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.
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.
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.
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!”
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!
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.
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.