Depending on how old you are, when you were introduced to electronic music and the specific record you first came across, Planet Mu’s narrative arc will likely be perceived in a manner unique to you and you only. Names like Boxcutter, Luke Vibert, Venetian Snares, Vex’d and Jlin pepper the label’s discography, which began in 1998 and runs as strong as ever in 2017. Behind it all is Mike Paradinas, aka µ-Ziq, a legendary artist is his own right and the driving force behind all things Mu. Paradinas’ solo releases in recent years has been low key (see here and here), but last year saw the re-issue of Expert Knob Twiddlers, Mike’s collaborative project with Aphex Twin as Mike & Rich. On the label front, 2016 saw the introduction of a number of new faces to the Mu universe with releases from Yearning Kru, Sami Baha, Antwood, Silk Road Assassins and WWWINGS, all artists from the periphery of the vague experimental/club axis. The fact that 2016 was the first year of Mu’s third decade and its first after a retrospective 20 year anniversary project bolstered the appearance of new beginnings.
Of course, Mu has always been devoted to breaking artists and sounds, an almost reckless drive that has seen the label contribute seminal, but always fundamentally outlying, albums in IDM, breakcore, dubstep and footwork, a convoluted bridge of extreme sounds that likely only makes complete sense to Paradinas himself. Despite that interminable drive forward though, the past is preserved remarkably well in both the label’s history and Paradinas’ solo work. This manifests in re-issues like Expert Knob Twiddlers, as well as nostalgic projects like Konx-om-Pax’s Caramel and the various releases of Heterotic, a joint project of Paradinas and his partner Lara Rix-Martin (who runs the Objects Limited label). The latter is influenced (per Mu’s website) “by (among other things) Fleetwood Mac and old Nu Groove records,” a position that initially feels incongruent with Jlin’s transgressive Dark Energy LP, but is somehow all reigned in under the same banner.
We had a quick email interview with Paradinas in advance of this mix and the Mu boss explained the relationship between the label and Kuedo’s Knives imprint, Mike’s relationship with Jlin, Principe and Lil Yachty. His Astral Plane mix plays like a 52 minute snapshot of the label in 2017 with unreleased material from Jlin, Sami Baha, Silk Road Assassins, v1984 and Huerco S. Lorenzo Senni and Imaginary Forces and Hieroglyphic Being, all artists who would fit comfortable on the label’s recent roster, appear as well with recent and unreleased material. The mix flows naturally from artist to artist and sound to sound, despite jumping across a range of tempos and genres, sliding comfortably from rap/grime adjacent to a pair of trance mutations and on to the in turn soulful and paranoiac footwork stylings that have almost become the label’s calling card (if that’s even possible) in recent years. The next few months will see releases from Jlin, Herva and Teengirl Fantasy while the mix hints at further work from Baha, SRA, WWWINGS and RP Boo. Read on below for the full interview and find a track list after the jump.
Hey Mike, how are you? Where are you answering these questions from?
Hey, I’m fine. I’m in my little office at home in the city of Brighton and Hove on the South Coast of England.
Whereas other labels with similar longevity have expanded into other fields like publishing, film and technology, Planet Mu’s approach has always felt pure and unadorned to the point that it almost feels anachronistic in this day and age. Has that been a conscious move on your part?
In some ways it has been conscious, for instance I’m no film buff, I just have no knowledge of that side of things. We did start a publishing company by the way, back in 2009. We publish a few of our artists and some others. I guess the decision is made for us in that we would need quite a lot of investment to fund staff and to expand in those ways, and none has been forthcoming (we did ask around a bit a couple of years ago). There’s also a lot to be said for doing one one thing well.
Jlin has been lauded as one of the most vital voices in electronic music in recent years. With the new release in mind, how has your relationship developed since “Asylum” appeared on Bangs & Works Vol. 2 in 2011?
Haha! Well, we do speak a lot more nowadays, sometimes two or three times a week, but that’s because she is currently putting the finishing touches to her second album ‘Black Origami’ which will be one of our biggest releases of 2017. We do talk music quite often, mainly footwork, but I introduced her to some hardcore and jungle a few years ago (from what I recall she was into Dillinja). A lot of it is putting her mind at rest about one thing or another and schooling her in the processes involved in putting out and promoting music in this day and age.
Much has been made about Planet Mu’s “phases”, but as you’ve pointed out in past interviews the label has always released a wide range of music with certain currents carrying on longer than others. Is it a worthwhile exercise to partition the label’s output into genres or is it all just techno to you?
I find it difficult to answer this question. Obviously no, it’s not all techno, and yes we have had phases but I don’t really understand whether it’s worthwhile or not to think like that … ?
Can you outline the relationship between Knives and Planet Mu? There’s obviously some aesthetic overlap between the two entities so I’m curious about your and Jamie/Kuedo’s process.
Knives the label (that’s releases whose catalogue number is KNVXXX) is all run chosen by Jamie Teasdale and Joe Shakespeare. They supply me with finished artwork and premasters which Planet Mu manufacture, promote and distribute. Knives is also an A&R consultancy, for example they suggested the Yearning Kru release to us which we released early last year. I also approached Jamie for help when I got stuck compiling Jlin’s debut album Dark Energy and Jamie helped with the track order, and he also brought in Joe to do the artwork and video. Hence the Knives credit on the back sleeve, although it’s a Planet Mu release. Having said all that I have had comments about track order and selection on Knives own releases and Jamie and Joe have taken notice.
Rhythmically speaking, are there any new forms you’ve been excited about lately? Gqom has been all the rage lately although there are almost certainly more people talking about it than playing it out outside of Durban.
Haha, I really never got Gqom, I just don’t hear much to excite me in the form. I really like the Principe stuff especially DJ Nigga Fox who I’ve wanted to sign for at least 4 years now, but they don’t seem interested.
The first third or so of the mix, comprised of tracks from v1984, Sami Baha, Silk Road Assassins and WWWINGS feels heavily indebted to American rap production. The first two artists in particular have worked extensively with rap and R&B acapellas. Are you interested in contemporary rap at all?
Only Lil Yachty
What continues to motivate you in the label’s third decade in existence?
Just the continuing search for music to move, interest and excite me..
03 v1984 – Aria of Dawn (Knives)
04 Silk Road Assassins – 5FP (Planet Mu)
05 Sami Baha – R8 (Planet Mu)
06 Sami Baha – Degu Six (Planet Mu)
07 Silk Road Assassins – Bowman (Planet Mu)
08 WWWINGS – LIT (?)
09 WWWINGS – SHADOW REALM (ft. Silk Road Assassins) (Planet Mu)
10 Sami Baha – TV (Planet Mu)
11 J.G. Biberkopf – Transfiguration II: Amplification (Knives)
12 J.G. Biberkopf – Transfiguration I: Enlightenment (Knives)
13 Lorenzo Senni – Rave Voyeur (Warp)
14 Hieroglyphic Being – Walking on the Sun (Mathematics)
15 Konx-om-Pax – Beatrice’s Visit (Huerco S Extended Stay) (Planet Mu)
16 Imaginary Forces – Make Ends Meet (Halcyon Veil)
17 Imaginary Forces – Make Ends Meet (A London Someting) (Halcyon Veil)
18 Jlin – Enigma (Planet Mu)
19 Jlin – Carbon 7 (Planet Mu)
20 Jlin – Hatshepsut (Planet Mu)
21 Jlin – Quiet (?)
22 Jlin – Kyanite (Planet Mu)
23 DJ Diamond – Drowned n Sound (?)
24 RP Boo – U Don’t Know (Planet Mu)
25 RP Boo – Bu’Moon (Planet Mu)
26 RP Boo – What Am I? (Planet Mu)
27 Jlin – Never Created, Never Destroyed (Planet Mu)
28 Jlin – Nandi (Planety Mu)
29 RP Boo – Flo-Control (?)