It’s music to our ears every time a new album is announced on Metalheadz. Goldie’s tour de force is to thank for a glut of the scene’s finest releases from his very own Timeless LP to more recent efforts from the likes of Lenzman, Ulterior Motive and Artificial Intelligence.
To kick off 2016, we’re going to be treated to a debut album from Mikal, a producer once dubbed the ‘secret assassin’ of the label by Goldie himself. It’s a moniker that owes itself to the fact this is his first album after a lengthy amount of time in the scene and upon first listening, it’s blatantly obvious that the wait has definitely been worth it…
“This album is a collection of my work over the past couple of years. I wanted to put in a track from every angle of D&B that I like,” he says. “I’ve spent so much time putting it together and applying the finishing touches I’ve kind of given up thinking about it now – I’m just looking forward to playing the tracks out as often as I can and in as many places as I can!”
We spoke to Metalheadz’ secret assassin about the early days of his career and how his debut album, titled Wilderness, came about.
Let’s kick off from the start; how did you first fall into the world of D&B?
I’ve been into it for a long time. I lived in Sweden as a kid and when I came back to the UK the whole jungle thing was just kicking off and it was on the radio quite a bit. I got some help from Orion – a youth worker who had a very basic studio setup nearby. That was enough to get me started and I gradually got my own equipment and developed things from there.
And how did you fall into the attention of Metalheadz?
I just sent them a load of demos. I sent one lot off and didn’t hear anything back and started to give up hope, but then about three weeks later, the label manager at the time got in touch and told me to keep sending tracks over – and then Goldie got in touch to say he was liking what he was hearing which made all the effort worth it. It’s been a fun ride ever since…
So persistence really does pay off. What have you been up to lately?
I guess so! Recently I’ve mainly been focussing on album stuff… There are quite a lot of things to do when you release an album; mixes, podcasts and stuff like that, so I’m quite happy just staying at home getting all of that done.
How did the album come about? Has it been planned for a while?
When I signed up with Metalheadz, I did so with the intention of making an album at some point. I’ve tried to put a few tracks aside to be released on an album since joining the label but it has been difficult to do that as I kept finding myself putting those ‘saved’ tunes on EPs and releasing them as singles instead, just eager to get them released. It kind of went on like that for a while. It’s been in the last two years in which I’ve really focussed on the album, and the last year in which I’ve made most of the tracks.
Where did the whole Wilderness theme come from – the name and the artwork?
I asked DroneBoy to design the artwork for me and like everything he does, he did an incredible job. He’s been doing the Metalheadz t-shirts and flyers so he was the perfect man for the job. There’s a track on the album called Wilderness which is pretty much where the name came from. I guess the name ‘Wilderness’ also loosely refers to the fact I make a lot of styles of music and never really stick to just one, so it feels a bit like I’m in my own musical wilderness at times.
It looks like there are some great collabs on there. How did the Chimpo one come about?
I met Chimpo at Outlook Festival a couple of years ago and we were chatting online about working on a track together. I sent a project over to him and asked if he was keen to work on a track and a few weeks later he’d done the verse for me and that was it; it was a really easy process. It worked in the same way with Break, Sophie Barker and RIOT too!
How much free rein do you have when writing an album on Metalheadz?
I think the reason I was attracted to working with Headz in the first place is that Goldie effectively gives you full control when you write something. He lets you do your own thing and just wants to hear what you’ve come up with. He’ll sometimes give you ideas or advice which I think is great because he’s helped me out many times, mainly through suggesting music to me that he thinks will give me some new ideas. With the album I just kept adding tracks to the Dropbox project and Goldie or Ant (TC1) could add comments whenever they liked. It’s a nice way of working.
You’re quite a versatile producer – can we expect a range of styles on the album?
There are a few curveballs, people may be surprised by JB’s Groove. It’s based on a James Brown sample It was used in the ‘Big Payback’ by EPMD. I didn’t really write it to go out on anything, I just sat there and wrote it one day and messed around with it and before long it turned into a tune. Just out of curiosity I sent it to Goldie and he told me it was going on the album!! So I guess it came around by accident in a way. I don’t think it is a track that you would think would be on a Headz album! Adam F had a great intro track on his Colours album which I really loved too and the concept inspired my outro track. They are more influenced by my love of Breakbeats and film soundtracks.
Would you say that’s an important thing to think about when producing an album?
Definitely, the trick to putting an album together is making sure you display a mixture of styles. I’ve tried to encapsulate all the styles I’ve been into to over the past few years in this album, but I guess if you’re making a D&B album you’re expected to put mostly D&B on it. I’m glad I managed to get a few other styles on there, though.
Will you be putting your feet up once the album has been released?
No, absolutely not! I’ve got quite a few projects lined up for 2016, some of which are non D&B related. I do a bit of sound design for people here and there and about a year and a half ago I helped Asian Dub Foundation mix their album and kind of did a few beats with them, so I think I’m going to help write their next album which should be cool. There’s also new Metalheadz material on my own and with RIOT, a few singles and some work for other labels.