk down about bootleg breaks, saying ‘we need originality to push the scene forward’ but it seems like everyone still wants to play big bootleg records – what’s your take on this debate?

I loooove bootlegs. When I spin, 80% of my set is bootleg stuff. Bootleg stuff (if it is well produced and not just a beat under a sample) can have as much originality as original stuff. Remember the 2ManyDJs shows? They just hooked together known music out of all genres to a complex mix. One could say that's no big thing. But it was pure originality and totally amazing.

It's not about the what, but about the how you realise it. We need artists doing really new and original stuff. I think in the future, this period will be regarded as the years of mashing up and remixing, just as we had the great BigBeat vibe end of the 90s, which ended or rather developed on.

These days a lot of people realise the possibility of sampling and remixing as a whole new sub-culture. And this is because the new technologies, which are now affordable and available for any small producer. This hype will decrease at some point, and what today is called 'bootlegs' will have their own niche and right to exist in the world of music for all time - just like every other new genre that was invented over the years.

The big thing that needs sorting is that we have a totally outdated copyright law, which criminalises mashups to illegal bootlegs – making it almost impossible for a small label to get the samples cleared. That's the main problem. If we'd get that law reformed, mashing up or bootlegging would no longer be regarded as second class music or not as original as new stuff.

How do you feel about new developments in production and DJ technology – Ableton, digital vinyl etc?

In the case of DJing, I must say I'm a vinyl junkie and love the classic way. I don't like digital vinyl and recent tech stuff at all, although I think it will be the future. More and more DJs change to spinning via Final Scratch, Serato, etc.

OK, if you're travelling a lot it really is a good way, but only for the comfort of travelling itself and not for the playing. For me, it always will be the real vinyl (and maybe some self-burned CDs for the unreleased stuff), as too much tech stuff behind a DJ desk is always something fragile. Software dependent devices can fail. A mixer and two turntables, that's all I need to have a good party.

At home in the studio it's totally the other way round. As I grew up with computers and work with them a lot. My production side of things is computer-based only. I had a synth, a sampler, a 303, but in the end I always ended up with the computer.

For me these days, there is always software or a plug-in somewhere out there that can do what I want. But when it's about mastering, a real device equipped studio is the better way. The warmth you can get into sound with physical mastering devices is always a bit better than digital-only mastering.

Can you reveal a few secret weapons you use to rock dancefloors?

As I love rarity, here are three murder records, which are still veeery rare and ones that I spin every time:

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Yeah, if you think you have sound that would fit into the Big M catalogue don't hesitate to catch up with me and send me promos.

Some quick-fire questions to finish with:
What’s the last tune/album/podcast you put on your MP3 player?

'Rory Hoy - Cosmic Child' - a perfect chill out album for travelling. As I hear dancefloor stuff all the time, I prefer some chilled stuff on the MP3 player when on the road.

What is your proudest achievement in life?

One of my proudest achievements is definitely my whole music thing. Of course there's also other private stuff I'm proud of...

Where in the world were you born? Do you still live there now? And does the place affect your musical direction?

I was born in (West) Germany, near the French border and Luxemburg. I still live there, as I love it here. And it's perfect - geographically in the centre of Western Europe. My location never affects my music, as I have always been most interested in music that comes from other countries like the UK. In my area here, I was one of the pioneers of breakbeats.

What do you think about the launch of

It’s a great idea to have a fresh new place to meet and greet with people from the genre. For me, it's nice and familiar, as I'm into private dialogue with a lot of the people and artists that are here on I must confess I'm a bit lazy writing comments or topics, as I'm so busy all the time.
But I always check everything to be up-to-date and I'm always curious.

And finally, can you tell us about the exclusive free track/mix that you are offering our readers?

It's a brand new re-rub/mashup I did from a powerful soul classic. It's called 'Young, Gifted, Brown' and pumping at 110bpm. It’s a bomb for the slower sets. Have fun with it out there!

To get your hands on a shiny 320 copy of this party banger simply head over to our Member's Vault at the forum. If you aren't a member yet, sign up here and for details of how to access the vault for a ton of exclusive tracks and mixes, check this announcement.

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