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mike-paradinas

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.

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Tom E Vercetti shots-6

With grime and drill music in his sight, Tom E. Vercetti has stormed out of the gates in 2015, crafting an elongated, hyper-melodic take on contemporary club sounds, debuting with the Future Perfect EP on Coyote Records and joining up with Lovedr0id and Chemist as Silk Road Assassins (an outfit now signed to Planet Mu0). With tracks like “Crystal Cloak” and “A Matter Of Perspective” floating around, not to mention Silk Road Assassins efforts like “Shaded” and “T (Peace Edit)”, it was only a matter of time before the general public picked up on Vercetti.

Inspired by everything from Lil Durk’s analgesic raps to the TimeSplitters game, Future Perfect is the Southwest England’s solo debut and it fits perfectly into another big year for Coyote, another beatific, introspective take on rap and grime that could almost be taken as a companion piece to Spokes’ Green Eyes EP and Letta’s Testimony LP. It’s a conscious step away from aggro grime and rap tropes, leaning towards menace and paranoia as underlying moods. Work with Chicago rapper Mikey Dollaz is on the way in 2016 and along with the Silk Road Assassins EP, it’s looking like a breakout year for Vercetti. Grab Future Perfect here and be on the lookout for more solo material from this riser.

Hi Jack, how are you? Where are you right now?
I’m pretty good thanks. I’m currently jamming in my flat in Bath looking at a pretty nice view.

How did Future Perfect come about? What’s behind the name?
I actually picked up the term from the Timesplitters game and just thought it sounded cool. Then I realised the phrase evoked really lucid imagery of the future as imagined by the world 20/30 years ago. Very crystalline, vibrant and optimistic.

Do you approach your solo work differently from your work as Silk Road Assassins?
Yeah but subconsciously. With solo work I can spend hours fine tuning certain details but that just wouldn’t roll in a collaborative situation. It would be pretty boring for the others if they had to watch someone editing a melody for two hours for example. The solo process is a lot more drawn out and about spending a long time trying to get things perfect. When we make beats together it’s really quick fire and we don’t spend too much time on details until the actual arrangement is down. I don’t ever feel the need to focus on separating the two though because the SRA stuff will naturally have a different feel due to Chemist and Lovedr0id’s approach to it. Though recently the lines have become a bit more blurred as I’ve spent most of my time in SRA mode. My idea to get around that with the next EP is to try things we wouldn’t normally do together as SRA.

Your sound is intensely melodic and seems based in both American and British musical styles. What did you grow up listening to and how has your musical taste developed over time?
I listened to just about everything I could when I was growing up. The first genre I ever properly invested in was bassline back when I first started secondary school. My dad’s friend would always bring back bassline mixtapes from Leicester which I used to rinse. He also taught me how to use Reason and I used to mess about on that trying to make bassline tracks. I’d often have Channel U on at home as well so I was exposed to grime through that mostly. Everyone would also share grime instrumentals on their phones at school because everyone was an MC back then. But at the same time I was really into the American rnb and rap sound around the 2000-2005 period. I think the rnb production from back then has resonated massively in my approach to melody. During secondary school I got into playing guitar and listening to bands like The Smiths and The Cure etc. That took my focus away from dance music for quite a while but I got back into it during college when I started making beats again.

Is there a specific physical and/or virtual space where you see your music excelling?
Geographically I think the music can work in the UK and USA. Grime fans can latch onto the UK influence of the EP and there’s also the obvious trap/rap references which American listeners may be more familiar with. The EP is largely targeted at the virtual world though. It’s meant to be something people will come across whilst chilling at home, heading into the Youtube abyss. I always had the club at the forefront of my mind while writing the EP though so it’s intended to be experienced there too.

Bits of non-human sounding vocals show up throughout Future Perfect. How do you go about selecting samples and what effect are you trying to get across by including them?
The vocal samples are usually taken from rnb tracks I used to like as a kid. Most of the time I try to obscure them a bit and not use obvious parts of acapellas but sometimes it’s cool to put something in there that people will recognise. I find having a human element to electronic music makes it subconsciously more relatable to people. Vocal tracks always go off in clubs and people just seem to like hearing human voices in music.

How did Silk Road Assassins’ “Shaded” get involved with the 20 year Planet Mu compilation?
Kuedo originally hit us up about doing a release on a label he was starting which became Knives. I think as time went on the music seemed to fit less with what Kuedo wanted to do with the label so him and Mike Paradinas decided to get us involved with Planet Mu instead. ‘Shaded’ is a track we wrote for our EP and Mike also decided it would fit with his idea of the compilation.

Do you have a favorite club in Bristol?
Bristol can be really hit and miss with club nights so a club could be great one night and dead on another. I think one of the best nights I’ve been to in Bristol was at The Croft. I think it was Dubloaded in 2012 and was Bristol at its best. Very sweaty and smoked out. Another cool space is The Island which is an arts space based in an old police station. I went there for Batu’s Timedance night a while back. It’s crazy because it’s essentially a club in a prison. The toilets are in a jail cell. Cosies is always fun too when the PTS nights are on.

You’ve included tracks Chicago rappers Lil Durk and Billionaire Black in your mix for Complex a little while back. Do you see a dialogue emerging between UK-based producers like yourself and rappers from Chicago (or another regional American rap city)?
That’s the hope. Our approach to the Silk Road stuff kinda about exploring the links between UK dance music and drill music. I think the energy of both types of music is really similar and there’s definitely crossover potential. We want to tap into the Chicago/Atlanta rap movement and try work with some rappers out there eventually. The link is definitely already there to some extent though. There’s a mixtape coming out next year from a Chicago rapper called Mikey Dollaz with a lot of UK informed production on it. We’ve done something for that.

Do you have a favorite Chicago rapper? Producer?
Probably Lil Durk. I think it’s his ear for melody that catches my attention over anyone else. I also really like the production in his work. Which leads me on to say my favourite Chicago producer is probably Parris Bueller as he produced most of Durk’s best work.

What do you have planned for 2016?
We’ve got the Silk Road EP to put out alongside some other work. I also want to write another solo EP and hopefully get the chance to work with some people I normally wouldn’t get the opportunity to.