Michal Menert’s performance at the New Year’s Eve festival, Decadence, could only be described as transcendental, and was the perfect cap to a great year of music following his release of his “Elements” EP. As the clock was ticking, and time was counting down to 2015, we had a chat with him about the past, present, and future of his career, and where he sees electronic music going, including some advice for artists who may be reading. Michal is looking to stay true to his fans, his sound, and his demeanor, and has some large announcements including the release of his new album, “Space Jazz.” Strap in while we dive into the mind of one of Pretty Lights Music’s musical and philosophical gurus.
Your Elements EP had a lot of focus around emotional vulnerability. We’ve also heard stories of the crazy moments that led you to near death experiences, allowing you to reconcile with your father. How would you describe your relationship with your father’s influence on your music?
It’s funny because he was always the one buying me instruments, and allowing me to pursue my dream, but he was very realistic. He served as a constant reminder that it was a one-in-a-million shot, and never assured me that I was going to be the one in a million that make it.
How has this effected your music career?
It was both disheartening and motivating. He was the one that showed me the beauty in singling out a specific element in a song and that warming sense of “that really hits me”. The challenge with him came in trying to explain that feeling was the only thing that made sense to me.
But, that’s the thing about music – it has the power to connect us on such a powerfully emotional level. You’ve probably heard it time and time again – but there’s no wrong way to make music. Music is open to interpretation. When two people hear a song, they will relate it to themselves on entirely different levels. You are not telling a story, when you’re a musician, you’re providing other people with the canvas to tell their own story. My record collection is my medicine cabinet, and I hope to provide that to others.
Wow, that’s amazing. You say there’s no wrong way to make music, can you give an example of how this comes out in your music, specifically?
Honestly, I’ve really grasped onto the idea of beautiful imperfection, the noisy stuff. It’s the vulnerability of it that grabs me, so I try to aim for a very natural sound, and use as many things as possible to create it. Art is art because it’s not perfect. The imperfections create that room for story. While you’re going through hard times, it may feel like hell, but looking back, what we remember isn’t what went wrong, it’s what went right.
Incredible. Looking back to everything that went down in that period of your life: you had a gun pulled on you, a stab wound by your heart, spent some time recovering in the hospital, and were released into a new reality with a dying father. How do you see the imperfections in these stories creating a beautiful story?
Up until that point, I had found myself chasing the American dream, trying to work a career to fund my music. Thankfully, after all that happened, I ended up in the perfect position to be there for my family. Had I finished college and been working a full time job, I don’t think I’d have had the time to take off.
Once enough things have gone wrong, you just kind of start laughing it off. You know you’re going to survive. The losing streak becomes a comedy. Either I’m going to keep believing that the story is going to end happily, and I’m going to keep working towards that, or I’m going to die along the way and never know it didn’t end happily. At the same time, it’s not all fly by the seat of your pants. There’s definitely a lot of hard work that goes into it.
Wow. So, looking forward into the New Year, you said that everything really seems to be lining up. How do you see this year going?
I think more and more I’m aware of how many people are starting to be passionate about the “electro-soul” sound, and finding inspiration in it. This last year, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into how to evolve it. Kind of like how some other thought leaders have incorporated all live instruments, or have created a full studio album in the vein of what we grew up sampling. It takes that kind of forethought, and not seeing where you’re at right now as the ‘End Game.’
I don’t want to tread the water in the same sound, and that’s what I’ve tried to do with “Space Jazz”, coming out some time in March. I’m really excited about it, it’s going to be the best-sounding album I’ve ever made. It’s got a good mix of the sampling stuff I’ve done in the past and having instrumentalists, having me sing and rap on certain parts, and collaborations with many artists, some that I met on tour.
Sounds like you have a lot of major movements in your sound coming up. Do you have any inspiration for someone who’s form of art doesn’t fit the current mold?
We live in the most ideally independent music scene. You can buy a laptop, download free software, and start creating. For the first time in history we’re able to actually be fully independent artists, even starting our own labels and hosting online. We’re in the freest time for music, and yet a lot of EDM kids are chasing the same rabbit around the same ice track, and you just can’t see a future in that forever. At some point you have to question “Am I just trying to make as much money as ‘that guy’, and do what ‘that guy’ did, or am I actually trying to find what made me happy within music?
As for my advice, there’s always a middle ground. There’s so much potential, because there’s so many sub-genres, with so many approaches within them. For recent examples, look to Flume and Cashmere Cat with their “Anti-Drop” music. It’s still got energy, and it’s still got builds, but it’s not about being louder and more obnoxious, it has the ability to be beautiful.
So, what can we expect on your new Space Jazz Album?
There are a lot of people coming together with collaborations on this album. Expect some input from artists like Supervision, Paul Basic, Manic Focus, Dominic Lalli, RA the Rugged Man, Jubee, Keeplove, C1, Jk Soul, AC Lao, DJ Fundo, Mikey Thunder, BeatServer, a few members of the MMBB on instruments here and there.
Be sure to follow Michal Menert on these channels:
As for up-coming shows, catch Michal at any of these events over the next few months!
JK Soul, featured in the new “Space Jazz” album, and a member of Menert’s label, also has a new album. You can find it here