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MIKE GILLENWATER interview

   MIKE GILLENWATER


photos: Mike Rosley

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We want to have Vespa scooters in our garage studio. To have a super cool sounding nickname like aka Vitamin D, to be an accomplished guitarist and bassist, get turned on to making electronic music by a childhood friend, move to Chicago, and release music under another super cool sounding name, High Caliber. Then we might form another group with DJs Paul Anthony and Mark Almaria, call it The Funk Monkeys, and have our first single, “Get a Move On”, get signed to the prestigious 611 Records - and have it blow up. Yeah, that'd be nice, wouldn't it? Then we could go on to release even more amazing music on other labels (likes Dirty Fabric, Subliminal, Moody Recordings, In-Stereo) and end up releasing our own artist album, "Movement" which would mean we'd get international attention including an interview on the immensely popular Raves.com/DJfix.com websites.

I guess that would make us Mike Gillenwater.

Waayyy back when, what influenced your switch from being a guitarist and bassist to electronic music?

I've always liked that sequenced drum sound; from KMFDM and Ministry, to Daft Punk and Basement Jaxx. I was in several garage bands as a kid but those never went anywhere, so I started buying cheap drum machines, thinking I could make a whole track on just a drum machine, [laughs], I had no idea what I was doing! Once I was in college I began djing and learning to edit waves. I actually made my first track by editing drum loops and disco samples together using cut, copy and paste in Soundforge. I made two more tracks in that way and one of them was actually signed to Nocturnal Records in the UK. Once my group High Caliber was formed with my childhood friend, Bryan Jones, we started using the MPC2000 and synths to make tracks and we had much better results.

Do you still live in Chicago? What keeps you there (or wherever you are)?

I recently moved to the suburbs about 20 miles east of the city, prior to that I lived downtown in the hustle and bustle since 2001. So I'm not actually from Chicago, I was born in Boston, lived in Washington D.C. for a few years, then moved to Fort Wayne Indiana in 1987, so I pretty much grew up in Fort Wayne. I moved to Chicago to attend college and met a lot of good friends. What keeps me here all my good friends and the atmosphere that the city provides. I can't imagine ever moving away from the area.

Describe your studio to us, like we were trying to paint an image of it.

My studio is pretty funny looking, but I love it... It's in my garage, so I had to get heat and a/c running in there first. The whole room is padded with thermal and sound insulation, and the floor has mismatched carpet that's cut into weird patterns to make it fit the room. One side of the room has about 12,000 records on racks, most of them are Paul Anthony's, he's the other half of my group, The Funk Monkeys. The other wall is all my gear mounted on 3 tier stands and racks; next to that is my computer, and next to the computer desk is a standard DJ set up with a 400 watt amp and a 15 inch sub that will blow eardrums if I was stupid enough to try such a thing. There's some floor space for people to hang out and have some drinks while I work, and the back of the garage has two scooters parked side by side. I don't know any other producer that rides a Vespa literally into their studio. Most people laugh when the see the place for the first time.

What is stored on your hard drive?

All my recordings; some good, some bad, some unfinished. Music downloads, disco songs, other producers tracks and about 10,000 drum samples and loops. Some pictures, contracts, contacts, old college papers, and some literature about dog training. Sorry, besides the music there's nothing really juicy on my hard drive.

Which software/hardware did you use while recording Movement?

Akai MPC2000XL, Access Indigo 2, Novation A Station, Roland JP8080, Fender Stratocaster, Eletrix Filter Factory, Mackie 1604VLZ-Pro, and Adobe Audition. I know it sounds simple and out-dated, but if you know how to use the gear you have, you can achieve the sound you desire.

How do you name your songs? And your album?

That is by far the hardest part of the process for me. If the song has lyrics, then I'll just title it after the main hook, like "Grateful" or "Want You Baby." If it's an instrumental, then it gets a bit tricky...I have to just pick a name that the song reminds me of. The 5th track on Movement is an instrumental, but it was more of a mellow track and it felt like I was taking a break from the more up-beat tracks, so I named it "Intermission." I titled the album Movement because the song seemed to be getting the best reactions, also because it's simple and easy to remember.

Tell us something you think hardly anyone knows about you.

I was in a junior-high jazz band with Bryan Jones, who is also a house producer now. I played the bass and he was the drummer, and we were the only two members of the 16 piece band that the director gave solo parts to. Most jazz band solo's are given to a horn player, but we were good at improvising and ended up winning the best soloist awards at a state competition. I also have a twin who lives in South America, not too many people know that about me.

What keeps you making music - why do you do what you do?

It's about all I'm good at, I have several hobbies but I don't see myself making it into the PGA. I love to make music, if I'm in a bad mood or feeling down, it helps take my mind off things. If I'm happy and things are going well, I might be inspired to write a song. It's almost a habit for me, but I will say that I occasionally need a break. If you work too hard at anything, you'll get burned out. So when that happens I just go to my parents house and spend some time with old high school friends or take a vacation somewhere. I'm a musician and I will always make music till the day I die (or go deaf).

Where can people find you online?

Myspace.com, search the music section for "Mike Gillenwater". Also the Nine Records website (www.ninerecords.com), and most download sites like Beatport.com, Dancerecords.com, My website mikegillenwater.com is coming soon.

Anything else you'd like to say?

Yes, I really appreciate you all taking the time to chat with me. I enjoyed talking with you; I'm looking forward to future conversations.

Thank you - us too!!

:: www.myspace.com/mikegillenwaternine ::

:: www.ninerecords.com ::

 

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