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Mick Chillage interview



Mick Chillage, is quickly becoming one of the most prolific electronic artist in his native country of Ireland focusing mainly on CD album releases in recent times, but also most recently on his
Bandcamp page that can be found here.

Mick Chillage has been producing various strains of electronica since 1996 and is one half of Dublin based radio DJ’s The Chillage Idiots who have been playing a wide range of music within the spectrum of electronica on Dublins XFM. His Influences are wide ranging from John Barry to Kraftwerk to Eno to Larry Heard & beyond.

His distinct sound combines atmospheric soundscapes and melancholic melody which he prefers to create from scratch rather than sampling someone else’s work. So far Mick has released material on Pete Namlook’s legendary Fax records in both solo and collaboration with Lee Anthony Norris as Autumn Of Communion. Mick released his debut CD album “Tales From The Igloo” in 2009 on Dublin based label Psychonavigation.

You can hear his music on his Bandcamp page.

1) Hi Mick, first of all thanks for doing this. Could you tell us a little about yourself and did you started making music?

Thanks for composing such a nice interview Jeff. Myself, well I’m based in Dublin Ireland where I have lived since I was about seven years old. Music is in my family both my brother and sister can play instruments and my grandfather also played the accordion. My parents both have a love for traditional Irish music so I grew up listening to a lot of that but honestly never really cared for it much. I started making music in 1996, at this point in my life I didn’t own a computer or wasn’t particularly interested in them so I purchased a Roland MC303 which was aimed more at the dance music market, after some time I eventually learned to program all sorts of electronic music on it but got tired of its limited sonic capabilities and realised I needed to expand with some synths.

2) What are your most important influences? Vangelis, Pete Namlook & John Carpenter comes to my mind…

Influence wise, those you mentioned in the question are definitely high in the list. My earliest true influence would have to be John Barry and his scores. I guess seeing “Goldfinger” on TV for the first time at about eight years of age was a life changing moment, those massive brass swells and epic string arrangements and the jazz elements just seemed so otherworldly, a million mails away from the music I usually heard at home. The first album I owned on vinyl was the James Bond 10th Anniversary a double vinyl which comprised of highlights from each movie from Dr No To Diamonds Are Forever, It was a ninth birthday present from my parents.

3)  Listening again to your tracks after having done the mix tribute to you and AOC, I can’t help but noticing how pure your soundscapes are and pristine. You must spend an awful lot of time in exploring sounds?

Most of my finished pieces are usually the result of experimenting with my synths firstly, I very rarely set out to make a track with a preconceived concept or composition in mind. With much of the equipment I use, a mixture of Analogue and digital synths, there are so many possibilities its often chaos at the beginning, often creating sounds that on their own they are quite interesting but when trying create something that fits in to a musical coherent piece they don’t work so well so I will go to work on calming them down into something more usable which is probably why they sound so pure or pristine to you. One thing I try to avoid is re-using a sound or patch, a lot of artists tend to have a sonic trade mark like BOC with their de-tuned pads, while it can give an act an identity, I prefer not to save any patches that I use in a particular track, I just record the performance and mix and arrange it but don’t save it to the synths memory or midi dump the sysex. Having said that I guess my music has a certain sound that is identifiable, I guess I’m drawn to certain frequencies and tones and my approach of synthesis is self-taught so I tweak and edit sounds in almost a uniform way.

4) Wondering about the machine you use: let me guess, a mini-moog, a korg, a prophet 5?

The equipment I use, no Moogs as yet, I have two korg’s a Prophecy which I picked up in 1997, its a digital mono synth very powerful and unique with its multi Oscillator synthesis system, it can create rather impressive wind instrument sounds with lots of expression but an interface that will make editing a drag at times. The other Korg in the MS20 mini a recreation of the 70’s analogue classic its semi modular patch bay is quite frustrating to say the least so I’m not massively impressed with Korg so far, The MS20 is fun though with the SQ1 Sequencer and the standard front panel is great for creating powerful basses and leads etc. One of my fave bits of recent kit is my Mopho X4 by DSI which is a relation to the Prophet 5. the Mopho features largely on most of my albums created within the last three years or so. its a four voice analogue. I still use my Novation Supernova II [Digital] which is a classic analogue modelling synth, which supplied most of the sounds on Faxology etc. I’ve got two other bits of analogue, The Waldorf Pulse 2, a rather harsh sounding analogue, it takes quite a bit of tweaking to calm it down ha ha. I also have a Doepfer MS404 which use to belong to Russ Gabriel of Ferox records etc, a great little mono synth for creating authentic 303 style sounds and much more..

5)  How many years did it take you to settle your studio?

The studio has been progressing since 1996, I guess it never truly stops as I plan to purchase the new DSI Rev2 in the Autumn a 16 voice poly analogue!

6) You & I aren’t so much of different age, you lived through the 90’s, how was the scene in Dublin back then? Did you hang out in raves, chill-out rooms?

I got hooked on the sounds of Acid House in about 1988, up until that point I never really felt that I was part of a particular music scene or culture, where most people my age where either dedicated goth’s Rockers etc, I kinda liked bits of everything like Prince, PSB, New Order, plus the soundtracks of John Carpenter, Vangelis etc.

In School I was quite an outsider I guess, I wasn’t into football and regular sports, preferred to ride my BMX and create art so Acid House just clicked for me,although it arrived two years after I left School it just seemed like two fingers to conformity, something about its brutal minimalistic machine groovesand the twisted buzzing alien frequencies captured my soul. In the late 80’s Dublin record stores started stocking the music as much of it was breaking the UK charts and Ireland was very much influenced by what was happening in the UK. It took me a while to find a club that played Acid and Techno.

Eventually I discovered an underground club in Dublin city called Sides D.C. that had been a gay club and played more alternative sounds since the mid 80’s. So through the early 90’s I spent most of my Saturday nights there.

You could hear anything from Orbital, Joey Beltram, Primal Scream etc, I would also from time to time travel to Belfast to go to raves. Eventually Sides got taken over by “E” culture the music and the crowd changed Happy hardcore and sweaty Rave as I liked to call, it became a dangerous place to venture into, fortunately other venues popped up around Dublin, some promoters booked acts like AE, Bandulu, Kenny Larkin etc so I would still check out many of these nights right up unit maybe the early to mid 2000. Dublin’s electronic scene today is pretty much dominated by Techno but the quality end of it.

Oh, so safe to say I was fairly active in the Rave scene back in the day, but only as a reveller, never got involved in promotion of parties.

7) Your collaborations with Lee Norris seemed inspired a lot by early BDP, Rising high and New electronica.

Both myself and Lee, have a rather large range of influences, the ones you mentioned are surely in there are lots more from the 90’s for sure but we go way back, for Lee and myself Gary Numan, Tangerine Dream, John Foxx, Japan, Eno, Kraftwerk, er Vangelis for me, Lee’s not so keen, I also liked Herbie Hancock, Cabaret Voltaire, DM, YMO, Yello, Art Of Noise etc.. We are still getting influenced today as we still consume lots of music new and old.

8) What’s your opinion on the state or current electronic music?

The current state of electronic music ha ha, whoa, that’s quite a mind field. I guess I can only express my opinion on the scenes that I follow quite closely, Ambient and IDM perhaps. While its a truly great time for any wannabe artist to start out with the cheap availability of DAW’S And soft synths,

I do feel there’s an awful lot of deeply generic sounding electronic music out there, wether its down to all the Ableton/fruity loops tutorials on YouTube or the sound packs which are just lazily used by so many.

As a beginner to the art of making electronic music it’s very easy now to create a four chord progression over 16 bar section with lush sounds out of the box! To make a mark in the scene you really have to think beyond these structures, I think composition appears to be secondary and that

production quality is more important these days? within the digital world of preset soft synth patches and digital rendering it’s almost impossible to sound awful, personally I do find music that is created 100% within the digital domain a little flat sounding and becomes a bit tiresome on the ears particularly for long sittings so the composition and sentiment of the music needs to be more soulful, imaginative and emotional to keep my attention.

To simplify, it’s very easy to make a mundane Techno or Ambient piece thanks to modern technology but to create something with longevity and a strong identity that is a lot more difficult and takes talent and a real passion for one’s art.

9) I know how much of a cinema buff you are, how much does it influences your productions? (AOC2 has a sample of “Silent Running”)

I’m not sure I would consider myself a true cinema buff but I am quite fussy about the movies I watch. I guess much of the 70’s movies left a big impact on me, I love a lot of the early Science Fiction and road movies of that era, from Vanishing Point to THX 1138 to Jaws and The French Connection. I just loved the dark grittiness of the often flawed characters, the practical stunts and effects where much more inventive and the stories where much more believable, obviously today the art of cinema is still delivering the goods but rarely in the mainstream world. Popular culture just gets dumber and dumber, as in the music scene you have to really look away from the mainstream to find true gems.

10) Who is the most overrated electronic music producer and the most underrated in your opinion?

I’d have to be careful mentioning overrated artists, while there are many I consider overrated I’d still hate to miss a possible opportunity to collaborate or remix with some bigger artists in the future. Underrated is a strange one, I’ve mentioned certain artists before in such light on forums only to be attacked by someone misinterpreting the sentiment. “How can you say that about such and such?” thinking that I’m saying they aren’t very talented or it’s some form of criticism. What I mean is that they are under the radar for such an amazing talent and should be more popular considering the music is of such high calibre.

A few I would mention who deserve greater accolades are: Peter Benisch, Mark Van Hoen, Kettel, Spyra  and Ochre.

11) Top 10 music albums of all time?
Top ten albums, seen as there are so many genres of music. I’ll just focus on electronic for this question, this list could vary from day to day.

1) 808 State “90:”

2) Biosphere “Substrata”

3) Chapterhouse “Blood Music-Re translated by Global Communication” Heard it before 76:14

4) John Carpenter “Escape From New York”

5) Peter Benisch “Soundtrack Saga”

6) Locust “Morning Light”

7) Vangelis “Blade Runner

8) Harold Budd “White Arcades” or  “The Room” can’t decide which is best

9) Pete Namlook and Mix Master Morris “Dreamfish” so many to choose from but this is the first one I heard by Peter

10) Various “Artificial Intelligence” Life changing comp, easier than picking something from the whole AI series on Warp.

12) Top 10 movies of all time?

1) Blade Runner

2) Jaws

3) Vanishing Point.

4) THX 1138

5) Bad Boy Bubby

6) Mad Max

7) 2001 A Space Odyssey

8) American Beauty

9) On Her Majesties Secret Service

10) Alien

13) Tell us more about your new project Architects of Existence with Eric Taylor ?

Architects of Existence with Eric started a few years back, I basically connected with Eric through Facebook and over time we were both exposed to one another’s music, Eric expressed interest in a collaboration and I felt it was right also. His music is very expressive and quite diverse from found sounds to ambient textures and distinct compositional themes. Eric is based in New York so we just transferred files back and forth. The first album came together quite quickly, it is quite a sprawling ambient affair with subtle hints of Berlin School and cinematic influences with our idiosyncratic flair, something that we feel may demand a few listens to reveal some deeper hidden depths. The album was completed almost two years ago but as I have had quite a prolific run in the last two years Dave at Carpe Sonum had to schedule a release strategically as to not clash with other projects of mine. Eric & I have recently completed a second album which we see’s us taking our sound further, again four tracks but in its current form may need a double CD release.

14) How has your Bandcamp page transformed the industry for ambient artists like you?

Bandcamp really is a leader, it gives the artist so much freedom, from designing and managing your own page, offering both digital and physical and instant revenue for physical sales, all digital sales revenue is issued within 24 hours usually. For low key/Niche artists like myself I don’t have to wait months and months for royalty statements and the usual digital channels take a major chunk and I feel it is really not worthwhile to a certain degree. There’s also benefits for the consumer like offering various file formats with no price difference is quite unique and a feature I think is essential for people who like high end audio.

Another great difference between usual distributed digital outlets is that you have control of proper genre identification of your music, I’ve often seen my material being billed has progressive house on Beatport or other when it’s clearly Ambient or Experimental which means that the music is often mislabeled and lost.

Other features I love with Bandcamp is that fans get automatic updates when I release something new. With a bit of work through social media, blogs and forums you can promote your music pretty well, so safe to say it has revolutionised the industry for an artist like me.

15) You were the last release on Fax +49-69/450464, it’s quite an accomplishment but also sad at the same time, Peter was such a pillar of the ambient scene…And still is, even though he passed.

Yes the first Autumn of Communion with Lee, has a certain bitter sweet feel to it. Pete passed away two weeks after it was released. Both Lee and I are extremely proud of the release and feel its a fitting sawn song to Pete’s legacy but at the same time knowing that we will never hear anymore new material from him or no more releases on the sub label based on his incredible taste is still hard to think about.

There is huge void that just cannot be filled.

He was an innovator and kept pushing and nurturing the scene who gave some big artists in techno and a platform to express their experimental sides along with exposing lesser known talents. No other established record label would take chances like that, try getting a demo to any of the big labels in electronica now, it is just closed doors but Pete let his heart rule more so than is head and coming from a background in banking and finance showed he didn’t care so much about rules.

On a final note, has Ed Norton contacted you to be his double on the sequel of Fight club? 

No I’m still waiting for that call 🙂 In the meantime I’ll continue to make music and keep my day job!

  • 1 Interval two by Autumn of communion
  • 2 Rhea by Autumn of communion
  • 3 Special K (Mick Chillage’s Black Hole Mix) by Radio Scotvoid
  • 4 End (Sunrise For Claudio) by Autumn of communion
  • 5 Interval One by Autumn of communion
  • 6 Seroni by Mick Chillage
  • 7 Over ingia by Mick Chillage
  • 8 Approaching Antares by Mick Chillage
  • 9 Gamma Radiation by Mick Chillage
  • 10 Night Works by Mick Chillage
  • 11 Spaang by Autumn of communion
  • 12 Autumn Of Communion by Autumn Of Communion
  • 13 In The Valley Of Tanaro by Autumn Of Communion
  • 14 Part IV by Architects of Existence
  • 15 Earth Waiting by Autumn Of Communion
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