Interview with Milkman
Last weekend, I had the great experience of interviewing Milkman, one of the musicians playing on Friday, October 16th here at USD. He is a mashup DJ know internationally. Last year DJ Forum awarded him “Hottest Mashup DJ of 2008,” “DJ to watch out for in 2009,” as well as “#2 Mashup Album of All Time” for his first album Lactose and THC. He literally has something for everyone in his music. Are you a classical fan? Check out Pachabel’s Canon in “Keep Talking,” #3 on Circle of Fifths. Are you a musical theater fan? Check out “Phantom of the Opera” in “Lovehate,” #13. Those are just two of the samples in his second amazing album. Lets hear about that album, origins, and milk preference from the man himself:
What got you started into mashup music?
It was Freshman year of college, actually, in my dorm room, one of my buddies showed me a few other glitch-pop remix artists, sample based, and I just instantly fell in love. I mean, as I’ve always said I have huge music ADD, so to just hear a song that incorporated 10, 15, or 20 of my favorite songs in one just blew my mind. And I’ve always been into computers, you know, a little techy. It just kind of fell right into place for me and basically fell in love.
So you know, there are so many songs and so many combinations how do you decide what to put together?
Well basically what I do when I’m going to create a song is first I Kind of think of the feel I want it to be, you know, if it’s a higher tempo or if its going to be a slower more kickback, relaxed kind of song. It’s kind of like the mood that I’m in. And I basically just go through my iTunes library and I go through and I listen to whatever I’m listening to at that time. So many different songs from previous decades and what have you, and I just listen to them all, and in my mind I can kind of have a feel for what would work together. I’m pretty good with the matching of the beats in my head. The biggest part of it is I bring in a huge collection of songs into my program, line them all up, and splice them all into the parts that I would want to use, and from there its kind of a trial and error type of thing, kind of mixing and matching. That’s why one of the first songs that I actually created on my first album was called “Trial and Error.” And that’s pretty much how I create a lot of my songs. Its just putting in a lot of time and seeing really what sounds the best together.
Where do you get your inspiration?
You know the funny thing is that now with the iPhone, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that app Shazam, but you basically just open it up and put your iPhone next to the speaker and it tells you what song is playing. No matter where I am, I have my phone on me, so I’ll hear something that I’ve never heard before and it instantly sparks some creativity. I hold my phone out, tag it, and then I go back and re-listen to it. I mean, I’m a sample-based artist so everything that I do is based off other people’s musical creations. So when I hear something new that’s really what gives me an idea for a new song. You know, “Oh, I really like this so I’m going to take an idea from this song and mix it with this song,” and from there it just kind of builds off of itself.
What kind of software do you use when you mix?
When I’m doing my actual shows, live, I use Ableton because it’s just a great live performance utility. When I’m actually creating my songs I use a whole bunch- everything from GarageBand to Logic to Soundtrack Pro. I mean it all depends. If I’m just mixing stuff I usually stick with Ableton or Logic for the time stretching and all that. But actually for a lot of the parts of my new stuff I haven’t released yet, I’ve actually been creating my own beats and some of my own riffs. It can be whatever I’m playing with at the time.
When you first got started, did you just use GarageBand?
Yeah, actually, that’s a funny story. I first started with GarageBand, and the first song I wrote was “Trial and Error” and that one took me about a month because, as you can imagine, GarageBand doesn’t have anything to help with the time stretching or pitch shifting. So I was literally going through hundreds of songs and finding ones that had the exact same beat per minute, the exact same key, you know, and that was just ridiculous. After a month or so, I came out with that song “Trial and Error” and the whole song is just straight from iTunes, just drag and drop into there.
That’s pretty labor-intensive work.
Well yeah, but now with the advances with computer programs, software, and sound engineering programs out there, its making it easier and easier to be able to do this mashup thing. Which is great, because you know they call it the “bedroom producer.” I get asked all the time, and almost anyone can just kind of hop on their computer for a few hours and put something together that’s really great, and sharing it on the internet, that’s what its all about.
How does your new album Circle of Fifths compare to your first album Lactose and THC?
Lactose and THC was my first album. That was really just me trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with this whole mashup thing. I feel like Circle of Fifths has a lot more of a direction. I had much more of an orientation with that album. Each song, if you listen to it, kind of has a theme and the lyrics that I use and the songs that I use, they actually kind of tie together. Also, a lot of the songs are based, like the titles, off of certain things that happened in my life over the past year or so. And I know that’s pretty cliché, but I mean that’s really where most music comes from. Like what you’re feeling at the time, you know, if I connect with certain lyrics from a certain rapper or some singer then I’m more inclined to use that track. I feel like Circle of Fifths has more of a progression. You know, the beginning is more of a laid back kind of getting pumped up, getting ready, it all kind of lulls you. Like “Heart to Heart,” and “Want it All,” you have a few songs that are kind of slower and more laid back, and then at the end you get to hear “Touch” and “Silhouette,” and those songs are really up-beat, the higher tempo. Really finishing the album off strong. And that’s really how I wanted the orientation to be if you listen to the album all the way through. Then towards the end of the night you kind of want it to be more party-oriented.
Is there anywhere online to listen to your album free, or some way to buy it besides PayPal?
If you go on YouTube, a lot of people have just uploaded the whole album, which I am totally in support for. There’s also all the bit torrents, you can download it there. Honestly if you just go on Google and you type in “Milkman, Circle of Fifths download” the whole first page will be places to download it. I encourage you to go out and download it, share it with your friends and all that.
Your website talks about how your music just blew up over the course of about a year. What was that like?
It’s actually been a crazy ride so far. I mean, its barely been a year since I played my first out of town show, and now I’m travelling all over the country and playing with all these huge acts, and its really taken off fast, and that’s helped me keep grounded with the whole thing because its just happened so quickly, I don’t really know how to respond. I just started DJing a few friends’ houses here in Isla Vista where I live, and then all the sudden with this whole college network and the internet, before I knew it, a month later, all my friends had gone home and shown their friends and they brought it back to their colleges. Then just looking at my website I saw a huge spike in activity on my website, and now, like I said, one year later, I’m doing what I’m doing now. It’s been really fun and I hope it continues to grow the way it has been.
How do you think you would compare yourself to other mashup DJs?
I like to think that my stuff is a little more fluid, a little more continuous. I don’t want to name other artists out there because I respect them all and I really like different styles of mashup that are out there now, but a lot of them are glitch based, so its kind of like really small bits and pieces and they kind of make a new beat out of bits and pieces of other songs, where as my music, I like to think, is more of a start to finish. I don’t do what most other mashup artists do, which is do one continuous track the whole album. I break my songs up into individual tracks. I do that because I really don’t think you can combine an entire CD if you really want to get a whole point across, or you want to get the feel of individual tracks, and you can’t get that when they all go together. I mean everyone up to Daft Punk who literally create all new songs off of some 70s or 80s songs.
Have you ever mixed [your original band] A Dead Giveaway into your stuff?
No, I actually haven’t, but that might be pretty fun to try out at a live show. You might have just given me an idea. Maybe I’ll throw a bit of one of our old tracks in at San Diego because, you know, that’s where they’re based.
Speaking of the show, what should we expect on October 16th?
Well if you haven’t seen me live before, the way I kind of like to describe it is… oh man, the words… Well, lets just put it this way: A lot of other mashup DJs, when they play a show, they kind of just play their album but in different orders. The fact that you’re playing off of a computer and some digital mixers, I really feel like that’s not creative at all. So what you’ll see with my show, opposed to others, is that I will feed to the audience. If the audience wants more of an upbeat sound, that’s what I’m going to play. I’m going to take samples from my album, but I’m not going to play just one of my songs from the album because there’s nothing to that. That’s not fun for the audience, that’s not fun for me. I do like to freestyle. My sets are oriented, I’m not saying that I do it all on the spot. I do have a direction for what I’m doing with the show, but when it comes down to it, I’m on stage and the audience is feeling one thing instead of the other, I’m just going to go with that when I set up my set to be. But I mean, you can expect pretty much the same type of feel you have from my album. It’s going to be very mashup oriented, but it is going to be more dancy. I’m usually the opener for a bigger act, so I like to get the crowd pumped up. I like to get energy into the venue. I feel like that’s what I do best.
Just one more question: 2% or skim milk?
Um… I’m going to have to say 2%. No question. I mean, it’s everything you need. You need a little bit in your milk. I’m not drinking white water here.
Well thank you for the interview.
Yeah, thank you. I’m excited to come down to San Diego. I look forward to seeing all you guys out there at the show and thanks for listening.