intro by Kris Upjohn & interview
by Jennifer Warner
Releasing on their own label, D:Fuse and Mike Hiratzka have jointed
forces, and with their first release, offer a CD of music that dips
into both the chillout and house music pools, but with a subtle
but significant difference. They've crafted electronica-based songs
that still move with the flow and feel of dancehall culture's music,
entwined in pieces of more traditional songwriting structure. Described
as a "song-based electronic album," "Skyline Lounge"
is indeed something of the sort. It's both traditional (in a modern
electronica context) and distinct. The songs flow smoothly from
chilled grooves to sublime house elements with male and female vocals
(DJ Rap and Delerium vocalist Kristy Thirsk, among others) both
To find out more, we talked to D:Fuse and Mike Hiratzka via email
for this exclusive interview! (
When & where was the first time you heard Hiratzka and
do you remember what you thought?
D - I first played a remix he had done back in 2001 - Medway and
Pete Gawtry "La Fin Du Monde" (Mike Hiratzka Mix). I
was very impressed with the production and surprised to hear he
was from the U.S. Most stateside production was not up to that level
at the time.
Mike – I knew who D was, his manager had been sending me
his playlists from his radio show, and I knew he had been playing
Who was your musical cupid (how did you two meet)?
D - I attended a BT album launch party when Brian was doing the
"Mr. Rourk Fantasy Island" white suit look-alike thing.
Mike happened to be opening that night. He handed me a CD of some
of his new production and I soon played and charted every single
Mike – I didn't know D was going to be at BT's
album launch, I just happened to run into him in the parking lot
after I got done DJing.
What was it about him and/or his music that made you think
you'd like to work together?
D - Mike was one of the few producers that went beyond writing
disposable dance "tracks" that you hear so often. His
productions were complete songs. Each one was a complete story,
a cohesive journey. He also had a good ear for lyrics which I'm
a real stickler for. Like me he also had an ability to write different
styles- from house to progressive and even downtempo and chill and
that was cool to see.
Mike – We have similar tastes in music, and we have a lot
of fun hanging out. After doing our first remix together (My Life
With The Thrill Kill Kult – "Days of Swine and Roses")
we knew we had good chemistry in the studio, and since then we have
only gotten better at collaborating and trying to make music that
means something both to us and the listener.
This isn't the first time you've worked on a collaborative
project that involves a lot of live instrumentation, what was it
about this one that allowed it to advance all the way to an album?
D - Mike and I had completed my live-band DJ album concept (People_3
live in San Francisco) and I was touring supporting the release.
I called him out of the blue and said- "the world needs least
right now is just another house track" I told him I thought
a lot of dance music was getting mundane and I was sensing some
unrest in the clubs. I pitched him the idea of forming a band of
sorts and getting back to old-fashioned lyric/song writing and incorporating
different musical styles and he agreed. I made plans to move to
L.A. soon after.
Mike – After doing the live show thing for a while, and seeing
how it really worked and got the crowd into things, we decided that
keeping that live aspect involved was really important to us and
would be a defining element in the future of our music. It's an
excellent way for us to really add something personal and organic
to our music.
On your album Skyline Lounge, why did you choose to work with
vocalists on most of the tracks?
D - Mike and I believe vocals really flesh out a track and make
it more human. It allows a closer connection with the listener.
Mike was doing a side project with vocalist Kristy Thirsk. I was
familiar with her great work with Delirium and Mike brought her
on board to do a song with us. We generally write all of the lyrics
ourselves but she heard our track, wrote her own lyrics, and sent
the vocal from her studio in Vancouver. When Mike and I heard the
vocal to "Overkill" we were floored.
DJ Rap and I became friends shortly after my move to L.A. and one
night we talked about our favorite ballads and Frankie Goes to Hollywood
"The Power of Love" came up. Mike and I brought her in
the studio the next week and she did a killer job on the vocals.
She really has an angelic voice.
I met Ceci Castelblanco in San Francisco and heard her sing accapella
at a party and when we wrote the lyrics to "Perfection"
I knew her style would fit well with the vibe.
I've worked with MC Flint quite a bit- we ended up having him do
some freeform rhyming in the studio and then we chopped it up to
make the hook on "Love it, Live it." We generally write
a song and determine what's best for the song overall- whether that
be Mike or I doing the vocals, or finding a different singer or
Mike - We had initially planned on doing most of the vocals ourselves,
but as the project developed the tunes where we featured other vocalists
just seemed to fall into place.
Did you all actually get together in one studio, or was a lot
of the recording done long distance?
D - We generally produce almost everything at Mike's studio in
L.A. I would drag my drums there and do a lot of live takes there
in his living room. Mike would always have a guitar or bass handy
to be able to throw those into tracks as well. Kristy Thirsk sent
her initial vocals from her Vancouver studio then did some overdub
work with us here. Govinda sent his violin parts from his studio
in Austin. Other than that everything was done at the L.A. studio.
Mike – D had already moved out to LA before we began recording
the album, so thankfully we didn't have to do anything long distance.
The most difficult thing was trying to balance our schedules, since
both of us travel a lot and DJ on the weekends. Having Kristy and
Govinda be able to do their things at their own places and send
them to us was great, the power of the internet really helped us
out with those tunes.
Speaking of virtual, you are releasing this album on your new
all-digital label. What made you decide to go that route, now?
D - The death of CD's is right around the corner. No one will be
buying them in a year or two (if not sooner). Even my mom is downloading
music! The technology is ramping up and it's becoming easier and
easier. Revenue streams for label sales are much easier to track.
The cost of putting out a release digitally makes a lot more sense
for us in a lot of ways.
Mike – We both have had some bad experiences dealing with
other labels, and felt that it would be great to be fully in control
of our projects in the future. Having our own label to release our
album just made sense.
How do you possibly find the time to record, tour AND run a
label? Is there a man/woman (or several) behind the curtain doing
at least part of the work??
D - We're distributed through Ingrooves and they also market and
promote our releases (and do a great job). We also outsourced the
bulk of the publicity campaign to Rephlektor Ink in New York who
have a solid reputation. Other than that it's just Mike and I. We
do our own graphic design, most of our own marketing and promotion.
It's a ton of work but it's extremely satisfying to know that it's
being done right. We put our hearts into it. I wouldn't do the label
with anyone other than Mike. We are both very hard workers who believe
in what we do and do what we say. That's a bit rare in this business.
When I released my artist album "Begin" the label fell
asleep on just about everything they promised and I watched 3 years
of hard work limp out into the music poorly promoted. I promised
myself I would never let it happen again. Skyline Lounge has already
been a huge success for us and we're both proud of that.
Mike – Sure, there's lots of things we'd rather do than handle
paperwork for our distributor, doing graphic design and handling
mail outs to DJs, but for us, having control of our future, and
our music, is worth the work. Plus, the response we've been getting
from people about the music is such huge reward for us; it's great
to know that the work we do means something special to our listeners.
What does this or will this look like when you perform it live?
Who will be there performing/doing what?
D - We shot a live video recently in Los Angeles at Red to a capacity
crowd. Director David Presley agreed to take on the project and
he's featuring the song in his new movie "Ninja Cheerleaders"
www.ninjacheerleaders.com and it's on the soundtrack. David and
his editor V did a great job on the video and it really shows where
we're heading with our live show. Mike is on guitar, keyboard and
vocals, I'm on drums and vocals, and we feature Jason Blum from
Deepsky on keyboards. It's the first time we've worked with Jason
and he rocked it! We'll have the video up on our myspace pages soon
and at www.lostangelesrecordings.com
Mike – Yeah, what he said.
When you perform, is it at a club where there is a DJ and then
a "live" act for an hour (that would be you) and then
back to DJ?
D - Basically yes, and we'll also be featuring the show at straight-up
live music venues.
Mike – We've been playing mostly at clubs that we would otherwise
DJ at, and adding the live show as the extra highlight of the night.
As the project progresses, we hope to take it to the full-band experience
and play at more concert-oriented venues as well. Pretty much wherever
they will let Mike and his super queen sidekick D-Faggle play...
D, is it true you MOVED to LA? What brought you out here? (You
cannot tell me the sunshine. Ok you can tell me that but you were
living in Texas right??)
D - I moved to L.A. to further immerse myself in one of the best
electronic communities in the world. L.A. is really a mecca of great
studios and producers. Mike and I also have a good friendship and
working relationship. Before I was flying back and forth to Austin
with limited studio time and now Mike and I can spend weeks on a
track if need be.
Mike – LA rocks, and it has one of the best electronic music
scenes in the US. It's nice that we can work together without the
time-constraints that we used to have.
What are you loving and hating about being out here?
D - I have a place near the beach. I really love L.A. and all of
the great outdoor stuff California has to offer. I mountain bike
and jog a lot and just learned to surf. The weather is amazing.
But... the traffic sucks to high heaven and I avoid it as much as
possible. I used to go out with someone in the Valley and you couldn't
pay me to take up the 405 commute ever again. Forget it. Luckily
I work out of my home most days and I'm just a cab away from LAX.
Mike – The scene is great, the weather is nice most of the
time, and there's just a great vibe to the people out here.
What is up for you next?
D - I was thinking about making a stiff cocktail…
Mike – We're focusing on releasing the next couple of singles
from our album, then we'll probably get to work on the next full-length
Anything else you'd like to say?
D - Like I've said in previous interviews. Grab a copy of Skyline
Lounge, light some candles, and have some sex. The album has a sensual
feel and we like the idea of people getting "funky" with
it. Forget about all the crap going on with the world and connect
with someone. Oh yeah…BRING THE TROOPS HOME. NOW! Is it 2008
yet? Thanks again!! :)
Mike – Thank you to everyone who has picked up the album
and taken the time to send us an email or leave a comment on Myspace.
It means a lot to us that our music is being listened to and appreciated.
We think you two rock!! Thank you!
See tour dates and more at :