Interviews

 
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Interviews

How to use social media to promote your music | John Michie by Record Label DAO, Wednesday 7th September 2022

Today we’re talking to John Michie. He’s a producer and songwriter from Northumberland, UK. If you've been on Twitter you've probably heard of him, but if you haven't this is how he introduces himself “I like cats, the pub and believe in the legalization of cannabis. If you like old English psychedelic type music I may be your man”.


This article is a good read for anyone who wants to dive deeper into the mind of a musician. In this conversation, we’ve covered topics like: his music inspiration, John’s process of making music, how he cultivated his Twitter success, the current landscape of music, his upcoming album and much more!

"Music is a canvas and, for me, the more unreal it is the better"

How would you describe your music and the relationship you have with your craft? What are some of your inspirations?


My music is for me 1970s music. That is kinda the era I feel is channelled the most in my output. My relationship with music is definitely like air that you breathe… It is the same with all musicians. You are sharing a piece of your soul with what you do. Lyrically my songs are meaningless but the music and the sounds for me is what speaks.


In general, I do find it hard to find time to make music properly as life gets in the way so I can go a week or two without opening a project. I have come to accept that sometimes the “distance” life imposes can give greater clarity on direction.

I am definitely a magpie when it comes to music. I am not lifting like Noel Gallagher by ripping off songs. But I do lift ideas from records. So, Queen I hate but their production and mixes are brilliant. I lifted the arpeggio synth bass idea from “Radio Gaga” for “Wish You Were Dead”. I also lifted the Chuck Berry/Beatles lead guitar. The panned shaker on “Billie Jean” by Wacko Jacko I lifted for “I’ll Write Your Constellation” along with backwards snare drums from Hendrix… and so on. A lot of ideas in each song are taken from different places and they get mashed together. Once I made the mental decision not to perform live or form a band that is when my sound fell into place. If I had to write songs that worked live, I couldn’t do what I wanted to do with the soundscapes. Music is a canvas and for me the more unreal it is the better.

Personally, when I listen to your music I get a cinematographic feeling from it, is that a conscious decision during your production process?

Not sure maybe? I like Lalo Schifrin and John Barry a lot so there may be a hint of that coming through. I generally just sit down and spend weeks tinkering and recording until the path has been walked. The songs are what dictate the process. Also, limitations of equipment, skills and my dreaded singing voice. I am definitely a composer and songwriter but I am not a singer or front man… I definitely find instrumentals easier which also may lend more to the cinematic vibes. I would love to have the budget to make a Holy Mountain type video over the whole of an album like some kind of Pink Floyd and Wizard of Oz type video. That for me would be cinematic.


“Finding out that masterpiece had been recorded on GarageBand was a wake up call that you could record in your bedroom.”


Why did you decide to pursue your career as an independent artist? Could you highlight some of the struggles and silver linings you’ve had?


I think deep down I have always wanted to be a musician. It runs in the family with my grandpa being a pianist, grandad a drummer, uncle a drummer and cousins in bands. When I was 18 years old in the early noughties though the only way you could make it back then was by touring and a recording contract. No one I knew could play instruments. The technology wasn’t there. That coupled with general recognition that I wanted a good life and money… I took the option to find a career and get educated. The defining moment that made me wake up was listening to the album “Visions” by Grimes. Going back to influences she is kinda my musical guiding spirit. I really admire that lady as she has total artistic control. But… Finding out that masterpiece had been recorded on GarageBand was a wake up call that you could record in your bedroom. My path in life had changed to where I also could retire from work and I had the time to play with a music program.


My first record High Vibrations is the result of me sitting in front of a computer for 2-3 years trying my hardest to record something I could not be ashamed of with bad equipment. For most of the time I knew no one to turn to for help. I bought a Gibson Les Paul Custom during this period and realised what good equipment could do. Rerecorded all my guitar parts. It was an uphill struggle of failure until I discover Izotope plugins that use artificial intelligence to get the bones in place. I then banged out my ambient noise piece album “Toward the Rainbow” in a weekend. I personally prefer that album to High Vibrations… Then, my computer became basically unworkable. If I am going to list a struggle greater than learning mixing it was trying to record album three on that crap Mac Mini. Demos at best it gave me. The struggle over the last year has been simply sitting on my hands and not really recording as I saved money for a new computer and upgrading all my gear. Guitar pedals, microphone, you name it. The highlight from all this was simply the general positive response to me as a musician telling me it was worth taking this seriously. Even if there is sod all money in it.

You’re a big player in what some people call “twitter music scene”. What would you attribute your success on that platform to?


This makes me smile a bit. Er I don’t know. I only stepped in when I had an album ready to master as covid hit. I kinda didn’t do social media before then as I didn’t have anything ready. Once I did, I just logged on and started talking to everyone on there who had suddenly logged on at the same time. I personally feel I am living musically off around two decent songs… But “Wish You Were Dead” in my opinion is amazing. Toploader or a band like that don’t even have a decent song so…. The rest of my catalogue is what it is and not fussed. The best is to come.


I also have people now and again asking how I got verified on Twitter and I can’t answer that. I applied for it and I ticked the boxes so I don’t know. I must have a big enough footprint made from my armchair.


The only things that I think sets me apart from most people on social media are that I reply to every message and I am consistent with my presence on that platform. Most people in the industry will likely say you need to be on Tik Tok licking custard off your elbow to get fans but to be blunt… If I did daily Tik Tok it would be either me watching Heartbeat or down the pub in Spoons... It isn’t interesting. You can talk on Twitter hence its appeals to me. I like talking and quite outgoing as a person.

The second thing that I think sets me a part is that I am genuinely interested more on the backstage stuff of music and kinda maybe have a bit more knowledge on some things which people ask help on. Maybe I don’t but I get a lot of questions in Dms. I do have my go to gurus like Nunnyboy from Voldo who help me out.


I also generally don’t as a rule talk about sex, politics or religion. I have strong views on all of these as I am human but try my best not to offend people that way. I am not going to talk on Twitter about my crush on Ellie Bamber for instance. No one needs to know that subject in depth. Politics is the hard one due to the shit show of the modern political bandwidth… I am happy to offend Phil Collins and Adele fans though.


The only other thing is that I generally don’t promote my music. Kinda take the rule that I only promote if I have something to push or if there is an anniversary… but you won’t normally see me chasing for attention that way. I guess that may make me more the brand rather than the music?


I was reading an interview where you said “Some musicians think promotion is just posting the same presave link daily and expecting something to happen or a record label will sign you from that”. So I wanted to ask, what is promotion for you? Do you wish people were more creative with it? And on that note, imagine you’re talking to someone who has never put their music out but they want to, how would you suggest they approach their promotion?


Ah wow you have done your homework. Er. Promotion for me is talking to people. Making a connection with people. It is also not being the pushy salesman or a Swiss Tony. You have to create I guess suspense. Me not releasing anything except when an album is on its way kinda is that suspense of the product. I just have to make sure now it was worth the wait which I am confident it will be. This kinda leads into the creativity part. The suspense and interest do also come through being creative with the promotion. So, for instance create 24 pieces of media to support a release when you have something to push. The artwork, lyrics quotes, snippet videos of the song, video you talking about it and so on… I will do these with album three before I get an ah but from someone.

Music promotion and the marketing side of it can be challenging for some musicians. However, John definitely seems to be walking the talk when it comes to promoting his music and being able to market himself in front of an audience. For this reason, we were curious to know what he’d advise someone that just released their first single.


“For someone who has never put their music out I will give the same advice above of talking and creating media around the releases but also… if you truly believe in your music send it to radios, blogs etc. Carpet bomb everywhere and stay organised. Build lists and contacts. Be a chancer and send to everyone. The amount of people that don’t push their music or expect to get playlisted by Spotify on a release and that that will give you fame is a bit silly. It isn’t going to happen kids and you’re not going to get enough money in even if you get signed to support a rock’n’roll drug habit. It’s a myth.”

His down to earth attitude when it comes to music is refreshing. He’s an artist that won’t buy into the glamorous side of the music industry and is ready to “do the work”. In the process of building a project there’s dreams, goals and expectations but, most importantly, it needs to be supported by actions and your own behavior.


“It is also about attitude.” John says, “some artists can’t take the wall of silence they get from places which yes is a type of rejection. But just because they are not saying anything doesn’t mean they aren’t watching you. Everyone sees all your posts on social media. I see acts moan about not getting festival gigs or played on the radio but so what? At the end of the day, it is about the music and you… I don’t give a crap, if honest, about what others think about me or my music because it isn’t for them. I have moaned in the past for the record around the BBC and radio play but it wasn’t for me. The BBC did not support indie music during Covid. Acts could not gig and the 99% of the arts were not helped by a public service. The BBC and Freshnet etc do a great job and are more than our brothers and sisters in the states get but there is always room for improvement.”

How would you describe the current music industry? What do you think is the future of music and its industry?


Hmm well. Music in general I think is in a decent place. I am inspired by acts like Lewca, Ynes, Dictator, Heavy North, OrangeG and so on. They all seem like genuinely beautiful people too from the little to large interactions I have had. As for the industry, it is in the toilet but it always has been. The “Top 40” which, let's be honest, is a joke, has zero bands in it. They are all “solo” artists. All the majors are hyping their acts into public view through botted numbers in what I am sure is an elaborate tax dodge. There is zero money in it but that has always been that way even if you’re signed getting 16% of a Spotify play or CD sale. The industry is both ageist and sexist along with other “ists”. But again, what do we expect here?


It is a business so the majors only think about money over music. The general perspective I have though, bar the money, is that things are very positive. Music is cheaper than ever to get into. The technology is becoming easier to use. The internet and social media give you the chance to make a name. We have a pretty good shot at things which guys my age in the 1980s could only dream of. No one knows either what will set things alight next but something will it is just waiting for it to happen. I do not believe it will be me. But I am not here for fame I am here because I like music and people.


“Music is cheaper than ever to get into. The technology is becoming easier to use. The internet and social media give you the chance to make a name.”


When talking about the current landscape of the music industry, as well as its’ future, we wanted to know what John’s opinions were on music NFTs. Is the Twitter eminent musician a fan of web3 music? We couldn’t help but ask…


“Er hmm I don’t know really. This sorta falls into crypto, NFTs, metaverse and all that shabang for me. I kinda understand the decentralized internet but I am kinda waiting for it to impact my life before I pay full attention. NFTs for instance have had no impact on me so I am not interested. I do deeply understand more about crypto and I have interacted with that. I am not going to disclose my holdings of Dogecoin on paper though… if I do buy meme coins that is… or maybe I invest in more high-quality projects… who knows? Crypto on a serious note I think has real potential but I do think we need to accept that it isn’t going to be decentralised. The big boys will not allow it and you can see that with JP Morgan getting a share. It is what it is and I am under no illusion. All things that are free and open always get controlled by a handful of people. Oligopoly is the international system.”


If you had a slot during prime time (in a major radio station) and freedom to feature any artist, who would you play?


Signed act it would be Grimes all day every day. I do this monthly mixcloud show and she is always first song. Mainly as, I have said, she is the one that inspires me when I sit down to mix or produce… even though my sound is not like hers.


If it was an unsigned act, I have to say Lewca but I would have to play non radio edits. He genuinely is one of the few people I look at and can see a talent that has real drive and potential. I would sign him if I was at a major label even though he isn’t the nice template they’re after. I am glad I can call him a friend. Yeah, let’s get all soppy.


What’s your next creative endeavor? How’s that project coming along?


I am currently working on album three. Been a long gap mainly due to not having a decent computer for around a year… Now that I have a decent computer, I have made a start rebuilding the demos from the old Mac Mini… but life is getting in the way. Kitchen has been ripped out and all that jazz… Can’t rush these things though as there will be plenty of bad weather days over the winter to work.


I think people expect unsigned indies to bang out singles all the time and release which is all fair and good but I am not cut from that cloth. I am an albums man and worship the statement of 10 plus songs that knit together. When you look at acts like Boards of Canada you can be waiting almost a decade until the cake is cooked and it may be the same for me… Though I hope not. The marker though is “art”. Art takes time regardless if it is a song or painting. I am not the most gifted person so it will take me longer. I would love to bang out songs quickly but I don’t have 4 other band members and studio support… Things move at my speed and I can’t do much about that.


The year off wasn’t wasted, though I did sit on my arse a lot on Twitter. I have been thinking of the approach, artwork, title and direction of the next project. That process is still fluid. Was talking to my good mate and fellow artist Genetic Effects about album structure yesterday. There are a few things I realized in that conversation I should be copying from M83’s album “Hurry Up Were Dreaming”. The record though will be good as I won’t release it unless it is done... This is for a traditional type album… when it comes to ambient and experimental stuff which I want to do more of… I kinda am happier to whack that up quick. I find those genres liberating as the barriers aren’t as solid


To finish this off, what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? What advice would you give to someone who’s starting their music career?


Again, it goes back to “just because they’re not responding, it doesn’t mean they’re not listening”. Part from that be good, and say your prayers.

 

Interviews

In the Spotlight With John Michie by Creative Reader at SLE Radio, Thursday 25th August 2022

Hi and welcome to another “Creatives In the Spotlight”


Today I have the huge pleasure to introduce you to John Michie.

Hi John and thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.


Growing up, was Music your first love or did you have other creative interests in your life?


When I was a kid, I enjoyed music. It was the Brit Pop era so you couldn’t really get away from music unless you lived under a rock. Oasis was my band but I equally loved Blur. My sister listened to a lot of U2, Verve and the Stone Roses… Mum was more Beatles, Bread and Patsy Cline… and my dad who died when I was kid had a load of tapes with Pink Floyd and Abba and the like… So, I had a lot of exposure. My family are quite musical too with my grandpa being a pianist, grandad and uncle both drummers, cousins being in bands as well… But my real passion back then was basically studying and playing football.

I don’t have one of these stories where I was sniffing glue behind the bike sheds and nicking car stereos… I also had a really stable family. Quite fortunate, I guess. My story is really sedate and was basically about trying to get good grades and get a decent job. The actual playing of music came in around 15 years old when I got the desire to learn guitar. I wrote songs… but it never actually occurred to me to form a band or record. That happened a lot later in life when it dawned on me the technology and software was there to do it in a bedroom… if I had started earlier, I’d have needed some record label or the like or to spend my cash on recording studios. I was and still am too sensible to pursue those avenues…


Also when you started, who was your biggest inspiration?


Back in the early days of picking up guitar… my song writing inspiration would be the Beatles and Oasis. My playing God is definitely Dave Gilmour… But with recording… My biggest inspiration is Grimes. She is the artist that fires me up and who I 100% respect as an artist. She has proven that you can find an audience just by creating art that you enjoy and that to a large extent that there are no rules. Her early albums are not mastered well but the story and the progression for me is truly inspiring. It is the ambition of her work and the level of dedication that points me in the correct direction. Absolutely love that girl.


In the creative process, which brings you more satisfaction, when you have that first idea, or when you have the finished result in front of you?


Definitely the finished result. The writing of the song in a weird way I don’t enjoy so much 70% of the time as I don’t enjoy writing lyrics. The music bit is the hook for me that gets me started. I spend hours, days, weeks and months crafting these songs… tinkering. Working on each part. Some parts of that process I really enjoy and others not… like editing the silence out of vocal takes and putting the fades in. I like getting to the finished article and listening back and not knowing how I made it. When you have invested so much time into a large project of tracks it is definitely the end soundscape that does it for me.


What is the biggest difference in your music now compared to when you first started?


When I first started… even before I released anything my music sounded decidedly a copy of my record collection. I think there is a lot of acts out there that have this issue. Some make money out of it yes but it isn’t adding anything different to what is happening. Songs like Wish You Were Dead sounded like bog standard rock’n’roll tracks on the initial demos.

The main difference is now I am very confident on what is my sound. I have realized since those early days that I am ultimately making music for just me so anything goes. I also am a lot less worried about how other people judge my music. In short, I do not care now if people like it or not. The music is about me.


People will have their own interpretation and if what I have created has a message in it for them then that is great. That is a bonus.


What are you currently working on?


I am currently getting a song called “Riding the Light” ready for mixing. Has taken me three weeks to get it almost produced as it is an 87-track beast with lots of layers. It will be definitely on my next album.


Is a relief in a lot of ways to say that as I have been twiddling my thumbs a bit since my last record as I didn’t have a working computer. Can’t really describe what it sounds like… It is definitely my sound… but it has an incredibly nasty slide guitar solo at the end of it and as usual a lot of provocative sounds… and as always with me backwards bits here and there!


Part from that I am handling the promotion for The Roundlakes EP which is a collab I am in with OrangeG and Chris James Willows… I am really, really busy currently but that isn’t a bad thing.


What can we expect from your next album/ep?


Sonically I am hoping my next record will be a massive improvement on what I have done. I now have the Mac Studio that is allowing me to develop more ambitious soundscapes… and yes children I have managed to crash it a few times… but also, I have a lot of equipment that I didn’t have access to in the past like a bass and a decent microphone. I am also using a lot more tape emulation plugins so I am hoping it will sound less digital and instead warm like the releases of the past.


In terms of the final outcome, I am not 100% sure as I am at the start of it. Will ultimately depend on what songs make the final cut and what elements I add in as the finishing touches. From the songs that I currently favoring I think it will sound a bit early 1970s.


What is the one thing you would like your fans to know?


My table number in Wetherspoons every time I pop in there.


What is the one thing you would like the Music industry to know?


The big boys at Universal and Warner and all that?


I would like them to know that their shameful ageism, sexism and greed is actually harming their own business. Their group think idea of a Music Business is only a “safe” way of making money. They have a template of what sells. Young kids making repetitive songs that don’t innovate.


The reality though is that their template would not sign Bowie, Fleetwood Mac or Pink Floyd today. They’re harming themselves playing it safe when their biggest money makers are the past masters, they wouldn’t look at twice today.


But who am I? Some record exec will say that Michael Jacksons Beat It wouldn’t be a hit today but they’re wrong. The reality is they don’t have a clue beyond their safe space… if they did they’d be churning out Elvis with every act they signed.


That was my chat with John Michie, and me for one can’t wait to hear what he comes up with next!

 

Interviews

JOHN MICHIE’S STATE OF THE (INDIE MUSIC) NATION ADDRESS by London Peaky, December, 2021

HE’S Twitter’s champion of the unsigned musician, readily available and happy to offer wise words of encouragement and guidance to all who seek his counsel.

His Twittersphere touches every continent, but how comfortable does the King’s crown fit his head?

I TRY to help where I can and believe the unsigned guys are the best.

I recognise we must work as a unit to some degree as the whole system is rigged against us. Not every ‘champion’ in the blogs or radios accept every musician regardless of how good or bad they are. They have their favourites they swoon over and that is fair enough. They do that because they love a certain type of music or gigs.

The musicians though are great people with little ego. As long as you aren’t a diva they will help, talk, champion and accept everyone. They also respect each other and understand it is hard to create decent art. It is even quite hard to create bad art sometimes and they will recognise the labour.

But I don’t know if I am a leader or a champion. I am kinda the guy that likes logging in and chatting nonsense with people for hours on end. I am close to those guys as they know what a j200 or j45 is and my mates from school don’t. I am one of many musician champions on Twitter. Some we know about like me and others prefer to take a quieter role.

But I will take the crown if it is a shiny gold one.


But before immersing yourself fulltime into the world of music, you inhabited an altogether different world.


That’s right. I am a teacher by profession but quit because I was teaching six subjects at secondary school from Year 7 through to A Level, and then got asked to teach eight subjects from KS3 to A Level.

But teaching shaped who I am today, and I have taught over twenty subjects from KS2 to A Level. My last full-time teaching job was me handling six subjects in a high school and having to move every hour to a new room. I had to have my shit together especially when you are teaching A Level. It almost broke me mentally and taught me a few lessons.

But I saw how Michael Gove particularly messed up the arts along with a lot of other things that were never reported or talked about.

It starts there at the roots of education. In my opinion the government of any colour and the media are happy to protect a little boys club. The people on the television doing drama are all the same people in everything, Mel & Sue etc are of that Oxbridge group. Why do we need to see Olivia Colman in every drama? She can’t act and went to an elitist school in Norwich. There isn’t any social mobility.

That ‘Cool Britannia’ was a rare blip, and it was the same with the 1960s. You get surges of working-class people breaking through and the politicians are happy to ride that image and also to try and make them sell outs. John Lydon stating, he enjoyed Megan and Harry’s wedding says it all.

I know the government could have done better during the initial lockdown and that ‘retrain’ comment really showed the class system. As a forum of culture, they could have given musicians and drama a real national forum, at a time when we don’t have one, that would also do so much for national unity and help stop the drift of nations away from being a United Kingdom.

However, working in a career isn’t everything and it is more important to do something fulfilling with your life. Sounds a bit like Irvine Welsh here but I did decide to ‘choose life.’ I moved to the part of the country I wanted to live and arranged my affairs. I have done supply teaching since moving to Morpeth, but it has only made me more determined to find ways to get more involved in music.

I spent all my teens getting an education. In my 20s I was doing a BA and MSc and working my ass off in low paid jobs, part of my 30s working my ass off in high paid jobs and I am still in my 30s but decided that the sensible thing is ‘death’ and I decided to have a ‘life.’ Everything got moved down a gear. I am very fortunate to be able to piss around so much in my 30s.

It’s been a struggle for all of us over the past couple of years, but Covid has particularly changed the life of the musician, be they professional, amateur or whatever. But as hard as it’s been, there have been some positives.

Yes, the most noticeable way Covid changed music is that it has formed a music scene on Twitter for the unsigned. People were there before Covid hit as I remember talking to people like HD Bradley ( @HDBradleyMusic ) and Fedbysound ( @fedbysound ) but it wasn’t ‘close.’

So, the lockdowns were definitely a turning point for a large group of Twitter indies. It is certainly a moment where we started getting to know each other instead of somewhere you go to fire off a promotion Tweet hoping someone may see it. This is maybe how we view Instagram still.

I think there were little pockets of this but it was definitely the moment we joined the dots. We did also start working together more as a unit, just generally problem solving on ‘gear.’ This is how I met Chris James Willows @jameswillows to giving people a heads up about accounts that are looking for mp3s for a show and so on. I have no idea what the newbies logging on and seeing us rowdy lot think.

I’m not sure if we see the tables turn in our favour but I think it was the moment we got comfortable of our position of not being in the ‘signed fold.’ I think a lot of us realised we don’t need them. We’re still learning. I have recently tried to look at what I am doing from a record label perspective and expand revenue from streaming, we then share back what we find out. The labels will swoop if one of us gets big money coming in and mop up.

I now know something crazy like well over 200 different acts on a ‘we can chat’ type basis which is incredible. I also have some really, really, close friends now on the internet when we have never talked even over the phone. It’s crazy. We share information and help each other daily and work like a team or record label to an extent.

No one is earning big bucks but if you believe Gary Newman, neither is he. The thing that has been the most pleasing is this community has not disappeared since opening. The hours aren’t as intense but there is an 8am to 11pm crowd and I think that is because we have built something genuinely useful.

But there are also people on the edges that are supporting all of this from blogs to Moby Tanner ( @Mobytanner ) Old Indie Kid ( @oldindiekid1 ) and so on. There are a lot of legends helping make sure there is a scene.


Finally on lockdowns and Covid, are you more optimistic heading into the New Year over the plight of the indie/unsigned musicians, or less?

New Year. Covid. Well, I kinda expected this as it was buried in the PHE data during the last ‘lockdown’ (lots of deaths even after the vaccine) but I kinda expect the lockdowns and conga to go on, possibly now for a few years. I definitely expect another lockdown in the New Year, you just have to look at Ireland to see what is coming, but we may be lucky.

So how will this effect music? I think personally it will make ‘touring’ even harder for working class people. They already find it difficult to make money even when they are packing out larger venues. If honest I think this trend will continue as you know with climate change now verging on ‘this is about to happen.’ This will be terrible for maybe some acts. They will have to adapt to maybe what I am doing, and OrangeG @orangegmusic and Leigh Thomas @LeighThomasAU too with digital ways of raising their profiles. I honestly think live music will die long run and the digital forum will be the new way to build fan bases.

More generally I am actually very positive regarding the indie scene mainly because we have been all improving our gear. I have been buying guitars and now just waiting, if I can, for the M1pro chips to hit the Mac mini. I think all of us from Genetic Effects ( @geneticeffects ), Lewca ( @lewcamusic ) and OrangeG etc all need a new computer, there’s massive limitations having an old one, but then recording will start properly. We have also been writing a lot of material which will start to be recorded and released.

For me though I’d say not 2022, but maybe the year after, ‘watch out.’


Despite the internet, it has becoming increasingly difficult for new, and even somewhat more established acts, to get their music heard. Promoting one’s own music is a challenging and complicated issue for many.

Artists are being funnelled towards Groover, SubmitHub and Musosoup, where you hand over money and have no guarantee you will be taken on. I feel SubmitHub is basically a mugging, Musosoup they shove you on a playlist that doesn’t get played and ask for more cash for a review, and Groover, well anyone even me could go on there and start taking money. There is no guarantee they have influence or will take you on.

I am not a touring artist and have had to really push my music in the digital forum to find an audience, at one point I was sending over 100 emails a day leading up to the release of ‘High Vibrations.’ USA college radios the lot. I know most artists don’t do this or have some ‘manager’ doing it for them. I believe in my music and would like to find a larger audience for it. Some musicians think promotion is just posting the same presave link daily and expecting something to happen or a record label will sign you from that, when really the record labels are looking at profit margins and not talent.

Other musicians aren’t fussed and are 100% focused on churning out music and I can fully understand that, it is art after all. I think most artists still believe touring is the best way of promoting their music, maybe it is but in a Covid world and with a future of climate change I can see this changing. I don’t think most people have comprehended the projected impacts of climate change and currently I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘international tours’ are in their death throes by the end of this decade and by 2040 we’re all living in a 1950s type austere, dystopian world.

But you’re right, ‘promotion’ can be hard work. I have tried paying for reviews from various outlets to see the results. Submithub for instance is one of the few access points for us to medium/big publications. I have heard one or two that have done OK but mostly it is a mugging. The reality I think is you need a publicity company to kick the door open for you. This is the reason I believe you ultimately need to get signed to a half decent label, despite the state of the music industry, as they hold most of the cards and contacts. The big three record labels for instance basically monopoly own all the independent radio stations. There is no competition over the traditional airways. But this will likely mean the handing over of artistic control to someone who is focused on money and not lasting art.

I think you just need a connected publicity agency to take you on and they will listen. The A&R Factory for example is an important industry blog — or so they say. You can do free applications for a review which never get granted or pay and then they will review you. A lot of Twitter people have taken the attitude of ‘do we need these guys as no one reads magazines and blogs,’ but to me it is important. I will still consider paying money as a shot as I think every route needs to be chased for the one fan gained. Or in some cases to help assemble a press pack. One of the places I paid for a review helped get me verified on Twitter.

Even if you got signed and had the doors kicked open and had full access, turning a profit for the record label, or at best breaking even is a different matter. I think only 10% achieve this and the other 90% are in debt/failure.

The biggest problem for us indies during Covid is the gulf between where we are now and wider national audiences. The BBC is one of the few routes for us Brits if independent and not signed. The other way, Amazing Radio or NPR routes are pretty useless in my opinion.

In the early days of the pandemic when we had to stay at home the ‘establishment,’ the BBC etc acted as if it was business as usual and we needed to have a fan base to get recognition. The management and governors didn’t dedicate any extra time for indies. I admit we have it better that most countries but there is only so far you can get with just a laptop. Maybe this is all you need, and we don’t need these historic dinosaurs. After all the internet/technology is our most powerful tool and was not available to acts in the 1960’s who really did need to get signed to be heard and to record.

However, the major labels are shrinking in market share and the independent artists are growing. But this may be because of the ability to shove up anything if you pay the twenty to thirty quid and upload your music to the platforms.

I kind of expect them to watch rising stock and hoover up the cream and buy them out. There are a few acts I think would go a long distance if they had a publicity machine and a distribution network behind them, but I honestly don’t know if I would sign that contract as I am effectively giving up everything that probably makes my music and me interesting.

I am not sure at the other end of things how much we need them either. Every single musician on Twitter or wherever is one song away from making a global hit record. We have the greatest tool in the internet to project ourselves in front of everyone. No one knows how to do that, if they did the major labels would can it, and sell it.

But we are all just a step away from that. On balance I am quite hopeful things will be good going forward as there is a scene. As that great philosopher and scholar Kevin Costner once said, “..build it and they will come.”

If I’m honest the ‘Twitter scene’ feels like something no one has caught on to or even seen yet, like I don’t know, the new romantics, punks, Merseybeat etc before they became mainstream, but things have really started to take root on there. Whether things will happen soon or in five to 10 years is a different story but from the sheer number of acts I think it is just a case of time. The reason I say it could be 10 years is because I always think of Jarvis Cocker forming Pulp in like 1979.

The government could do more for the arts too, from schools valuing drama and music again, then you have the live venues and pubs. Maybe as we ‘kind of’ emerge from Covid having pubs charge 99p for a pint is a good thing, maybe not for the NHS though.

We’re all setting up home recording studios now so these places will have no business, but I do think sooner or later the industry will have to come to us. I genuinely believe that — and we’re going to be thankful — but also view it all with a bit of distain, exactly like the punks. But the mask slipped for the establishment a long time ago.

I think the sensible game for me is to keep trying to make a decent album every two, three years and see where it takes me. Ideally the bigger you get the more you can twist their arm to give you freedoms if the deal comes along. I wouldn’t sign with anyone though as I am aware only 3% of acts signed turn a profit.

And, I have to say, there is no indie music being broadcast in a prime slot of Radio 1. Some will say ‘Radio 6’ is the new home but that is just whitewashing the issue. Young people need to be made aware of choice. Radio 1 was also set up as a means to give music that wasn’t being heard to a wider audience back in the 1960s.


You and I have spoken previously about the need for a new ‘John Peel’ type figure, it’s painfully obvious, but I can’t understand why the industry in general continue to ignore our pleas.

We do need a John Peel character, he has been a devastating loss which the BBC hasn’t attempted to rectify.

The BBC, well firstly I must go through the motions of saying we are very lucky in the UK we have Introducing, Freshnet and Upload. I do have a lot of respect for Freshnet team and Upload but very little to no respect for BBC Introducing and I think most indies would think the same if honest.

I truly respect the BBC as an institution, but there is no primetime slot for unsigned music on Radio 1 full stop. There is no music program on the BBC TV channels now except Jools which means you have already ‘made it.’ These decisions are made by the governing directors of the BBC and bosses. They have forgotten Radio 1 was created because pirate radio stations in the ’60s were playing the stuff no one else was playing. Now how influential is the BBC when you consume through ‘on demand?’ It doesn’t matter. It is always important, and it is a public service, even if it is marginal, it is a route for people that are less well-off to have a voice and be represented.

I read an article where Tom Robinson was saying he played Lily Allen and the BBC didn’t really help as she already had a following on MySpace and was on her way to making it. Why play her? Her dad is Keith Allen. She has money. Your job is to play people that haven’t made it and don’t have much momentum.

This isn’t sour grapes, there is a big difference to having a dad who can buy you the best equipment and studio time to the single mum on a council estate who must graft for it and doesn’t know what ‘attack’ on a compressor is. I genuinely think these people have their heart in the right place, but they miss the point completely.

This isn’t me feeling or being ‘entitled’ either. I am not saying “play me,” I am saying “play more.” I get these DJs have a small slot of airspace and everyone can’t be played. But that net is missing loads of decent material. I think there is maybe an attitude of, ‘The BBC isn’t the only game in town,’ which is 100% true but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be actively trying to improve and change the current set up.

The music that is being played by inyourearsmusic internet radio for example is more relevant and open to the indies than the BBC unfortunately. Perhaps the BBC have their eye off the ball as they are too busy working out how they can make money from outside the license fee with channels like Dave and Gold. After all they must pay Gary Lineker huge sums to talk about football as that is ‘talent.’ Personally, I’d wheel in a few blokes from Wetherspoons to talk football and pay them in pints.

But again. The UK is lucky we have the BBC.

You released ‘High Vibrations’ earlier this year, it was the first time we were in touch. At the time, you told me you felt humbled when someone bought your music.

With the success of the album, have you got used to that feeling, or do you still feel the same way?

I feel guilty if honest. Not from streaming revenue as it is a bit detached, but from sales on Bandcamp.

May also sound silly but as I try and write the ‘third album’ and constantly pulling out weak material — rarely a decent song — it is dawning on me the amount of work involved in these projects, years sometimes.

I have no idea how I managed to write ‘High Vibrations’ and all the singles and B-sides around it. Even then I will feel guilty at the end of the process. Bar about four or five songs I think most of what I have created is a bit shoddy for one reason or another. Maybe that is to be expected when it is one bloke in a room doing everything and is a master of none of it.

I am surprised when someone takes the time to appreciate it. I have a different relationship to my music as I am the creator though so maybe I am being a bit blind. I am not putting out music for it ‘to be appreciated.’ I am just trying to create a decent piece of art for me and my pride. Like a painting. It is a hobby.

If I was putting out stuff ‘to be appreciated’ by others, I probably would have a lot less music released. But I don’t think I will ever lose that guilty feeling.


Somewhat connected to the previous question, I read somewhere you said the word ‘inconsistent’ would sum you up. Why is that, is it because you are constantly striving for perfection?

I do try my best. I am kinda an all or nothing person, you either do a job well or you might as well not do it at all. I think I say I’m inconsistent more because I am the jack of all trades and a master of none, so compromises must be made on what is ‘the best.’

I often do something really well and something really badly. One song the singing will be great but the lyrics terrible, another vice versa. It is what it is. I am capable at most things and have proven that in all the areas bar live performance. I can do graphic design, edit videos, run social media, write songs etc.

See I think most musicians are either in three categories. Delusional, gifted, or intelligent, and I think I am either intelligent or delusional. The jury is out. The musicians I know that are super, super gifted in song writing or live performance aren’t great at the others. They have very little social media presence for example. So, on balance I am proud of what I have achieved so far — even if it isn’t perfect. I believe if I had help along with ‘artistic freedom,’ I think I could go a fair distance.


You favour studio production over live performance, You do realise one day that might have to change as your popularity increases?

Hmm it may do. I guess it ultimately depends on what a record label — if I ever sign — would see as my strengths. I am currently happy enjoying my quiet life being an independent songwriter and a producer as I am fully aware I am not the best singer or musician. Touring does not bring much ‘traction’ either so currently I don’t see the point. It is a distraction from trying to master the recording process. I am still a long way from that.

A label only sees touring as a method of making a return from buying and owning you, not as a means to increase your popularity. There are some lucky ones in history that have escaped most of the hoop jumping like Harry Nilsson and Brian Eno. But this was the era of the album being ‘king.’

People wanted to own albums and not rent playlists off Spotify. You could get away with making a few albums per decade for the art and spending the rest of your time drinking Brandy Alexanders with John Lennon. I think I am making music for that era.

But assuming they are on strong enough drugs at Warner, or wherever, to throw the kitchen sink at it for me in a contract, and my traction is good enough for them to employ someone to sort my M&Ms, I am not shy, I think people know that if they have interacted with me. But the deal would have to be an offer I can’t refuse, said with cotton wool in my cheeks. I would need a lot of support as I am not ‘one man and his guitar’ and I don’t think my works are suited for that. For one I don’t write much on my acoustic guitar.

In the modern world I would be a massive cost for any label to get up and running so I would be surprised if the call came. Especially as they are lazy and don’t want to invest in anything.

And another thought that crosses my mind when I hear the word ‘touring’ is — and I will sound a bit mental here — in 10 years’ time when cities from Norwich to Amsterdam are getting regularly flooded by sea level rises, touring may be a thing of the past.

In a way what ABBA are doing with holograms may be the new ‘live.’ For me to tour, something special would need to be offered. Until then I will see how far I can get with the greatest communication tool we have: the internet.


And that wraps up Part One of John Michie’s ‘State Of The (Indie Music) Nation Address.’

Part Two will be available from Friday 31st December, with Enya, George Martin, Bono, Chesney Hawks, and many others all namechecked.

( Interview copyright LondonPeaky )


PART TWO


You’re happy at home in Morpeth — but would you consider a return to London if it furthered your career?

That’s a tough one. I’d probably have a flat in Camden but only as a place to stop over. I have two cats to bring up in Morpeth and must put the next generation first. In all seriousness though I don’t think I could live in London again.

I spent about eight years in and around there. I see the city as beautiful but just a series of tourist destinations I have seen. It is too expensive and there are too many people near you all the time. I really like being in a small town where people randomly chat to you and where it is quiet, and you can see the stars at night.

If anything, I can see myself in the future moving somewhere like the Isle of Skye or Shetland. As I get older, I am enjoying the peace and quiet more. Basically, I am aiming for the weirdo recluse bracket long run. Someone needs to do it properly as Enya has been doing such a rubbish job of it.

Tell me about your love of George Martin. He produced other people’s music. You produce your own. But I’m sure you would have enjoyed working with him.

I think George Martin is probably one of the most important musical characters we have seen. He was the fifth Beatle, and he is the one that made Sgt Peppers what it is and all those other recordings.

All those ground-breaking techniques with varispeed and delays which we use in music is all because of him. I would genuinely love to work with a great producer like him as I am limited in my knowledge and skills and would learn a lot.

I get glimpses now and again of what another person in the process can do and I am always surprised by it. I have recently sent over a song I couldn’t sing to Chris James Willows. He has done the vocal and added some extra instrumentation. The song is 100% killer now and beyond my expectations.

That additional set of ears and hands can take things and ideas to the next level.

If you could sit down with the current mainstream music moguls, what three questions would you ask them?

ONE

Why are you pushing just rap and EDM?

TWO

Why hasn’t Joe Cocker been added to the ‘Rock & Roll Hall’ of Fame and Bono has?

THREE

Why aren’t the record labels developing talent anymore?

As the reality is all the biggest sellers like Bowie would not be signed now which is a bit ironic.

Who was the last mainstream artist you went to see?

I like gigs but I am not always at it. I tend to put my hat in for the Glastonbury raffle when that comes up and that will do me for the year if I win the golden ticket. Weather has been too good though the last decade so everyone with flowery wellies and a dad in a Land Rover to drop them off has taken over and made tickets hard to get.

The last act I saw though was Primal Scream in Newcastle before Covid hit and they were superb. Genuinely on it in every single way. The next gig I have pencilled in is Paul Weller in Newcastle for Easter. Who I see the most though is Noel Gallagher. He is my favourite and from all the acts I have seen from BB King to Amy Winehouse, he is the best by a country mile.

Musically, what or who is your guilty secret.

I am going to say that I have an exceptional taste in music. There is no Leo Sayer, Meatloaf, Phil Collins, Adele, Chesney Hawks, Lulu, Mick Hucknall, Bon Jovi or the singing nose Cilla Black in my collection.

But I know you aren’t going to let me get away with that so, I guess I will have to say Britney — but I don’t listen to her music. I would go to one of her gigs though as she’s ‘iconic.’

Some of your friends from Twitter got in touch and wanted to ask you a question.

Here are the best three.

Q DANIEL TIDWELL wanted to know all about your hatred of Phil Collins.

A “Phil who?”

Q LEWCA asked if you had produced music prior to the JMC and if so, is it embarrassing and where can it be heard?

A “I did release an early version of ‘High Vibrations’ in 2019 but it was pulled down after a few weeks. I couldn’t get any further with the recordings, so I decided to see ‘how to release’ and take notes — and then to get feedback on my songs.

“Some random guy on reddit gave me a life changing piece of feedback telling me what was specifically wrong with the mixes. I pulled the songs down and started again. The mixes were bad and drenched in acres of reverb. Those versions will never be heard but the closest is the ‘Beautiful Day’ EP where I have more advanced ‘demos’ on display. But before this, there is no music of me in existence anywhere.”


Q MARCIN from Polish punk band SZD wondered if you have ever recorded, or planned to record, anything ‘punk.’


A “I haven’t no, but I think it is within my reach to do a song like ‘Holidays in The Sun’ by the Sex Pistols. Doing something like ‘The Exploited’ may be a bit more difficult as I don’t have the attitude, I guess.

But I am a bit too much of a Pink Floyd fan and all that comes with it to be angry.”

Finally John, I’d like to ask your advice please.

I only picked up the guitar at the beginning of Lockdown Mk1 and my musical ambitions are no headier than to one day to go out and busk.

As someone who has done that — in London too — tell me about that experiences, and what advice you’d give me.

OK, the last time I busked I think was in Soho a long time ago. I had more than a shed load of beer, then randomly asked for directions from a stranger who turned out to be David Mitchell.

Then I entered that weird world where I was imagining his voice narrating so I couldn’t pay any attention to what he was saying. I then bumped into a bloke with a guitar near Centre Point and I started chatting. He gave me his guitar and I played a few songs; I know I played my song ‘Hung on You’ as I remember being that drunk, I struggled to remember the chords.

I then caught the night bus home to Tooting but fell asleep so woke up at some bus terminal miles away and had to walk like 10 miles.

So, my advice would be to not do any of the above, and you should kill it.

 

Interviews

Bunch Of Fives: John Michie Collective by NARC, on Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

The Morpeth based producer tells us about his top five most influential albums as he drops his instrumental album, Toward The Rainbow.


Morpeth based producer The John Michie Collective drops his latest album, Toward The Rainbow. This latest offering is filled with industrial, overdriven ambience, haunting and harmonious tones and a variety of texturising notes swirling around the mix. It’s a euphonic, yet thought provoking collection of synthy soundscapes with dystopian undertones that adds a bit of edge and keeps interests piqued.

Here, the artist himself tells us all about his top five most influential albums…


Grimes – Visions is in my top five simply because it is the record that got me into recording music. The musical landscapes, which I have heard described as “pop music for ambient fans”, and also her unusual manipulated falsetto vocals grabbed my attention as soon as I heard her song “Genesis”. The album was recorded and finished over a period of nine days and it is her sole accomplishment from the first note to the artwork. Finding out that she had recorded this record on Garageband opened my eyes to the fact that complex home recording was accessible and affordable. You did not need to get signed and also it ultimately didn’t matter if some of the musical products you created were essentially lo-fi in nature. She is what I call a true DIY indie artist hero in the sense that she has shown that if you stay true to your art and not do what you think is expected you can rise to the top and find an audience whilst maintaining control. She has also done this mainly through the power of the internet and not through the traditional format of lengthy gigs. I genuinely think she is the most impressive musical star of the post internet era. The high point of this album is Circumambient.


Talk Talk – Spirit Of Eden is an album that totally blew me away when I first heard it. The mixture of textures, tones, anticipation, jazz, minimalism and melancholy are well ahead of its time. Without this record the ground would not have been paved for acts like Blur when they released 13 many years later. Much like Visions by Grimes this album is another record that touches upon the genre of ambient music. The experimentation within this record is also breath-taking, and, like Sgt Peppers, can only be done by acts at the peak of their career. Over 11 months they allowed different musicians to improvise for hours different instruments only for in some cases a few seconds of the audio to be used in this patchwork of sound. The high point of this album is Inheritance.


Paul McCartney – Ram has to be one of the most underrated albums by one of the former Beatles. I am by nature a Lennon fan and often see McCartney as quite conceited. But in his creativity after the Beatles break up he made what can only be described as the first Britpop record. Excluding Uncle Albert, the granny pop has been left behind on this record. It has a brilliant homemade real-life charm that would later become prevalent with records like Parklife, Definitely Maybe and Different Class. The album is surrealist, whimsical but also has undercurrents of biting darkness. I would also argue that vocally it is one of McCartney’s best displays. The high point of this album is 3 Legs.


The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds put simply for me is the first real symphonic album which sparked a whole sea change in music. An album was no longer a collection of songs as such but was now a piece of art from start to finish. Where every element was chosen to work with each other. Quite simply we would have had no Sgt Pepper by the Beatles without this narrative. It is hard not to get lost in the Phil Spectoresque cacophony of sounds that rise up from Brian Wilson’s imagination. I am someone who feels very drawn to Brian as a character. Someone who is at home in a recording studio and not on a stage. Someone who is more interested in making that studio sound like a musical instrument rather than a work space. This album drips with colour, hope and intense melancholy. In the true sense it is a masterpiece which few albums come close to. The high point of this album is Caroline No.


Pink Floyd – Dark Side of The Moon is probably the album that has had the most impact on me musically. It is a psychedelic masterpiece which deserves all of the album sales it has received. I vividly remember listening to this record as a six-year-old kid and wondering why there was this long period of silence on the cassette tape after The Great Gig in The Sky before side two kicked in. The simplicity of the Storm Thorgerson sleeve also caught my attention. There is also another period in my life whilst living in London where it was the only record I listened to for six months, getting lost in the detail. It is a record which I keep coming back to not only because of the hypnotic guitar work and drumming but also its lyrical thematics on modern life, madness and death. I also love the fact that Gilmour, Waters and the band didn’t have any inclination of the wave of success that would come from it. I love that the album isn’t 3-minute pop or rock songs for the beige radio presenters. The album isn’t over thought or pretentious and was written quickly over 6 or 7 weeks. The album helped fund Monty Python and Australian radio listeners also voted the album the best to have sex to in 1990 so what’s not to like? The high point of this album for me is Time.

 

Interviews

Awesomesauce Q&A by www.artmusicworks.com (AnnBS), on Saturday, June 12th, 2021

A multi-instrumentalist, producer and versatile talent who captivates the Indiedom with marvelously fuzzy musical style... is John Michie.  He had so much to offer and less time to waste by being so immersed in re-inventing his music! His song "Wish You Were Dead" projects those innovative techniques that rule with dare-devil appeal. I invited him to choose to answer from my list of prepped musical questions, which I am excited to share with you.

Take note that John did the extra mile in answering here and very much worth your time! 

Briefly introduce yourself:

"Hello my name is John and I am the sole member of The John Michie Collective.  I work 99% of the time in my bedroom but have done some recordings at my mate’s house in Lowestoft on the coast of England. His house is literally a building site so no glitz.  I have collabed with a few artists… most recently 'Chris James Willows' & 'Shaun Charlton' on various tracks. Mainly though, my collaborations have been silent and have been lending mixing or mastering help behind the scenes.  More collabs are to come but they will likely be out next year. 

I am operating in a lot of genres, so if you listen to my record, you will get anything from ambient to psychedelic rock.  I don’t tend to think in genres though.  If it sounds good it is good. Music is music. I have no label except my one set up with Distrokid… so no, I don’t have some old has been bloke mugging me of my lunch money, ha ha! I think they are only after spotty teenagers anyway."

Share your favourite quote or epiphany as a musician.

"'Epiphany' as in realisation? Hmmm… There is one. That was when I heard the album “Visions” by Grimes. That was the moment when I realised that making music was achievable in your own bedroom. Before then I wasn’t aware that the technology has become so available in terms of drum machines within a computer and artificial intelligence assistants that can help guide you through the musical make up department before going on stage.  Grimes recorded that album in a week and all the vocals were one take.  She had also mixed and mastered it herself.  That is when I started diving into her catalogue and was blown away.  Within a few weeks I had made the leap of installing logic on my mac and buying an interface and mic cheaply. That was then the start of my real musical addiction.  I have spent 2-4 hours every day since then learning how to mix, master and improve my skills and it has taken years to feel like I have some clue of what is going on.  There has been so much failure and frustration but somehow, I didn’t lose heart and I kept pushing. I was determined to find out how to do it for myself."

How do you organize your thoughts and come up with a great track?

"I wish I could tell you a straight forward answer to this question. The truth is that songs will come to me without much thought or effort or they won’t.  I am currently in the “they won’t” territory at the moment but I am still picking up my guitar and chasing it in case something ends up falling my way. 

When I start recording a song as well it can take a long while before I conclude the song is good or it is bad, i.e. I don’t know until it is nearing finishing.  That is mainly as massively altering fx can still be applied to the song and then it’s a case of following it if it is good. I am also doing two versions of each song I write at the moment just to double check if I am running at it the right way.  Putting that aside though, when I record it is basic acoustic guitar and a click track. Get everything down in time and then it is start applying layers to the song with bass and drums arriving last. When it is nearing finishing, that is when I will place it in the “album” or “b-side” category and they will sit there until they get there time out in the open, which can be years. 

Absolution my latest single had sat on my hard drive for 3 years until I decided to rerecord it and get Chris James Willows on board to help polish it up to standard."

What exactly do you like about making music?

"I like the whole process of discovery.  In a weird sense, it is like going on holiday or going for a long walk somewhere scenic. Sometimes the weather is great and sometimes it isn’t but every day, something new is discovered.  It is also a phenomenal feeling when you hear a track fully done and you are blown away by this huge sound scape you have created. I am not interested in singing or playing live.  I know people love the rush of gigs and all that shebang but the rush I get is in “production”. When I am making music I am not thinking of Mick Jagger or Queen. I am thinking of Brian Eno, Brian Wilson, The Beatles and George Martin, Phil Spector, Alan Parsons and more modern acts like The Chemical Brothers, Grimes and Boards of Canada that are pushing the envelope in creation.

What instrument/s do you play?

I play guitar, bass, piano and drums… as well as sing… all incredibly badly. I am not even making that up either.  I am not Jimmy Page or a John Williams…  I have to rely on a lot of studio knowledge to get things sounding decent in all senses.  I have never had any music lessons or singing lessons… but at the end of the day I am an amateur artist that loves creating. If I was performing live every night or get signed to Columbia or 4AD I might then get music and singing lessons for 6 months before a tour but it is what it is.  I am not the son of Phil Collins, Bono or Liam Gallagher and I don’t have daddy’s bank card to help me launch my art.  Or their contacts to pass it off as DIY indie and get people to lap up the mediocre as decent.  It is do it yourself and see how far you get by your bootstraps with no budget. 

My musical set up is pretty basic really.  I have a Les Paul Custom and a crap Epiphone Dot that form the back bone of the electric guitar sounds. I usually demo with the Epiphone and then bring the Custom out when recording the final version of a song. For my acoustic guitar I have a Fender camp fire type guitar which gets the job done but I am usually using that rough sound as a pad within a recording. I have made a few upgrades to my equipment since recording High Vibrations. I have a Roland electric piano, Fender Jazz bass and a new Shure SM7B mic. All these are going into a cheap interface and ancient, ancient computer which is on life support at best. 

Most of the soundscapes that I create are formed mostly in my recording software Logic and plugins that I have picked up along the way. I have spent a fair bit of money on software and plugins to help form or distort different sounds and this is really where my sound originates. I tend to buy delays and tape fx in any shape or form when I see them and I tend to apply as many fx as I can get away with when making a mix. This is a bit counter to general theory of 'less is more'…  I kinda think everyone wants a larger slice of chocolate cake.  If it sounds good as well, it is good."

What and/or who made you pick up and learn your favourite musical instruments?

"I was in Italy when I has 15 and it's hard to describe but I had a sudden urge to just learn guitar.  I think I had some image of becoming John Lennon in my mind.  The first thing I did was learn Oasis songs as they are quite frankly easy and then I upgraded to the Beatles for the harder chord shapes. From there I started writing songs and I have just collected songs ever since. I have a lot in my head but whether they can be pulled out is a different matter.  I honestly wish though now that at the age of 4 my parents shoved me in front of an instrument and said you’re learning this whether you like it or not." 

Which from your tracks is the most innovative or experimental and why so?

"The track of mine which is the most experimental is 'Wish You Were Dead.'  It is the first track I ever wrote and it is also the one that really unlocked my sound and stopped me from sounding like carbon copies of other acts. It made me realise that 'I am not a live act' so why be restrained by the idea of playing live? That is when drum machines started getting added and turning the bass line in to an arpeggio.

Once I had embraced that idea that anything can be used it gave a lot of freedom to get my art created and made the songs sound done.  Before then, everything sounded a bit lifeless. I can totally understand and associate with the Beatles wanting to just be in the studio and create sounds that can’t be performed live. Don’t get me wrong I know that today that sound could be created live but I am waiting for Simon Cowell to cough up the cash for equipment and sound engineers." 

If you will go to Mars and can only bring not more than 20 musical selections to play and nothing else, from which artists will those be?

"Easy…  Beatles, Pink Floyd, Grimes, Brian Eno and The Chemical Brothers. That is the minimum that I would need to stay entertained and cover practically every mood and occasion."

What is HOT music to you?

"Hot music, hmm... there are relatively few major artists that I look forward to releasing these days.  I think some of these record label bosses took too many drugs in the 80s and 90s and it has seriously hindered their judgement.

I think it also shows how out of touch all of the record labels from large to the tiny are as they are all pushing lightweight material. But they are in the game of money, fancy photos, videos with red and blue lights of spotty teenagers with lip and arse filler.

Grimes… as I keep saying… even she has lip filler these days which I think is a shame… I get excited for when she releases as she seems to be one of the relatively few people pushing the boundaries in creativity.  I collect Noel Gallagher vinyl so I still listen to him but his releases are a bit two dimensional.

The hottest music that is being created is definitely in the underground indie scene.  The electronic acts like Tertia, Motorbike James, Arcade Skies and Genetic Effects are the ones that are sparking my interest the most.  But there are loads like Moonlight Parade, Lewca and Luke Roberts to Orange G. It is quite frankly inspiring how much creativity there is and how good the music is.  These guys are literally gold mines waiting to be picked up by record labels that 100% trust and support their instincts."

Who is the musician you could be best associated with the most?

"If I could carve out an image of me as a star/musician it would be 100% David Bowie.  He is the definition of an artist. He did what he wanted and he was not limited to a genre. He also struck that great balance between human…  the guy who paid for Marc Bolan’s kids schooling after he died in that car crash... and mystical eccentric star of say Ziggy. It is also an image that gets copied by anyone who is interesting going back to Grimes but also Madonna, Bjork and so on."

Given the chance, who is that one band or artist you would like to jam with?  And why…?

"If I had the chance to collab with anyone it would be Grimes. As you can tell I am obsessed but the one musician I would like to just Jam with and hang out with would be Dave Gilmour any day.  I think I would quite happily play Em and A for a couple of hours as he plays the lead guitar to Breathe/Speak To Me on top.  That would be pretty special.  He is one of the most talented guitarists of his generation and his guitar parts are incredibly organic and melodic.  Forget your Elton Johns or Phil Collins… He is really one of the very few people I would be genuinely star struck over and nervous around.  Just cause he’s amazing."  

If you will meet your most favourite band/artist, what will you tell him/her/them?

"If it was Grimes it would be 'will you marry me?'…  if it was Dave Gilmour it would be 'will you marry me and can I have one of your Fender guitars?'" 

If you are not doing music, what are your other interesting diversions?

"I can’t get away without mentioning Twitter here, can I? I love that platform and has been a real-life line during the last year and a bit as a rock of sanity. In general, though I like the pretty simple things like cooking, walking, the odd spot of gardening and hanging out with friends down the pub. I am not one of these mental people that likes bungee jumping, pumping iron in the gym in tight lycra pants or going for runs by the side of roads to get my daily dose of car fumes in the name of health."

What is your most memorable experience as a musician?

"I think the most memorable experience is when someone made that first purchase on bandcamp of one of my songs. I believe it was the legendary and talented OrangeG as well. I am a tight arse so unfortunately haven’t returned the favour...  Really sorry, Orange, but I will buy you a pint when I meet you in person.  It kinda still blows me away when someone buys a song of mine on that platform...  I kinda think I am ripping them off as most of the material I don’t like.  I guess though us artists are the most critical of the body of work we create so I don’t know…  It is appreciated."

What is your funniest experience as a musician? 

"Hmm... probably my regular chats with Genetic Effects in twitter DMs.. when they get going it’s better that a house on fire…  Enough said on that one ha ha!"

If you can turn back the clock, which musical year/decade would you choose to be in?  Explain.

"The musical decade that I wish I could turn back the clock to is the 1970s...  Especially in the very early 1970s.  That really is the time for me when music got interesting.  Long sides to albums that experimented like that Hawkwind album.  All the albums from Led Zep and Floyd as well in that era are just beyond belief.  You also had synths coming on line and better recording equipment so everything  sounded different from before, bar what the Beatles were doing.  I also think that the Vietnam war, the politics and disillusionment created a real great mix of rebellion and longing for feelings of happiness and something more.  There is a real spirit in that era of music."

Name your 3 most influential musical figures of all time?

"The 3 most influential music figures to everyone? Whether they like it or not?  Hmm.  Sam Phillips of Sun records as he is the one that really fostered that whole Rock n Roll scene from Elvis to Carl Perkins. Without him there would be no Lennon let alone Justin Bieber with his “baby, baby, baby” and terrible tattoos.  My next  pick would be… George Martin. Simply because he is ultimately the guy who organised all of the Beatles albums bar one.  Without him we would have had to have waited years longer to get advancements around backwards sounds in music, tape speed experimentation and multitracking.  Lastly number 3 has to be Peter Grant as he is the manager challenged accepted norms, shared the same vision as the act he worked for and was ruthless in achieving it.  He is the man that created Led Zep into a giant and changed what it meant to be a famous musician."  

Name your top 3 most favourite tracks from your discography. 

"My top 3 songs in my discography are:

1) Wish You Were Dead as it is a real statement of what to expect from me…

2) When The Moon Breaks Up which will be off my next album “Toward The Rainbow” as it was an incredibly easy piece of music for me to come up with yet I think is innovative and has a real interesting set of layers intertwined.

3) I’ll Write Your Constellation would be my current third as I can’t really pick anything I have coming out next year.  I’d say that one as it has some trippy sounds on it and has some funk.  Better songs are coming through and if you asked me this next year I probably wouldn’t pick those 3."

What one word will best describe you as a musician?

"The word that I think best describes me as a musician is 'inconsistent.' Nothing is ever played correctly or the same once it has been done. I also forget all the music to the songs once they have been recorded."

 

Interviews

8 Questions with John Michie By The Static Dive (Bob Smith), on Friday, February 12th, 2021

The Static Dive: Where are you from?

John Michie: Bit of a restless soul me. I have lived in about 17 different houses around England… I have done my stint in London and other areas… but I am currently in the best part of the country. Proudly living in the north-east of England in a small town outside of Newcastle Upon Tyne called Morpeth. My family are mostly Scottish though so I inwardly identify as a Scot. I also have the kilt to prove it.

SD: How long have you been making music?

John Michie: I have been writing songs since I was 15 years old when I first got a guitar. The first song I wrote was “Wish You Were Dead” which I released as my third single in November. I did absolutely nothing with the large collection of songs I had built up until I heard Grimes’s album Visions a few years ago. I was blown away that she had done the whole project, including, mixing and artwork herself. That is when I decided to download some software and start learning every stage of the recording process. Over two years later I have walked out with my debut album “High Vibrations” which will be out on the 12 February 2021.

SD: Who are the musicians involved in your project?

John Michie: The musicians involved in this project I can say proudly is… just me! I am doing everything on the songs. I am not the greatest player of any instrument or singer but not many musicians are… unless you are a freak like Matt Bellamy from Muse who is just awesome.

I have used the odd loop here and there but has been a bit hard to get decent recordings of sarods and violins during a Covid-19 pandemic so I don’t feel guilty. I have collaborated with a few musicians lending guitars to their songs but would find it hard letting my stuff be played on. Though Sir Mick Jagger is welcome to dance in one of my videos. Give me a call Mick I need the Start Me Up moves.

SD: Who are your biggest musical influences?

John Michie: As mentioned Grimes is pretty much up there as an inspiration. I would adore to work with her. In terms of musical influence there are a lot of bands and musicians I love from Pink Floyd to The Sex Pistols… John Barry to Bjork… Dion to Dusty Springfield… I’d say though that my music sounds like “The Beatles White Album Continued”. That is such a broad album though so leaves a lot of room to manoeuvre. I am definitely more influenced by Lennon above all the Beatles. He is more my type of Rock Star than Macca.

SD: What is your greatest non-musical influence?

John Michie: Oooo good question. Hmm. The 1960s/70s weirdness. All that messed up mind psychedelic culture. Things like the TV programmes The Prisoner, The Avengers. Films like The Holy Mountain, Wonderwall with Jane Birkin as well as the film Seconds with Rock Hudson. The fashions as well were pretty awesome for both men and women between 1960-1975. Lots of colour and people looked smart. You look around today and the clothes are dull and people look like they have been dragged through a hedge backwards. There is in short no style now.

SD: What inspired you to create this project?

JM: Hmm… I am not sure if that is an easy question to answer. I think I felt I had a lot of decent songs written as well as melodies floating in my head and I thought it would be a real shame to just live a normal life and not actually cement them down in a permanent fashion. I also am not a fan of this fast food music culture Spotify is telling us to follow… so I wasn’t going to just do singles forever releasing every two weeks “pop tosh”. I knew I had to make an album and that… if it was an album it had to be a statement.

I think it’s also two fingers up to my music teacher who had me as below average… and also anyone who thought I didn’t have it in me. I am unfortunately a bit of an elephant and don’t easily forget these things.

SD: What are your plans for the future (musically)?

John Michie: Get my debut album out of the way so to speak. I would love to say “world domination” and for “High Vibrations” to do really well and for loads of people to listen to it. So, from my small-time position with limited tools and not being signed… I will try my best for that to happen. In short though if one person enjoys it the album is a success.

For the more distant future I have loads of musical ideas. I would love to do an acoustic album, an EDM album as well as an ambient one like Brian Eno’s Apollo. Being one of the many indies ignored by the establishment it has made me more determined to create even better art and show up the fast food music promoted by the majors and the national radios. There is a really healthy and thriving musical underground, that congregates especially on Twitter, which the mainstream hasn’t picked up on and it has me really fired up. I am incredibly hopeful about the future and feel like I am part of something new and exciting.


SD: Is there anything else you would like to say?

John Michie: Be hopeful, be kind, enjoy life, question everything and most importantly… buy my album ha ha! And I’d say check out the alternatives to what the establishment, the national radios, the streaming services and the record labels are telling you to listen to. We all know what they are promoting is garbage… It has been since forever. In short “ignore the algorithm”. Be subversive.

 

Interviews

New Release – High Vibrations by the John Michie Collective By CoolTop20, on Saturday, February 6th, 2021

On 12 February we can expect the release of the debut album by The John Michie Collective, an album with 14 tracks of indie wonky psychedelia.

How would you describe the album?

“This is a great question. I think I would say that the album is quite joyous. There’s a lot of great words/sound textures that inspire visions of things. Like lyrics on stars, time and space and the world we are in. A lot of effects and is a lot more experimental that an album released by a major. I definitely feel if I had a “producer” the album probably would have been recorded better with some less shocking vocal takes, but would have been substance wise less colourful. There are 14 songs on it, five of which are instrumental. This worried me for a bit for some reason that 10 songs weren’t on the album with lyrics. I couldn’t make my other tracks fit together though when I was working on the track listing. I also concluded that if Pink Floyd were releasing heavily instrumental albums in the past why should I care? It is after all about a mood/narrative that is within that body of work.”

“I think some of the songs may be weak on their own, but they collectively support each other into something which has clarity and a bit of funk. There is also this weird narrative going on about gold which is as meaningless as the lyrics in my songs. My songs mean nothing and are about no one. That is not my song writing process. I am not John Lennon and I am not a McCartney that tells stories… I kinda roll with what fits.”

Did you have to overcome any difficulties with the writing or recording of this release?

“There are many as this body of work is a snippet of 20 years’ worth of songwriting. Some songs are still on my hard drive, some on note pads, some in my head with no words. One of the songs on the album is called ‘Wish You Were Dead‘ and it is actually the first song I ever wrote when I got a guitar aged 15 (The year 2000). I spent a large part of my life since then writing songs and knowing they were as good as what was in the mainstream, but I could not see a way that was sensible and without risk to give them exposure. No one I knew played an instrument too, so couldn’t network like I can today on Twitter. It seems crazy but this is back in the bad old days when phones with snake were state of the art.”

“I have been too busy also trying to work sensible jobs and live a quiet life and dismissed the songwriting as just something that happened. The moment when things changed was when I was stuck in a dead-end teaching job with no life and ever-increasing volumes of pressure being applied to me. For the sake of my mental health and other reasons the towel was thrown in.”

“Around this time, I also heard Grimes album ‘Visions’ which is phenomenal. The fact she had made the whole piece of music on her own in an accessible but limited form of software “GarageBand” blew me away. The game was up! The technology was there for anyone to use. After a move to a different area and change in lifestyle I slowly started learning Logic for recording and spent two years of failure until suddenly a body of recorded work emerged that sounded okay. Every song has gone through between 3 – 20 different mixes over that time period. I had a lot to learn in terms of musical balance and how to apply effects. The whole album was recorded without a mic stand or pop filter. Most of the vocals were recorded under a mattress in my mate’s house in Lowestoft which is basically a building site. I also hate my voice, which is probably natural, so I did everything I could to change it. Often reading how John Lennon would apply different effects to distort his. Singing through a guitar amplifier is one of my favourites as it weirdly forces my voice to sing an octave higher. Despite the struggle I believe I grew into my sound which is like a controlled freak out.”

“I am now looking back and looking at all of the great musicians around me on Twitter and how they collaborate and I cannot believe I was so pig-headed to do everything myself and kept in a silo till everything was done.”

What does the album’s title reveal?

“This was almost as painful as the writing recording process. There is a whole story bundled up with this that is fun. You have to be happy with the title as you have to live with it right? The working title for the album was ‘The Holy Mountain’ after the 1970s acid film. Worth a watch if you like the bizarre. I ultimately concluded that it was not ideal for a title as Noel Gallagher got to it before me with his single! It stayed as the project title but I spent ages on the hunt for something catchy. I spent ages looking at book titles in charity shops for something that worked. I even did the George Harrison trick of opening at a random page and seeing what your eyes landed on first. He got the song ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and I got nothing! I eventually stumbled upon ‘High Vibrations’ when I was looking at modern art on the internet and liked it… This then ties to the album artwork. I tried to then find an image that represented the name. We had hit lockdown and I was not able to go to a location to take photos. There is this whole weird chapter where I was in talks with Eliott Landy, who is the Woodstock photographer/ first rock photographer. He is responsible for all the iconic Bob Dylan photos… I tried my hardest to get his image ‘Swami Opening’ from Woodstock, but I couldn’t twist his arm. Really lovely guy and I was impressed he entertained the idea. I did get permission from the Swami estate though (Integral Yoga) that are the guys who brought yoga to the west in the 1960s. They are the ones that gave me the idea of voice samples between the song.”

The album is available for pre-save/digital pre-order here. A physical CD of the album will be on sale on BandCamp and will be signed by John on request.

 

Interviews

Blog interview: John Michie Collective By platinummind.net, on Friday, February 5th, 2021

Hello John, how are you?

I am good thank you. Just another day in the house which seems to be the norm for the last 12 months. I am in good spirits despite slowly getting fat. I am looking forward to the warmer weather so I can start running again and getting my bag of bones back in shape. Looking a bit of a mess though like a heavy metal fan. I haven’t shaved for a year now and haven’t had a haircut in about three… but if I was Roger Sterling from Mad Men I would say “it adds to my mystique”.

You are a musician, songwriter and singer from the North of England how did it all begin for you?

I started learning guitar and writing songs aged 15 when I probably got it into my head that I could be John Lennon. I wish I could say that I started in a band and went gigging from this point onwards like David Essex in “That’ll Be The Day” but unfortunately “being sensible” took over. There was no meeting Ringo at Butlins holiday camp. I was in fact never surrounded by people that played instruments strangely. If they did, they just did it to relax and nothing more. Even at university no one actually seemed that good at music so forming a band was never on the cards… Endless games of pool and snakebite were. I have spent probably over 15 years writing songs in my head and just keeping them there. Now that I have started letting them out I feel like I have a purpose.

You’re multi genre, what did you listen to growing up?

I have had very strange experiences with music which probably has rubbed off on what makes me tick. My mum did a pretty good job at filtering my exposure to the TV for the first decade of my life. I vaguely remember Gorbachev on the box but was so isolated from the mainstream. Probably afraid I would get square eyes… The only acts of the time I knew existed were Madonna, Michael Jackson and U2. Those acts were unstoppable in the late 80s and very early 90s and my older sisters would have brought them into the house. My mum liked Patsy Cline, Chuck Berry, Dusty Springfield, The Bee Gees and the Beatles so they were there early on.

My first “personal” experiences would have been just after my dad died in 1991 when I was 5 years old. He had converted the loft before he died and I used to go up there. I would play his cassette tapes which I still have today… So, I would have been this 5 to 9-year-old listening to Rumours or Dark Side of Moon on cassette and wondering why there was all of this silence on side A before “Money” kicked in… I know I was quite frankly freaked out War of the Worlds. I was actually scared of that cassette tape as a small child to the extent I couldn’t go near it. Those sounds really got me. There was also this rubbish keyboard up there. I only ever got as far as playing the Citizen Smith theme tune with one finger. I wasn’t a child prodigy.


Then in 1994… the lights were turned fully on for me when Oasis arrived with Blur, Pulp, Verve, Elastica, Radiohead and slapped everyone in the face. They completely stuck two fingers up to the established music industry, something that I feel unfortunately is needed today. Especially Oasis. I do actually think people forget how ubiquitous Oasis were from 1994-1998. The attitude and songs blew me away and these new guys on the block were genuine. Jarvis Cocker mooning on stage at the Brits… I loved how outrageous it was and they didn’t care what people thought about them. Celebrities have so much vanity now that they don’t dare rock the boat. Seeing all this unfold I used to save up my lunch money and pocket money to buy CDs down Andy’s Records and Our Price in the chuck out bins… All these shops that don’t exist anymore… I was completely addicted to listening to music.

Even though all this was going on I do remember being completely out of step with my mates. They didn’t start getting into music until later when Eminem and Limp Bizkit started breaking… I wasn’t interested. Those “Brit Pop” era bands had got me reading their interviews and exploring increasingly the 1960s and 1970s era… revisiting my dad’s tapes… and making my own mixtapes off Radio 2.

Congratulations on the pending release of your new album, how does it feel?

It sounds corny but I can totally appreciate that saying that making an album is “like giving birth”. I am very proud of that record because every single element on it is me and only me. From the mixing to the artwork. The album represents everything I have taught myself in two years with no help just pure failure, struggle, sweat and experimentation. When I listen to it it’s hard to believe all of it started from an acoustic guitar. Even the shoddy vocals I am proud of because it is do or die I will make this work. It is genuine. But I am glad to have it escape as it is old news for me. This album has been recorded and done since the end of April 2020 and has been a slog getting traction for it from zero fan base and no connections during a pandemic. It will be weird too as some people have heard it already and songs I thought were rubbish they are saying are great. Hopefully I will sell a few CDs of it on Bandcamp but it isn’t about the money. I actually feel guilty when I wake up to an email saying someone has bought a few tracks. The whole process is humbling.

What’s the story behind it?

The songs on High Vibrations are written over a very long-time span and in different locations around the country from Tooting to Morpeth. They have zero meaning. They are not about anyone or anything. I am not Bob Dylan. The real story though begins a few years ago when I was stuck teaching six different subjects in a secondary school in Norfolk from History to Economics from year 7 to A level. The school asked me to take on 8 subjects and that is when I decided to throw in the towel and change a lot of the structures in my life. I was sick of working 7 days a week and pulling 14-hour days only for people above me to take advantage whilst they eat biscuits and drink coffee in meetings. The kids are brilliant in a school but it is the adults that cause all the trouble. Coupled with family events I decided to move to the part of the country my mum is from and change career path for one that was focused on living and not about working and money. I chose life… but not the effing big television as Irvine Welsh would say.

During this time period I heard Grimes album Visions and that made me fired up. She had recorded and done every aspect of the process on her own. Discovering her catalogue and then having Art Angels land was like a bomb going off under me. I realised that I could buy a few pieces of equipment and put down all of these songs I had written in my bedrooms across the UK since 15. Democracy had started to land in the music industry.

This also sounds cliché but the album is probably one of the cheapest records ever made. The mic I used is terrible and I had no mic stand or pop filter during the whole recording period. I had to record all the vocals in two takes under a mattress at my mate’s house in Lowestoft which is a building site. Whatever vocals I got in those two takes are on that record. I think I majorly underestimated the number of things I would have to learn and do to get the album sounding the way it does. It is better mixed and mastered though than the first few Grimes albums so I am pleased by that.

I do sometimes think if I was signed when I first started down this road then my album would have sounded amazing but the reality is it wouldn’t. The level of experimentation in that record would have been stifled by “experienced” producers and a machine focused on profit over substance. I also think I would have had less of a clue about who I was as an artist and where I intend to go if I had have been influenced in those key formative stages.

You are part of a growing community of international indie artists online what’s your favourite part of this? 

There are many things I love about it and its going to be hard for me to sum up in an elegant fashion. This community has definitely come to life because of the pandemic forcing everyone on to the internet… and I think it has formed solid roots now as well. We are increasingly operating like a team.

I think my favourite part of being in this musical community on Twitter is that it is international and we are all incredibly decent people. I have met some real friends for life online like OrangeG, Genetic Effects, KnowGood and Nunny to name a handfull. There’s every genre mixing in chat groups behind the scenes that have the same level of enthusiasm… but also the exact same problems of being the little guy, no real budget and being ignored by the musical sausage factory.

I also enjoy how it fires up my creativity… It amuses me… I don’t know if it does for the others, but putting the power, lofi aspects and tiny numbers aside… these guys are actually better than what is being pushed in the music shops. I am really not surprised that record labels aren’t making a profit when you hear Cardi B and these new “Rock Stars”. It’s not era defining so why push it? You always get the “physical format is dead argument” … I say that’s a lazy argument… go and listen to Tertia’s “Overly Emotional Woman” and tell me that it’s not a number 1 record and wouldn’t sell loads if she had a machine behind her. It is light years ahead of Rhianna and Dua Lipa because it’s all her. She has no army and record label shoving it to their network of radio stations which in turn pushes it onto to the public on mass. I also would be blown away hearing what they would sound like with real help. I feel privileged that I am able to talk to these people every day and it gets me stimulated. I am picking up recording techniques and production tips which are changing the way I approach music making. It has inspired me to push myself and to do better. I know for a fact I wouldn’t get that if I sat down to chat with Adele or One Direction. I might get great business advice but really? Is that what it’s about? It’s about the music and always will be.

Covid affected the creative industry in a big way, what’s kept you motivated? 

Covid has really shaken things up and there are two sides to this era we are in. I feel really sorry for the owners of pubs, bars and clubs that were the arena for live music. I feel sorry for the staff that made these events happen. If I owned a recording studio I’d be incredibly worried that everyone is now setting up home recording studios… That is a whole network of careers and knowledge in jeopardy. It does worry me how things will look for culture at the end of this. From all sides of the equation there has been no help or consideration for the arts on the lower tiers by all levels of the establishment. The guys in all the arts are left on the shelf through no fault of our own when the big guys, minus a tour are business as usual.

It is difficult. I am starting off and I am lumped in the “no fan base” category when it is virtually impossible to get one from a laptop during rolling lockdowns. But… Despite this… despite these rules to the game… I am incredibly upbeat in other ways about my position as well as for the others. I think for me the Twitter community has been the glimmer of light keeping me sane and has been my compass. Knowing that I am not alone has helped me and kept me in good spirits. We are helping each other when no one else is as such. I have laughed so much in the last few months with those guys and I am thankful for that. I am also thankful for coming into contact with people that have small positions of power that are willing to fight our corner. I honestly can’t see this pandemic ending for at least another 12-15 months… There will also be a very slow return to normality after that as we wait for the world to be vaccinated. With this all in mind… I genuinely believe if “music” as a way of life is going to happen for me or the others then no amount of promotion will do it… The industry will come to us eventually. It is just a case of who has the guts to give one of us a punt first… And if I don’t see that happen I can at least say I have enjoyed the ride.

You’re multi genre, what inspires you?

Music making is highly addictive and is the best drug you can get on next to cigarettes and coffee. I don’t smoke anymore but I wish it wasn’t harmful to your health as I seriously enjoyed a cigarette. I adore the whole process of starting and not knowing how the painting of sound will end up. I think that the music I have written for High Vibrations is as good as anything that has been released by a big act. Some of the recordings may be dodgy due to bad equipment but that feeling that I am making good music is like a self-sustaining force. I really like listening to complex music and thinking how can I top that. I don’t know if I do but I enjoy the whole process of giving it a shot. I like music to have a heart but I also have a real love for experimental and weird music. I am probably one of the few people that listens to John Lennon’s Wedding album for enjoyment.

You are a multi instrumentalist so how does writing usually begin for you?

Usually the melody comes first on an acoustic guitar and I mumble over the top or hum a tune. Then it is a case of working out the syllables and writing around that. I haven’t experienced writers block but I do fear it. Even though I like experimentation I do feel you need certain things on an album to make it work and worry that I might not find those elements. Since 15 I tend to just go upstairs to wherever my bedroom is and knock out a tune and have the outline in a few minutes with words being filled in as I go. Once I have that outline I get the first layer recorded in place and start grafting layers on top until things become cohesive.

The one thing that has changed for me this time is I have finally purchased a bass guitar. The bass line is no longer something I fit in last at the bottom… I actually cannot believe I drew in all the bass lines for High Vibrations with a mouse. The number of hours left clicking and dragging boxes on a grid! I am sure Tom Jones doesn’t do this. Though it would be amusing to watch him try. Four songs for album two have been constructed totally around bass lines first which has been incredibly liberating and also allowed me to explore new ideas. Already I know album two will have my hall marks but will be sonically different. I am still yet to write a song on a piano but that may be album 5.

What artists are getting you excited at the moment?

Out of all the established artists the ones that I actively look forward to an album from are Grimes, The Chemical Brothers and Nicolas Jaar but to be honest the mainstream music industry has been pretty bland for quite a few years now. Some great live acts but the albums have been a bit half baked. Bands have gotten in to this terrible habit of an album to support a tour and not a tour to support an album. As soon as money is thought about the spirit is killed and things take a nose dive. It kills what made the music profitable in the first place which is the art. The artists that excite me are genuinely all unsigned. Genetic Effects, Granny Smith, OrangeG, Kyetoba, HD Bradley and Tertia should all be signed overnight. If I had a record label I would be cutting off my right arm with a spoon to nail these acts. There are many more but those guys are at the front of my head.

You are from the north of England what are your three favourite things about it?


Northumberland has more castles than any other part of the UK. That is money in itself having history at every turn dating back hundreds to thousands of years.

It is the least populated part of England which after spending a section of my life living in London I am pleased about. I didn’t like in London how you couldn’t get away from people.

The final thing I love about here is that the people are incredibly friendly and people who don’t know you will stop and chat to you. When I lived in Norwich I lived in my home for 5 years and I think I said hello twice to my next-door neighbour. People have an appreciation for what is important here which is ultimately each other.

What are you looking forward to next?

I have just gone through a bit of an equipment upgrade as I become confident that music is the only path for me coupled with the availability of some money. So, I have a bass, a new Les Paul, electric piano, a decent microphone, a mic stand and a lot of new plugins to play with. Ideally, I need a new computer but I think I will have to just make do with constant system overloads. I have written album two which took about 3 weeks as the melodies are in my head and just need pulling out… and I am currently recording it. It has the working title “Pain Killers” which may have to be changed. I have two done and the 3rd song is proving really difficult to record and I think may take a few weeks to get right. I am also forming album 3 and album 4 in my head. Ideally, if I can pull it off I would like to have 4 albums up by middle of next year but that all depends on how much time I spend polishing the rough edges.

 

Interviews

New Release – Nothing To Die For by The John Michie Collective By CoolTop20, on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

The John Michie Collective has a new single ‘Nothing To Die For’ coming up on 29 January. You can pre-save now and be the first to hear it on release day. This is what John had to say about his new single:

“I wrote this song properly about two years ago upstairs in my bedroom in Morpeth, when I was putting together my debut album High Vibrations… It’s a tiny room with white walls and jammed full of shoes, so not a zen environment for songwriting. That is in terms of lyrics and chord progression being fixed. The songwriting was done in about 30 minutes on my acoustic guitar. Like most of my tunes though, it has been floating in my head for a number of years like a cloud. Nothing was tangible, but I knew it was there.”

“The song has had around 7 different mixes with slightly different instruments in the mix with synths being the last piece in the puzzle. I think you can definitely tell the song is a bit of a hotchpotch due to how it evolves over the five minutes. Like all of my current songs, the one that is out now is the one that was born out of hiding some really, really nasty engineering errors. Due to a severe lack of equipment and the environment I am in it couldn’t be “redone” as well so it has been a case of this song will sound half decent even if I need to saw off my left arm with a pencil. I am happy though and feel the tune has something about it.”

“The song was kinda inspired out of a couple of things. I think I had it in the back of my head that I needed a song that could potentially be an anthem. I think all albums need that accessible song… The one that, if you do get to the Glastonbury Pyramid stage, even the people standing at the toilets by the Worthy FM radio are singing. So, the chorus had to potentially be massive. I was actually worrying about writing another “anthem” after this one for album two, but that came really easy…. Phew!”

“The other thing was a deliberate attempt to use opposites in a song. I think I was listening to ‘Hello, Goodbye’ a lot around then and liked how Macca had played with that. That’s where the “live” and “die” thing comes from. I also didn’t want it to be a depressing song, so the love theme comes in about how someone can be the reason for why you live… and if you are a match and together you can literally have that feeling of “ruling the world” – or being in control because things are good.”

“But I do have to add that as with all my songs they are about no one. I don’t write like that, so I am sorry ladies.”

“Releasing a new track is always an anti-climax in a weird way. I am in a sense panicking continuously to make an impact with my music. I always have this feeling that people’s attention spans are short and they kinda like buying the brands they are used to. It is a lot to ask someone as well to stop what they are doing and make time for your music…sit there and actually listen with an unbiased open mind about the music… totally forgetting the character of me and also not judging the way it has been made. I always feel I don’t have enough time to get people on board of the release day bus, but also am conflicted about feeling it has been too long since my last release. This is probably something most indies feel, I don’t know, but it is hard building that momentum with no budget, power or machine to help.”

“I guess once the song is up… there is a sense of relief that it is over. I can see why musicians use the term that making and releasing music is like giving birth as there is all this expectation for the arrival. These songs I have had done now for coming up for a year so they are in a way ancient history. I had a look yesterday and found there is a 20% chunk of my next album done as well which just needs touching up… so it will be the same feeling with that. I guess the excitement though is when your music has been up for 3 months and some random person you have never spoken to messages you on Twitter and says they have enjoyed the songs. That is what makes the whole musical process worth it. Someone has been reached by your music and it’s a great feeling. I think this is why Shazams are held in greater esteem by musicians than streaming numbers!”

 

Interviews

The John Michie Collective is bringing the best of new, alternative, experimental rock to make a change By MusicAuthentic.com, on Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

As their brand new album (I was lucky to hear the songs in full format, well, really great soundscapes, amazing experiments and brave rock – an LP/SACD to have)  is coming out very soon, we had a good thought exchange with John Michie, leader of The John Michie Collective on life and music, Earth and future, people and government actions.The difference they make in music, their pathfinding, alternative, psychedelic rock ways is reflected in John Michie‘s thinking, too. Personally, I enjoyed the time sharing minds. So, keep on reading, you’ll surely find good music and ideas!

Music Authentic: Welcome to Music Authentic! Our site traditional question is: How did you sleep last night?

John Michie: You have got me laughing straight away. I slept ok thank you. No dreams that I can remember but I am as well rested as I can get. I have a cat called Yoko that likes waking me up at 3am. She thankfully settled down after she realised I wasn’t going to let her out.

Music Authentic: And what did you have for breakfast?

John Michie: I actually skipped breakfast this morning and had curry and chips. I did start my morning with 3 large cups of coffee though. I can’t wake up without it. Caffeine junky!

Music Authentic: How much do you miss the live gigs?

John Michie: Going to gigs I really miss. I had a few that were booked like Noel Gallagher in Manchester and Paul Weller in Newcastle before Covid hit. I actually don’t have much hope for 2021 being business as usual either. Just a depressing era currently and there has been very little support for the arts from the government, as well as from institutions like the BBC. No extra radio or TV play has been given to the unsigned acts that can’t tour. I miss a lot of things about gigs though. One thing is for sure, I will never take for granted again spending over £5 for a flat pint which someone spills across my feet.

Music Authentic: The hassle what comes with being on the stage for a show can be so overwhelming if we consider all the efforts to make it happen. If you had known all the challenges and annoyances, setback would have you still chosen this musical path?

John Michie: I am in the funny position of having never being on a stage so I guess I will have to say yes. I have done busking in London whilst heavily drunk… does that count? I thought I sounded great. I decided to do something with my musical career after hearing the album Visions by Grimes and learning she had done it all herself. I had been writing songs since aged 15 and decided why not! By the time I got to the stage of having my album 90% done the pandemic hit so everything has been a digital adventure. I think because of these circumstances I see myself more as a Brian Wilson type producer that creates and records but doesn’t tour.

Music Authentic: Who is the craziest artist you have ever shared a green room with?

John Michie: As I haven’t performed yet… I will say… I have been down the pub with Amy Winehouse at the Good Mixer in London a year or two before she died. She was a real mess which probably wasn’t a surprise. Tipping pints over the pool table and getting in people’s faces. You couldn’t communicate with her. One of her entourage was also dishing out drugs like leaflets. That was pretty crazy but I guess what I learnt was “surround yourself with decent people who look after you”.

Music Authentic: Why rock? It’s not really a “trend”…

John Michie: These things have unfortunately become fashion rather than musical trends in what is called the mainstream. This is where it all went wrong. I think there is a real hunger for decent music still and the people at the top of record labels and at TV and radio are too stupid to hear it. You need a lobotomy to listen to the top 40, Radio 1 or what Spotify pushes and feel you have heard “bangers”. I am quite scathing… But look whose tours sell out and what albums are still shifting in large quantities and it is all the old guard… Fleetwood Mac, Eagles even Noel Gallagher. So, coming full circle, why rock? Because it’s the only thing that still has spirit. Cardi B singing about her bubble butt or the like… Really? Bieber… Really?

Music Authentic: There are who could benefit from the extra times during lockdowns, however the majority seems to be fed up and stressed or anxious with the establishments’ responses affecting the livelihood and freedom of everyone. What about you?

John Michie: If I am honest, I don’t think the government has gone far enough. I look around and think New Zealand did it right by just waiting it out till there was no virus there. They are having normal lives there with no masks. We were in such a rush to open up and it’s just been a recipe of death and unemployment. I feel very sorry for the bands and artists and also all of the staff that make these gigs happen. I don’t think I feel anger towards the government as I wouldn’t have wanted this on my plate. As already said, I personally feel anger towards institutions like the BBC, Spotify and YouTube that have done nothing for us indies. They are the distributors and they are still shovelling Beyonce or the like that have millions in the bank down our throats. They have not given us larger air time, an audience or larger royalties. We cannot tour. This is when people stayed at home and music consumerism increased in terms of sales. But we haven’t seen it. I think the BBC doing nothing for us in the UK has been especially unforgivable considering they are supposed to be a state broadcaster and reflect society. The reality is money talks and their gravy train has not stopped. That is the wider picture that I see. I am struggling with the indies in this environment and trying to get traction/attention is hard. I do feel though that online on social media us musicians have started to develop a scene. I feel we are making the best of it and we’re having fun. We are being ignored but I think most of us have gone passed caring. I also believe that the media will end up having to pay attention to us as that is really where the heart of the arts currently is… and these relationships have started to really cement between us indies.

Music Authentic: There is this constant nightmare with streaming companies who got to take more advantages on indie artists than terrestrial radios and big labels earlier. And to be honest, no one can truly pay attention to music 24/7, so, even the new songs can sink into “background noise”… How do you see, is it really a “blessing” or more of a “curse” these days?

John Michie: I am not sure what I think really. Spotify or YouTube are great from the perspective that everyone now has access to music if you have connection to the internet. That is not a bad thing. It also allows kids to make music and not sign their life over to a Tom Parker. So I am quite favourable in my opinion. BandCamp too also provides some sources of income. I think what is more of a curse is we all know that these things are run by algorithms. Now if Willie Nelson had written the algorithm I probably have faith in it but it isn’t. It is some maths dude that doesn’t know his Phil Collins from his Dusty Springfield. On balance I would say despite the faults it is a blessing.


Music Authentic: What about AIs? There is a tendency to want computers written music as radio/ambient/elevator music instead of actual songwriters…


John Michie: I have been talking about this with a musical friend of mine called Genetic Effects. Check his stuff out he’s good. We have concluded that all this AI music will sound the same in the end. Like how the hall snare on 80s music was fashion, or the Brick Wall Owen Morris mastering dominated the 90s and 00s. You still need to be creative so pre-sets won’t cut the mustard in 30 years. I think AI has been great with the advent of assistants like Izotope plugins. The fact you can save up for plugins that do a pretty professional job has made it accessible for the average kid. That is great and I am all for the democracy in that.


Music Authentic: Let’s look a bit around: scientists once again called upon us, the people to challenge the establishments and have better decision-makers who –instead of fine-tuning – are willing to initiate radical changes, out of comfort zones and traditions to preserve the hope of a sustainable future. Do you think we still have the chance for this hope or let’s just stop having children, it’s “over”?

John Michie: I think the future is pretty dark when I read about climate change or plastic pollution. I think a lot of people still don’t realise that were going to have multiple feet’s worth of sea level rises within the next 80 years and that eco-systems are at the verges of collapse. I don’t know what to think though. They had this in the 1960s with nuclear war. There has always been a threat. I have faith in science though and I would like to believe that if we really do mess things up we will be able to figure out how to piece things back together. If we do mess it up I think that putting things back together may take many 100s of years. On balance though I still maintain hope.

Music Authentic: Societies go under tremendous changes for the better, fortunately. Yet, extreme poverty, starvation, lack of proper nutrition and space to live and thrive in seem to grow more and more. What do you think the most urgent issues are to begin a systematic change with?

John Michie: There is enough for everyone and a lot of these issues could be solved in a few decades if effort was put in and maintained. The biggest issue that humans need to deal with is greed. People need to be told they can’t have as much. These people aren’t really the average man or woman either. It’s the billionaires. We also need to stop spending so much on weapons and armaments. There is no need for war or power politics. These resources are everyone’s and we need to work together and share. Sooner or later that will happen whether the establishment wants to admit it or not. I am not calling for an end to capitalism or cutting the Queens head off… I just think things need to be based in reality and not in zeros in a bank statement.

Music Authentic: Now, we had all the reality on Earth, let’s look up the sky? Would you be the part of the Mars settlement?

John Michie: Definitely not! It may be great if we can get Elon off the planet but not for me. I am scared of heights as well. It is hard enough getting me in an airplane. If I could or rather had to go somewhere I’d visit the Moon. I think looking out at space with no planetary atmosphere would probably be very moving… if not almost religious.

Music Authentic: Staying on Earth, which superhero would you rather be on and off screen?

John Michie: They’re all a bit rubbish, aren’t they? The Christopher Nolan Batman’s were ok I guess. Hmm a superhero… I am going to stick my heels in and say I would be Obi Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars. The Jedi mind tricks would come in handy when ordering a large round of drinks down the pub.

Music Authentic: Let’s get back to music a bit: do you plan to continue and release songs this year?

John Michie: Yes, I have three singles out in January, depending when you print this they may all be out. My debut album is out on 12 February. Then I will leave a few weeks for that to soak in before I realise the rest of the stuff in my cupboards. I will also start exploring where I will go next sonically.

Music Authentic: What is the largest dream for you with music, art to attain?


John Michie: I think in truth world domination. I think every musician wants to get to that stage where their songs are in the public conscience. I don’t know or think I am good enough to take on the world and win but it would be enjoyable. I would love to make an era defining album like Dark Side of The Moon. I never understand these stars that say “oh the pressures of fame”… Just go and stay somewhere remote for a few years. Rick Astley did that after all. Use your loaf!

Music Authentic: Right now, we are saying goodbye, and I hope we will catch up in some ways later on. As a goodbye, what would you encourage others with?

John Michie: I would encourage them to be happy and do what they believe is the most important things as soon as they can. Don’t delay life. Be good to each other, be kind and buy my album.


Music Authentic: Thank you for coming!

 

Interviews

An Interview With... The John Michie Collective

By Middle Eight. on Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

All you need to know about the guitar-based psychedelia of The John Michie Collective.

Here at Middle Eight, we're keen to showcase up and coming artists who are working hard to make themselves heard.


Recently, we spoke to The John Michie Collective, the solo project of John Michie, a multi-instrumentalist hailing from the North East of England.


The John Michie Collective's debut album 'High Vibrations' is out February 12 and John was kind enough to share the project with us here at Middle Eight.


The first piece of praise to heap onto the album is its originality. All coming from the mind of John Michie, 'High Vibrations' is an exceptionally ambitious project that engulfs the listener and makes you admire the sheer talent on show. From shimmering guitar to the northern attitude in the minimal presence of John's vocals, 'High Vibrations' is not just a collection of tracks compiled together, it's one man's blood sweat and tears fulfilling a long-held ambition to make his own music.


Find out more about The John Michie Collective below.


Who are you and where are you based?

I am John from The John Michie Collective, a one-man band from the North East of England. I predominantly record in my bedroom as well as a friend's house when I can get to him. I can play a few instruments, all badly, but I mainly see myself as a song writer / mixing engineer. I have a love for the technical aspects of recording music and love throwing the kitchen sink at my projects.


How did you first get into music?

I have always been a music lover and remember playing Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds on cassette as a small kid and being completely freaked out by his soundscapes. I didn't start to play music until aged 15 when I got my first guitar. I then spent the next seventeen years writing songs and not really doing much with them.


That was until I heard Grimes's album 'Visions' and was just blown away learning that she had recorded it on GarageBand by herself. That, coupled with a life-style change in quitting a job that I hated, gave me the will power and motivation to do something with my music. I started learning every part of the recording process and stumbling on my sound.

How would you describe the music you make?

It's the sound of Iggy Pop joining The Beatles and annoying the hell out of Ringo. Pretty much anything goes in the music I make - from the classic anthem to the complete abstract. It is, however, very guitar driven currently. I am keen to fuse that more with drum machines and explore dance music.


Which artist do you currently have on repeat?

I am actually listening to a lot of unsigned music at the moment. There is a lot going on in the musical underground that is just being ignored, but it's refreshing. I think my top listening for unsigned artists are currently either Mancient or Genetic Effects. If you are talking specifically on well-known artists, the last one was The Righteous Brothers.


What are your plans for the future?

I have my debut album out on February 12 called High Vibrations and a number of singles all ready to go. So, I think the plan is to ride these releases and wait for Covid to end. Then have a massive party to celebrate the return of normality. I also plan to start recording new material in March/April time too.


Who are your main musical influences?

The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Chemical Brothers, and Grimes. I think you can definitely hear the winks to these guys in my sound. Also, the greats like Bowie, T. Rex, Sex Pistols, The Jam and so on. My musical tastes are incredibly broad and there isn't much that I don't listen to.


John's song writing capabilities are undoubted, and his effort and clear hard work demands to be rewarded.

 

Interviews

Focus: The John Michie Collective

By NARC. on Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

We find out all we can about Morpeth’s one-man multi-instrumental psychedelic music experience.

Who are you?


I am John Michie the sole member of “The John Michie Collective” and I live in a small town just outside of Newcastle Upon Tyne.

What is it you do?


I am a songwriter who plays a few instruments, guitar, piano, drums, and sings. I do all of these badly but it all seems to come together well. A bit like how Noel Gallagher pulls it off. My art mainly explores guitar-based psychedelia. I also mix and master my own music like most musicians that aren’t on a major label.

How long have you been doing it?


I have been writing songs since I was 15 when I first bought a guitar. I have however spent my whole life trying to get into a sensible career whether working in offices, teaching or politics. That all changed when I was stuck teaching in a secondary school in Norfolk six different subjects with no life and no free time. When my mental health was at breaking point I jacked it in and decided to do what I wanted and live where I wanted to live. Life is too short. It’s taken two years of learning, failure and hard work to get things sounding good.

What inspires you?


Anything that is a bit odd inspires me. I was born in 1985 but have always been the kid who has not followed the mainstream. Maybe the weirdo. I have always had a great attachment with the 1960s and have always had unfashionably long hair. I loved the weird programs like the Avengers or the Prisoner when everyone my age didn’t know about them. I was able to name the Beatles back catalogue aged 10… It’s those influences which I am channelling.

Tell us about your music.


In my songwriting, I am predominantly siphoning psych stalwarts including Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, with a touch of Lalo Schifrin and 1970s Fleetwood Mac. However, I try to present a uniquely avant-garde expression of the modern pop structure where I can and often will throw the kitchen sink at it. I am also heavily influenced by Grimes and adore her album Visions. It is in fact her that gave me the recording bug learning how she did everything herself in a bedroom. I am basically copying her process.

What have you got coming up in the future?


My debut album “High Vibrations” is out on 12 February 2021 so it’s just releasing singles and promotion until then. I have a collaboration coming out where I’m playing guitar for a guy in Toronto. Covid unfortunately has meant that everything else is on ice. After Covid it’s travel, party and a few hangovers before album number two.

Where can people find out more about you?


I’m forever on twitter on the handle @johnmichiemusic but not in a Trump way. Come and join me and all the awesome musicians the fast food record labels are ignoring. There are a lot of us! If not my website www.thejohnmichiecollective.com is a good place to start.